Do I need a Controller or do I need a Chief Financial Officer?

CFO FOR HIRE, LLC > Blog > Do I need a Controller or do I need a Chief Financial Officer?

If you have reached the point in your business where you are considering whether you need to hire a Controller, a CFO or just need an upgrade over your current accounting staff, you are at a critical point in your company’s life cycle.   This need typically arises when a company is either preparing for rapid growth or perhaps preparing to sell the business.  Both circumstances require the complete focus of the company’s executives and management team and it is essential that the finance department is able to do its part and provide timely and accurate reporting in order to support your team during this critical juncture.  Timely financial statement issuance and analysis, key performance indicator (KPI) reporting and budgeting/forecasting all become essential tools that the business may have overlooked previously.

It is usually at this point that the conundrum arises so to whether the business needs a Financial Controller (Controller), a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or maybe even both.   While the CFO is an executive level hire, a Controller is not far below that level on most organizational charts.   Upon investigating the difference between a Controller and a Chief Financial Officer, it is typical to find that most of their duties overlap, yet the CFO commands a higher salary than a Controller.   So what is it that makes someone a CFO vs a Controller?   There are two main attributes of a Chief Financial Officer that may not (yet) be found in a Controller:

  • Experience – When looking for a Chief Financial Officer, most companies will generally be searching for a candidate with either previous experience as a CFO or many years of reporting directly to the CFO.  
  • Leadership skills – While a Controller will often have more direct reports than the Chief Financial Officer, the CFO is ultimately responsible for setting the direction of the financial department, making the major decisions as well as reporting to and working alongside the key stakeholders of the business.   Having the confidence to make important decisions as well as the trust of all members of the department are skills that can only be acquired through experience and previous successes.

Both Controllers and CFO’s will both have salary requirements which an organization needs to be prepared to budget for however, the correct hire for this position will show their value within days of their arrival.   Alternatively, the wrong hire can be disastrous and set a business back months if not years if they allow the mistake to continue for too long.   This is why many businesses are now turning to either temporary controllers, temporary CFO’s or virtual CFOs.  A temporary controller or temporary CFO allows a business to first understand the value of this position then determine whether their permanent hire should be a Controller, a Chief Financial Officer or perhaps remain with a virtual hire.   Hiring the right temporary Controller or Temporary Chief Financial Officer also builds a foundation for a permanent hire to inherit and provides a resource to assist in the hiring and training of the permanent hire. 

CFO For Hire provides all levels of services and provides its clients with a team of experienced Chief Financial Officers to oversee their business.      If you are ready to discuss the next steps, you can reach us at 866-236-4447 or email us at   We look forward to hearing from you!