As CEO's left & right hands, we help focus on leading their company. We "keep your ship on course." Rolf Neuweiler A2ZCFO (image: accounting information system)

Controller vs. CFO: An “Eye”on the Past, and the “Brain” for the Future

For a large organization, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a full-time financial leader, working side by side with its CEO. Think of a CFO as a “co-pilot”, and a CEO as the “captain” of a passenger airplane. They both focus their brains and eyes on moving the plane forward to its destination. A controller is like the head of the crew, facing the opposite direction to take care of internal logistics and operations. 

A Controller looks BACK at all the data generated by the accounting department and maintains internal controls after a CFO has developed them. A Controller implements performance measures and cash flow projections, and prepares budgets, financial reports, management updates; again, after a CFO has developed them. Under the guidance of a CFO, a Controller maintains standard operating procedures for all accounting and bookkeeping functions. A Controller is not a bookkeeper, but may have bookkeeping functions. 

While a CFO looks AHEAD, he also bridges between the CEO and the Controller, by interpreting past financial performance based on the books and records a Controller maintains, to predict an organization’s financial future. The typical duties of a CFO are: 

  • financial projections, budgets,
  • obtaining debt and other sources of capital,
  • risk management,
  • compliance with accounting and tax reporting requirements, and
  • training and supervising staff. 

Additionally, as a member of the executive team, a CFO 

  • plans and implements growth and profitability strategies,
  • participates in corporate governance and financial analysis,
  • formulates financial, risk management and tax strategies,
  • assists with the transition of a business (sale, ESOP, family), and
  • prepares audit and annual reports.

 A company needs a CFO to be successful. A medium or small size business usually has a controller in addition to a couple of bookkeepers, but lacks a CFO. They do need CFO services, just like large organizations.  However, CEOs of family offices, non-profit organizations and small businesses often assume the roles of CFOs. This distracts CEOs from working ON their businesses with vision, strategies, and management, thus hindering the growth of their organizations both in the present and in the long run.

We at a2z CFO offer consulting CFO services on a long term, short term, or part-time basis, freeing owners and senior executives from being bogged down by the detailed and time-consuming work of a CFO. As a CEO’s left and right hands, we chart the course so that CEOs can focus on leading their companies. A2z CFO, “keep your ship on course.”

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