As a business grows, the need for financial management becomes more important. With that comes the distinction between a bookkeeper, accountant, and controller. While each of these positions plays a crucial role in the financial health of an organization, there are significant differences between them. In this article, we will explore the meaningful differences between a bookkeeper, accountant, and controller.
Bookkeepers are responsible for recording financial transactions and maintaining the books of the organization. They are deliverable focused and may not participate in recurring scheduled management meetings. Bookkeepers deliver weekly financial statements that reconcile financial accounts, loans, revenue, and payroll, and provide accurate and timely financial statements (including KPI’s). These deliverables are critical to the smooth operation of an organization and provide the foundation for the work of the accountant and controller.
Accountants are responsible for deeper analytics than bookkeepers. They use prior and budget data to highlight focus areas and benchmark against targets. They also handle accounts payable, payroll processing, and invoicing. Accountants may also participate in planned recurring meetings with management to discuss the financial health of the organization. They produce deeper analytics help to identify areas of concern and provide management with valuable insights to improve the organization’s financial performance.
The Controller is the financial leader of an organization (besides the CFO in certain organizations). They are responsible for budgeting/forecasting, cost controls, and planning & cash flow management. The controller works closely with the internal management team to identify focus areas and create forward-looking scenarios and budgets. They set and track internal targets for key business units and establish proper internal controls to prevent overspending. In addition to working with leadership to create a long-term view for the financial progress of the company, the controller may create and maintain a detailed (thirteen-week view, for example) cash flow to ensure that the organization is driving towards its long-term goals.
In conclusion, while all three positions play an important role in the financial health of an organization, there are significant differences between a bookkeeper, accountant, and controller. The bookkeeper is responsible for delivering accurate and timely financial statements, while the accountant is responsible for deeper analytics to identify issues and provide insight. The Controller is the financial leader responsible for budgeting/forecasting, cost controls, planning & cash flow management, as well as internal team management. By understanding these differences, organizations can ensure they have the right financial team in place to support their goals and objectives.