Skills to Develop a Controller
1. Accounting Skills
Keep up to date on the latest accounting rules and know which rules apply to your company. Are you publicly traded or privately held? Cash or accrual basis? Know when to call in help, if the company has auditors, seek assistance if needed.
Management of an accounting staff is an important skill for a controller. Knowing the most efficient way to structure an accounting department and the skills that you can expect from various levels of staff will allow you to accomplish the work load cost effectively.
2. Human Resources Skills
- Paperwork needed when an employee is hired
- Steps to take to document performance problems
- Illegal questions in a job interview
- How to legally perform drug testing
- How to legally perform background checks
It is an extremely important area to keep the company out of legal trouble. Know when to seek outside assistance. There are consultants whose practices are specifically to provide guidance for smaller companies.
3. Insurance Knowledge
Knowledge of health, workers compensation and liability insurance is helpful. The controller is often responsible for shopping for policies that best fit the needs and budget of both the company and the employees. There is a trade off between premium and coverage and the controller needs to be able to make the appropriate evaluations.
4. Tax Knowledge
Taxes are an area that can create enormous liability for a company. Knowing what taxes apply to the company’s business and who to call for help is critical. Tax issues to be cognizant of include the following:
- The importance where your company has nexus
- Sales tax and various taxing authorities
- Federal and state income taxes
- Use tax
- Payroll taxes
- Tax remittance deadlines
- Dealing with tax audits
5. People Skills
In the controller role, people skills are extremely important as the interactions with stakeholders, both inside and outside the company, are numerous, including the following:
- Positive interactions add credibility
- Managing the entrepreneurial owner is important in order to meet their expectations and information needs. They must have comfort in knowing that the controller duties are handled well
- Managing employees is also a key relationship in order to have happy, productive employees. Employee turnover is costly.
Managing all these relationships is necessary to maximize your effectiveness.
6. Payroll Knowledge
Whether in-house or out-sourced, payroll knowledge is critical. Some important areas for a controller include the following:
- Understanding the paperwork required in order to withhold from an employee’s paycheck
- The payroll requirements of the various states where the company has employees
- When manual payroll checks are cut, the rules for remitting withheld taxes timely
- Which payments to employees are taxable
- Payroll implications of accountable versus non-accountable expense reimbursement plans
- The payroll tax relationship of where an employee lives and works
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