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Disastrous Controller

I have a controller who has been the top accounting person for 25+ years. She is very loyal, hardworking and most of the time detail oriented and yet she is an absolute disaster for me for the following reasons. 1) She refuses to delegate anything to our team. The role of controller of a $125 million company is different than that of a $10 million company but she hasn't changed. 2) I can trust her with the owners' money but not to be a team player. She likes pointing out the errors of others, from me to the CFO down to the brand new clerk. But she is the only one who has made $4.5 million and $1.6 million errors. 3) Month-end closes take between 30 and 45 days unless there is a systems problem and then it can take 60+ days. When I point out that I have worked for companies that close the books in 10 days she points out that she doesn't have a staff of 50 people. But I have also closed the books in 3 or 4 days for companies with 2 accounting staff. 4) She was pursuing a CPA years ago but dropped it when she got a "C". She has never gotten a CPA or CMA or been mentored by a qualified accountant. The owners hired me to come in and fix what is broken but there is a great deal of resistance to change. I have been looking at classes on how to transition from being an accounting manager / director to a true controller to no avail. I really think the right thing is to get her a strong mentor. She is resistant to taking advice from me, her boss, but I am hopeful I can find a way for her to get the proper advice.

Answers

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Your patience and commitment to giving this person the opportunity to change are admirable. It appears as if the controller is a huge inherent barrier to your success. The culture of change starts from the top. The owners need to convey to every one that it is time to change, and that you have their full support in doing what it takes to change. Some people just will not change, and it seems as if the controller may longer be the right fit for your company. I would have an honest conversation with her, maybe even with an owner present, and tell her what you need from him or her. If they will not commit to it, then it is time for this person to go so you can get to the hard work ahead of you.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I agree with Ernie. It is truly amazing how every company I've been with has at least one "Dr. No". The answer is always in the negative to change, whether their reasoning is valid (and they are right) or wrong (or may have been right years ago, but today isn't years ago).

I have found its very difficult to change many of these Dr. No's. Those you can turn to from the dark side can be a great ally.

Try making them part of a change team; putting him/her in charge of a change team with an edict that they must accomplish the task, with a time/budget limit. Add a carrot and threaten the stick.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

As a change agent, I have learned that your first approach is to be diplomatic or democratic. However, I have also learned that there are times when you MUST put your foot down! At the end of the day, the question you will be asking yourself would be......Are you willing to have this one person hinder the achievement of your goals?

I would have a one-on-one with her and tell her your goals (that are non-negotiable). You can tell her that you would like her to be on-board and ask her for recommendations on how she can help in the attainment of those goals. If not, you can ask her in what other capacity within the company she would be interested to be in. I would emphasize that "firing" is not the first option and the organization still values her service and loyalty and would love to retain her.

You are giving her the decision.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

This is an awesome opportunity to provide some coaching. Maybe she doesn't understand your goals and the whys behind what you are doing. If you share them with her, get her buy in as to the new direction of the company / department. If she still isn't on board then it's time for a self discovery. At that point you need to seek to understand her apprehension to wanting to assist you in moving the direction of your department and if she just isn't interested then the choice becomes her's to make. She can choose to stay on the ship and by making that choice she has to commit to helping you and doing what you need her to do. Or she can choose to get off at the next port at which point offer to assist her in finding a more suitable position within the company as Emerson suggests or something external that she may be happy doing by sharing her resume with colleagues.

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

This is the only place he has ever worked and the company owners were friends with his parents before his parents passed. For all intents and purposes this controller isn't going anywhere. Transferring to another position isn't going to happen because he is one of the highest paid people in the company and there are no other roles.

There are certainly some personality disorders occurring but there isn't a whole lot I can do about that. The part I think can be fixed is trying to communicate that the role changed during the past 25 years as the firm grew and he didn't change his M.O. He's not acting as a true controller but rather as a 'super accountant'. I looked at possible classes to help accounting managers transition to controllers but there really isn't anything of quality. I think it is mostly an issue of mentoring and I think he pushes back against me because I am the newbie that was inserted between him and the ownership.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I see two concurrent paths.

1. Give it the "old college try" and maybe you'll make headway.
2. Start looking for a new home.

George Holowko
Title: Operations & Finance Consultant
Company: George Holowko, CPA, CCP
(Operations & Finance Consultant, George Holowko, CPA, CCP) |

She her / he him... Not that the answer should matter by the gender, but, almost missed this as the continuing saga. :)

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Take your time, line up a compelling case, with options.

1. Do your outside accountants and bankers really think your 30-45 day close cycle is a sign of a well run company? How can they help you here?

2. How is your relationship with the owners? Perhaps they need to realize what has gotten off track and understand your intentions. Can you get them to buy in to the change? Then explain what you need to do and what risks you expect.

3. In the end, I like Emmerson's comments - you are the CFO, you decide, you lead. Give her the chance to be part of the solution AND to realize that if she does not become part of the solution, her options will become self evident.

Anonymous
(Director-Fin. Planning & Procurement) |

Why are you even posting this question? There is a simple solution. Set the goals. Wait for him to fail, wait for him to disregard your direction; document the heck out of it; fire the person for cause. Oh and by the way, start looking for a qualified Controller with a minimum requirement of CPA. 30 day close is RIDICULOUS.

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

Apparently, you have never worked in a privately held firm. This person is as good as family. He/she will never be fired even with cause.

Plus, as I stated, he works long, hard hours; is extremely loyal to the owners and generally knows the ERP system quite well. But, you cannot run big-company systems by yourself.

The sad thing is that I think his quality of life will skyrocket once he delegates but the trust issues are so profound.

Sigh!

Sameer Merchant
Title: Senior Manager-F&A
Company: NG
(Senior Manager-F&A, NG) |

Definitely the lady carries a wealth of experience as a controller and as you said' can be trusted with company money'. However, she needs to change the way she works. 45-60 day month-end close is not good enough in an economy which is full of uncertainities and timely action is what can save the company.

She has to change. A one-to-one without the owners would be the option I would go with initially and then getting the owners to step in.

Finally as one of the comments said ' you are the CFO. You lead. You decide.'

Sameer Merchant
Title: Senior Manager-F&A
Company: NG
(Senior Manager-F&A, NG) |

Would certainly like to know what happened next :)

Samuel W Reed
Title: Cofounder and CTO
Company: BitMEX
LinkedIn Profile
(Cofounder and CTO , BitMEX) |

Sometimes you have to make a change in personnel. It's never pleasant, but look at where you'd be in 6 months with a team player as opposed to doing the same thing.

david melia
Title: director
Company: taxbak
(director, taxbak) |

I don't wish to appear negative here but...
This has all the classic signs of someone who may not be the most honest person in the world?
If you look for the common signs of fraud someone who has an attitude problem, never takes holidays, wont delegate etc etc.
Are you sure that it isn't a failing but instead a smokescreen?

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

Your point is valid but the owners sign all checks, we are audited and it is something I have taken a look at.

I really think it is emotional issues which were compounded by bringing in an outsider but I think the firm is insular in a few departments and it is being transformed by the input of fresh blood. This is one of the two impossible nuts to crack.

Do any of you have experience with SCORE or other organizations where I can possibly find a senior controller to mentor him without threatening him?

Thanks for the input. I will make a renewed effort.

George Holowko
Title: Operations & Finance Consultant
Company: George Holowko, CPA, CCP
(Operations & Finance Consultant, George Holowko, CPA, CCP) |

Her tenure may be a result of her hard work and loyalty. Yet, it appears the company is positioning itself for future growth and it appears changes may be needed. I am assuming, both your CFO position and you are relatively new there, and if there is a 25 year record of management accepting the 30 to 60 day close cycle, there are challenges to your position that you have not yet begun to uncover. What are owners’ expectation of you? What do the owners think is broken? How supportive are the owners of you in the new role?

I realize you have provided some details as background, but, in the read, it gives me a feeling close to that of my children arguing. I see stubbornness, defiance, pride, and rehashed attacks on capabilities. I understand, that, in the moment, these were your feelings, but, you may also be exhibiting these same behaviors rather than solid leadership behaviors in the heat of the discussions with each other. In order for someone to follow, they need to learn to appreciate and respect the leader.

If you have the hands on experience, ask her to explain the how and why so you can build the better mousetrap. I would suggest not attacking any of the how or why, but, just asking, so as not to have heels dug in and a shutdown of the information flow. When you fully understand, work side by side to provide the guidance you suggest she needs.

It sounds as if you will be starting from a less than perfect foundation for a new relationship, but, you can still recover. A key to your success, and a key to the success of your new role at the company will be garnering the respect of the other employees and the owners, as well. Time can heal the rough beginnings.

Remember... Progress, NOT perfection!

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Sounds like it is time to sit down and set expectations. At the same time, make sure that she has the tools and resources to meet them at a reasonable cost to the company. As her boss, you are going to need to determine how much time you want to invest in making things work. There may be some understandable reasons for the positions she has taken. You have to ask yourself if it is worthwhile to invest your valuable time to understand them. And, you need to consider the impact on the balance of your staff.

Kern Marshall
Title: Senior Manager FP
Company: European Wax Center
(Senior Manager FP, European Wax Center ) |

I joined this company just under a year ago and entered a similar situation. A Controller who was incredibly resistant to change, would drag feet on any task. Where you experienced 45 days to close a month - our company had not closed a month in the system in almost a year. Worse, I learned this person was a major player in the back office gossip, perpetuating a culture of "old guard vs. new" (President, myself, and head of sales were all newer to the company).
I spent 6 months trying to coach, setting expectations - even developed a co-signed work and development plan, but to no avail. A few months ago I terminated this employee.
Two interesting things happened - first, the culture of our small-medium company changed overnight. It turned out this employee was a source of company-wide negativity I could not have imagined. Second, I saw an immediate elevation in the level of output and ambition of other team members; not out of fear, but seemingly because they were now out of the shadow. I was able to interview and eventually promote another team member to the role of Controller, and she has proved immensely valuable, to the point that our team produces 2x the quality work, with fewer headcount, in a timely manner.
I'm the last person to suggest that you should jump to fire people - but in our case, the role / person / company / culture was such a dramatic mismatch, that everyone is now better off.

Rich Wong
Title: Consultant
Company: Independent Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(Consultant, Independent Consultant) |

You pretty much have all the answers from everyone who have spoken and the only thing I would add is that the errors you found did they involve any issues with the bank and breaking any banking covenants. Errors that cause banks to temporarily reduce your credit line in my past have usually been met by pretty harsh reactions by calm owners and put people on notice that it's not acceptable.

If you document and speak to the owners about those errors and effect it had on company performance you might be able to gain their trust and see that you're making all the right moves to better train your controller they'll eventually look to you as their trusted advisor instead of the controller.

Have a look at your org structure and see if other people within your group can take on some of those key tasks to mitigate those errors and conflicts to show to ownership you have thought out of the box to help him and the company's y along.

Good luck, this comes up more often than not for private companies experiencing growth in all areas of the business. More often than not, probably due to these incumbents lack of desire to change they end up leaving the company because they can't handle the job anymore.

Anonymous
(Accounting Manager) |

Prepare a separation agreement and begin the documentation process of lack of quality work. Have a one and one and put her on a 60 day PIP. You have very solid examples of failure to perform to expectations. Pay her a good sum to separate and hire a Director of Finance to indicate that you are hiring up. Hire a good attorney to draft the letter. It will likely cost you 3-4 month of her salary to terminate her, but if you feel that it is worth it, I would start the process.

David Rau
Title: CFO
Company: Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW
(CFO, Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW) |

Sounds like this controller is protected by the owners and you can't ultimately fire her/him. If so, you are not really the person in control. I have a similar situation, but we are closing in 8 working days with a pretty significant consolidation. Good luck.

Steve Sheridan
Title: Associate
Company: Dean Lewis Associates
(Associate, Dean Lewis Associates) |

Tough one...you say the owners won't let the controller go. From what I gather, the controller may have some issues with confidence. Many times a lack of delegation stems from wanting to feel valuable, and quite possible the most valuable employee. If they do everything, it makes them look like the star employee. Of course it's also possible they don't have confidence in others to do things right, but it sounds like you want the team to have more tasks so I'm assuming they're competent.

Then, when you come in and say you've been at companies where the month-end close can be done in 10 days, the lack of confidence led the controller to quip "well, we don't have 50 people". I think the pieces fit. Your best approach may be to involve the controller in your changes. As some people have suggested, ask for opinions from the controller, show you value him/her, help them feel secure. I bet the criticisms will slow down and you'll see your plans start to work.

Michelle Jones
Title: Bookkeeper
Company: Ciao Bambino
LinkedIn Profile
(Bookkeeper, Ciao Bambino) |

The unwillingness of this Controller to delegate and the extremely long time it takes for the financial statements to be completed makes me wonder if there are any internal controls in place. If the company has internal controls, then I wonder if they've broken down for convenience. Not knowing the full situation there, I think I would put the Controller in charge of updating and enforcing the internal controls with advice from an outside accountant for perspective. This would hopefully achieve many of the goals you have for change and provide an outside expert the Controller can turn to for help/mentoring.

Audrey C
Title: Controller
Company: Conveyco Mfg Co.
(Controller, Conveyco Mfg Co.) |

I have been in this exact same position with an accounting manager before, whom actually I was given permission to fire, but instead I coached her, and everything worked out great. Because she's been there so long, she doesn't see the need for change, doesn't see the impact it can have. She has no frame of reference. So, you just have to give clear instructions to MAKE the change happen in the way you know it needs to, to reduce the close. Identify the processes that need to change, then make SURE the change happens, in the order or highest priority. It may feel like micro-managing at first, but you have to step in to make sure the changes take place. Over the course of several months, as the changes are instituted, and her life actually gets EASIER because she doesn't have to put in so many hours, and she's learning something for the first time in a very long time, you very well can get buy-in from her and turn the tide. My first few months on the job with the accounting manager I got snarky comments and passive-aggressive resistance, but over time the changes happened, the accounting manager became much happier, and we even became great friends. She eventually thanked me for making her life easier and teaching her so much. It CAN be done.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

I had a similar situation with an employee that had been at the company almost since it began. For that reason, the C.E.O., had strong feelings and he didn't want to let them go. I worked with this individual for 3 years; however, a leopard can't change it's spots. The C.E.O. saw how hard I worked to help them try to improve. After another incident/significant error, I put the employee on a 60 PIP and terminated them shortly thereafter with the support of the C.E.O.

One word of caution, if you are able to terminate this person, make sure that his or her replacement is a home run. If the person you bring in fails, the owners will be looking to you and why you let the former employee go. The mistakes/short comings of the former employee will be forgotten and you will take the heat for letting a friend of the family go.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Which is why I definitely would not want to be the new hire replacing this controller. BTDT.

Anonymous
(Finance Director / Controller) |

I had a similar experience, except I was ostensibly placed in the sandwich role between the CFO and the bottleneck. It was not disclosed to me the nature of the individual's relationship to ownership, but seeing the CFO dance around the person while fist-banging everyone else undermined their credibility. Add the frustration of not being able to produce numbers on time and it became clear to me that life elsewhere would be more rewarding. Not a storybook ending, but a happy one.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Smart move!

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Anon,

Working for a private firm and having many friends who work for family businesses I understand where you are coming from after hearing you say this person is like family.

With that being said the conversations I have been involved in concerning family operated business is you can try your best to speak openly with the person to gain some buy in and help, but if this person refuses the only real option is to go back to the people who hired you to "clean it up" and be honest about your hurdles. You will be unable to clean anything up with this person standing in your way. At that point the owners will need to make a decision about the person or your success. Just be prepared they may choose the person.

I have multiple years of peer counseling sessions with family owned company employee's and would be happy to share anything I can to help.

Erich Stolz
Title: Partner - CFO / CEO Practice
Company: TATUM LLC - A Randstad Company
(Partner - CFO / CEO Practice, TATUM LLC - A Randstad Company) |

There are many good comments made about this issue.
In my 30 years experience with very similar situation, there is only one way that works:
Give that job holder 21 calendar days to change along with a written notice to cancel her / his employment with the company. If the job holder does change to an acceptable degree, than you can extend the initial 21 days for another 21 days. Try this for 3 times and then make a final decision. Chances are that you will fire the job holder sooner than later.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

This thread is great-it has nothing to do with accounting technical skills and everything about being able to display communication and interpersonal skills. Anyone can hire a goofball with a degree.

How about explaining to the person:
1. you want them to come up with their own proposal/action plan to reduce the close to 10 days
2. the status quo will not be permitted to remain beyond x days.

You will then be ready to evaluate their plan and decide if they are up to the job.

david melia
Title: director
Company: taxbak
(director, taxbak) |

Couple of points here
first it isn't the cheques that necessarily matter it is the invoices they are paying.
second maybe you need a reading list before you do anything, can i suggest
Who moved my cheese? all about change
One minute manager - all about quick fixes
Snakes in Suits - all about psychopaths at work...

By the sound of things the last one may be most relevant :)

John Herndon
Title: Senior Consultant
Company: NOWCFO
(Senior Consultant, NOWCFO) |

I will try and address your points i the following:

1. I have a controller who has been the top accounting person for 25+ years. She is very loyal, hardworking and most of the time detail oriented and yet she is an absolute disaster:

Ans – we can stop right there and answer your problem very easily. I wouldn’t give a crap for a loyal hardworking and mostly detailed hindrance to the business. I’ve met many of these types during my 25 years in accounting and more so in the last eight as a consultant; let’s call this person what she really is, a bookkeeper. A bookkeeper is an individual who performs specific tasks in a limited resource environment. A controller should be the person identifying how to add value, not creating the reasons for value to be added.

2. She refuses to delegate anything to our team. The role of controller of a $125 million company is different than that of a $10 million company but she hasn't changed.

Ans – this is someone who is literally afraid to share knowledge as it would lessen her importance in the organization. Leaders delegate, pure and simple; to be effective you cannot hold control over everything and expect to be efficient. That is another sign of a bookkeeper; she cannot let go of the pre-conceived definition she has been operating under in an unchanged way for the two decades of her career.

3. I can trust her with the owners' money but not to be a team player. She likes pointing out the errors of others, from me the CFO down to the brand new clerk. But she is the only one who has made $4.5 million and $1.6 million errors.

Ans – I think this speaks for itself, she is clearly attempting to deflect attention away from her inadequacies and redirect toward others. The fact that she calls out errors in the CFO demonstrates more than a lack of respect, it demonstrates a common sense and professionalism.

4. Month-end closes take between 30 and 45 days unless there is a systems problem and then it can take 60+ days. When I point out that I have worked for companies that close the books in 10 days she points out that she doesn't have a staff of 50 people. But I have also closed the books in 3 or 4 days for companies with 2 accounting staff.

Ans – That is not a scalable solution for any organization. Her comment that she, “…doesn't have a staff of 50 people…” to justify why she cannot close the books in a reasonable amount of time is a reflexive defensive argument. In other words, she doesn’t really understand why it takes so long to close the books, only that if she had more people she could do a better job. Typical response from a non-professional accountant to approach an accounting centric problem…..like Wayne Spivak, I too have seen this too many times to recount. Again, more of a response I would expect from a bookkeeper than a controller.

5. She was pursuing a CPA years ago but dropped it when she got a "C". She has never gotten a CPA or CMA or been mentored by a qualified accountant.

Ans – it is a misconception that a controller needs to be a CPA. The only circumstance where a controller would need the CPA is SEC Reporting or other high profile technical area of accounting. The CPA exam gives conceptual testing scenarios or evaluates the ability to memorize; it does not impart a skill or expertise nor is it a tangible tool that can be used in a dynamic environment. Being a CPA doesn’t teach you how to manage a close process, being an accountant with management experience easily qualifies a person for that task. A CPA license opens doors; it does not keep them open…experience and value add keeps the door(s) open.

6. The owners hired me to come in and fix what is broken but there is a great deal of resistance to change. I have been looking at classes on how to transition from being an accounting manager / director to a true controller to no avail. I really think the right thing is to get her a strong mentor. She is resistant to taking advice from me, her boss, but I am hopeful I can find a way for her to get the proper advice.

Ans – If she is unwilling to adapt or accept change get rid of her. She is a hindrance not only to the organization but to your ability t to be an effective leader. It is ultimately your responsibility for the execution of the goals given to you by powers that guide the company. Are you really going to let this person jeopardize that?

My reasons may sound harsh and they should; I do not offer these suggestions from emotion or a reactionary view. These suggestions come from experience and having been the person making the changes and seeing first hand why removing the obstacle was the only solution.

Recently, I developed a Human Clinical Trial Accounting methodology for a $10.2M FDA clinical trial bio tech. The controller failed to grasp the basic concept of accrual accounting in addition to the consistency, comparability, relevance and reliability standards. Rather than accept the model I had created as an accrual automation and its acceptance by Deloitte as the external auditors, she rejected it in favor of their current process which was to wait for the invoice. Classic signs of a bookeeper vs controller....

The controller was a glorified bookkeeper and only there part time. Within the first week of being on site I found over $350K in material errors of a non-technical nature on the company’s books. You could literally see the point at which the person joined the company…it was eerie.

I hope this helps, happy to discuss the issue further.

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

Lots of excellent advice. Thank you.

Anonymous
(Controller/HR Director) |

Well, I feel for you. I have been in that situation a few times. I am confused if it is a he or a she because it depends on how to approach the situation. If it is a she, as it first states, then she is probably feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated and scared for her job. I do believe this is a coaching situation. I don't think it needs the knee jerk 'old white male accountant' approach I am reading on here--if she's giving you trouble, get rid of it!!! That's poor change management. She may still not go forward and dislike change, but better to coach given the situation you are in.

It sounds like there are a ton of underlying cultural issues that occur with a growing private company. If it is a she, and you are a he, then the approach is going to have to take into account how inadequate she may feel and intimidated by your experience and education. She probably felt like she was 'top dog' for a long time, not realizing how little she knew. So she may not even realize she needs a coach.

If the company is unwilling to support any changes that are necessary, and I have been there quite a few times, then coach her up as far as you can go with her. At some point, the owners are going to see what you see and perhaps find another opportunity in the organization for her.

I've seen new managers come in and FIRE away..because they couldn't MANAGE the change. All they did was lose a lot of 'intelligence' in the process. You may never get her to share her intelligence, but what if you do?

I can tell from some of the answers that people have not managed change in private growing companies nor generational management (GenXers, baby boomers vs millenials).

Good luck. I wish you the best!!

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Nor worked in government where this kind of situation is endemic.

You can't fire anyone. They know that and take advantage of their protected status. It can be so frustrating!

Did I mention how much I miss private industry? ;-)

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

Family owned businesses are tough to deal with. They tend to be more loyal to employees. So the solution is to move her to "Special Projects" and hire a real Controller.

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

That's not an option because there isn't money to do that. I think the previous advice is the best one to go with for now. I need to continue to try to mentor and if it continues to fail then it continues to fail.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

But, you are mistaken. If it fails, you fail. And who is going to be out of a job then?

Anonymous
(Business Manager) |

A thought comes to mind that if this company has experienced rapid revenue growth, maybe she cannot delegate to her staff because the plates of her staff are full. Sometimes support staff reach a saturation point and additional staff must be added for accuracy and timliness of work to continue. These days the norm is for fewer people to do more, but there is a point where additional staff simply must be hired or the quality of work decreases. Increasingly high volume, high output, high complextity work is not sustainable, even by "super accountant".

She said staff limitations cause her difficulty with timliness. Why not listen to her and consider adding staff? She is a long term employee, loyal and hardworking and deserves to be given a fair chance before going down the path of termination. If the company has prospered over the past 25 years, she has certainly made a positive contribution or she wouldn't have the position, family friend or not.

If she is working overtime and cannot accomplish her responsibilities, perhaps a part time employee can be hired to come in once a month for the sole purpose of assisting with month-end close. A CPA who wants to work part-time so she can stay home with children, etc. yet keep her skills current and supplement household income may be ideal for this scenerio. I've worked at a company that had this arrangement and it worked very well.

Just playing devil's advocate as I have been in the "fewer doing more" situation and it is tough!

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

There has not been rapid revenue growth and his point has been that he cannot in good conscience recommend hiring someone else when existing staff have bandwidth. When I replied that if they have bandwidth why not use them his reply was that they do not meet his standards. They are his people!

Anonymous
(Regulatory Reporting Manager) |

Same thought as above comment, bring in a strong/driven right hand person for the controller, or identify a superstar internally, whom will be tasked with helping the controller to improve the efficiency of the department and knowledge transfer/retention. I had been in this post, and the CFO worked directly with me and the controller throughout the process. The force from above and below the controller will most likely start to move the needle.

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

I have been doing this. I have been going one level down and working closely with someone who is cooperative.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

I was just in this position...the one of the controller. I had been with the company for a while when it was acquired and merged with another company and a new CFO was hired. I was doing 60+ hours weeks pre-merger, and then was asked to take over the accounting for both organizations. I was excited about the opportunity, but explained that I would need additional resources. The CFO said I needed to do things more efficiently...but never worked out a plan with me, and would not let me hire any additional resources.

I feel that I failed because:

1) The CFO came in aggressively and tried to push his agenda without trying to learn anything about the business, or the accounting processes.

2) Lack of communication (or disregard for what I was saying). For example, the CFO would tell me that he needed a report by Wednesday. I would tell him that it was impossible to give a meaningful, accurate report in that time, but I could get it to him by Friday. He would get upset and tell me to get it done by Wednesday anyways. I would work all night for two nights, and still not get it done. Then he would get mad. I would consistently try and keep him updated with statuses, but he would get mad with how slow things were taking...so I started to not give him status updates.

3) Bad chemistry. I just didn't get along with the guy. If we were classmates, he would not be my friend. He was a bit condescending to others, and we had no similar interests.

In the end, I could see that I would continue to fail working under this CFO. I had always received top praise in performance reviews (15 years of accounting work at large and small companies). I left the company and now am extremely happy in a new Controller position.

Maybe the original poster is getting extreme pushback from their controller, and it truly is a difficult situation. However, I am sure my CFO would say similar things about me from his perspective.

Anonymous
(Chief Financial Officer) |

You make very good points.

My controller has many very good traits. Very hard working. Extremely loyal. Usually excellent attention to detail.

BUT, one person cannot do the job of three and the refusal to delegate is harming the entire company.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Very good counter analysis. There are always two sides to a story.

I too have ended up being eliminated from a long term employment relationship by a new CFO who was on a mission to "clean things up". He was an arrogant jerk from the beginning. He was a former BIg 8 audit manager - but not from our Big 8 external audit firm. He thought his s**t didn't stink.

His first day on the job, he called the entire finance department into a meeting to "get to know us". He had the audacity to tell us that we should look around the room at everyone there, because in six months not all of us would still be there.

That's one hell of a management style. Isn't it?

I was the last of five he terminated within six months of his arrival. We had each been at this growing company for more than ten years. We had seen it go from $5M to $70M in gross sales over that span of time and change ownership three times. This company had been in the top 100 list of Inc magazine.

We hadn't resisted change. We had worked at it feverishly. We had built the accounting and financial systems together. We had rebuilt them several times actually. We had worked for a stable, long term CFO for most of that time. But, he left when the Fortune 200 company that had become a part owner sold their shares back to the original owners.

We went through a succession of three CFOs over the next three years.

Our accounting process continued to work fine. But, with the revolving door of CFOs the finance department was unable to bring any financial discipline to the organization and the sales (this was a direct sales entity) department went wild. The sales VP was of the "you have to spend money to make money" mindset and never hid how much he hated "bean counters".

Sales went flat but as often happens in growth companies, expenses did not. The CEO was displeased with the loss of profitability but thought the finance department was not strong enough.

Several VPs and the CEO conspired to buy out the company shortly after my departure. Only they didn't include the CFO that had fired me. He was frozen out. He left shortly after that to the dismay of the CEO.

My inside sources (I ended up married to the CEOs admin assistant) told me that the CFO jumped around through three different firms over the next year or so and finally ended up out of work. He had to sell his house, his luxury auto, pull his daughters out of private school and give up his country club membership. He had even come back begging for his old job.

He never recovered and never made it back to 'the good life" from what I've heard. His hubris paid dividends in spades.

But, in the end I did feel a bit bad for him. You see, I came to realize over time that he'd been inadvertently set up by the CEO. I've seen similar scenarios since then.

He was told from day one that there had been three CFOs before him; that none had worked out; that there were issues in the finance department; and that he was expected to clean it up and make it work. He had been "promised" a piece of the action if there was a management buyout or any M&A activity.

But, that wasn't the case at all. The problem was a commissioned based, direct sales operation with no controls had gone out of control. And, there were exposures all over the place. Literally.

Some of the sales force had begun selling in other countries on their own volition with no administrative oversight. They thought it was great getting to take exotic vacations and have the company pay for them. But the legal implications of conducting international business without the proper legal and administrative protocols are a minefield.

The company folded a couple of years later. As far as I'm concerned, it couldn't have happened to nicer bunch of boneheaded know it alls.

I struggled for a while after my departure with un/under employment for a couple of years. But I eventually landed on my feet. And, as you might surmise from the missive above, I can look back on it as having taught me an awful lot about business, management and finance. There are so many lessons from those eight years I spent there that I still draw on today. Even the bad ones. :-)

To this day, I hate hard sellers like he sales force we had there. I hang the phone up on them every day. In fact, one who just played a fool's game with me thinks he has an appointment to see me next week. He has to travel to get here.

But, he'll be turned away in the lobby. He wasted my time and outright lied about who he represented. Now I'm planning on wasting his.

My heart just bleeds for jerks like that. ;-)

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