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You're the CFO of a SMB; whom do you hire?

In these tough economic times, you find that capcity has not kept up with need, and as such you require another hire.

Your organization is somewhat flat, you have yourself and some very good bookkeepers.  

The organization is growing, but slowly.  The accounting processes are moderate and you see the need to acquire and facilitiate a new accounting system within the next 18 months to help ease some of the burden and help to properly manage growth and the systems at your company.

Whom do you hire and why?

a) Bookkeeper (full-charge)

b) Accountant (Junior)

c) Accountant (Senior)

d) Controller


Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Wayne - Excellent question. The company I work for faced the similar situation prior to hiring me. The company has an excellent A/R person, an excellent A/P person, they were more along the line of full-charge bookkeepers. I was hired in as a Corporate Accountant because the company had grown a little but remained flat overall, and the CFO and Controller needed additional capacity to help the company grow going forward. I came to Redline as a Senior Accountant from a fairly large insurance MGA.

So hire a Senior Accountant with strong financial reporting and analysis skills to handle aspects in between junior-level and senior-level tasks.

I was hired to allow the Controller to take more of the financial load off of the COO and CFO.

One question I have is if the company does not have a Controller, could a Senior Accountant not go into the role of a Controller? I see the idea of not having a Junior Accountant fill the role of a Controller. In the absense of a Controller what would the differences be between a hiring a Controller and hiring a Senior-level Accountant, especially in an SMB?

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Depends on who deserves the job the most as long as their work and legal background check out. Unfortunately, we're no longer in an economy that is based on the "best fit" or the "most qualified". We have to get people to work. So if we have a choice, it is better to take someone unemployed who has been taking from the economy and turn them into a taxpayer as opposed to someone currently employed who already is paying taxes and no improved effect on the economy

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Having said that, back to the original question. After checking out the time spent unemployed to rank the most deserving and ensuring they did what they said they did, I would go with a senior accountant. You need to have somebody that can handle a moderate workflow (not a Jr) and there's not enough for a controller, so a senior would have the skills to go through a system upgrade. Not sure if a F/C can handle the system upgrade

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

None of the above. I hire an amazing sales person who will generate a multiple of their salary in revenue to grow the business. You know I don't fit the mold Wayne.

Bill Hite
Title: CEO & Founder
Company: Hull Speed Associates GmbH
(CEO & Founder, Hull Speed Associates GmbH) |

Wayne - good question. If you are cash strapped the answer is "none of the above", hire a nanny to help your wife with the kids, roll up your sleeves and you and your current team have at it. If you have the cash find the right "partner" to help you do the implementation. Both will be a real challenge. Depending on your future growth and plans, such as staying local or expanding into new markets, you hire the right controller who can take care of both "controlling" and budget and analysis until you can afford to split the two functions. I have done both the "hire light" and "hire a heavy controller" way and at the right time before growth the controller will add more value. If you hire light and then hire above that person then you have an employee issue to deal with as the "light" person will think they will be inline to take on the more senior role.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |


If your current folks can't pick up the new system...find better people.

18 months is plenty of time to 1) begin training on the new system, 2) assess your staff's ability vs. your needs, 3) find a consultant to help with the implementation if needed.

It sounds like post-implementation your staffing needs are similar in scale to what you have now, so plan for that, and fill the interim gap as needed.



Jeffrey McCandless
Title: Managing Partner
Company: Stone Harbour Partners
(Managing Partner, Stone Harbour Partners) |

The Controller would be the first hire I would make. In a slow but growing organization the Controller would have to be a "working manager" initially but having a strong Controller in place improves the probablility of success in building the requisite infrastructure to support the organization. Additionally, a CFO is only as strong as his Controller.

Irv Williamson
Title: Owner
Company: Growth Guidance Solutions
LinkedIn Profile
(Owner, Growth Guidance Solutions) |

Assuming the founder or CEO is covering planning, cash management, financial bank/investor relationships, then contracting a controller to select system, implement, and train staff would make sense. An experienced computer oriented controller should be able to get this done in 3 to 6 months full time. Then maybe 1 day per week after system up and growth processes are in place. Continued full time employment would be a waste of money unless growth strategy changes or professional investors or lenders come to the table.

Jamie Hayden
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Eastland Memorial Hospital
(Chief Financial Officer, Eastland Memorial Hospital) |

I agree with Bill. If the cash is not there, the CFO may need to pitch in. If there are available funds, I would hire a Senior Accountant to help with transitioning a new system etc. As the company grows, the Senior could grow into a Controller.

Topic Expert
Samuel Dergel
Title: Director - Executive Search
Company: Stanton Chase International
LinkedIn Profile
(Director - Executive Search, Stanton Chase International) |

You're the new CFO - You need a PLAN.

As part of your First 90 Days as CFO, you need to plan what you're going to do. Hiring is part of it, but it fits in to having a complete plan as to what needs to get done.

I recommend you read my blog: The First 90 Days of a New CFO

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Hire a Controller. If you need a new Accounting system, a Controller should be able to fit in nicely. The CFO should focus on helping the business grow.

Gary Spencer
Title: Managing Partner
Company: Meon
(Managing Partner, Meon) |

You should hire the person that complements the necessary requirements. Search for someone who has strong controls, financial reporting acumen, and can understand the tax effects of their recommendations.

Both you and the new pick can grow the business together.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |
Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

As part of the assessment that helped to identify the need for the technology solution you may want to include (if you haven't already) a short-term and long-term bench strength of your team specifically identifying the required competencies that exist and those that do not exist. Also note how the technology will impact these same human capital resources in terms of skills and process improvements. If the process improvements are such that you may ultimately reduce headcount, contracting temp or consultant 1099 to manage the workload on interim basis may be part of the solution. Hope this helps.

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