Financial Controller Skills Blog

Being a Financial Controller is about more than just the numbers

It’s very easy to assume that the role of a financial controller is primarily number-crunching, looking at the raw financial data, interpreting what it means and re-assembling it into an understandable format for directors.

But that really is the tip of the iceberg.

Because just understanding what the numbers mean and presenting those facts doesn’t, in itself, change anything. The true value of a financial controller is in what happens next. Whatever the figures say, there will be actions to take and changes required. Sometimes those changes can involve risk or sometimes they might mean taking very hard, even unpleasant decisions.

At those times company directors benefit hugely from not being alone in working out what to do and ensure they are doing the right things for the right reasons. Having a trusted, expert financial partner on hand can make a huge difference to someone’s ability to confront truths and be pragmatic. So, it’s fair to say that a financial controller like myself often plays the role of coach or counsellor in looking at the current state of a business.

The key qualities of a Financial Controller

Here are some of the traits that are required to excel in the role:

  • Having Integrity
  • Good morals & ethical principles and standards
  • Being commercially aware
  • Being sincere and fair
  • Having a genuine and personable character
  • Being 100% dependable and flexible
  • Keeping people motivated and interested by being enjoyable to work with

Making key decisions about a company’s finances isn’t something anyone should take responsibility for without a commitment to being fully engaged. As a freelance financial controller who works with businesses as an independent outsider that’s something it’s crucial for me to generate. It takes time to build the required trust and intimate knowledge of a business so that I can help to the fullest possible extent.

So how does that happen?

A willingness to invest time to really engage with me is something that I look for and value in all clients. If directors aren’t really prepared to put the time to come on that journey with me and have an attitude of “Can you just fix it without me being involved?” then it’s much harder to generate meaningful outcomes and given them the full benefits of hiring me.

In terms of how best to use that time, I always recommend regular finance meetings to provide quality time to sit down and collaborate on analysis and decision-making. Sharing thought-processes helps educate everyone effectively and meeting in person means I can sometimes gauge concerns or fears from tone or body language even if someone is reticent to tell me everything that’s on their mind.

Getting to know everyone in the business allows me to help communication and mediate any internal issues. It’s very common for financial pressures in a business to go hand-in-hand with low staff morale or difficult working relationships between individuals. Being a calm, objective presence can help root out and solve these problems which are so important not to leave to fester.

Hopefully this helps shed some light on a lot of the most important value a good financial controller brings. It’s as much about being a positively assertive character, helping people improve communication and getting involved with problem-solving as it is about spreadsheets and calculations!

If you’d like to understand more detail about how I could help your business grow, why not come along to my Business Finance Club. It’s based in Dorset, meets monthly and is a friendly forum for business owners to share knowledge. You’d be most welcome to join us.

Alternatively, if you’d just like to chat on a 1-1 basis then my door is always open. Do get in touch.