Business Financial Controller: Main Skills
A business controller is a vital part of the enterprise’s success. They are responsible for the financial health and vitality of the business. With their insights and skills, they can help a profitable company grow and guide a struggling company to a better situation.
There are many, many skills that every business financial controller needs, but here are the five skills that no business controller can live without:
Note: These skills aren’t obvious like an appropriate degree and business background. I am focussing on the intangible skills that make a controller great, not just competent.
The financial health of a company is not the role of any one person, but belongs to the entire staff. The controller’s primary function is to work with all of the department heads to find ways to control costs, increase profits, and meet the needs of the team that is doing the work.
A great controller must communicate with extraordinary skill. This seem obvious in the context of coalition building, but it’s much more than that. The role of a business controller is to communicate with department heads and staff, she must be able to speak to shareholders, line employees, and even the press. The larger the enterprise, the more people a controller must communicate with clearly.
No, this isn’t redundant. Language skills are more than just speaking to everyone who speaks your language, but also communicating across borders. When leading an international firm, you need to be able to use different languages fluently. You might not need to write your own legal documents, but you need to be able to understand the nuances of the languages of the people your firm will negotiate with. This is doubly important for European firms where there are a lot of languages in a small space.
A controller must be a quick and clear decider. She needs to be able to take data and make solid, clear decisions quickly and well. While no decision is ever truly final, a good controller needs to be able to decide rapidly and convey decisions clearly.
It’s very easy for bosses who work in the Executive Offices to not be engaged in the moment to moment events in the business. Being engaged means knowing who works there, what their concerns and needs are, and how the business can be made more efficient and cost effective. As the person in charge of the firm’s finances, one of the best ways to increase profits is to look for ways to more income is to reduce costs. The people who work ‘on the floor’ are always the best place to find ways to save money. Staying engaged with the employees by walking around and talking to people is the simplest way to increase company profits.
These are only a few of the traits that a great business unit controller should have, but these five, when present, are the best indicators of a person who is well-rounded and extremely skilled.
Rene Blum is a Swiss business controller who has led dozens of businesses to profitability and success.