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Why it Matters: Bookkeeping VS Controllership

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Are you offering truly proactive controllership services?

Or are they still slightly reactive?

To move from traditional bookkeeping/accounting to controllership you’ll need to be more than just reactive.


While Bookkeeping and Controllership are different things, many bookkeepers we’ve spoken to during our Cash Flow Advisory Lite course, are already doing some or all of a controllers work without positioning themselves that way.

This is key, because the value provided to your client is vastly different between bookkeeping services and controllership services. So let’s jump in and look at the differences:

Bookkeeping: In a very basic and traditional sense, bookkeeping is the process of recording and organizing all of the transactions that run through a business. In a typical outsourced setting, you find bookkeepers recording receipts, entering sales earned, handling payroll and processing and remitting sales taxes.

Controllers, on the other hand, are typically tasked with ensuring the proper functioning of a business’ accounting system. And we don’t mean proper functioning of just software, controllers ensure the business itself is running as efficiently as possible. They help answer questions like:

Is there enough money in the bank? Are customers paying on time? If not, how is that affecting financial plans? Is the business meeting its near term strategic goals?

From these we can see that bookkeeping is very much transactional in nature, with the bulk of the work resting in data processing, whereas controllership is managerial in nature.

Why this is Important?

There is a massive difference in the value your client is receiving between these two services. While traditional bookkeeping focuses on being reactive to client requests and processing data, controllership is about being proactive. The former is much more valuable to your client as it frees them up to focus on the more operational aspects of their business.

For you, the professional, there's also a difference in how you spend your time. To provide effective controllership services there is a much larger requirement on getting to know your client’s business inside and out, as well as the business owner themselves as a person.

Lastly, controllership can provide you with a way to escape traditional and commoditized bookkeeping services. This allows you to do more interesting work and become indispensable financial partners with your clients.

How to Transition from Traditional Bookkeeping to Controllership
If our starting point is traditional bookkeeping, where you are being hired to process transactions, we can simplify the transition to being an outsourced controller to just three steps:

First progress to owning and managing the bookkeeping process itself.

Next, utilize that accounting function to help the business plan out its future course (think budgets and forecasts).

Lastly start reporting back to the business on how it is performing relative to those goals

Performing all of these core functions for your client, on an ongoing basis, you are ensuring the proper functioning of their business’ accounting system, and the business itself. And as you may have noticed that is, exactly what a controller is supposed to be doing.

This is a very simplified version of the process, for a more detailed look check out our full guide on: How Bookkeepers can Transition to Outsourced Controllership.

Are you currently making the moving from bookkeeper/accountant to outsourced controller? Let us know how its going, and if you have any questions please reach out! You can find us on LinkedIn here