How controllers can create a back office that supports rapid growth


Controllers play a central role in supporting company growth, but maintaining efficiency and control across a rapidly scaling organization is no easy task.

Rapid company growth affects every role, but the controller faces some of the greatest challenges. As financial systems grow more complex and burdened, controllers are mandated to manage the complexity while simultaneously improving cash flow and reducing costs.

By rethinking the approach in these five key areas, controllers can not only keep costs lean but strategically deliver the financial flexibility and visibility that companies need to grow sustainably.

1. Monitor the metrics

To monitor the impact of growth on the back-office team, it’s essential to track key metrics accurately. How many expense reports are you processing? How many cash receipts? How many invoices? How long is it taking to process? How much overtime is being logged? Are early payment discounts being missed? Being able to pull data from accounts payable, accounts receivable, banking, and human resources systems can help you build a clearer picture of the workload and the levels of efficiency your team is able to maintain, and seeing how those numbers change over time gives you an early warning sign when the status quo needs to change.

2. Quantify growth

Efficiency is a top priority for controllers at high-growth companies, because while the business may grow exponentially, the back-office headcount can’t follow suit. Using credible historical data will help you to project how anticipated growth will impact the department, and that in turn lets you make informed decisions about whether it still makes sense to hire more staff or whether it’s time to invest in automated processes.

3. Tighten controls

After efficiency, internal controls are top-of-mind for controllers at high-growth companies. As the organization expands, so does the need for visibility and control, and that can often signal the need to shift from paper to digital processes. When invoices travel through the system in inter-office envelopes, it’s next to impossible to track the chain of custody or the invoice status accurately. Digitization provides built-in audit controls and 100% visibility, which enables controllers to stay in control and manage cash flow more effectively.

4. Rethink talent

As back-office processes evolve to support higher transaction volumes, the roles involved also need to evolve. When processes are small-scale and paper-based, people need to be detail-oriented and able to perform repetitive tasks swiftly and accurately. When the process scales up and digitizes, the back office needs a different set of skills to thrive. Take a close look at your team’s talent profile to ensure that you have the analytical and critical-thinking skills on staff to monitor and interpret the data flowing through the system.

5. Support forward thinking

Growing companies thrive on innovation, and so do the back offices that support them. Finding new and better ways to do things is an essential component for growth, and the best ideas often come from the people on the front lines, not in the corner office. Give your staff time to research new tools and explore new trends that could help the back office improve. When you have the right people on staff, they will always seek out better ways to do things, and smart managers support those instincts by giving their staff time to do so.

Growth brings new opportunities

Rapid growth brings new challenges; for controllers, it also brings new opportunities. By letting go of existing processes and embracing change, the back office can not only cope with the inevitable growing pains but it can also become a strategic partner in supporting the company’s continued success.