Qualities to Look for in a Business Controller

Business Controller

Within your growing business, the controller serves as the financial leader and accounting manager. They need to be able to perform multiple functions, from data analyst to financial strategist to chief accountant.

Given the importance of the role to your company, it is smart to understand the qualities a controller should have before you begin recruiting for the role.

Right for Your Company’s Scale

In addition to the general qualities a controller should have, they need to fit your business. This means that if your company is small and quickly growing, you need a controller willing to put in the extra effort. A controller with experience solely at larger companies may not have that willingness.

On the other hand, if you have a large or established business, you need a controller who can act and think strategically and develop a strong team. That may be overwhelming for a more hands-on controller who has only worked with small companies.

With that in mind, consider the other general traits to look for in your business controller.

Ability to Hire the Right Team

As the business controller is a leadership role, one of their most important abilities is hiring and leading a strong team. They will know how to find candidates who fit the company culture and have the necessary skills for the role. Or they will know how to work with a recruiter who can find those candidates.

Understanding of the Team’s Abilities

As part of the hiring and leadership process, a good business controller will recognize the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on the team, including themselves. They will not only know these strengths and weaknesses but also how to put them to use. Moreover, they can encourage team members to overcome weaknesses and share their strengths with others.

Setting Clear Expectations

Good controllers will communicate the goals for their team, both as a whole and on the individual level. They will not just communicate these goals but listen to feedback and follow up. If it becomes clear that a goal is impossible to meet, they will adjust as necessary. By contrast, bad controllers will be stuck in their ways and unwilling to move the goalposts even slightly.

Other Qualities a Controller Should Have

The above qualities are the most important ones for a controller, but they are far from the only ones. You also want to look for a controller who:

  • Has accounting experience
  • Has leadership experience
  • Possesses excellent communication skills
  • Can compile, translate, and analyze numbers
  • Can optimize processes
  • Is familiar with industry regulations
  • Shares credit but takes responsibility for blame
  • Is service-oriented
  • Always looks for ways to improve themselves


When hiring a business controller, you want to look for someone with leadership and financial skills. They must be clear in their expectations and know how to create a strong team. They should be aware of their weaknesses and try to improve themselves. So if you are overwhelmed by the process of finding a business controller, consider having a recruiting company screen the candidates for you.

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