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Does Your Business Need a Bookkeeper or a Controller?

September 10, 2017

As an entrepreneur, you may have started out handling bookkeeping on your own or turned the job over to a spouse or family member. Eventually, the business grows, and you realize you need professional help to manage the accounting and financial reporting. What type of professional do you really need: a bookkeeper or a controller?

The roles of each are commonly misunderstood and while their tasks may overlap in some areas, their focus is very different.


A bookkeeper is responsible for recording financial transactions in the company’s accounting system and monitoring the accuracy of daily journal entries. Typically they don’t have advanced accounting or finance training. However, a bookkeeper's responsibilities may be significant in small companies where fewer employees are tasked with managing the finances.

According to the Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, the annual salary for a bookkeeper ranges from $33,250 to $55,000 per year.


Hiring a controller is usually the next stage of financial reporting when a business’ needs grow beyond the bookkeeper’s capabilities. Ideally, your controller should be a CPA or have significant formal experience in accounting and finance. A controller is responsible for monitoring internal controls, producing cash flow forecasts, setting budgets, analyzing business performance, and offering insight to meet financial targets.

According to the Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide, the annual salary for a controller can range from $90,500 to $220,000 per year.

Small business owners often focus on hiring or outsourcing bookkeeping help to manage payroll, sales tax, reconciling bank and credit card statements, and tracking inventory, payables, and receivables. Unfortunately, the bookkeeper often gets caught up in the aspects of the day-to-day operations rather than focusing on growth opportunities or insights needed to solidify business health. Using the services of an outsourced controller can provide the small business owner with additional expertise to help with strategy, forecasting, and special projects while avoiding the cost of a full-time employee.

The challenge is finding the right mix of expertise at an affordable cost.  Fortunately, outsourced services can help to fill this need, and provide flexibility, as a company grows and its staff resource needs change.

If you’re unsure of the level of accounting and finance expertise your business needs, contact MarksNelson at 816-743-7700. Our professionals can help you begin the process of identifying, prioritizing and achieving your goals.


At MarksNelson, we pride ourselves on our commitment to innovation and technology. This fuels our professionals' drive to work with you, not for you - bringing comprehensive and innovative solutions to the conversation and helping remove uncertainty from the outcome. >>> READ MORE
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