When to Hire a Bookkeeper vs CFO vs Controller

Eric Weynand, Founder
bookkeeper, CFO, & controller

Thinking of hiring a bookkeeper, CFO, or controller but don’t know where to start?

You’ve come to the right place! 

Many business owners struggle with understanding when they need help with finance and accounting and what level of support will be the best fit for them. So if this is you, you’re not alone. 

In this article, we’ll cover the signs that may be pointing your business towards the need for a financial partner and explain the roles of a bookkeeper, CFO, and controller. 

Ideally, when finished reading, you’ll have a better idea of what level of finance and accounting support is right for your business. 

Signs You May Need a Bookkeeper, CFO, or Controller

Once your business reaches a certain point, it becomes clear you can no longer manage your finances on your own. 

However, outsourcing finances can be a big step, and knowing when you’ve reached the point where outsourced finance and accounting support will be helpful isn’t easy.  

It looks different from business to business and there are a variety of indicators. 

To help, here are some of the signs you should consider calling on either a bookkeeper, CFO, or controller for help: 

You are Growing Quickly

With so much upkeep, from a business owner’s standpoint, during seasons of growth, keeping up with finances often falls to the wayside. 

However, this is a critical mistake. Your finances matter most during this time, and you need systems that grow with your business. 

Your Finances are Becoming More Complex

With growth also comes complexities and your finances start to demand more attention. 

Considering it’s vital to optimize your finances and position your business to succeed, but you don’t have the time to do it on your own, you should turn to a financial planner. They’ll take the tedious, difficult tasks off your plate. 

You are Experiencing Cash Flow Problems 

82% of businesses fail because of cash flow problems, and you don’t want to be one of them. 

No matter what level of finance and accounting support you choose, if you are experiencing issues with your cash flow, the right partner will be quick to correct them. 

You Need to Raise Capital

Positioning your business to attract investors and communicating with those investors can be difficult and time-consuming. 

Depending on which level of finance and accounting support you choose, your partner can help raise capital efficiently. 

You are Exit Planning 

There will come a time when you decide to sell your business. However, there is plenty of work that needs to be done beforehand. 

Again, depending on which level of finance and accounting support you choose, your partner will help you craft an exit plan. 

If your business is experiencing any of these situations, an outsourced bookkeeper, CFO, or controller can help. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these roles to better understand which financial partner would be the best fit for your business. 

What is a Bookkeeper? 

A bookkeeper handles the day-to-day tasks of managing a business’s finances. Their role covers the financial basics. 


  • Record transactions in the accounting software
  • Manage Accounts Receivable (A/R) – customer invoicing and collections
  • Manage Accounts Payable (A/P) – vendor bills and payment
  • Manage Payroll – employee compensation, benefits, and payroll tax filing with the government
  • Generate reports
  • Analyze data

They are experts in managing the day-to-day finance and accounting aspects of your business and ensuring that your transaction recording and reporting are accurate and timely.

What is a CFO? 

A CFO keeps a close eye on the overall financial position of the business, not just the day-to-day activities. They work closely with the CEO to strategize growth plans and provide advisory services. 

Typically, a CFO’s work reflects the needs of the business. In addition to basic accounting, CFO’s will

  • Provide strategic planning for short and long-term growth
  • Optimize cash flow
  • Reduce your business risk 
  • Assist in banking relationships and obtaining loans (or other credit facilities)
  • Improve overall financial health
  • Use forecasting to help plan your next move

When you partner with a CFO, you’ll be able to see the best path forward for your business.

What is a Controller? 

A controller takes a wider role than a bookkeeper in that they manage the accounting operations, but oftentimes work under and report to the CFO. Your business would likely benefit from a controller if your accounting complexity is growing and you need more advanced expertise than a bookkeeper alone can provide. 

A controller will: 

  • Oversee the finance team
  • Help with implementing new accounting systems 
  • Offer additional data interpretation
  • Create and upkeep budgets
  • Budget vs actuals reporting and analysis
  • Ensure you are meeting cash flow goals
  • Implement complex accounting processes, such as revenue accrual/deferral to transition to accrual based-accounting, or allocation of expenses to COGS for proper gross profit and margin calculations

The controller’s role adapts to whatever the business needs. 

How Do I Know What Level of Finance and Accounting Support is Right for My Business? 

If you’ve found yourself needing a bookkeeper, CFO, or controller but still aren’t sure which level of finance and accounting support would be the best fit for your business, reach out to PlotPath

We offer finance and accounting support to varying degrees and after chatting with you to learn more about your business and its unique needs, we will help you determine which service is right for you. 
Contact us today!