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Becoming a Controller at a Company?

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Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 21 Sep 2010, 06:36
Hi,

I was just curious, if one wants to become a controller at a company, do you have to start off in accounting, work at the big 4, or is it possible to become one even without working in public accounting? I have an interest in these kinds of positions, and while I know that the position has a lot of accounting in it, I'm not sure if I can work as a pure accountant, and thus I'm wondering how far back not being a PA will set me in terms of becoming a controller and maybe a CFO?

thanks
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2010, 14:36
It depends on company size, but at most medium and larger companies the controller is a CPA and usually has public accounting experience (typically in the audit practice). Controller tends to be a avery accounting-focused position (as opposed to VP Finance and CFO which have broader remits).

Being a CPA would make it much more likely that you would be successful in becoming controller, as would having some public experience under your belt.
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2010, 15:49
Jerz is right on the money. If you don't like accounting, then you really won't like being a controller (one can reasonably assume). This is due to the fact that the majority of the time you are reviewing journal entries, account reconciliations, and financial statements. If you want to become a CFO, and don't want to go the accounting route, then look into corporate finance and try to start out in a finance rotation program at a company (you will work in budgeting, forecasting, etc.). There is no specific route, although from what I have seen, many controllers end up as CFO's, due in large part to the fact that controllers are well skilled at financial statement analysis.
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2010, 17:08
Its not that I dislike accounting work, its just that I dislike public accounting work because after a while, it just becomes a glorified sales/schmoozing clients position, which I am not interested in. This is also why I can't see myself as an investment banking MD or to a lesser extent partner at a consulting firm. While I understand that a lot of jobs at the senior levels are relationship-based, I still want that to be a minimal part of my job and strategy/execution/management to be my main responsibilities.

But I digress. If being a controller is like being a public accountant, then I might want to avoid that then. However, the VP of Finance type of position seems to have some duties that seem appealing to me. How would I go about getting those jobs? I don't go to the most prestigious undergrad in the world, so would getting into the rotational programs that someone mentioned earlier basically be a pipe-dream for me, or do they sometimes take state school kids?
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2010, 18:58
No, you just have to apply to a Company in hopes of getting in. I have friends who did it and they want to an lesser known state school. You would probably spend quite a lot of time before actually reaching VP of Finance if you spent the entire time in industry. That is why most people take the public accounting route. It cuts years off the time that it would normally take to reach such a position in industry. You would likely be in and out before sales really became part of your job. Either way, just apply to a finance related position/program in a company that you would like to work for. Once in, you can often appy for different positions especially if you show good potential.
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 23 Sep 2010, 03:32
I'm doing corporate finance role that you are looking into clovin. You can get in directly to those F500 companies or..... you can do a year or two of audit and apply. Having a CPA helps too. You mentioned you hate pure accounting, then a Financial Analyst -> eventual VP of Finance role will suit you. More financial analysis on the company, forecasting/budgeting, and less accounting.
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 23 Sep 2010, 05:33
Dawgie wrote:
I'm doing corporate finance role that you are looking into clovin. You can get in directly to those F500 companies or..... you can do a year or two of audit and apply. Having a CPA helps too. You mentioned you hate pure accounting, then a Financial Analyst -> eventual VP of Finance role will suit you. More financial analysis on the company, forecasting/budgeting, and less accounting.



do you need a lot of accounting background?
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 23 Sep 2010, 05:56
shaselai wrote:
Dawgie wrote:
I'm doing corporate finance role that you are looking into clovin. You can get in directly to those F500 companies or..... you can do a year or two of audit and apply. Having a CPA helps too. You mentioned you hate pure accounting, then a Financial Analyst -> eventual VP of Finance role will suit you. More financial analysis on the company, forecasting/budgeting, and less accounting.



do you need a lot of accounting background?


My guess is that you'll need a decent amount of accounting and it would behoove you to take at least part of the intermediate series. From what I've heard, taking more than just intro man and fin accounting helps you get jobs because employers know that they are relatively difficult classes, plus being good at understanding the nuances of the statements, the footnotes and whatnot within a company will make you a more attractive candidate. Even if you don't use everything you learn from those classes, it will still be of use in terms of getting the job.

My guess is that some of the other garbage you learn in accounting like tax or advanced auditing and all might be worthless, so its probably best to just focus on taking as much financial accounting as possible. However, it might be best, in retrospect, to let Dawgie or one of the other experts handle this as I'm just a kid still :D
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Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company? [#permalink] New post 23 Sep 2010, 15:30
Do be honest, you don't need any accounting knowledge, if you have the right connections. :-D

In most cases, a degree in accounting or finance is preferred. I have friends that had degrees in various fields that worked in the corp finance departments of F500 companies. It really depends on the needs of the company and timing. That being said, the accounting degree or finance degree is the same route.
Re: Becoming a Controller at a Company?   [#permalink] 23 Sep 2010, 15:30
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