How to Identify Clients for Controller Services

how to identify clients

Are you excited to start offering controller services for your clients but not sure which ones to approach? This guide is for you! Below we cover 4 ways to identify clients for controller services.

New to controller services? Be sure to read our 12-month plan (Bookkeeping to Controllership), and take our Controller Readiness Quiz to see how close you are to offering controller services!

A peak inside:

What Is a Controller and What Is a Controller’s Role in a Company?

Not sure what a controller is, or what they do?

At a high level controllers are responsible for overseeing the financial operations of organizations. Some typical responsibilities of controllers are:

  • Creating budgets

  • Creating financial reports

  • Creating cash flow forecasts

  • Analyzing financial data

  • Performing bookkeeping duties (some controllers perform the role of bookkeeper, others work alongside bookkeepers.)

Note: For a more in-depth look check out our comparison of bookkeepers, controllers and CFOs.

Identifying Clients for Controller Services (4-ways)

1. Using the Balance Sheet

Taking a look at a client balance sheet can be a great way to quickly see if they’re a good fit for controller services. Here’s 4 signs to keep an eye out for:

  • They’re Relying on a Line of Credit:

    Continually maxing out a line of credit is essentially a term loan in disguise. There are healthy uses of a line of credit, like for the one time purchase of essential equipment, but businesses shouldn’t be relying on them in perpetuity. If they are, it’s likely to do some sort of cash management difficulties.

  • They Have Low Working Capital:

    There’s no magic ratio here, but a healthy benchmark is 2:1 (assets to liabilities). Keep an eye out for low working capital as it is an indication that a client is trying to deal with cash flow issues.

  • They Have Low Cash Reserves:

    The lower their cash reserves are, the more susceptible to cash flow issues or changes they are. Cash management and forecasting would help them see any future shortfalls, and build a larger cash reserve. How cash should a business keep on hand?

  • They have High Long-Term Debt:

    If a client is consistently going back and adding debt relative to their operations, this is a sign that they are dealing with cash flow issues.

Note: Don’t just focus on business that have immediate and evident cash problems. Even strong, stable business can have cash management problems or inefficiencies that you can illuminate and improve. 

2. Size and state of Their Business 

Due to the nature and costs of controller services, they’re typically best for business with over $1 million in revenue.

When business start to reach $1-5 million in revenue, the complexity on the operations and financial side reach a point where a controller can provide real value and ROI for business owners. 

Business that have a high growth rate or seasonal cash flows are also great candidates as they’re highly dependent of the timing of cash flows, and interested in forecasting the coming months and years.  

3. Engaging with Clients

Numbers aren’t the only way, be sure to listen and engage with your clients!

Here it’s helpful to remember why your client likely hired you in the first place. For your financial expertise!

Of course there’s probably an element of them just wanting you to handle their financials, so that they can focus on their business. But, the point here is: they trust you with their financial information.

This means they’re open (and probably want) to discuss their current financial state with you. You may even find, if read between the lines, they’re actually asking for controllers services!

Keep a keen ear out for questions or statements from your clients like:

  • “We’re looking to expand in the summer, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to hire a new employee.”

  • “Our equipment is starting to go, so we’d like to replace it by the end of the year”

  • “I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pay all our bills this month honestly”

These serve as a great launching point for a discussion on expanding your services. If you were creating budgets and creating cash flow forecasts for them these are the types of inquiries you could easily answer!

4. Asking Clients!

Just ask. Yes it can be that simple (no we’re not joking). Not the most elegant solution, but often clients are keenly aware of their pain points, and may have heard from peers what has helped their businesses. 

Its unlikely business owners will directly ask you for controller services (although this can happen), and they may not be sure what to call them, but much like what we saw above, they’ll have some idea of their pains or what they’re looking for.

Some clients will be really well informed and ask for exactly what they need, others will have vague ideas and usually speak in terms of pain points they’re experiencing.

Don’t be discouraged if you ask how else you can help, and their reply is along the lines of

“I don’t need anything”, or “I’m not really sure, nothing I guess”

This is a great starting point for a conversation surrounding where they are, and where they want to end up, and how you, as the financial expert and advisor, can help them achieve their goals!

Hearing “No” is Okay!

If you follow these approaches and you still hear “NO”, that’s okay!

We actually have a full article on why hearing no is okay! The short and sweet version of it is: whether your new to controller services, or a seasoned expert in the field, rejection is part of the job.

And that’s totally normal and okay!

When you hear ‘no’ that’s an opportunity for you to review your approach. What was different about this client? Is there something about them that you now realize doesn’t make them a great candidate for these services? Could you have presented your ideas in a more convincing way?

And remember, even when you do everything perfectly, not every client is ideally suited for controller services, and not everyone will want them! Don’t sweat it.

More Resources

For more on all things controllership check out more of our resources below. If you’d like to see how Helm can help you offer incredible controller services you can learn more here.

Until next time!