How to Be a Successful Controller with a Lean Crew

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Guest Post by Jun Feng, CPA, Controller at Contentstack

My accounting career started in the Big Four, which led to a number of stints at high-profile tech companies. Then I took a leap of faith and joined the startup world, which was a completely new experience. Gone were the days of delegating responsibilities to a large staff. Instead, as the controller of a startup, you wear multiple hats. One moment you’re knee-deep in AP and the next you’re immersed in AR or revenue recognition.

Today, I’m the controller at Contentstack, a SaaS startup providing companies with a content management system to accelerate their digital strategy. It’s comprised of multiple entities that span the globe. And yet from the time I joined the company until just recently, our US-based finance department consisted of three people—our CFO, a bookkeeper, and me.

Want to know how I make it work with such a lean team? Here’s my strategy.

Invest in Connected Finance Technology

No matter how efficient or accurate your team tries to be in a manual process, it makes it next to impossible to be a successful controller. Take the AR function. Trying to track every customer invoice and communication in a spreadsheet is extremely laborious, which inevitably means mistakes happen and information falls through the cracks—either within your own team or with other internal departments like sales, or worst of all, between your company and its customers.

You fortunately have another option: You can connect whatever human resources your budget allows with technology to exponentially expand your team’s capacity and increase the transparency of its work so that the C-suite, sales, and other key stakeholders can see the information they need to do their jobs.

For example, we implemented Tesorio’s cash flow performance platform at Contentstack and here’s a snapshot of what we accomplished with no change in staffing:

  • Improved our DSO by 10+ days
  • Decreased overdue invoices by 10%
  • Tesorio paid for itself in the first 90-days
  • Reduced my weekly AR review time from hours to minutes
  • Gives us click-of-a-button access to our current cash flow forecast
  • Provides our internal team with on-demand access to relevant, customer-facing AR information
  • Gives sales the capability to find key insights for upsell opportunities
  • Eliminates manual requests for information that I have been fielding from leadership and sales

Customize Technology to Suit You

Once you add a platform like Tesorio, take advantage of all its functionality and customization options so you get the most out of it. For example, we use the tags available in Tesorio to notate information at both the customer and invoice level. From there, we can easily filter our dunning campaigns based on those tags and set them to our desired cadence.

As a result, we can appropriately distinguish the messaging and timing of our outreach no matter which of these or other situations apply:

  • New or renewing customers
  • Reliably prompt or historically late payers
  • Customers using procurement platforms
  • Customers that require POs

This has saved us so much time that we now focus on strategy rather than on mundane tasks. It’s also made it much easier for customers to pay us, so they do it faster, which is a huge boost to cash flow.

Want to find out more about Jun Feng’s tips for being a successful controller? Listen to the first edition of our Coffee, Collections, and Cash Flow mini webinar featuring Contentstack’s controller.