Your Financial Cast of Characters

Your finances tell a story. It’s an intriguing and exciting one (trust me, it really is). Within that story there are different characters, each of whom play a different role. Sometimes these are all the same people. If you’re lucky, you get to work with more than one number nerd day-to-day.

It’s important to understand each of the characters in your financial story. Just as each founder or CEO is not the same, neither are the financial individuals in your organization. They each have a special skill set and way of thinking, but all can contribute to the overall success of your organization.

Chief Financial Officer

This is your top level financial person. They’re responsible for oversight of your finances, as well as strategy for your business. Read, you want them on your side as you map out long-term growth and eventual exit. They can help you see big picture while managing the day-to-day.

Roles include:

  • Supervisor – A CFO oversees the administrative accounting functions/processes to ensure they are running smoothly (yes, there are different types of accounting functions).
  • Planner – A CFO keeps a watchful eye on the inflow and outflows and provides you with the information you need to make decisions surrounding investments, purchases, next steps, etc.
  • Interpreter – A CFO helps you understand the numbers in a meaningful way. In other words, it’s part of their job to help you get it and understand why it matters.
  • Navigator – A CFO helps guide your business toward strategic growth, identifying areas of improvement, as well as any threats that may be lurking around.

The CFO is essential to the story of your business because they oversee a crucial aspect of you being in business (cough money). They also help you understand your business and its strengths/weaknesses and how to leverage those strengths and improve the weaknesses in order to achieve what you’ve set out to do.

They are big picture thinkers (hence why we keep using the word strategy). They are not responsible for day-to-day task related financial work. That falls to our next few characters.


This is the individual who is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day task related financial work. Their main role is oversight of the company’s finances, ensuring their timeliness and accuracy, as well as responsibility for the accounting department team.

Responsibilities of a controller will include:

  • Accounting system set-up and maintenance
  • Financial statement preparation and reporting
  • Bank and credit statement reconciliation
  • Oversight of the accounting staff, including supervision and training
  • Budgeting
  • Procedure documentation
  • Payroll
  • Accounts payable and receivable
  • General ledger maintenance
  • Tax compliance

The controller is the gatekeeper of the financial information, bridging the gap between data entry (coming up next) and strategy.


We have now arrived at our final character in your accounting journey: the bookkeeper. This person is essential because they complete the day-to-day task related work.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Everyday business transaction processing
  • Task related reporting (such as sales tax, payroll, etc.)
  • Maintenance of supporting documentation (such as invoices, bills, receipts, Form W-9s, exemption certificates, credit applications, etc.)

A bookkeeper is like a storehouse of information about your business. They know things like chart of accounts, procedures related to functions such as accounts payable and receivable, maintain invoices and more. They are not however, expected to make strategic business decisions based on this information.

So who do you need?

Each of these characters supports a specific role in your organization. But as a small business or startup, you might not have the finances necessary to hire all the financial people (ironic isn’t it).

Here’s the good news: you can outsource a lot of this at a relatively low cost until you’re at the stage where you’re comfortable moving it in house.

What’s important is to know the importance (and necessity) of understanding your finances and your financial journey. Then find a trusted business advisor, or advisors, to help you along the way.

3 comments on “Your Financial Cast of Characters

  1. […] a lot of them on this blog). But beyond that, hire someone with CFO or controller level knowledge (here’s the difference) to help […]


  2. […] Chief Financial Officer –– This is a high-level accounting position in a business, which can sometimes be overseen by the president or vice president of finance in the organization. Being at such a high level, this position holds a substantial amount of responsibility. Some of the duties of a CFO include overseeing the accounting function, managing taxation of the business and assisting with strategic planning. It is safe to say that a CFO is not just a one trick pony. (To learn more about the cast of financial characters, check out this blog). […]


  3. […] could go into great detail on what makes them different (oh wait, we did). Instead, here’s a basic breakdown of the difference between the […]


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