The Financial Controller in a family business is normally viewed as one of the top key players in the running of the family business. The influence that financial controllers can exert can be significant as they can provide an independent and impartial view of what is happening in the family business and how it can best improve and adapt to the challenges such business would be facing.
Whether inhouse and employed, or through external service providers, financial controllers need to make sure that they understand the forces at play in a family business, whilst making sure that they use their unique position to influence family businesses to shape up and become more professional. Therefore, these financial controllers have many times a role which goes beyond the accounting and reporting function.
Specifically, a financial controller, should be influential to:
• ensure that the family business has the appropriate governance structures that a financial controller can use to warn about future risks or address present issues;
• ensure that the ownership structure of the family business is in line with the business reality and future needs;
• build an internal culture amongst the family business leadership that is based on a strategic mindset and not just an operational one;
• set up a firm reporting calendar, ensuring that the family business becomes a data driven organisation, whereby decisions are taken on data and not gut feeling;
• help set up various important policies as part of the corporate governance setup of the family business, including policies on family employment, dividend distribution and family wealth management; and
• encourages succession planning at all levels of the family business so that this is an ongoing journey rather than being left as a last-minute event.
The underlying point is simple. Many times, financial controllers, whether internal or external, are likely to be amongst the first true professionals that are in contact with family businesses and the first port of call family business owners turn to, especially when facing a problem. Hence, their role is much larger than that of preparing financial statements. They are uniquely positioned to ensure that the family business moves up the professional ladder in the way it is managed, having the right strategic mindset, corporate governance structures and data driven culture which ensures that a family business is led through carefully planning for the future, rather than just firefighting with the present.
Interested in the learning more? Mr Silvan Mifsud will be delivering a two session package on Being the Financial Controller of a Family Business - register here!