By Jacques Santucci
The cannabis industry is evolving rapidly and so is your organization. Having a great business plan and running that business are two very different things. And your success depends on your team, particularly your financial team.
One important point to understand when hiring your financial team is the difference between a bookkeeper, controller, and chief financial officer. For small and medium-sized cannabis businesses, these terms can get tossed around rather loosely, but a better understanding of them can contribute positively to your bottom line by shoring up accounting practices and better delineating roles.
A bookkeeper performs basic financial record keeping and can create simple financial reports. A bookkeeper will typically perform the following basic tasks:
- Keep accurate records of financial transactions and can create basic financial statements (Income Statement and Balance Sheet) using your accounting software. The choice of software is crucial and is the topic of another article.
- Perform basic Accounts Payable management – making sure bills get paid and then records these entries into the accounting system.
- Perform basic Accounts Receivable management – if the business, like wholesalers, has to send invoices to customers to get paid, sends out invoices usually once a month. The system will issue a receipt at the time of sales.
Although the tasks are basic, attention to detail is of the utmost importance in the bookkeeping profession. A few data entry errors can cost your company a significant amount of time and money. The bookkeeper or the accountant, of your company is an essential element of your administrative team, and particularly in a new company.
Adding a controller adds more power to your financial management. In fact, a good controller will pay for itself in a growing company that needs more advanced systems by helping to keep costs under control and by helping to better manage cash flow. A controller performs the following tasks:
- A controller will either perform all of the functions of a bookkeeper or supervise the staff that does.
- They can create customized daily, weekly and monthly financial reports to meet the specific needs of your business.
- They have the knowledge to choose and maintain financial software.
- They can take over the basic cash flow management of the business and the control of expenses. But major cash flow decisions will still be up to the business owner.
A good controller is worth their weight in gold to any small or medium size business where cash management is a strategic factor in success.
Chief Financial Officer
The CFO oversees the overall financial management of a company. Planning, projecting, measuring and tracking financial and operational progress as well as financial compliance fall under the CFO’s umbrella. A CFO’s duties include:
- Supervise accounting and operational departments and can perform all functions of a Controller.
- Analyze and review the monthly Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow with the management team. Also looks at the story behind the numbers, not just the numbers, and drives toward data-driven decision-making.
- Create complex financial projections to aid in strategic decision-making, and is an active player in the strategic management of the business.
- Direct the business in the development of an effective capital structure by securing financing at attractive terms, managing relationships and ensuring compliance to the terms.
- Focus on effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of financial reporting, and compliance with laws and regulations.
- Be the key contact for financial relationships in the banking and legal community as well as with major vendors and clients.
In conclusion, there is a significant strategic and tactical difference between the value a CFO brings to the leadership of a business and that of a Bookkeeper. Because most small and medium size businesses cannot afford a full-time CFO, then a part-time CFO would be an ideal arrangement. The key is to find a CFO that can be your trusted advisor and provide financial, operational and business insights.
The industry is maturing, so should your financial team.