Why is the controller so controlling?


Paula Domm
Controller Columnist

It sometimes feels like controllers are perceived as the bad cop and that our main function within the dealership is to intimidate and put the fear of reprisal into the employees. Well nothing could be further from the truth.

Imagine, if you will, how any business would function if there wasn’t someone watching over the financial details. And imagine what would happen to your business if you didn’t pay your bills on time, if you didn’t pay your employees, if your customers didn’t pay you and you didn’t keep an eye on your cash flow.

When I first entered the world of automotive, it was intriguing to me how the accounting department functioned. It was like a flowchart – watch this go here then follow it over there. And don’t forget to add this on. And make sure you do this, this and this. And while you’re at it, don’t forget this.

There is so much information to process.

I’ve tried to explain the accounting process to some of my co-workers, just to try and give them an idea of the complexities of the GL system and what happens if they post that RO to the wrong account. But their eyes glaze over and they give me that look that says they would rather be anywhere else than talking with me at that moment.

Accounting seems to be something that most other employees aren’t interested in learning more about.

The complexities of the accounting process within a dealership require someone with not only accounting fundamentals but an individual who can multitask, analyze, communicate, decipher, and put it all in perspective when explaining it to their dealer principal or manager.

If I had to pick one attribute that accounting managers possess, it is the ability to quickly calculate what went wrong and how to fix it. I’ve been told that they can see the wheels turning in my head when I’m working on a problem.

Controllers need to be analytical, decisive and confident, yet still maintain a professionalism that is expected of someone who holds this most important position in the dealership.

At many of our STA meetings, topics of discussion tend to be familiar to all of us. How do we get this process changed or what are you doing for this issue that might work at my dealership? Problems are not exclusive to just one of us.

Controllers are not out to make more work for the employees.  We want to make the departments more efficient, eliminate wasteful, unproductive time spent on issues that don’t need to be there.

We want to ensure that processes are in place to protect the dealership. Controllers are advocates for doing it right the first time. We don’t have time to waste. So, if we come off a little strong or hard headed, it’s because we are doing the very best we know how to make sure that when managers look at that statement at the end of the month, we know it to be true and exact. The perfectionist in us demands this. The work ethic in us insists upon it.

Now, that’s not to say we keep ourselves strictly to the accounting office. Controllers have the ability to look at situations more objectively as they see it from a different perspective.

I have been known to throw my two cents in when it comes to ideas for service or sales and while they aren’t always adopted, they are discussed and I am always encouraged to give my opinion.

Controllers are a driven bunch. We don’t watch clocks and when working on a specific task, hours can go by before we even venture out of our offices. There is nothing better to a controller than having to find a needle in a haystack. We thrive on the adventure of it.

The STA is a way for controllers to come together and discuss what is happening in the dealerships, what is coming up in the future, what is changing now and what we need to do to make sure our dealers are protected and our employees are looked after as well.

Controlling is not just balancing the books. It’s about looking after the financial integrity, prosperity and credibility of the business. And for all of that, we take it very seriously indeed.

Paula Domm is the controller at Hanover Chrysler, Ontario and the communications director for the Secretary Treasurer’s Association of Ontario. The STA is always looking for new members. For more information regarding this article and about the STA, please contact Paula HERE