Adding Value – The Club Controller

The Club Controller is an important member of the club management team.  There are a number of constituencies that rely on the expertise and efforts of the Controller, including the General Manager, the club’s Board or ownership, the department heads with bottom line responsibility, and, of course, the employees who jobs depend upon the solvency of the club.

The Controller’s role is more than that of an accountant who, according to accounting definitions, records and reports financial transactions.  In addition to maintaining the General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Member Billing and Accounts Receivable, Payroll, and Financial Reporting, the Controller plays a vital role by assisting managers in maintaining the profitability of the club.

The functions of the Controller tend to fall into a routine of monitoring daily activity, processing bi-weekly payroll, ongoing processing and payment of invoices, monthly member billing, and end of month closing and financial reporting.  Once a year, the Controller has a central role in the annual budgeting process for the club.

But the Controller also provides guidance and assistance to the General Manager and department heads in meeting their fiscal responsibilities to the club and its members.  These managers have a broad range of detail- and labor-intensive requirements and must deal with the daily challenges that arise in a high quality service environment.  By keeping in mind the underlying principle of service-based leadership – of providing the necessary tools, training, resources, and support to key constituents – Controllers should offer targeted outreach assistance to managers; particularly to department heads – those key individuals with bottom line responsibilities.

Outreach services include:

Ensuring that department heads have clear accounting guidance:  Written accounting standards, policies, and procedures should be available to all managers.  While Club Resources International has produced and offers a great many of these, detailed procedural guidance should be prepared and implemented at the club level.

Assisting department heads with club-required programs:  Department heads may need assistance with benchmarking spreadsheets, Tools to Beat Budget, Annual Budgeting, and preparing for monthly meetings to review financial performance.

Providing timely operating data:  Those with bottom line responsibility have need for timely information about their operations.  The two most important are Weekly Revenue Reports and Pay Period Summary Reports that allow managers to monitor their revenues and their single largest expense – payroll.

Ongoing training on accounting issues:  In any complex operation there is the need for ongoing refresher training on key matters.  Staff turnover and the constant focus on daily operations sometimes make it difficult for managers to keep accounting issues foremost in mind.  Controllers should monitor departmental compliance with accounting policies and provide refresher training for arising issues and ongoing problems.

Making periodic visits to department heads:  These visits, based on the premise of  “How can I help you,” “Is there anything the Accounting Department can do to assist,” or “Your department seems to struggle with timely inventories.  Is there anything we can do to help?”  When coupled with a service-based attitude, such visits will go a long way in improving accounting processes while building a positive team spirit among managers.

Conducting an accounting audit of each department:  This annual check-up should be conducted with an attitude of helping department heads.  A simple checklist of important accounting considerations will provide both the department head and the Controller with a guide to identify and address areas needing improvement.  After the audit is completed, the Controller should work with the department head to draw up a plan of action to address any issues or concerns.

While the foregoing may sound like a lot of additional effort for the Controller, a club with a smooth functioning accounting process will usually perform better.  Additionally, many of the continuing irritations for the accounting staff arise from operating departments failing to meet accounting requirements in a timely and accurate manner.  These two benefits alone will make the Controller’s extra efforts well worthwhile.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking managers throughout the country and around the world.

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