Does your winery need a controller?

Our firm serves small, family owned wineries generally producing under 20,000 cases.  At that size, operations are fairly complex and you may have a staff of 10-20 people.  However, you are not at the level where you can justify a full time in-house controller. A typical winery controller salary may be in the range of $75,000-$110,000 year.

What are you missing out on by not being able to afford a dedicated winery controller?

These are the major responsibilities of a winery controller:

Manage the accounting function. The controller manages the ongoing accounting operations, including A/R, A/P, inventory, and general ledger reconciliation. The controller maintains the chart of accounts and manages the month-end close process.

Month end-close and quality control. The controller designs and supervises the month-end close process and prepares periodic financial statements. Moreover, they ensure quality control over financial transactions and financial reporting.

Accounting policies and internal controls. The controller will maintain a documented system of accounting policies and procedures. They will make recommendations to strengthen internal controls and monitor those controls that are in place.

Budgets. The controller, with the help of leadership, develops and maintains the annual budgets. The list of budgets maintained may include a sales budget, operations budget, production budget, and capital budget.

Budget variances. The controller will monitor and alert you to variances from your budgets.

Cost standards. Cost standards are like mini-budgets for your production. A good controller will develop cost standards for each product that you manufacture and report on variances from the standards.

Inventory. The controller will manage the inventory process, including monthly reconciliation and reporting on variances and irregularities.

Compliance. The controller manages compliance and reporting with the TTB and state liquor boards and also compliance with sales tax and other excise taxes.

Reporting. Maybe most importantly, a controller will develop and produce standard periodic reports to communicate your financial performance compared to past performance and compared to budgets.

To sum it up, there are two key things a controller can do for your winery:

  • number one, make sure your accounting operations are working smoothly, are in compliance, and are producing quality information;
  • And number two (and this is probably more important than number one), a controller can make sure that you know when you are getting off track.

Even if you haven't fine-tuned your budgets and forecasts yet, a controller can still help you know whether your winery is on track compared to past performance.

Having quality information and knowing when you are off track are they key to making changes for the future.
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In addition to a controller, your winery also needs to fill two other key functions:

  • accounting clerks to handle the daily accounting operation
  • and a CFO.

When your winery is small, it doesn't make sense to hire for all these roles in-house. In this case, outsourcing these roles to an online accounting firm can make a lot of sense.

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