It's important to have a controller you can get along with, but don't make the common mistake of hiring one you can overpower. Fred Bramante Jr. learned that lesson the hard way. When he hired the first two controllers for Daddy's Junky Music Stores Inc., based in Salem, N.H., he asked only that they know more about finance than he did, "which wasn't hard," he admits. Their inexperience, and their inability to stand up to Bramante, resulted in lost vendor discounts, angry suppliers, and a company threatened by its own chaotic growth.
For the third controller, Bramante retained an executive recruiter to find someone who could take charge of the company's finances, set up reporting systems, and generally play a key role in management. He also asked his banker and his outside accountant to interview the two best candidates -- and wound up hiring the controller they favored, not his own first choice. "The one I was leaning toward they thought I'd be able to manipulate too easily," says Bramante. The new controller commanded a higher salary -- about 10% more than his predecessors -- but he has transformed the company's financial systems, opening up new opportunities for growth. "I found out that the cheap way can cost you money," says a chastened Bramante.