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What Does a Cost Controller Do?

Nick Mann
Nick Mann

A cost controller monitors a company's budget and ensures that the company doesn't spend beyond its means. Essentially, a cost controller makes sure that his company stays afloat financially. These individuals can work in a variety of industries, but generally have the same responsibilities. Some common ones include analyzing project costs, creating a budget, monitoring costs throughout each project, meeting with department supervisors and managing subordinates.

Before a project gets off the ground, a cost controller will typically spend some time analyzing the potential costs involved. For example, if a company is looking to update its computers with newer models, the controller will determine what the upfront costs would be. He may also check to see if there is the potential for additional unforeseen costs, like software programs which need to be purchased for the new computers. Once the controller approves the project and feels that his company has the financial means to back it, the project can begin.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Creating a project budget is another important part of this job. To avoid frivolous spending and getting into financial trouble, it's essential for a cost controller to develop a realistic budget for each project. To accomplish this, he may analyze financial reports and add up the approximate expenses of a proposed project. Being accurate is critical, because mistakes could jeopardize the financial well being of his company.

Along with this, the controller must continually monitor spending throughout the course of a project's completion. To do this, he will usually compare company budget with actual expenses throughout each stage. If the numbers are congruent, the project can proceed as normal. Significant variations from the budget, on the other hand, mean that project revisions may need to be made in order to stay on track.

Periodically meeting with department supervisors is also a common job duty in this position. Since open communication is crucial to staying on budget, a cost controller might speak with supervisors one-on-one or hold several meetings throughout the various phases of a project. He might discuss short term goals, long term goals and the current progress of a project. To do his job well, a controller must be an effective communicator.

In addition, some individuals may also manage subordinates. This is more common in larger companies, but can occur in smaller ones as well. In most cases, this involves managing accountants and other employees who work within a company's financial department. The cost controller may provide training and assistance, or provide disciplinary actions when necessary. Consequently, this position requires an individual with considerable leadership skills.

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