For independent auditors and compliance consultants, taking on larger volumes of work can be difficult without the right people and processes to make it work. In a competitive environment, establishing a niche client base that can trust your services is essential.
That’s why it’s important to invest in a team that make your operations consistent, cost-effective and streamlined. Having a systematic approach to compliance adds value to the client.
To manage a growing consultancy, you need to build a network of trusted contacts that can advise, provide guidance or even assist with your growing workload. The same applies if you are looking to build a small internal team and are going through the recruitment process.
Auditing is a unique skill that demands certain personal attributes and experience – skills that must be considered when building a consultancy:
Auditors need to quickly establish confidence with the client, and during the audit process, must be the one who controls the agenda. They cannot allow the process to get derailed, and must have the assertiveness to pull it back on track. There will be times when the auditor needs to firmly state a position in the face of a hostile reception to bad news.
You must be able to rely on members of your team. Auditees typically invest a lot of time and energy in preparing for an audit and it is important to harness this energy. Letting people down on the day of an audit paints the compliance team in a poor light.
Reports too must be prepared on time and to the required quality – there is nothing worse than keeping people endlessly waiting for the audit report to be issued.
Determination is a key auditor attribute. Determination to dig down to the evidence you need to make a compliance decision, when the client is trying desperately to steer you in another direction. Determination means not taking the easy way out, and getting to the truth. Auditing is not for the faint-hearted.
Auditors need to explain a lot of things, and the clearer and more succinct you can be, the better. Waffle is the sure way to put people off and build up the pressure to get the job done in time. In particular, you need to explain why a regulation or procedure applies in the circumstances, and you need to explain the thinking behind your decisions. This applies to report writing and recommendations as well – people need to be able to understand them and not be offended by the words you use.
You also need to communicate well to all levels in the organisation. One moment you are discussing requirements with people on the shop floor, the next you are fronting up to local management in a closing meeting. To say you need to be a diplomat is an understatement!
Auditors often work alone and have to travel long distances to do their work. The work itself is lonely too, as you are generally on the other side of the fence from the people you are auditing and have to make some tough decisions on your own.
Auditors need to enjoy their own company, be happy to eat meals on their own and otherwise entertain themselves while away from their home base and family.
While your team do not need to be angels to be effective auditors, the do need to be principled people, with clear ethics and boundaries in order to make effective decisions. You only need to examine the Enron case to learn the vital importance of principled thinking and actions on the part of those we trust to be our compliance eyes and ears and sometimes, brain.