by Paul Quealey
Over a 19-year audit career, I think I have seen every possible reaction to the news that the auditors are coming to visit.
While there are the few surprising responses of “we love audit time” from clients that see an audit as a way for continuous improvement, the large bulk of people become instantaneously guarded. They see an audit process as a way of picking out the things they did wrong, whether it’s an internal audit, process and control review, or an external audit.
Unfortunately, the stigma around auditors and our reputation precedes us. I can appreciate this reaction, with our reporting to management often being focused on exceptions only, and the approach of some auditors is to demand large lists of information be delivered yesterday while sitting behind closed doors in the main boardroom.
While he will never know it, a South African CFO of an ASX winery company was the catalyst for changing my approach to dealing with clients and ensuring the audit achieves a common goal. Being a typical brash 21-year-old auditor, I provided a list of information to him that I needed yesterday and he turned to me and said, “you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. Being the first time I had heard this saying, it resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since.
Being the Audit Partner at Lambourne Partners, I have mandated that our approach to working with our clients in a collaborative manner is a “non-negotiable”.
Here to Work With You
More often than not, the completion of the audit doesn’t fall at a time when the finance staff have a whole week off from their usual tasks to fully assist us in our role. As such, our audit team takes the approach of “point us in the direction of the folders/source records, explain the filing system and let us help you”.
Working through the records ourselves, often in the offices with the finance staff, we are discussing and understanding operations at a more detailed level, and gaining an understanding of the “pain points” for staff. It is not until you truly understand these daily processes and tasks that you find the most value-add recommendations for process, technology or risk improvements.
Another must for all my clients is that they have my direct mobile number and the awareness that I want them to call whenever they have a question. Often hearing comments like “we have never met the person who signs our audit report” or “the audit partner never seems to take my calls” throughout my career has illustrated the importance of being accessible. For every audit we complete, I have direct dialogue with the client, and I attend the client’s premises for most of the audit field work (COVID restrictions permitting, of cause).
I operate under the ethos that there is only one silly question, that being the one that isn’t asked.
Regular contact is something I strive to have with all my clients so we can discuss issues or plans before making the key decisions, which ensures we are discussing the risks and impacts upfront.
…All While Remaining Independent
Working collaboratively with my clients doesn’t impact my understanding of my role, as at the end of the day I need to remain objective and independent.
Some of the clients I have my best relationships with are those I have had to have the more difficult discussions with that could have a significant impact on the financial performance of the company, or the need to report unexpected news to Board/Executives/Owners.
Our clients engage us to play this independent role, while ensuring we can provide value to their business. This value comes through recommendations for business and process improvements, being a third opinion on a business decision, or providing assurance to Management/Board/Owners that compliance matters are being met (i.e. staff being paid accurately, super paid on time, GST filings accurate and up-to-date).
If the Lambourne Partners approach doesn’t resonate with your experiences with auditors, or you think you could benefit from this different approach to auditing, please contact Paul Quealey below for a no obligation discussion of how Lambourne Partners could assist you and your team.