After spending more than 30 years in senior management working for large corporations, Lynn Cook decided to follow her dream of making working life better and started her own business. The Auditor Online speaks to Cook to learn how her previous corporate experience has shaped her auditing career and for her opinions on challenges facing audit professionals.
In 2005, Cook started Personalised Business Coaching & Solutions to offer workplace health and safety consulting, governance, and third-party external workplace audits. Two years later, Cook pursued lead auditor qualifications as she believed she had the skills to be an effective auditor—unlike some of the auditors she had been exposed to in her corporate life.
“My main reason for following the audit trail was that an auditor has the unique ability to take a ‘snap shot’ and rate the health of the business by looking deep into the engine room on a specific day,” Cook says. “Auditors get to have a private and unique experience with business owners.
“We can be a good wake up call and have an unemotional dissection of a business, which the owners or decision makers are sometimes too connected to for realistic actions to be set down.”
Cook also views the role of an auditor to be that of a change manager—assisting the auditee to understand what they require against what they have in place and aiding with corrective actions.
“The auditor has the ability to shape the culture of workplaces by working through the steps. I feel as an auditor I have the ability to change people and workplaces,” she explains. “I have been able to say categorically that we have made a difference to our clients as we have audited and then developed plans for them to be compliant, successfully tender, and for the smaller businesses, compete with the large corporations, because they have a compliant system in place.”
Despite the positives the audit process can bring to an organization, Cook says auditors are faced with challenges on a daily basis. Most of these have to do with the negative stigma of auditors taking a “big bad stick” approach, along with the unrealistic expectation that auditors know everything. Cook believes a static and staged audit environment is to blame for these perceptions. On a more personal level, being the only female in her team in the field of construction auditing, which is predominantly a male role, can be challenging at times.
“It has taken me a while to prove my capability [in construction auditing],” Cook says. “When auditing other industries, I find I am accepted as a certified auditor with Exemplar Global.”
On a more general level, Cook finds the increasing presence of unqualified auditors to be a challenge.
“The issue of employing a less-than-suitably qualified person to undertake a compliance requirement needs to be addressed,” Cook says. There also should be more focus on what a compliant and effective audited system means: What are the benefits and what are the business gains?
“A strong push at all levels of industry bodies—even insurance providers or government bodies—to regulate our profession could be the solution.”
Despite these challenges and frustrations, Cook believes auditing to be a rewarding profession.
“Auditors are not brain surgeons, and auditing is not a complex profession, but it does require facts to be assessed against the evidence provided and a lot of hours and reading to maintain this knowledge,” she says. “As an auditor, the brain has to remain active to ensure it retains the information gathered. Our skills must always be sharpened to keep up to date with the changes in both information and technology.”