4 Audit Client Types3 min read

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I recently wrote about 4 different auditor personality types.  This article received a lot of visits, votes and comments.  Check it out if you have not already.  The purpose of that article was to identify some of the personality traits that we as auditors exhibit.  Because communication is a two way street, today I want to discuss 4 audit client personality types.  We must recognize and learn to effectively collaborate with each of these.

Your client may be detached if his/her personnel cannot clearly communicate overall goals and objectives for the processes they perform.  This may indicate a management style where those in charge believe they have effectively shared the mission and vision, but have in essence failed.  Personnel cannot realistically be expected to achieve goals that they are unaware of.

I’ll give you a really good example.  I once worked for an organization with sizable operations, including all senior leadership, in the city where I lived.  All employees occupied space in one building in a business park.  All employees, that is except one.  The CEO maintained a separate office space located several miles from core operations (but still in the same city) that contained a huge reception area, one administrative assistance, one conference room, a kitchen area and one office.  Two people worked on the premises.  This physical distance also mirrored the relationship he had with the organization as a whole.  Very few understood the vision and as a result, the company failed.

The combative clients are always interesting.  These individuals are very defensive and tend to argue for the sake of arguing.  Some clients are combative because they are uncomfortable with you as an auditor.  While others are combative because the environment they are responsible for is not effective.  The combative nature is a defense mechanism.

For those who are uncomfortable with you, a simple self assessment may help.  You may identify gaps in your communication or audit methodology that may make your process a little difficult to deal with.  If it is not you and your client is truly “combative”, you have a steeper hill to climb.

The Magician
The magician as a client can make documents and people disappear.  This is a scary client to deal with.  You request document A and receive document B or you request document A and magically receive documents A, B, C, D and E.  Regarding the people disappearing, that is a partial joke.  I have, however, seen clients all of a sudden force mandatory vacations as the audit was starting.  The Magician is the dangerous audit client.  I have found in my career that combative clients are that way typically due to apprehension.  However, the Magician is malicious is in his/her actions.

Competent, Confident and Comfortable
Most audit clients are competent.  It is always great to have competent clients.  Although competency does not necessarily mean a strong control environment.  Competent clients still have to deal with shrinking budget and office politics.  Without the appropriate resources, the most competent client can still have an ineffective control environment.  The confident and comfortable aspects are based on the way we make the clients feel about our audit process.  The more comfortable they are, the more confident they become, the easier the audit process.

Can you think of more audit client types?

Which audit client is the most difficult?

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Which audit client type is the most difficult to overcome?

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Robert Berry (106)

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

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