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Sep 19, 2017

Auditing: Entry Level Triathlon Training in Disguise

I have been auditing local governments for over 10 years.  I have been a triathlete since 2013.  When it comes to auditing, I am a professional.  When it comes to triathlon, I would most definitely consider myself an amateur.  As I was pedaling my way through my most recent triathlon in Lubbock back in June a thought occurred to me:  Auditing and triathlon had more in common than I realized.  I believe my years of auditing truly helped me to develop the mindset and skills to be a triathlete.  Here is why I found that to be true.

They are Both Multi-Discipline Events
A triathlon consists of three sports: swimming, biking, and running.  I have said that sometimes waiting at packet pickup at some events can be a stealth fourth event, but USAT, the governing body of triathlon in the U.S. does not recognize it as an official event.  A good race involves all 3 disciplines going smoothly, usually beginning with a good start.  If you have a bad swim, you might have no energy to take on the bike or the run.  A smooth transition between the disciplines is also one of the keys to a good overall race.  You cannot have a good run if you forget to put on your shoes when you transition from the bike.  Auditing also has three main phases:  Planning, testwork, and reporting.  A good audit involves all 3 phases working in harmony: A well-developed audit plan, appropriate testwork, and accurate and timely reporting.   Like triathlon, audits need a good start as well.  A poorly planned audit will likely not result in appropriate testwork being performed, and may lead to inaccurate reporting.  Smooth transitions are also important.  A well-developed plan leads to performing the appropriate audit testwork (no more and no less) and the result of that testwork will lead to accurate and timely audit reporting.

They Both Come in Various Shapes and Sizes
Triathlons come in multiple types and distances.  You may swim in a pool, a lake, or even in the ocean.  You may bike on roads on a road or triathlon bike, or maybe on mountain trails on a mountain bike.  You may run on roads or on trails.  Audits also come in various shapes and sizes.  You may be auditing a private company, a public company, a non-profit, or maybe even a government entity.  Each type can have certain similarities, but will also have certain differences specific to each entity type.  Race distances (and therefore durations) can be anywhere from a Sprint distance (about 15 miles total), an Olympic distance (about 31 miles total) to a 70.3 mile or 140.6 mile triathlon, which can take anywhere from 1 hour to complete all the way up to 17 hours to complete.  All the races require swimming, biking, and running, but different distances of each.  In the same vein, audits can take varying amounts of time based upon the factors of the entity being audited.  For example, auditing the City of Los Angeles may be a much longer audit than the City of Albuquerque.  Both are audits, involving planning, testwork, and reporting phases, but they have different durations.  One thing that auditing does not have in common with triathlon is reversing the order of the events.  Triathlons are traditionally done in swim, bike, run order, but can be reversed to go run, bike, swim order.  Auditing is not reversible.  You cannot report on audit testwork that has not been performed or planned.

Training and Repetition are Key and the Person is More Important than the Technology
As I noted at the start, I am an amateur in the world of triathlon.  Even as an amateur though, I know what I need to do to be able to complete my races.  I train to swim, to bike, and to run in distances similar to what I race.  I have adequate triathlon gear to compete at the level I wish to perform.  As a triathlete, I am still at the level where I would gain more improvement in performance from additional training than I would from purchasing top of the line triathlon gear.  I am still progressing as a triathlete in this regard.  Maybe someday I will get to the point where shaving a couple of ounces of weight from my bike will result in more of an improvement in my bike time than additional training rides on the bike, but that day is probably very far way.  If I were to trade gear with a professional triathlete for a race, it is almost completely assured that they would beat me handily in any race because at the core of it, they are more highly trained in swimming, biking, and running than I am.  Developing as an auditor occurs in much the same way.  At the beginning of your career (the audit equivalent of being an amateur triathlete) the best way to improve performance is through training and repetition.  The more you perform audits, the more you build efficiency and expertise in auditing.  You could take a very experienced auditor, equip them with a pencil, ledger book, and a 10-key, and they could probably develop a better audit plan, execute the audit plan, and report the results of their audit more timely and efficiently than an entry level auditor with the newest computer, auditing software, and supplies.  At the end of the day, in auditing and triathlon both, training and repetition are the keys to improvement, and the person is more important than the technology.

In the end, my experience as an auditor truly prepared me as I began my journey as a triathlete.  Learning the multiple phases of the auditing process and how to smoothly link them together helped me to develop the mindset to improve at the three phases of triathlon and transitioning between them.  Auditing entities in all shapes and sizes helped me to be ready to plan and train to endure triathlons of various types and distances.  Auditing also prepared me for triathlon by emphasizing to me that the person, not necessarily the technology make for better performance.  Even though they are very different activities, at their core, auditing and triathlon are very similar, which is probably why I enjoy auditing almost as much as I enjoy triathlon.

Benjamin A. Martinez, CPA