Audit, Risk, and Compliance management (aka GRC) in today’s highly regulated, complex, and distributed environment is harder than ever. The penalties for failing to meet regulatory deadlines and standards of compliance are significant, both financially and reputation-wise. Equally significant are the costs of compliance. Today, Boards expect real-time awareness from management, and process owners expect real-time collaboration and visibility.
Another problem facing leaders in this space is the perception of being the backbenchers – not particularly relevant to business operations and not being great business collaborators. No wonder, the marketplace is teeming with software platforms to automate a response to these challenges. For clients, the question is, which one works best for us? A poor choice could lead to an expensive mistake and being saddled with a white elephant, a cure worse than the disease.
Recognizing this risk and not finding a platform they are excited about, it is amazing how many, even large companies, rely on what they know best: spreadsheets, emails, and shared folders. “Better stick with a devil you know than jumping into the deep sea.” Reminds one of the little boy who tried to stop a dam from bursting by sticking his finger in the leak.
Audit Prodigy was born to solve this riddle. Its mission is, “how do we offer more integrated capabilities than anyone else while keeping it simpler than anything else in the market?”. A testament to their success in pulling off this seeming contradiction is the acceptance by multiple Fortune 500 and smaller customers all over the world, who love Audit Prodigy because it does everything they need to get their job done under one roof but also does it with minimal training and implementation effort. All, resulting in 600%+ ROI.
The Company, the Journey
Audit Prodigy was founded back in 2016 by a group of former CFOs, COOs, and Chief Audit Executives (CAEs) with Big 4 backgrounds and decades of professional experiences built at Fortune 50 and 500 companies, mostly in the US but also around the world. They all have experienced the challenge of leading global teams to deliver timely and cost-efficient Risk, Audit, and Compliance programs, firsthand. Their perspective was also influenced by the experience of leading broader business functions with P&L responsibilities and reporting to Boards and CEOs.
They also used many of the leading GRC tools in the market today and experienced their shortcomings and lived through the pain of those choices. All this experience created the burning impetus for creating something better. Given all the expertise and the clear vision, the first version was built in 9 months and a Fortune 500 company became their first customer within 3 months thereafter. And another $2B company followed 2 months after.
The primary challenge Audit Prodigy faced at that stage, was in getting more prospects comfortable about their smaller size and less brand name recognition, although Audit Prodigy was at the top of the list on the merits of the solution.
There were a lot of challenges during the initial stages, foremost was to establish their services, as they are in a space where organizations are 10 to 20 times bigger than their size. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and proving that to the market and their clients was the first big challenge. Also, setting up their brand, gathering goodwill, and gaining a solid reputation were the next challenges in line.
Audit Prodigy went about solving this problem through:
– Referrals: Existing customers were enthusiastic to share their own Audit Prodigy experience.
Insight: “If you go above and beyond for your customers, they’ll be there for you”
– Better Messaging: Audit Prodigy went about developing custom messaging of their value proposition for higher as well as mid-level and a more detailed level audiences. Previously, they had a single message that did not land perfectly at every level.
Insight: “You need to tailor your story for the listener – one size doesn’t fit all”
– Deeper Listening: They started having deeper conversations with customers to better understand which part of the solution is most used, least used, and how their work can be made easier, more efficient, more collaborative, and went about building those capabilities.
Insight: Listening deeply to customers teaches you something new every time and helps make your product and service better. The key to good listening is, putting aside what you know for a minute.
– Knowledge Leadership: Rather than expensive Sales & Marketing push, Audit Prodigy invested in communicating subject matter expertise to solve real problems, via Webinars, Workshops, Conference Speaking Engagements, etc.
Insight: Focusing on solving real problems in the marketplace gets you more customers than glitzy marketing.
Keys to Success:
A deeper understanding of client pain points, based on first-hand experience is the central ingredient for Audit Prodigy’s success.
Why do even large companies rely on nothing more than spreadsheets? Simple – they prefer the devil they know to the unknown angel. Inertia and risk averseness is inherent in all of us – more so in Risk & Compliance leaders, who are putting their reputations online when deciding to purchase a solution. It is visceral.
How do you overcome this resistance? By making the “angel” less unknown. How?
- Ask lots of questions so you learn their universe and unspoken worries.
- Talk about your solution in a very simple, direct way: address the most basic needs first. Avoid grandiose visions – it just makes them nervous.
- Offer no more than three things that make them sit up and get curious: “2-week implementation” or “4-Hour Training” or “Unlimited Support” – let them ask questions, rather than one-sided communication.
- Be OK with starting small – once trust is built, the sky’s the limit. Be patient, don’t push.
- Don’t assume they understand things exactly the way you do – say the same thing in many ways until you connect; use terms they already are comfortable with.
- Comfort them with above-and-beyond support – “we are here for you”.
- Spread the decision-risk by creating value propositions for others in the company as well.
- Excite them about how their peers’ perception of them could improve significantly.
Insight: Offering a great product is less than 50% of the cause of success in landing new customers. Telling a story that resonates in the context of a prospect’s environment is the remaining part – this requires understanding your fellow human being, one of the hardest tasks in the world.
Empathy towards others, as opposed to your own needs and wants, is the ultimate key to success.
Service as a Competitive Edge:
Audit Prodigy was born with a deep sense of service to others – it was also a competitive advantage. They realized that in a market where many competitors leverage the platform as a way to “hook” customers before saddling them with exorbitant service fees, offering unlimited service gives them a distinct edge. It was clear to prospects that they had no incentive to drag out implementations or nickel and dime for every little help they needed. It was also an indicator of Audit Prodigy’s confidence that their solution is, in fact, as intuitive and robust as they say it is.
How could Audit Prodigy offer unlimited support without out-of-control costs? By keeping the product design simple, building in-screen Tooltips, offering a short User Guide, hiring a support team with domain experience, offering multiple training sessions, and above all, responding to questions/requests quickly, not letting them fester. Proof of the pudding? Typically, support requests drop to negligible levels after the first 30-days of implementation & training.
Broad Enterprise Value:
What makes Audit Prodigy unique and powerful is its ability to be used as a cross-functional platform and not just limit itself to Audit and Risk management. Audit Prodigy looks at each of their clients as business catalysts, collaborating effectively across the company, people who see themselves as role models of productivity. Proof of the pudding? Audit Prodigy’s client base today is not only in the Risk, Audit & Compliance space but also in IT, Legal, HR, Finance & Accounting, Project Management, etc.
Leadership at Audit Prodigy
A company such as an Audit Prodigy demands not only a leader and visionary, who can uphold the high standards and benchmarks set up by Audit Prodigy. In this case, Audit Prodigy has some of the best leaders who aren’t afraid to take on major players, leaders who believe in their bones that they have a better vision.
Ravi Mangipudi is the CEO and Founder of Audit Prodigy. He is a proven business leader with a global career spanning over 30 years in Finance, Operations, Lean, and External and Internal Audit, built at Big 4 firms and multinational manufacturing and technology public companies. As Chief Audit Executive, he led/advised several global audit teams, partnering with Audit Committees, executive leadership, and Big 4.
Ravi’s journey began many years ago in a professional auditing career in Hyderabad, India. After becoming a CA (Chartered Accountant) in India, he feels that 70% of everything he knows today, he learned during his initial experience as a CA. He gives great credit to his boss who encouraged him to do things more innovatively and not be afraid to take risks.
Inspired by leaders like Lee Iacocca, Jeffrey Immelt, Jack Welch, and fascinated by the complexity, global reach, and the amazing success of American businesses, he decided to move to the US to pursue an MBA degree in Finance. It was unusual in the late-80s for CAs to give up safe careers and start at the bottom of the pyramid in another country. But the passion for learning and doing something new won the day.
He did start at the bottom, washing dishes and mopping floors at the university cafeteria, but within weeks, was managing a team of 40 fellow student workers from all over the world. It was a powerful experience working with and motivating a very diverse set of people.
Graduating into a deep recessionary economy, he started with a multi-national company as an internal auditor and traveled the world and was exposed to not only Audit, but also M&A, divestitures, operational efficiency projects, and setting up a shared-services center in China. Soon, the drive to not just recommend improvements but to execute them, took over. So, he switched gears and moved into a series of leadership roles in Finance, Supply Chain, IT, and even New Business Development at Fortune 100 and 500 US public companies.
Recruited by a visionary CFO, he came back to Internal Audit, this time as a Chief Audit Executive, reporting to the Board. The attraction was the serious challenge of integrating a North-American company with a global one, with 24 scoped-in locations – while building a team from scratch. Ravi’s business-first mindset, ability to motivate a diverse global team, and relentless focus on exceeding expectations, has resulted in a very successful turnaround.
Along the line, he also held CAE roles at two other global US public companies.
After all these experiences, spanning over 25 years, he felt the time had come to strike out on his own, with a group of like-minded executives. The idea was to take all their learnings, not only as Auditors, but as business leaders, to offer a better alternative to the overly complex, expensive, yet shallow solutions dominating the market. To prove that a better product, inspired by a deeper understanding of the pain points and opportunities of our clients and anchored by a mindset of above-and-beyond service and support can win against bigger, entrenched rivals.
Ravi’s Views On Winning at Business and Life:
- Be true to yourself and with others: Anything dishonest will not last, people are smart enough to see through fakery. Although Steve Jobs died some time ago, people still feel his authenticity in every product Apple creates, despite some inconveniences.
- This translates into admitting (quickly) that your solution does not address a specific problem or that a service you can’t deliver. No one can solve every problem and most people understand that. This candor lends credibility to that which you say you can do.
- You aren’t right for everyone: Life is about choices – you can’t twist yourself into a pretzel to please everyone. When you feel a poor fit, walk away – spend your energy on something that rings true to you.
- This translates into walking away from sales deals based on your instinct or saying “No” to building some features a prospect asks for because they don’t fit your vision for the product. This is hard, especially for a smaller company, but you’ll be glad in the longer term.
- Ultimately, it is not about you: No one is interested in making your business successful or you happy (except, maybe family and friends, if you are lucky). Your success lies in genuinely caring about making others’ lives better.
This translates into listening with intent, without your perspectives coloring the issue. It is also about pushing yourself and your team to think beyond what is being asked and solve the root cause of the problem.
It’s not just about winning or beating somebody, it is about how you win the war within yourself. How you make yourself a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better friend, and a better solution provider!
There is a lot we can take from the story of Audit Prodigy and the journey of the CEO, but what matters most is to love what you do and pursue what you want to do and want to be. Ravi’s story not only inspires but also emanates the true qualities of a leader and an entrepreneur. Audit Prodigy establishes itself as one of the most client-centric and best-in-class service providers in Compliance solutions. It rightly establishes itself as one of the most trusted compliance solution companies in 2021.