An audit, as everyone involved in making business decisions should know, is an exercise through which the performance of an organisation is assessed. Audits come in several different varieties. Perhaps the most widely-recognized is the financial audit, which involves working one’s way through page after page of accounts in search of inefficiency and waste.
But there are other forms of audit, too. If you’re in the retail business, you might consider a retail audit – an exercise in which the effectiveness of your retailing strategy is evaluated, and possible improvements suggested. You might decide to conduct such an audit internally – by having your staff break away from their day-to-day duties in order to perform an audit. On the other hand, you might decide that it’s better to bring in outside help.
In this article, we’ll look at a quartet of respects in which an external retail audit service is preferable. Let’s get started, shall we?
One of the key advantages of performing a retail audit is that it allows you to demonstrate that your business is running effectively and efficiently. This allows you to instill confidence in potential collaborators, customers, staff – and anyone you might seek to sell the business to in future. It’s a lot like securing a healthy MOT certificate on your car, to assure potential buyers that there won’t be any problems in the near future.
In such circumstances, an externally conducted audit holds far more weight than one you’ve conducted yourself. Let’s consider another analogy. A restauranteur is looking to promote their Italian eatery, and posts in the window a certificate that they’ve written themselves on Microsoft Word. Is this going to be as effective at luring customers into a business as a five-star certificate from a widely-recognized and reputable organisation like the Food Standards agency? Probably not.
We’d all like to write our own reviews. But our opinion, however merited it might be, is not going to hold the same sway over third parties as that of a qualified, disinterested third party. A professional retail audit company will be able to identify problems with your business – and more importantly, they’ll have no incentive to conceal such problems.
As we’ve noted, an outside auditor will assure people outside your business that your business is performing as well as you claim. But let’s consider that the staff you might task with performing the audit are not impartial. They’ll conceal their own shortcomings, and exaggerate their successes. We should not blame them for this; everyone in the world of business does it, even if they’re only doing it subconsciously.
If we’re to shed light on the true efficacy of a business, however, then we’ll want to do better. Seeking an outside viewpoint will allow us to do this – we’ll be able to know for sure that the results of the audit are reliable.
Performing an audit is a lot like singing. It’s not something that requires a great deal of skill to attempt. But it is something that requires a great deal of skill to do well. And the results of an unsuccessful attempt can be unpleasant. While your staff will, over time, be able to pick up some of the skills necessary to perform an audit, it’s unlikely they’ll ever match a professional auditor.
You’ll only need to perform an audit very occasionally, and so it will be difficult for your staff to accumulate the necessary skills and experience to do the task well. Contrast this with the staff of a professional auditor – they do the task every day of their lives, and will consequently have the wherewithal to perform the task well – and to anticipate potential problems and solve them before they have a chance to develop. Moreover, some firms will be able to provide other field marketing services, allowing for a seamless and comprehensive overhaul of the way you do business.
Finally, we must consider a factor that’s playing a crucial role in all forms of retailing – the technology. Technology is hugely important when it comes to retail auditing. It allows that the progress of the audit be monitored throughout the process, and that live updates be delivered via email, text and social media. Crucially, it also allows for an automated paper trail to be generated and provided to the client.
Technology comes in many different forms, ranging from the tablets used by auditors to the bespoke software that runs on them. If you’re not part of a retail auditor, you’ll not be provided with access to such things (not the skills required to make use of them). Consequently, an external auditor will be granted another huge advantage over an internal one.