Andy Shares Move from Consulting to Building In-House Internal Audit Department

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Andy Spisak is the Director of Internal Audit at Sprouts Farmers Market and has over 15 years of experience in external audit, internal audit and consulting. In 2013, Andy joined Sprouts shortly after the company went public to help build their Internal Audit department. Prior to Sprouts, Andy worked for Protiviti Phoenix. In his 10-year tenure with Protiviti, Andy focused on Internal Audit and SOX projects. Connect with Andy on LinkedIn.

Andy Spisak - Sprouts Image 2You were with Protiviti for a decade of your career. What was your most important takeaway from your time here?

Protiviti allowed me to understand business process from beginning to end. When you can see the process as a whole, you’re able to understand the risks from a financial standpoint and from an operational standpoint as well.

I’ll use this as an example: our CEO has mentioned to my boss that we’re the only people in our organization who really understand business process. I attribute that to the skills and knowledge gained from my time at Protiviti.

How did you witness the Protiviti change over the course of 10 years?

It changed dramatically. When I was hired, there was maybe 24 people in Phoenix. Within two or three years, early in the SOX boom, the office grew to 65 – 70 employees. Plus, we were using contractors at that time too. The SOX work had grown so much and so quickly, we were even turning work down. At that time, it was mainly an IA and SOX practice.

Over the years, the company evolved into a true consulting firm. We kept adding solutions, so our portfolio continued to grow. In my 10 years, I saw it ramp up, slow down during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, then ramp back up again. I got to experience continued growth and the evolvement of Protiviti as a company.

How did you end up at Sprouts Farmers Market?

We were working with Sprouts and they had an aggressive timeline for going public. Building processes for Sprouts was a full-time effort. From a business process standpoint, they were a very immature organization. At the time, they were outsourcing some of the accounting and accounts payable to a small firm in San Diego and needed to move it in-house. The Sprouts Internal Audit department was one person. Their plan after going public was to build that team.

I was not looking to become an MD because the sales side didn’t interest me. What I liked was being on the ground and doing the work. When the opportunity came up, I decided to move to Sprouts to build their Internal Audit department.

How have you seen the Internal Audit department grow since going public?

When I first joined Sprouts, I was the Sr. Manager of Internal Audit. Our focus during that first year was getting the company to be SOX compliant. Then we started taking on the corporate audit function and distribution center processes. Within the last few months, the store audit function has also been moved under us.

Today, I oversee SOX, corporate audit and the store audit function. So we’ve evolved from just SOX to a portfolio of SOX, corporate audit and store audit within five years.

What’s been the biggest challenge in helping Sprouts evolve its internal audit function?

The sheer growth. We’re adding 30-35 stores per year and growing 14%. We had 90 stores when I started and today we have around 300. We’re responsible for the support behind that growth from the standpoint of processes, systems and people. We’ve been fortunate to hire new team members to help manage that growth.

When building your Internal Audit team, what’s most important?

If not done properly, audit can be very adversarial. We’re looking for people who be a true business partner, explain things well and actively listen. Someone that isn’t authoritative in the sense that, what I say goes. To be successful, you need to be open-minded and flexible. When I first started, we were a very immature organization and we’re still immature. So we also need people who aren’t afraid of change.

One of the cool things about Sprouts is that people are happy and like working here. They recognize that our business processes are immature and need help and they want to do what’s best for the organization. So they’re not afraid of audits because they know that we’re driving positive change in the organization.

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