Musings From A Do-It-Yourself Mistake

And A Lesson For Chief Audit Executives

Chicago Weather WeekendThis was a beautiful weather weekend in Chicago.  The conditions were ideal, mid 80’s temperature, low humidity, and plenty of sunshine.  It was likely one of the best weather weekends Chicago will have this entire year.  It was perfect for enjoying a picnic in Lincoln Park, going for a bike ride on the lake front bike path, playing in the sand at one of the many Lake Michigan beaches, strolling through the Lincoln Park Zoo (one of the few remaining free Zoos in the country), dining al fresco at a neighborhood restaurant, or any one of a number of other ways to enjoy the Chicago outdoors.  So, what did I spend this glorious weekend doing?  Power washing, staining, and waterproofing my deck.

I feel compelled to explain my deck so you have some perspective on the job I was undertaking.  My deck is less of a deck and more of a landing for my back door.  My back door is about 6 feet above my back yard, so when designing the house the architect created a 4 foot by 8 foot deck to act as the landing.  The function my deck mostly serves is access to the house.  It isn’t big enough to be useful in any other manner.  Over the past few years the Chicago weather has taken a toll on the wooden structure and it was time for a makeover.  My thought was that a project so small would be easy.  It was too small in my opinion to hire a contractor.  I was too small to invest the money into the right tools to do it.  The investment wasn’t worth it considering how small the project was.  Or so I thought.

So there I was, Saturday morning with a borrowed power washer.  If you have ever power washed anything, the first 5-10 minutes are really fun.  The blast from the water cannon eradicates the years of gunk on contact.  The wood instantly changes from grayish, brownish, greenish, to pristine natural wood.  The transformation is almost exhilarating… almost.  Unfortunately after the first 5-10 minutes the thrill is gone.  In that time I had cleared the grime off of about 2 square feet of deck and had realized the little nooks and crannies take some additional effort.  After about 30 minutes the fun little project has become a tedious chore.  After about an hour (and less than half way done) I am drenched from the spray and covered from head to toe with all the filth that is being blasted off the deck and onto me.  By the time I finish the power washing my hand and forearm have cramped from the continuous need to hold the trigger on the power washing nozzle (I did mention it was borrowed, right?  Well the trigger locking mechanism was broken) and I am exhausted.

Prior to staining you have to wait for the water to dry, so fortunately my job for Saturday was finished.  It took considerably more effort that what I anticipated and coated me in multiple layers of filth, but at least I was halfway through and the 2nd half should be pretty easy.

Sunday morning at 6:30 am I am outside ready to conquer the 2nd half of the project and I immediately notice that my power washing skills were not nearly as honed as I had hoped.  I hadn’t washed the deck evenly.  Some of the dirt was completely removed, some of the dirt was mostly removed, and some of the dirt was partially removed.  My deck had a color pattern resembling a zebra, or maybe a leopard, or a combination of both.  Ironically the areas that I power washed first (when the power washing was fun) had no pattern, while the areas I power washed last (tedious chore) had the most pronounced pattern.  The only way to even out the deck would be to go through the power washing process a second time, hoping for better results.  I had a decision to make.

So, what would you do?  Go through another round of power washing, or stain it as is?

I opted for the latter.  I used a tinted Thompson’s Water Seal.  I am not sure if this is the best product or the worst product, it is just the product I pulled off the shelf at the local Home Depot.  The easiest part of the project was staining the floor boards.  Nice flat surfaces.  Everything else was tedious.  Fortunately I was smart enough to not paint myself into a corner.  I was also smart enough to save the flooring for last – you can’t paint the railings while standing on a freshly painted floor.  The hardest part was painting all four sides of the countless spindles that hold up the railing.  The nooks and crannies under the railing where the spindles connect, and the sides of the steps, and the railing itself were not easy chores either.  The stain splattered and dripped, speckling me, my house, and everything within splattering distance.  Once again I was covered from head to toe, this time with Thompson’s Water Seal.  It was about four hours later when I finally finished.

When I was staining the last step I started thinking, “I am such a schmuck.”  This project that was “too small” consumed the better part of a glorious weather weekend, leaving me exhausted mentally and physically.  I had no idea that it would take so long for such a seemingly small project – hence the “Schmuck” thoughts.  Had I been willing to invest a little money into the project, it would have saved me a lot on time and one big headache.

  • Option 1: I could have purchased the appropriate tools for the job thereby saving me time and a whole lot of hassle with higher quality results.
  • Option 2: Or better yet, I could have taken the money and hired someone to do the job for me.  The quality would have been far better than what I could ever do on my own (see reference to Zebra and Leopard) and it would have taken the professional a fraction of the time.

Either decision would have been better than entering the project ill prepared and ill equipped.

Adding insult to injury, my wife and kids had to deal with me the entire weekend.  I was not a patient husband or father this weekend.  Glorious weather weekend wasted.  I am sure my wife (the unquestioned CEO of our family) would suggest we make a different decision had we had the chance for a “do over.”

So, what is the point?

The finished project

The "small project"

My mind wanders over to the Chief Audit Executives who repeat my mistake over and over again, sometimes without even realizing it.  The CAE has identified a project (maybe a “small project”) that needs to get completed.  They send an auditor (or audit team) out on the project without first taking time in invest in the right tools or making sure the auditor has the right skills.   The CAE determines the start date and the completion date and assigns the auditor to execute.  The job gets done but at what expense?  Did the auditor thoroughly understand all the risks?  Did the auditor test the most appropriate controls?  Was the project completed timely? Were the results impactful to the business?  By not investing in the right tools and the right skills, the result is likely an inefficient audit project with lackluster results.

The easiest way to obtain the right tools and have the right skills is through “co-sourcing” the internal audit projects with a firm like Vonya Global.  Vonya Global works with its clients to identify and mobilize the right tools for each project plus assign auditors with the appropriate skills.  Similar to hiring a contractor to power wash and stain my deck, the combination creates more efficiency in the field with actionable results that positively impact the business.

I would encourage any Chief Audit Executive to consider using a firm like Vonya Global.  I also encourage them to do so before their CEO points out a history of zebra/leopard patterns in the audit reports.


This blog post was written by Steven Randall. Steve is a Managing Partner with Vonya Global, a premier provider of internal audit consulting services, a member of the IIA Chicago Chapter Board of Governors, a Director of the Adler-Caris Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to raising funds for Alzheimer’s Disease research, and the President of the Oz Park Baseball Association, a not-for-profit dedicated to providing fundamental based baseball in a safe environment in the city of Chicago. If you would like more information about Vonya Global or if you have a questions for Steve, you may contact him through this blog, the company website, twitter, or his LinkedIn Profile.