Lennar: Why Successful Internal Audit Teams Begin with Relationships

Lennar: Why Successful Internal Audit Teams Begin with Relationships

Learn how Allison Waldrep, Director of Internal Audit at Lennar, simplifies both audit and business procedures, and builds a flourishing team by seeking curious and flexible auditors.

Internal Audit at Lennar

As Director of Internal Audit at Lennar, Allison Waldrep has spent the last 15 years in an environment that has never shorted her of challenges and opportunities to develop her career. After stepping into her role at Lennar, the largest home construction company in the United States, Allison’s focus has been on streamlining processes in both internal audit and the business, as well as continuing to build out a talented team of critical thinkers. Read below for our interview with Allison, where she discusses her path to her current role and why she considers herself lucky to be leading the internal audit team at Lennar.

What drew you to a career in internal audit?

Allison: Although I began my career in internal audit right out of college, throughout school I was unsure which path was right for me. I entertained many different ideas for a career, from being a school teacher to a dentist. When I was accepted into the business school, the subject matter came very easily to me, though I still didn’t know what to do with my degree. Then, in my last semester of school, I took an elective called internal audit. As I learned what an auditor’s day consisted of, I loved the idea where I got to work on a collaborative team with a shared goal of improving processes and controls. I made the decision to go into internal audit—and the rest is history. Not only have I really enjoyed my career so far, but I know it’s been the right choice for me.

What is the most fulfilling part about your job?

Allison: The number one reason I love my job, which is evidenced by my 15 years at Lennar, is because I love my colleagues. I think it’s invaluable to have great relationships with your team members, both within your department and outside your department—and I’m lucky enough to have found that at Lennar. The second reason is that I am constantly growing and learning on the job. Lennar has done a great job of cultivating a company culture of doing the right thing, which makes me feel supported in my role and makes my job both easier and more fulfilling.

In an environment that provides opportunities to learn so many different areas of the business, you’re naturally in a position to be constantly growing and challenged in healthy and exciting ways. For example, every time we enter into a new business line or acquire a new company, my team and I are challenged to thoroughly understand the business. So much learning happens before we begin building the controls and processes for that business line.

What do you look for in auditors you are hiring to your team?

Allison: One of our biggest priorities is hiring and retention, and our greatest success lies in finding people who can think critically for themselves. I believe people who are naturally curious and interested in applying knowledge they learn are great fits for careers in internal audit. As auditors, we’re always looking to improve and become more efficient, so people who are constantly asking questions and wanting to know the “why” make both the business process and the audit process better. Flexibility is also a quality that we look for. Audit often requires having a plan—but also being flexible when that plan changes drastically in the process.

What is your internal audit team at Lennar focusing on this year?

Allison: The theme for both our internal audit department and our company as a whole is to simplify. We are looking for ways to streamline and make processes more efficient while still maintaining the quality and level of excellence we’ve maintained over the years, in both internal audit and business processes.

Could you give an example of how you’re simplifying a process?

Allison: An example of how we’re simplifying within the business is automating our invoice processing. Much of our invoice processing is manual, so we’re searching for ways to automate the process while still keeping the same internal controls. In addition, we are working with management on a big project to review all of our controls in the company for redundancy and opportunities to simplify. We have thousands of controls for all of our business lines, and there may be certain risks that are addressed by multiple controls, so some may be unnecessary. Or there may be ways to simplify existing controls while still addressing the risk.

What was a big win for your internal audit team?

Allison: I think one of internal audit’s biggest wins has been the return on investment in our relationships with management. This is most clear when we have various departments coming to us with questions about how to simplify a process—even if we’re not in the middle of an audit with them. Their continual eagerness to work with us to brainstorm and improve processes is a testament to our department’s dedication to building respect with all departments of the company.

What do you feel is the most difficult challenge internal auditors face right now?

Allison: I believe the biggest challenge internal auditors are facing today is staying on top of technology and being in a position of understanding the technological challenges and opportunities of the day. I believe this goes hand in hand with our goal of simplifying—and the question we are constantly asking ourselves: “how can we do more with less?” I can look to specific examples where we have proven technology’s value to our business through the implementation of software that has helped us improve efficiency in big ways this past year.