Olivia Whipple

Owner and Co-Founder at The Audit Library

Olivia Whipple is the owner and co-founder at The Audit Library. Olivia has over fifteen years of financial institution and audit industry experience. Unable to find a solution for templates and the other required documents she needed as an audit leader, resulting in lost productivity when these were developed in-house, Olivia decided to create a service to fill this void in the market. In 2018, Olivia launched The Audit Library, an online document subscription service for Internal Auditors. A lifelong writer, Olivia authors The Audit Library Blog, an online publication about auditing theory, practice, and the unique challenges and opportunities auditors experience. In 2019, The Audit Library expanded into assurance consulting for the credit union industry. Olivia has volunteered and performed speaking engagements for various professional and industry organizations. Olivia holds a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Oregon and a Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate from Portland State University. She is a certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and lives in the Charlotte, NC area.

Where did the idea for The Audit Library come from?

In 2014, I was promoted, and became responsible for the Internal Audit department at a large credit union overnight. I was overwhelmed with a massive department overhaul, corporate responsibilities, regulatory requirements, and Internal Audit standards. Each day I discovered a new critical task that needed to be done, and it usually involved professional writing. But when I looked for templates and quality documents to have a place to start other than a blank piece of paper, there was simply nothing available! So, I decided to start the business I was looking for. I spent over three years in that role, forming an idea, and perfecting it. The Audit Library is a place where Internal Auditors can outsource some of their professional writing, to take one thing off their endless to do lists! Oh, and all for a reasonable annual fee.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day typically starts with a coffee while I check my website’s dashboard, and respond to any client requests that came in overnight (I’m on the East Coast and some of my clients are on the West Coast). I also check my email inbox, LinkedIn, and professional publications I follow for industry news. I talk to clients and potential clients throughout the day, but other than that I’m at my laptop writing. At any given time I may be working on a blog post, updating copy for the website, or writing a new document for my subscribers. The best productivity tip for writers is to take advantage of those periods of inspiration. When the words start flowing, go with it! Other than a client who needs me, the world stops when I’m having a productive writing session.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The best inspirations I get are from my clients. They tell me what they need, and I respond by adding new documents to the library or updating and improving the documents that already exist. I also follow a lot of professional publications and attend training events and conferences. I listen intently to what auditors are talking about, looking for ideas to add to The Audit Library’s offerings. I also work with some great people; one is my husband Mike and one is my bestie John. They are always thinking about the business, what we can add, and how we can improve. They inspire me every day!

What’s one trend that excites you?

The Internal Audit industry is becoming more and more automated, moving off of paper and towards electronic and cloud-based solutions. My industry focus is credit unions, and I say this with love: we are typically a little behind on technology. I encourage my clients to make investments in technology solutions, and have written blog posts on the topic.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I keep two weekly to-do lists. One is my work list, and one is my personal list. I write them on Sunday evening, and try to get them about 75% complete by Friday afternoon. If I can’t make enough progress to satisfy my goals, I figure out how much I’ll be able to work over the weekend. I heard about this on Daymond John’s podcast “Rise and Grind.” Writing a daily list is depressing, because there are never enough hours in the day! If you look at what you can accomplish in a week, it’s much more manageable and keeps me positive.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Relax, it will all work out! I tell my younger friends, siblings, and cousins this all the time. Honestly, I could not have forseen this career path when I was in college trying to figure out what to do with my life! I took my lifelong love of writing, my college flirtation with journalism, business school, my background in financial services and professional firms, and finally internal audit, and transformed it into a business only I could have created. I didn’t know when I was performing those steps how the pieces would all come together, but they did!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Woody Allen movies are unwatchable.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I am the most obsessive writer, re-reader, and re-writer you will ever meet. I regularly read blog posts and documents I have written, to improve them and/or to explore ideas further. When you put something out into the world, it’s almost never the best possible version of that thing. So I’m always reading and editing myself. I’ll probably never write a book because I couldn’t stand to have something out there that I can’t tinker with! Self-editing is a good way to keep your ego in check, and I highly recommend readers revisit any content they have published.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

It sounds simple, but we basically stopped taking anything other than “no” for an answer when we’re recruiting new customers. We contact people, check in with them, tell them about the Library and our consulting practice, and keep checking in until they become subscribers or tell us to stop. Another way to look at it; people have more going on than we will ever know. They could have been waiting for budget approval, and need a reminder. They could have forgotten about us, and I try not to take that personally. Every auditor who has not actually said no to me is a potential customer.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I first started out, my struggle was connecting with the auditors who needed my service. I thought the best way to do this was directly on LinkedIn, and I started sending direct messages to anyone I could find with “auditor” in their title. Not only did this not yield results, I later learned that there is a negative connotation for being contacted by someone you don’t know on LinkedIn. Now, I only communicate through LinkedIn if I already know the person.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An app that is a database of everything on streaming platforms. Say, you’re about to sit down with your family and you really want to watch “The Wizard of Oz.” You search in the app, find where its available and for how much (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon, ITunes, etc.) When my family wants to watch something, we spend about 15 minutes trying to find it for free, then another 10 comparing prices across platforms if it’s not free. Rather, we are figuring out whether we have already paid for it on one of the platforms we use! I wish I had the skill set to create this, so I’m giving away this great idea because if I can’t invent it I would at least like to use it!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Without a doubt, the $49 I paid to upgrade Elementor. Elementor is a great web design tool. We had been using the free version, but really wanted to improve the look of the website and have more design options. Once we started using the upgrade, my team couldn’t remember how we lived without it!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

When it comes to productivity tools, I’m pretty old school! My team works from all over the East Coast, and we are rarely in the same place at the same time. We started using Google Drive to keep documents we all need to review in one central location everyone can access. We also keep a spreadsheet with tasks and milestones in there, so we can know at a glance where we are on our big projects.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Recently I read “Bad Blood” by John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the Theranos fraud story. I recommend this book, because it is a cautionary tale. Yes, Theranos was a fraud, but the fraud perpetuated and continued because smart people believed something that was not, and could not, be true. As entrepreneurs, we need to believe in ourselves, but we also need to be self aware and critical. When our ideas are not possible, we need to be able to stop ourselves and course correct. Anyone can have a great idea, running a real business (on the level) is much more difficult! Also, “Bad Blood” is a really good read, so check it out!

What is your favorite quote?

My grandma always told me “It hurts to be beautiful” while she was brushing my hair or setting hot curlers. This might seem like a dated or gendered phrase, but it is so true, and such a good lesson for entrepreneurs! Being an entrepreneur is not easy, and sometimes it hurts. You go stretches without a pay check, doubt yourself constantly, and experience stress and anxiety. The ups and downs we experience are not for the faint of heart! But the outcome and rewards of owning a business can be beautiful.

Key Learnings:

  • Being an entrepreneur is difficult, both financially and emotionally. It can also be very rewarding!
  • Look to your own experiences and background, and create a business you would use.
  • There are never enough hours in the day to be an entrepreneur, so make the most of your time!