Founder of The Global Alliance of Independent Auditors (GAIA), Jerry Norris, says to think of it like a match.com for auditors and the industries that need them.
While auditing may be looked at as a boring career that no one really wants to get into, in their field, auditors are rockstars in their own right. Not everyone can perform and those that can are in high demand. Everyday the number of certifications a business must have to do business increases. As those grow, the need for capable and talented auditors (those that can evaluate and issue the certificates) also grows.
The Global Alliance of Independent Auditors (GAIA) is a community that strives to connect talented auditors in the management system industry with the jobs that will allow them to excel.
The Problem Being Solved:
As surprising as it may seem in an economy where everyone needs jobs, there is actually a shortage of qualified people for these auditing positions. GAIA is trying to solve that by getting people the training they need to fill the positions in the different areas of the certification industry (food, transportation, quality management and more).
Another problem that stems from this shortage is the fact those that are currently in the positions have to stretch themselves very thin to meet growing needs. They travel constantly and in many cases spend more time traveling than auditing. GAIA wants to help with this by meeting demand but also by matching local auditors with local jobs.
Where the idea came from:
Jerry’s extensive background in auditing stems from a career spanning two decades. During his career, he noticed things begin to change; there were more requirements and more certifications required for businesses. He also noticed there weren’t enough auditors out there to meet demand. He decided that he needed to increase their numbers and also get them off the planes and working.
He saw a need within a channel he already had and decided to meet that need.
Exciting and Worrying Opportunities:
It’s exciting to Jerry that the community is starting to reach out to them with more and more needs around the services they are offering. It’s becoming apparent that they not only reduce the cost of the audit but also the carbon footprint (by reducing travel).
But at the same time, Jerry is a little worried about putting the idea out there; there’s always the worry that “there is someone else out there that can do this, and can compete with us.”
GAIA’s target customer is anyone who performs management system audits. This is a large market and can include the people that look at food for safety, inspect restaurants, or put that seal of approval on organic food.
Jerry has met challenges when trying to communicate their mission to the auditors of the world, and articulating it in a way that everyone can understand. He’s been working on fine tuning their story and message.
The business has so far been mostly bootstrapped, funded by previous projects of Jerry’s. But, they’ve also landed a contract with a certification body that funded a lot of their development. They have existing customers and new ones lined up.
Within the next year, Jerry hopes to build GAIA to 5,000 members and hopes to have a solid presence in the industry. In 3 years he hopes membership is more toward 20,000 members but would also like to start offering more services such as auditing, inspections and training. As the company grows, he hopes to have a positive impact on the Lansing area and will start by hiring at least 20 employees in the near future.
Jerry’s advice for young entrepreneurs is his favorite quote from the book, Circle of Innovation by Tom Peters; “Fail forward fast.” “It’s my favorite quote when I’m trying to do something new,” says Jerry. “Don’t be scared of going out and giving it a try.”