Driving Disruption: Rich Schalabba Of Payment Integrity Partners On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Client-Centric Focus and Uniqueness: Our culture is built on a commitment to finding ways our clients can improve business outcomes. We prioritize understanding each client’s uniqueness, allowing us to deliver customized solutions that drive more value for our clients.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Schalabba.

Rich has more than 20 years of experience in recovery audit, and has developed audits for clients in grocery, mass merchandise, chain drug and home improvement. He founded Payment Integrity Partners to offer his acute focus on results and his personal style of customer service directly to clients. He believes that most firms miss the mark when it comes to delivering the recoveries and insights that clients deserve.

For Rich, strong client relationships are the foundation for the work he does to improve audit services and outcomes. He has overseen large portfolios of client business for some of the largest firms in the industry. He also developed primary and secondary audits for new clients who had not previously had not previously performed recovery audits, or who previously had relationships with long-standing audit firms. In addition to developing audits across the country, Rich has also been instrumental in providing assistance in client efforts to retain electronic email for legal and post audit purposes; establishing an accounting practice for accruing dollars on audit claims not yet processed; analyzing merchandising strategies; and developing post-audit guidelines.

Over the course of his career, Rich has worked with clients including: Costco, Walgreens, Delhaize Group (Food Lion), Family Dollar, Harris Teeter, ACE Hardware, True Value, BI-LO, Giant Eagle, W.W. Grainger, Merchants Distributors, Lowes Foods, Belk, Institution Food House, Roses, North West Company and Giant Tiger.

His clients have recognized his success, consistently promoting his teams from the secondary audit to the primary audit position. His methods and comprehensive approach have uncovered millions of dollars in previously uncollected funds due to clients.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My journey into the world of recovery audit and financial accuracy began with a deep-rooted passion for problem-solving and a keen eye for detail. Early in my career, I recognized the immense potential for businesses to optimize their financial processes and maximize recoveries, yet I also noticed a glaring gap in the industry’s approach. Many firms were missing the mark when it came to delivering the recoveries and insights that clients truly deserved.

Driven by a desire to revolutionize the audit process and provide clients with unparalleled results, I founded Payment Integrity Partners. Our mission is simple yet ambitious: to be a trusted resource for our clients by examining every aspect of their procure-to-pay business, uncovering hidden opportunities, and delivering tangible value through post-audit recoveries and process improvement recommendations.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a diverse range of clients across various industries, from retail giants to emerging players in the industry . Each experience has deepened my understanding of the intricate challenges businesses face and reinforced my commitment to providing innovative solutions that drive sustainable growth.

Through strategic strategies, technological advancements, and a relentless dedication to excellence, I’ve been able to lead Payment Integrity Partners to notable achievements, including significant revenue growth, the development of cutting-edge technology solutions, and the establishment of strong client partnerships.

In essence, my career path has been shaped by a passion for excellence, a commitment to client success, and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of financial accuracy. As I continue on this journey, I remain dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of recovery audit and financial optimization.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What sets Payment Integrity Partners apart is our commitment to customized audit solutions tailored to each client’s unique needs. While retailers may share similarities, we recognize the importance of addressing individual requirements for a successful engagement. Our approach involves conducting primary reviews of accounts payable and merchandise activity, ensuring a thorough analysis that maximizes recoveries.

One standout story involves our work with a specialty retailer/mass merchant. Despite the client having collected $3 million annually in audit recoveries for 20 years, our team exceeded expectations by recovering $7 million in our first primary audit. This remarkable achievement showcased our ability to identify previously unaudited areas, resulting in a 40% increase in recoveries compared to the incumbent firm, one of the industry’s largest.

Our success was attributed to our organized, methodical, and comprehensive approach, which led to the identification of seven previously unnoticed areas of uncollected funds. Additionally, we provided valuable process improvement recommendations, although implementation was not feasible for the client at the time. Nevertheless, our efforts not only maximized recoveries but also created efficiencies that translated into substantial savings for the organization.

At Payment Integrity Partners, we prioritize communication and collaboration with all stakeholders, including merchandisers and supplier partners, to ensure transparency and integrity throughout the audit process. Our dedication to delivering exceptional results while fostering strong client-supplier relationships is what truly sets us apart in the industry.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Strong Work Ethic — It is not always 9 to 5 work. It takes time to build the business and the relationships that make our win/win proposition as successful as possible. We are in a relationship business and building the relationships builds trust that will make others more willing to take valuable time to explain complex systems and processes. Our understanding of our client is instrumental in our ability to return value through our recovery efforts.

Focus — Our review of client systems and processes is a deep dive where we immerse ourselves in the transaction activity of very large datasets with thousands of transactions. Focusing on how various systems and processes interact and flow is critical in identifying the potential areas of risk that ultimately lead our teams to recover dollars for our clients. It is important that our focus on these details provides an understanding of the “why” things are happening so that we can maximize the value of recoveries. We want to provide our clients potential process improvement recommendations so that risks can be mitigated.

Attention to Detail — Our work identifies money owed by one party to another party (our client) and requires significant attention to detail. It is important to the process that the details presented are accurate as possible and communicate the rationale behind our findings. Findings are also reported at regular intervals to clients that outline progress, recoveries, and process improvement recommendations. Our detail and its accuracy are relied upon at various levels of client organizations. Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

Historically in the industry there is a challenge matching the quantity of resources with available work. Should labor resources be hired in anticipation of new business or once the business arrives? It is a difficult balance between spending more than needed or scrambling at the last minute to address new business.

I believe there is more value to waiting to hire and investing more in the people we have. Investing in our highly skilled individuals who work hard every day to accomplish a common goal is a better ROI for the people doing the work and the business. I believe our people will respond as the need arises. We are project based and all recognize when extra time and attention is needed.

This decision still exposed the business to potential downside risk. The solution to mitigate some of the risk was to hire administrative personnel that do not have as much experience in our industry but could help smooth out any new business transition. This allowed the business to invest in the experienced personnel we have while minimizing the risk of a delayed/slow start on a new client.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

In the context of business, “disruption” refers to the significant change or innovation that fundamentally alters the way industries operate, often rendering traditional methods or products obsolete. It involves the introduction of new technologies, processes, or business models that challenge existing norms and create new market dynamics. Disruption can lead to the transformation of entire industries, forcing businesses to adapt or risk being left behind. It’s about shaking up the status quo and redefining the competitive landscape to drive innovation and value for customers.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

In our industry, ‘disruption’ isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a driving force reshaping how we approach recovery audits and client partnerships. Embracing disruption is essential, not just as a strategy but as a necessity to stay ahead in an ever-evolving landscape. At Payment Integrity Partners, we’ve fully embraced this mindset in two ways: 1) by redefining the traditional recovery audit model and using the latest technology to more accurately and more efficiently uncovering 90% or more of all missed dollars and 2)expanded our scope to provide comprehensive business insights derived from every available data source. This approach allows us to maximize recovery dollars that reflect on the bottom line and offer a more holistic view of our clients’ operations, enabling them to make informed decisions that drive growth and efficiency.

While some competitors are still entrenched in traditional recovery audit methods, we recognize the importance of staying agile and adapting to changing market demands using the most advance technology available. Our commitment to innovation has led us to gain a competitive advantage over our competition in the audit space in both accuracy and efficiency as well explore new avenues beyond recovery audits to add value for our clients, such as reporting important business metrics (KPI’s) and analyzing customer behavior patterns. By leveraging advanced technology and analytics, we’re able to uncover hidden opportunities for our clients and deliver tangible value beyond recovery dollars.

In essence, disruption isn’t just about shaking things up for the sake of it; it’s about challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries to create meaningful change. By embracing disruption and continuously innovating, we position ourselves not only to thrive in the present but also to lead the way forward in our industry.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

Challenging conventional wisdom has taught me invaluable lessons about innovation, resilience, and the importance of staying true to one’s vision. In our industry, there’s often a tendency to stick to traditional methods, but I’ve found that embracing change and thinking outside the box can lead to remarkable results.

One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned is the importance of being adaptable and open-minded. By questioning established norms and exploring new ideas, we’ve been able to identify innovative solutions that have transformed our approach to recovery audits. This mindset of continuous improvement has become ingrained in our company culture, driving us to constantly seek better ways to serve our clients.

As a leader, these lessons have shaped my leadership style by instilling a sense of curiosity, resilience, and adaptability in myself and my team. I encourage a culture of innovation and empowerment, where everyone feels empowered to challenge the status quo and contribute their unique perspectives. By fostering a collaborative environment where ideas are valued and experimentation is encouraged, we’ve been able to drive meaningful change and stay ahead of the curve in our industry.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Taking time to innovate and challenge the status quo has always been met with resistance. Predictable ROI is a natural resistance force to innovation. It’s a decision one must make to take the opportunity to learn something new.

I chose to spend personal time to achieve breakthroughs in my career. The extra time you spend learning your trade, developing new and innovative ways of accomplishing your goal, is valuable whether you identify the breakthrough or not. If you find something new and innovative great, you can begin selling or implementing it with your colleagues. If not, your time was a good investment in learning more about your trade and becoming even more of an expert. Either way, you win.

What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

  1. Technology: Many of us say technology is our differentiator but we have demonstrated time and time again we can add more value than our competition using our proprietary toolset. We invest in the latest technology to stay ahead of the curve and drive more value for our clients.
  2. Comprehensive Approach to Recovery Audits: Unlike traditional recovery-focused services, we tap into every crucial data source to offer both recovery audit insights and broader business metrics. This holistic approach enables us to provide comprehensive solutions tailored to each client’s unique needs.
  3. Client-Centric Focus and Uniqueness: Our culture is built on a commitment to finding ways our clients can improve business outcomes. We prioritize understanding each client’s uniqueness, allowing us to deliver customized solutions that drive more value for our clients.
  4. One Audit Partner Solution: We represent a streamlined one audit partner solution for our clients by identifying 90% or more of all lost revenue. Our clients may want but do not need a typical secondary review by another firm. One audit partner can save time for our clients and needless aggravation with their vendor partners.
  5. Acceleration: Our work is a look back in time and typically involves transactions that are 3, 6, 12 months old or more. This represents challenges to the quality of available information and personnel. Through the use of our proprietary technology we have been able to more accurately complete our work in less time.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

Being disruptive has fundamentally reshaped my professional journey, pushing me to constantly challenge conventional norms and embrace innovative solutions. It has redefined my path by encouraging me to seek out new opportunities for growth and to constantly evolve in response to changing industry dynamics.

Being disruptive has been a transformative experience that has pushed me to think differently, take calculated risks, and ultimately drive positive change in the industry. It has taught me the importance of resilience, adaptability, and perseverance in the face of challenges, and has ultimately shaped me into a more dynamic and forward-looking leader.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

Embracing disruption has profoundly impacted me personally, urging me to step beyond my comfort zone and confront the unfamiliar with confidence and resilience. This journey has prompted me to reassess my assumptions and biases, fostering a mindset of continual learning and development.

I’ve learned to perceive change as a chance for advancement rather than a setback, approaching obstacles with curiosity and an open mind. This transformative journey has shaped me into a more adaptable, resourceful, and visionary leader, teaching me to embrace ambiguity, seize opportunities, and view change as a catalyst for both personal and professional growth.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

As a C-suite leader tasked with driving innovation and embracing disruption, my mind is often occupied by thoughts of ensuring that our company stays ahead of the curve in a rapidly evolving landscape. I’m constantly considering how we can continue to innovate and adapt to meet the changing needs of our clients and industry.

I also think about the potential risks and challenges that come with disruption, such as market volatility, technological advancements, and regulatory changes. These reflections guide my decisions and leadership by prompting me to prioritize agility, resilience, and forward-thinking strategies.

By acknowledging these concerns and actively addressing them, I aim to lead our team in navigating uncertainty with confidence and seizing opportunities for growth and innovation. It’s essential to remain vigilant and proactive in our approach, ensuring that we stay one step ahead in an ever-changing business environment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could impact the world in a positive way, I would want to work to change our propensity for violence. We see all too often violence by individuals or governments that so negatively impact innocent people.

We also see another type of violence that is driven in part out of the serious struggles in our society. I would work to identify the commonalities that bind us as a people and leverage that understanding to help identify real solutions that all of us need but for some are unfortunately out of reach.

How can our readers further follow your work online?




Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.