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Do You Need to Be Certified?

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Do You Need to Be Certified?

No, I don’t mean ‘certified insane’, although I sometimes do wonder about the sanity of anyone who starts and operates a Small Business.

The certification I’m talking about is the various International Standards Organisation (ISO) Standards for Quality, Environmental, Safety, Risk etc., and in particular, the Quality Standard ISO9001:2015.

This standard has just been updated from September 1st, 2016, so you may see it mentioned in business blogs and in the press. In my experience though, many Small Business owners don’t really know what a quality standard is, or worse, think that it’s just another load of paperwork that you have to do.

What is a quality standard?

Every business owner knows that meeting customer expectations is a key pillar of business success. A quality standard is a template for doing just that; helping you meet your customers’ expectations.

Quality doesn’t necessarily mean the best possible or most expensive. ‘Quality’ in this context means that it meets the customers’ expectations and requirements – consistently. By this definition, McDonald’s runs a high-quality operation. It wouldn’t be hard for any of us to name a burger joint that serves more delicious (and expensive) burgers than anything you can buy at McDonald’s.

At McDonald’s, however, you know exactly what to expect and how much you will pay, and you will get the same product every time. That is what the standard means by ‘quality’.

Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. – Peter F. Drucker.

Does a quality standard tell me how to make quality products?

The answer to this question is a definite, no. The Quality Standard ISO9001:2015 is just the framework, and it’s up to you to fill in the details about how you manage and control quality in your own operations.

The Quality Standard merely tells you how to build your own Quality Management System, not how to actually make quality products.

Using the framework provided by the standard, you will write your own procedures, policies and processes that explain:

  • Your company’s approach to quality.
  • How you design and build quality into all your products and services.
  • How you measure quality.
  • What action you will take when things don’t quite go to plan.

Having a Quality Management System doesn’t mean that you have some procedures in a folder, downloaded from the internet. It doesn’t have to be complex and run to hundreds of pages. Keep it simple and practical, so it describes what happens in your business.

Once you have this in place, you can then choose to be audited by a qualified professional, and achieve ISO9001 Certification. But you don’t have to.

Do I need to have a quality certification?

It depends. If you are supplying (or trying to supply) to a big company or a Government department, you may find that they require you to have ISO9001 Certification before they will do business with you at all (this should be one of the first things to check in potential contracts). For any small business that is not certified, this requirement is, of course, a disqualifier; unless they are prepared to go on the certification journey.

To become certified, you will probably have to engage a consultant to make sure you are ready for your audit and then pay for the audit itself. There will then be ongoing costs to keep your certification up to date so the process can be a significant cost item for a Small Business. However, if not being certified is holding your business back and stopping you from getting contracts, then yes, it is worth the cost.

Certified vs compliant.

Having that auditors tick will make you ISO 9001 certified. However, if you use a framework to build your Quality Management System, implement it well but decide not to be audited, you will be ISO9001 compliant.

Being ISO 9001 compliant is definitely a good idea. Being able to write in proposals that your company is, “ISO 9001 Compliant”, will give you an advantage over your competitors when you prepare proposals and tenders.

If you have thought about your approach to quality and how you will maintain your quality standards, there is a 100% chance that your business will be running a whole lot smoother, your costs from waste and returns will plummet, and your customers will be satisfied. They will be getting exactly what they ordered, with no surprises.

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