Small Business Tips and Advice
We’ve all heard stories – a company has spent a king’s ransom and several years attempting to get ISO 9001 certified. I’ve personally been introduced to companies that have spent 2-3 years or even longer, with little or no accomplishments to show. Unless you’re doing something wrong, getting ISO certified DOES NOT take that long, particularly if you’re a small business.
Plan Ahead and Then Execute
Aside from having, or at least having access to someone that has, a general understanding ISO 9001’s requirements, you need to be thoughtful of planning and execution (I mentioned this in a previous post also). Once you start down the road to ISO 9001 certification, you’ll have a specific number of requirements to meet. How long this will take is a matter of planning, and how committed and dedicated you are to the outcome.
I have to emphasize committed and dedicated at this point, as most companies don’t fail because of technical understanding. If you have a question, buy a book, search the internet, ask a friend who knows. Most companies fail either because they fail to plan, or fail to execute. They lose focus. Another shiny object comes along that they want more.
Now, sometimes we all need a helping hand, and it would be counter-intuitive for me to criticize the use of consultants to aid this process along. However, I’m not a big fan of anyone that promises that you can “get certified in 30 days”. Legitimacy concerns aside, I just don’t think the end result is going to be very good. A management system is a system for managing your business. It’s likely taken you years, if not decades, to grow your business up to this point; should you be looking for the quickest solution?
I do think that most small businesses can be certified within 1 year; most can be accomplished within 6 months, or even as little 4 months. I can’t remember a time I’ve been proven wrong on this point.
Save Some Money
I’m not talking about being cheap or frugal. I mean you establish a budget, and set aside the financial resources accordingly. This won’t necessarily be cheap; however, it doesn’t have to be overly expensive. The terms “expensive”, “reasonable” and “cheap” are all terms which are relative to the size of your wallet, as well as the expected ROI. As stated above, a management system is a system for managing your business. A poorly designed or poorly implemented management system can wreak havoc on your bottom line; should you be looking for the cheapest solution?
Without knowing your business details, I can’t provide much insight here on what this will cost. All I can say on this point, is to make sure to get several quotes, check references and compare your options. And make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Not all consultant are equal.
Consider Your Business Goals
Most of us are not designing satellites, developing the cure for cancer, or building nuclear weapons. Some of the biggest criticisms of ISO have been the extent of documentation required, and the complexity of the ISO standard when applied to a small, simple, business. You may have heard that ISO 9001 doesn’t fit small businesses, service companies, etc. - it does; it just may not fit in the way that you’re approaching it. Stated for a third and final time, a management system is a system for managing your business. What has worked for other companies might not be suitable for you. Cost-saving, cookie-cutter templates and “canned” approaches to compliance likely won’t be a good fit, as each business has its own character and ways of operating; should you be looking for the easiest solution?
Be wary of anyone that tells you a specific task, method, activity or approach is “required by ISO 9001”. That’s often a ploy to avoid logical discussion. ISO’s requirements focus on outcomes; the standard is pretty ambiguous when it comes to stating how things should be done. Remember, ISO 9001 was originally intended as an auditing standard, NOT a design standard. If you meet the requirement, and you can prove the required outcome is achieved, how you accomplish it is your decision.
Getting ISO 9001 certified doesn’t have to take long, doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive and doesn’t have to mean a disruption to the way you do business. In fact, ISO 9001 certification can be achieved in a short time, with a reasonable budget, without distracting from your day-to-day business operations. If any of these concerns arise during your certification efforts, something is going wrong; take some time to figure out what is happening.
Our ISO 9001 Blog
Information, thoughts and periodic updates from MAS Solutions' QMS Consulting Group.
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