Processes are often the difference between a good company and a successful one. Small businesses might be able to function and grow in a fairly disorganized state, but for sustained growth, they need enough structure in place to eliminate downtime and maintain efficient, profitable operations.
Knowing exactly where your company needs to tighten things up can be difficult. CEOs and executive teams spend large sums on consultants and evaluative tools to understand what exactly keeps their business from growing. To help businesses take the first step in this process, the International Organization for Standardization offers a set of standards you can build your company around and a certification process to ensure you’re adhering to the policies and procedures outlined.
What’s in It for Me?
Imposing new policies and procedures can be daunting, but when you consider the benefits, it’s clear to see why so many businesses use ISO standards. Without a standard to work to, your employees don’t know what’s expected of them. By implementing a set standard, your managers will have a clear set of metrics to review when evaluating an employee. Of course, you should take into consideration all aspects of an employee’s performance and encourage them to exceed the standard metrics with incentives. However, the standard goes a long way to combat a situation where someone doesn’t know they’re underperforming.
Setting a standard that promotes a productive workplace will help your company be more profitable. One 2015 analysis used data from 92 different studies to show that three out of five organizations that implemented standards saw increases in revenue. In companies that went from using no standard to being ISO certified, the increase was significantly higher.
When your company is running smoothly and making money, you can afford to spend more resources on customer experience — which is why happier customers are a third positive product of ISO certification. It’s not hard to see the benefit here. When you keep your customers happy, they continue to spend their money on your products. Hopefully, they also become champions of your brand and recommend it to friends, creating additional business.
With the proper arrangements, you can make use of the ISO certification branding on your company website and promotional materials. This can improve not only customer relations, but also B2B relationships. Being ISO certified lets your suppliers know they are working with a reputable company that will provide consistent business and has the potential to grow. It might even help you negotiate a better deal than competing businesses for supplies.
What Does ISO Certification Cover?
The ISO family of certifications is designed to be flexible so it can be applied to companies in a variety of industries. The ISO 9001 certification, one of the most popular standards ISO offers, is a standard that takes into account your quality management system, terminology, management responsibility, management analysis, and improvement and resource management.
ISO certifications are appropriate for many different businesses. Places where heavy machinery is used, such as manufacturing jobs, commonly employ ISO standards to improve the safety of employees and ensure business doesn’t stop for out-of-band operations too frequently. There are specific variants of the ISO 9001 standard for a handful of industries that include petroleum and natural gas, medical devices, software engineering and governmental electoral businesses.
How Does a Business Get Certified?
The certification process for ISO standards is well-defined. Before you begin to implement these standards, make sure you communicate the change to your employees and get their feedback. Depending on how much change this will cause, it can be a challenging idea for employees to get behind.
The process starts when you purchase the ISO standard. Training materials are available for your company in a number of different formats. These include online courses that can be delivered over roughly 12 hours, instructor-led training that might be provided on-site at your company, and classes employees can attend at physical campuses in the area.
Using the training process for the ISO 9001 standard as an example, your management team will be asked to get familiar with the standard and then shown how to build a quality evaluation system that adheres to the ISO’s metrics. Once your quality management system is in place, the ISO will evaluate it. Your management team is expected to understand how to perform self-audits to maintain adherence. Once a year, the ISO will send a representative to conduct a surveillance audit so that you can renew your certification.
There’s No Time Like the Present
Many business owners are intimidated by the thought of major change. However, when you ask those hard-to-answer questions about what is going wrong, consider whether it’s worse being in the dark or taking action. Implementing a standard doesn’t mean jumping through hoops — it means working as a team to operate at your best. When you do it, you’ll see what a difference it can make.