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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ISO 9000 for small firms

The main advantage of ISO 9000:2000 is its ability to provide a quality system that is effective and efficient which in achieving its objectives helps in error elimination and ultimately helps the company to save money. On the other hand, ISO 9001:2000 helps provide companies or businesses with models that will help them to systematically expand while making sure that at the same time quality of products are assured.

Thus customer satisfaction is improved upon since quality becomes the slogan of the business. Thus companies that are ISO 9000 and 9001 certified achieve marketing benefits since this certification demonstrates level of quality. Despite this, smaller companies and organizations are sometimes skeptical of pursuing ISO 9000/9001 because they believe that the process of achieving it is really time consuming and most importantly expensive. But they still face the dilemma of not becoming ISO 9000/9001 certified since most big businesses are demanding that in order for them the small business to bid for contracts from them, they need to become ISO 9000/9001 compliance.

Another area most likely to be advantageous to these small companies is in the area of introducing total quality management (TQM) in their business since it helps increase the level of satisfaction of all organizational stakeholders. As well as customer focus and employee involvement and empowerment, things such as teamwork, training, quality systems measurement tools, and top management commitment are all key elements which help implement a TQM successfully. The fact cannot be hidden that a majority of businesses throughout the world are more in the non manufacturing sector of the different economies and belongs to the sub group of small businesses. Of importance again is that these small businesses are shying away from certification to ISO 9000/9001 because they believe it is not appropriate for their business and at the same time, there is lack of time and Skills of sufficient personnel’s and ultimately because they cannot compare themselves to the strength of the big businesses with regards to the resource requirement for a successful TQM implementation.

Though in order to remain quality compliance most of these smaller businesses have implemented ISO 9000/9001, most of the accrued advantages related to TQM are reaped by the larger businesses. When compared, there exist quite a great number of differences between these big and small business. With respect to the small businesses,

• There is a limited scope with respect to their product or services, their market and customer base
• All employees are considered very important to the business
• There is little importance to staff training and development
• Vulnerability to competitors exist
• There is no strategic focus for a longer term
• Quality controls are informal or irregular.


Many reasons abound for the implementation of ISO 9000/9001 by businesses and they are important since not becoming ISO compliance for the right reasons may result to preventing businesses from gaining the benefits of ISO compliance. Some of these main reasons for becoming ISO compliance are that:

• It helps them in improving their service to customers while at the same time increasing their competitiveness within their sector
• It helps them maintain good relationship with their existing and potential customers
• It helps them keep the claims by their customers at a low cost
• It helps them reduce their failure rate by preventing scrap
• Of existence of pressure from their main big customers to become ISO compliance

As stated above majority of these small companies do not have the required resources, skills, time and culture to conduct market research which is likely to be extensive. These factors thus limits the ability of these smaller companies develop implement and maintain a TQM system.
Of course the cost of compliance will vary from business to business and most importantly will depend to a larger extent on the existing system efficiency staff competency. None the less this cost will be higher per employee for the small businesses compared to the big businesses because of the fixed cost element. Becoming compliance with regards to costs will see these small companies dealing with two types of costs which are mainly the Initial and ongoing costs. While the initial costs includes the time that is required for the setting u of the system with its implementation by management and staff to consultancy fees paid, the ongoing costs includes time spent in maintain the system and the fees paid annually to confirm that the system is still in place. I believe that for these small businesses, the benefits of compliance will to a larger extent be greater than these costs, but they should not consider it as a quick fix to their problem but rather view it as long term investment objective that can only b achieved through continued effort and commitment.

Since smaller businesses see cost as a major barrier to becoming ISO certified, a way out of this is to actually do it their self. Doing this will help them to reduce the total cost that is required to prepare, develop, implement, maintain and improve the system. Some of these savings will result from consultancy cost elimination but the majority of the cost savings will result later when these businesses depend on their employee to maintain and improve the established system. The reason for this suggestion steams from the fact that most ISO short comings results been developed by consultants that do not involve the employees of the affected businesses.

Management of these small businesses should not be in a rush to become ISO compliance, but should rather take their time so that they can be able to gain the required knowledge and skills in quality achievement and thus ISO 9000 TQM system. Therefore most importantly management should prepare before hand by training their staffers in ISO 9000:2000 or 9001:2000 TQM.

There are two ways to set goals and to plan. Firstly you can move towards the things that you want or alternatively you can move away from the things that you do not want. Sounds simplistic I know but just think about this for a moment. Are you trying to achieve a 10% market share or are you increasing your market share so that your competitors do not get a foothold in your industry even though it may be unprofitable for you to do so. Therefore small businesses should not become certified if it is not justifiable economically. Certification that is implemented through pressure basically leads to the satisfaction of the body in charge rather than towards customer satisfaction. Therefore by taking the road of self assessment, the goal of achieving quality rather than certification is achieved.


Achieving TQM in small businesses involves putting in both good effort and time towards attaining it. TQM should be seen by these small businesses as a long time objective rather than a short one. No doubt there are both positive and negative effects resulting from the required leadership attitude towards a successful TQM implementation. For the positive effect, communication is frequent and direct since there exist no bureaucracy layers and as a result, the manager or owner have the opportunity of setting a good example with regards to quality and behavior desired from the employees towards customer satisfaction achievement. The disadvantage of these small businesses is that it is probably the duty of the manager to attend to all problem small businesses where this occur requires TQM more for the reason that no long term plan exists and there is the possibility of the business to be in crisis constantly. Consider the lack of managerial skills and experience within small businesses.

Though being a leader does not come from business knowledge and experience, this has been one on the most important factors preventing small business from achieving TQM because this situation can blind a manager of small businesses from seeing the need for change including TQM. Therefore, for TQM to be successfully implemented by these small businesses they need to employ a quality manager. Although this will be seen as costly, but in the long run more beneficial. Another area that small businesses should focus on to attain TQM is the training of employees as part of an ongoing process in the organization and this should be directed towards each group’s needs.

In conclusion, ISO certification is beneficial to small businesses but should only be carried out for the right reasons. Therefore these small businesses need to take time in implementing ISO requirements that will make them certified and achieve TQM since this will help in maximizing the utility of the system. George Bernard Shaw had a great perspective on success. He said that there are only two kinds of men in the world. There are reasonable men and unreasonable men. The reasonable man is the man who doesn't ever rock the boat, the guy who doesn't want to cause any trouble and wants no controversy. But there is the unreasonable man who won't take it, who refuses to quit. For small businesses to fully tap the benefits of ISO 900:2000 OR 9001:2000 they require the unreasonable man who is willing to take the required risk to achieve the business ultimate goals. And yes this certification has the same benefit for the small and big companies. The only difference is the time line it will take for the benefits to materialize.


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