My friend had just joined a fast growing company to lead their expansion in a new sector. It was an exciting time for her, and the product sales to date had been great, so why was she feeling apprehensive?
“We don’t have a certified quality management system, and that’s knocking us out of the qualification stage of big tenders.”
“What do they say in HQ?”
“They say that they’ve never needed a certificate so far, and that I need to learn how to overcome objections.”
“Well, what are customers asking for?”
“They want an ISO 9001 certified quality management system, or equivalent. They’re asking for it as part of qualification. Without it I don’t even get to go in and tell our story, and I know if I can tell our story, I can sell.”
When customers are buying big-ticket items, they want more than just good vibes from the seller.
They want to know you’ve done this before. No problem; you can give them references, and they can visit a customer site.
They want to know that you’re financially sound. No problem; that’s why you have independently audited, publicly available accounts.
They want to know that you are committed to continuous improvement, that you listen to your customers, and that you have procedures and structures in place to enable you to grow without losing your way. No problem; you’ll get your CEO to write to them personally and tell them all those things.
Not good enough.
You have to prove it.
How do we prove it?
To prove financial stability, you get your annual accounts audited by a third-party. They look at what you say you’ve achieved, and they delve into the systems and paperwork for the proof that your finances are as solid as you say they are. The same goes for your management systems: certifying bodies like BSI, Lloyds Register, NQA, Bureau Veritas, and a host of others, perform similar audits to internationally recognised standards.
As an organisation, you decide how you are going to run your business: you set policies stating what you want to achieve, procedures for your team enabling them to achieve your policy goals, and you maintain records as proof that you are following the procedures. You monitor your performance and take actions to stretch when overachieving, or to correct when underachieving.
When you appoint a certifying body, you’re asking an independent third-party to audit your management system to an internationally accepted standard. In the case of Quality Management, the standard is ISO 9001:2015 (2015 being the last revision of the standard).
We will cover the full process in another post; but to summarise, an initial gap analysis will identify what you need to do to meet the standard. Then, once your system is operational, you’ll go through a couple of preparatory assessments to ensure that all the pieces are in place. The timescale will be based on the complexity (or not) of your system, and the time and resources dedicated to the programme.
The process is designed to give you the best chance to get through your final certification audit. You’ll understand where you need to improve your systems, and where you might be applying more effort than you need to. Once you’ve passed your certification audit, you’ll be recommended for certification to the ISO 9001:2015 standard
You’re probably doing most of this stuff, anyway…
Don’t be daunted by the myths around ISO 9001 certification.
- You don’t need to change the way you work to suit the standard
- You don’t need to document, monitor, and measure every single process
- It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is
- Everything doesn’t need to be perfect before you start
You’re probably doing most of what is required, already. That’s how you got this far. Implementing quality management system will bring order and structure to enable you to improve and grow.
To understand where you’re at, and what you need to do to achieve ISO 9001 certification, contact us. We’ll arrange a call where we can compare your current practices with the standard and produce a gap analysis report to help you understand what you need to do, what resources you’ll require, and how long the certification process should take.