We All Need a Stamp of Approval
In the past, SMEs viewed certification simply as a prerequisite for meeting tender requirements and just another shiny plaque to hang on a wall. But certification standards are dynamic management tools for SMEs. They act as guides to best practice and provide a structure to foster creative development.
Certification is not static but continually evolving and improving the systems and processes by which companies are run. It should not be seen as a burden – a restriction on business innovations or an obligatory practice with negative impacts. Instead, certification improves a company’s ‘bottom line’ through better efficiency, consistent control of key processes and standardisation of high quality products and services.
There are tangible benefits; certification is seen as a benchmarking tool for larger organisations, but the reality is, for SMEs it can bring added value.
Certification adds value to SMEs by creating a culture of continuous improvement. Auditors, both internal and external are regularly assessing a company’s conformity to standard criteria, leaving recommendations for improvement where necessary. This means that individuals and teams are constantly learning and growing which leads to increased productivity and efficiency. It’s about recognising opportunities to enhance and improve a business operation.
Yet there’s more – certification can increase value by providing a structure for companies to develop innovation and mitigate risks. It’s about avoiding stagnation and applying some rejuvenation and new direction. You want creativity, then think about how structure and order can foster that in a business.
Business is evolving. Transformative forces such as improved communication systems, enhanced access to information and increasing physical mobility will continue to shape business behaviour over the next decade. These forces, coupled with a challenging economic environment, and ever closer trade and investment links, have seen the demise of many businesses during the last 15 years. Yet, according to the Economic Forum’s Risk Perception Survey, many organisations are still insufficiently prepared to thrive in this increasingly complex business environment. Structural framework provided by certification can help manage a company’s processes so its products or services are constantly meeting set objectives. This will help to control quality and reduce the risk of uncertainty amidst a volatile business environment.
Certification can also bring financial benefits. It encourages companies to improve their quality management and, with that, improve performance and optimise their operations. This is the goal – to upgrade business operations and strengthen values.
Take a small-sized car service company in Essex – Castle Point Motors Ltd. After gaining certification to ISO 9001, they have seen an increase in turnover by 25% year on year since winning a National Garage of the Year award from Unipart and have built up an excellent reputation with assured high levels of customer satisfaction.
So what does this tell us about certification? Can your business afford to continue without considering the obvious benefits to both operations and sales?
The real issue for many SMEs is the fear factor. They panic, believing the process is too complicated, too time consuming, or simply not worth the effort. If this is the case then it’s likely your business will remain where it is now in the next 10 years. Progress is just a few clicks away.
Andrew Bury, Performance Assessment – Development and Delivery Manager, SGS United Kingdom Ltd.