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How SMEs can use ISO 9001 to grow their business

Achieving ISO 9001 accreditation is a milestone for any business, and given the work, man hours, and finance involved this is especially true for any SME (small to medium-sized enterprise). Whatever the reasons for seeking compliance and certification, many smaller organizations fail to capitalize on the potential benefits that ISO 9001 accreditation can bring. These organizational benefits can include process improvements, reputational benefits, and cost savings, as well as ensuring consistency of product and delivering customer satisfaction. We have looked at some of the benefits of implementation in the article Six key benefits of ISO 9001 implementation; so, how can a SME take the benefits of achieving 9001 certification and turn them into real positives by using them to expand its business?

Making the most of ISO 9001

The sooner an SME realizes that an ISO 9001 accreditation is actually a marketable tool, the sooner that SME will be able to expand its business using that very accreditation as a foundation. The SME should know that new markets are open to operate in that previously would have been closed, for example:

  • Ability to tender for local and national government contracts. These opportunities will increase due to most entry levels stipulating ISO 9001 accreditation. However, these contracts will not come looking for the SME, your appropriate departments will need to investigate, register, and prepare the team for the bidding and presentation process ahead. Read more in the article Using ISO 9001 to win public tenders – a guide.
  • Ability to trade with larger businesses. Many blue chip organizations simply refuse to trade with SMEs that do not have ISO 9001 as a starting point. The SME will now be qualified to seek associations and partnerships with larger operations showing that it can not only provide added value to their supply chains, but can use ISO 9001 accreditation as proof of its credibility and commitment to customer satisfaction.

So, now that we understand the channels that may be open to the SME for the first time, how do we go about winning new business and expanding our company?

Using ISO 9001 as leverage in business

Presenting your SME as an ambitious and capable partner can be challenging; but, using ISO 9001 principles, it is a task you can embrace. Whether on a face-to-face level or presenting at trade shows, or even recording video marketing presentations – which is a modern, but effective marketing tool – the SME can promote the use of ISO 9001 quality management principles to advertise its qualities:

  • Customer satisfaction – The SME can correctly claim that the desire to be accredited against ISO 9001 comes from the intrinsic company ethos, which is to provide unrivalled quality of product and service to the end user.
  • Customer focus – One of the advantages the SME can claim over larger conglomerates is better customer focus and service. A more timely and effective reaction to the customer and any problems can be seen as an excellent selling point, and utilizing examples of its customer feedback and corrective action processes, the SME can demonstrate an edge in this area.
  • Emphasize your operational control – If you are in a service or manufacturing environment, almost nothing is more impressive than displaying operational control and consistency of product. Again, this is something that many larger organizations find more difficult to control, and whether providing non-conformity rates, displaying process documents, or offering facility visits, this is another area in which the SME can claim advantage over the larger corporation.
  • Continual improvement – The ability to improve and demonstrate to a potential customer is a valuable bargaining tool. Evidence of continual improvement can demonstrate a willingness to listen, take action, and improve – again, a quality that is often slower to be demonstrated within larger organizations where things often happen more slowly.

Given that ISO 9001 now gives the SME parity with the larger company, and even an advantage in some fields, is there anything else we can use to our advantage in trying to grow the business?

Advertising ISO 9001 to the benefit of the SME

Your SME should understand the rules of advertising its ISO 9001 accreditation by ensuring that the correct logo is used on your website and stationery, if desired. Look to join local trade organizations, which will allow you to network with new potential customers and partners. Consider throwing an open house to celebrate your ISO 9001 accreditation, where you can gain some new contacts, attract some media attention, and say “thanks” to everyone who has worked hard to gain accreditation (and who will need to continue to do so to maintain compliance and improve standards in the future). Use your ISO 9001 accreditation to leverage your SME’s ability to move in higher circles, and use the elements suggested above to drive home the advantages an SME can have over a larger business. Use 9001 as the leverage to take you from being an SME to a bigger organization. Nobody else will do it for you.

To learn more about the business benefits of ISO 9001, read this free white paper: How can 9001 help your business grow.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.