How to become an ISO 9001 consultant

ISO 9001 is the most popular management system standard in the world, and it helps many businesses to establish a QMS (Quality Management System) and ensure quality products and services, as well as customer satisfaction. Given that this standard is used worldwide, there is understandably a constant demand by organizations who feel they need a consultant to help demonstrate both exactly what the clauses of the standard dictate, and how those specific requirements can relate and be applied to their particular business and its sector. Therefore, it stands to reason that many people wish to become a consultant, so what is the best way to go about achieving this?

What qualifications do you need?

I often receive the question: “What qualifications do I need to become a consultant?” It’s a funny thing, but there are no formal qualifications needed, at least not in most countries. This basically means anyone can become a consultant, with no qualifications whatsoever. This might sound strange, but it makes sense if you remember that your work will be audited by a certification body, so if you are able to implement the standard properly, no one will care about your certificates.

Of course, at the beginning of your consultant career, you will need to demonstrate your competence to your clients, and that is not an easy job if you don’t have any references. So, at the beginning, you should have at least the following:

ISO 9001 certificates – you should at least get the Lead Auditor or Lead Implementer certificate, but it would be better if you had both. Acquiring those certificates is not easy, so if you do not have previous knowledge about the standard, it is recommended to take some internal audit or, at least foundation courses.

Project Management certificate – since your work will be nothing but delivering projects, you should learn how to run them. For instance, you should get PMP, or some other similar certificate.

Experience – theoretical knowledge won’t be enough, so you should get experience through at least one of the following:

  • Work as a certification auditor – performing certification audits will give you excellent insight into the do’s and don’ts of ISO 9001 implementation, or
  • Work for another consultant – this is the best way to learn about the implementation methods and how to get new clients, or
  • Work as a quality manager or quality assurance manager – working in a company is an excellent way to learn the client side of the story: What are the usual pains? What is the expert help needed for?
  • Work as a QMS management representative – being responsible for the QMS in a company will help you understand the standard and see how its requirements are executed in real life, and lots of consultants have this starting point.

ISO 9001: What skills do I need?

It is safe to say that a successful consultant will require a special set of skills, so let us examine them in more detail:

Knowledge of the standard: Obvious, but critical. An ISO 9001 consultant must have detailed knowledge of the standard and what is expected, and be on top of any changes that come around.

A keen eye for detail: A consultant is expected to pick up on things other employees may miss, which is why he/she is being hired. As a consultant, you need the eye for detail to ensure that you bring extra value to any project you are hired to contribute to or manage.

A good leader: It is probable as an ISO 9001 consultant that you may have to bridge the gap between top management and the workforce, and “sell” the merits of a project to both. Good leadership skills can be critical to achieving this.

A good communicator: The best plans can go wrong with ineffective planning, so ensure that your communication is timely, accurate, and concise. A lack of communication can lead directly to a lack of awareness and competence in the workforce, so it is critical to ensure that this gap is closed.

Good organizational skills: An ISO 9001 project can be complex and may not be linear: you may be working on several different strands at once. For more information, see: Four things you need to start your ISO 9001 project.

A good problem solver: Above all, you will be perceived as the person who has the solution to the problems in an ISO 9001 project, so the ability to solve problems and give good advice is key. If you don’t have the answers, you will be expected to find them. Be measured, level, and organized, and research and prepare as well as possible.

ISO 9001 consultant – How to become one

Focus on what’s the best for the client

In this article I wanted to present the prerequisites for becoming a consultant – the methods for delivering the ISO 9001 project wouldn’t fit in this article.

But, in the end, remember that reputation is what will bring you new clients. Make sure that everything you do, you do it in the best interest of the client – you shouldn’t recommend some new technology to a client only because you have a partner selling it; you shouldn’t hold back some information only to have your client use your services later on. What you should do is protect your clients’ interests and exceed their expectations.

Check out this free webinar on How to sell ISO consulting services to learn about the basics and start up your consulting career.

Here you can learn How to get certified as an ISO 9001 lead auditor.

Advisera Strahinja Stojanovic
Strahinja Stojanovic

Strahinja Stojanovic is certified as a lead auditor for the ISO 13485, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 standards by RABQSA. He participated in the implementation of these standards in more than 100 SMEs, through the creation of documentation and performing in-house training for maintaining management systems, internal audits, and management reviews.