How can a startup benefit from ISO 9001?

ISO 9001:2015 implementation and certification may not always be at the top of a startup’s wish list, given the financial and operational pressures many new businesses find themselves under in the early stages of development. With decisions to be made in terms of what projects cost and the benefits they yield, is ISO 9001:2015 a reasonable investment for a startup? Implementing all elements of the standard can help a startup, but what parts of the ISO 9001:2015 standard in particular should prove to be of most benefit?

ISO 9001 for startups – The practicalities

We looked at how much an ISO 9001 implementation might cost in our previous article: How much does the ISO 9001 implementation cost? and this is undoubtedly a consideration for most startup businesses. At a time when most startups may have to make choices between implementation of certain projects on a “cost versus benefit” basis, it is vital that a startup understands both parts of this equation. So, considering this, let us examine what benefits ISO 9001 implementation can bring to a startup business:

  • The process approach: Establishing uniform processes in the early days of a business can yield great benefits as your startup grows. Forming common processes in these early days not only can help your organization provide consistent products and services, but will also provide a sound foundation for expansion and growth. Introducing new employees to processes that are established and well documented can help save on time, cost, and accuracy of delivery. You can learn more about this topic in the article ISO 9001: The importance of the process approach.
  • The Plan, Do, Check, Act model: This is a fundamental part of the ISO 9001 standard, and learning to use this effectively can benefit any startup business. At a time when speed of action seems very important to a young business, it may well pay to build a culture amongst your staff where careful planning, monitoring, and adjustment of actions taken helps to provide excellent and consistent results for the startup. You can find more details in the article Plan-Do-Check-Act in the ISO 9001 standard.
  • Drive your sales up using ISO 9001: In the article How can ISO 9001 boost your sales activities, we considered how implementing the standard can grow sales for your business. Using customer feedback, learning how to monitor and review, developing an effective corrective action process, and building a culture of continual improvement can all help to drive sales. Establishing these good habits in the early days of a startup can help to establish the good practice that helps your startup grow.
  • Developing a vigilant attitude to risk and opportunity: While risk and opportunity are critical elements of the ISO 9001:2015 standard, these items have always been at the center of successful businesses. Building a culture where startup employees have a keen eye for risk and opportunity will serve a business well, and allow profits to be maximized while risks are identified early and can be mitigated. You can learn more about this topic in the article How to address risk and opportunities in ISO 9001.
  • Control of change management: One thing that is certain is that change will happen throughout the early stages of a startup. Inability to handle change and develop accordingly is one of the main reasons that many startups do not survive through the first two years of business. In the article QMS change management in 7 steps, we considered how ISO 9001 can help an organization control and manage change with the correct mix of planning, action, and review. Planning for change is one of the most sensible things an aspirational startup can do, and recently has become a fashionable topic for investors to ask startup businesses about before making a financial commitment. After all, if a startup is not equipped for change, then growth cannot happen.
  • Setting goals and objectives: Goals and objectives are key elements of the ISO 9001:2015 standard, and critical elements for any new business. Establishing the practice of setting, reviewing, and taking action against objectives and the subsequent results is a vital part of driving growth and improvement early in a new business’s life.

It soon becomes clear that implementing ISO 9001 can bring many strengths as well as benefits to a startup, but is there anything else to note?

Startups – Why can ISO 9001 make the difference?

Whether only implementing ISO 9001:2015, or pursuing certification along with it, there are many benefits for the startup. Certification to the standard, however, can bring reputational benefits and ensure entry to levels of business that can propel a startup into relationships and contracts that a non-certified company certainly cannot attain. Before certification takes place – normally six months to a year down the line – there are still many benefits to be had. Evaluating competencies and learning to evaluate performance against objectives is an excellent habit encouraged by the standard that will provide huge benefits to a startup. With ISO 9001 rapidly becoming an entry level certification for many federal and local government contracts, the ISO 9001-certified startup has access to markets that other organizations do not. Implementation and certification costs money, but it is also often the case that there are funding streams available for startups, so this may be the most sensible time to implement ISO 9001 for a young business. With the benefits clear to see, can startups afford not to?

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