5 Reasons ISO is Killing Your Small Business

In a world where Documentation dictates quality and innovation is stifled by procedure, small businesses are struggling to survive. So how do you stay competitive AND innovative?

ISO is Killing your Business | Ehren-Haus

Note: at Ehren-Haus, ISO certification or not, we always measure our success based on our customers’ satisfaction.
Documentation and processes are a very necessary part of our organization, but we don’t rely on a stamp on our website to prove that we provide quality products or services.

In 1947, representatives from countries all over the world came together to publish international business standards for all industries. Those basic standards have made great strides in the global trade community by uniting everyone under one set of requirements and expectations.

Fast forward to today’s world of business owners desperate for a way to universally quantify the quality of their product/services. ISO certification has become the default answer. Here’s 5 reasons it’s not working:

1. A well documented product is not the same thing as a quality product

ISO qualifies that your company has “systems” to ensure quality and improvement. Some companies have multiple ISO certifications within a single organization. The ideal is that businesses with strict documentation processes and quality inspections will, in turn, lead to quality products.

The problem with that philosophy is that studies have found no connection between ISO documentation and product quality. China is a perfect example.  Boasting the largest number of ISO certifications in the world, China is consistently exporting poisonous pet food, pharmaceuticals, food, hygiene products and lead-based paint tainted toys, to list only a few. Not to mention the universal reputation it has for producing the world’s cheapest, sub-quality products on the market.

2. Your customers want ISO for its perceived value

When buyers look at suppliers, it’s almost an automatic, they scan websites and brochures for the ISO stamp. Once that box is checked, the meaning behind that stamp is long forgotten. Mentally, the liability is removed and quality becomes a non-issue.  Many times, new businesses feel required to get ISO certified before they have any work experience.  This leads to fabricated “systems” that have never been put into practice and can’t be maintained under pressure. Sadly, that company will probably win work over a more experienced competitor because of a simple stamp on their website.

3. Businesses have no incentive to truly prove themselves

The concept of accountability and earning success is giving way to a culture of synthetic standards. Having the right paperwork, a good lawyer, and enough money can win you almost over-night success.

Ok, maybe that seems a bit cynical, but consider the number of banks, oil companies, medical groups, food manufacturers, etc. who are fined billions of dollars and found guilty of heinous crimes each year and never slip from the number one spot in their industries. Success today is no longer based on quality or accountability, yet standards like ISO remain a costly requirement for many companies to compete.

We experiences this first hand when we were manufacturing a brand new safety shield for a client several years ago. The engineers that made the design were unfamiliar with the material that they chose for the specification. It was an extremely durable, yet flexible plastic. Because of the nature of the material, the bends relaxed slightly during shipping causing the measurements to be off ever so slightly when it arrived. The change did not impact the effectiveness of the product or the integrity of the shield, but they were all rejected without even being fit-tested upon arrival. Once we sent in our documentation qualifying the quality system we had in place as it left our facility, the pieces were accepted – after several days and lots of paperwork.

4. The expense alone is enough to kill some businesses

So you’re still interested in ISO certification? Get out your checkbook and clear your schedule. The average small business (making less than $11 million) pays around $71,000 for ISO certification. Oh, and that typically takes around 15-20 months.

5. Documentation eats away at innovation

The most dangerous threat ISO poses on your business is in the loss of innovation. Employees faced with seemingly endless documentation have little time or motivation to even consider moving your business forward. Without new, creative thinking, businesses stagnate and ultimately lose any competitive edge they might have had.

// A positive conclusion //

There is no doubt that ISO is here to stay. Businesses like yours will always need various certifications to stay competitive, but you don’t have to fall victim to the common pitfalls. Regardless of paperwork, processes, and documentation, never allow yourself to lose sight of WHY your business is a business in the first place. Never lean on a label to prove the quality of your product/service.

Maintain your priorities, resist shortcuts, never stop innovating and you too will survive ISO.

Want to chat about the pros and cons of ISO for your business? Give us a call, we would be more than happy to help you hash out the good, bad, and the ugly.

Sources:

http://www.iso.org/iso/news.htm?refid=Ref1937

http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/iso-9000/overview/is-it-worth-it/iso-9000-ineffective.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Organization_for_Standardization

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