Consider your business's global reach. Now answer the following question: What's your competitive advantage? Unless "quality" tops your list, you could be at a disadvantage, regardless of your product or service.
Adhering to the formal set of quality standards published a decade ago by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is becoming increasingly important for global success. "No one has made it a requirement, but it's the trend," says Michael Ehsani, president of the American Institute of Consultants Quality Services Inc. in Houston. Every year, his business helps a handful of firms complete tedious and complicated ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and QS 9000 certification procedures, which have already been adopted by more than 98 countries and organizations worldwide.
Put simply, ISO 9000 refers to the set of standards established for quality management and assurance. Any type of company can apply for certification, from staffing businesses to pharmaceutical companies. Businesses can also apply for ISO 14000 certification--a management system designed for operations directly impacting the environment. And QS 9000 sets the standards for the automotive industry.
Certification gives you an edge and emphasizes to potential customers and suppliers worldwide that you've made a serious effort to ensure your products and services meet the highest quality standards possible. It also opens your business to opportunities you'd otherwise miss, because ISO-certified firms will usually only do business with other certified firms.
"If [companies] don't implement such a program, they're not going to continuously improve the quality of their products and services like they should to stay competitive and profitable," warns Ehsani. "And if they don't do it and their competition does, the competition is going to beat them to the punch in every bidding situation."