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5 myths about ISO 9001 for small businesses

A quality management system (QMS) can help reduce costs, improve productivity and efficiency, and increase customer satisfaction. One way to do this efficiently is to become ISO 9001-certified.

ISO 9001 is the internationally recognised standard for quality management that demonstrates a business’ long-term commitment to improving quality, delivering more efficient operations and improving customer satisfaction.

As of 2022, over 2,300 Irish businesses were ISO 9001-certified.

But several myths surrounding QMS and ISO 9001 may dissuade some small businesses from taking the first step. Below are five of the most common myths surrounding ISO 9001 and why they are untrue.

Become ISO 9001-certified with Certification Europe.

Myth 1 – ISO 9001 is only for large businesses

One myth surrounding ISO 9001 is that it is only helpful or applicable to larger businesses and organisations.

This is not the case.

The belief is that for large-scale change to occur with external help, a business or organisation has to be significant in the first place. However, one of the hallmarks of ISO 9001 and one of the reasons why it’s such an attractive investment is its flexibility. ISO 9001:2015 is scalable depending on the size and type of the business or organisation, meaning every business can reap the benefits of implementing the standard.

These benefits include a more robust customer focus, efficient quality management processes, high-quality consistency across products and services, meeting statutory and regulatory requirements, and the increased potential to expand into new markets.

Not only can ISO 9001 be scaled to fit the size of the business or organisation, but it can also be tailored to their specific needs depending on the type of business they are in and what market they operate in.

Read more about how ISO 9001 can help your businesses.

ISO 9001 myths - suitable for SMEs and smaller organisations

Myth 2 – ISO 9001 is too complex and bureaucratic for small businesses

ISO 9001 – as well as other ISO standards – can appear complicated at first glance.

However, the core ideas and principles behind this quality management standard are straightforward:

  • Leadership.

  • Customer focus.

  • Relationship management.

  • Iterative improvement.

  • Engagement.

  • Process approach.

  • Data-based decision making.

By implementing ISO 9001 and association with these core principles, small businesses can create solid foundations for any QMS, resulting in large-scale positive changes that can be sustained and built upon as the business grows.

The second part of this myth is that ISO 9001 doesn’t provide small businesses with any help and is just a bureaucratic exercise that can make a company look good. A quality management system requires businesses to look introspectively at their internal systems to improve quality and can even make improvements that ISO does not outline.

Discover now how ISO 9001 can benefit your business or organisation.

Myth 3 – ISO 9001 certification involves tons of paperwork

Paperwork can be a time-consuming and resource-draining task for many small businesses and can create organisational issues down the line properly managed.

As an internationally-recognised standard, there is some paperwork involved in the process of becoming ISO 9001-certified. However, ISO 9001:2015 has an attractive difference to its previous version ISO 9001:2008 – less paperwork. While the previous iteration of this standard required a large amount of paperwork, the minimum documentation required for this standard now is only three documents:

  • The scope of your QMS.

  • Your quality policy.

  • Your quality objectives.

However, you can provide more documentation if you feel it is necessary for your application. This change was made to streamline the application process and make it simpler for businesses of any size and type to become ISO 9001-certified.

ISO 9001 myths - digital systems means less paperwork

Myth 4 – ISO 9001 is too expensive for small businesses

For small businesses and organisations, finances can quickly become a priority of any decision.

If a business purchase is going to be made, a return on investment is critical for managing finances. This is why some small businesses may hesitate to invest in ISO 9001 – the proof of ROI is only available after implementation. There is also the belief that becoming ISO 9001-certified is an expensive process.

However, “expensive” is a relative term regarding ISO 9001. There is no set price for the standard, meaning small businesses with smaller budgets can still negotiate and benefit from investing in the standard. The price can be affected by several factors, including the number of employees a business has, the number of outsourced processes and the provider.

Some businesses may hire a third-party consultant to help implement a QMS creating additional costs.

Financial support is available to Irish businesses that could help cover the costs of ISO 9001, including small business loans and grants from Microfinance Ireland, Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland.

Myth 5 – ISO 9001 is only for manufacturing businesses

Some may associate “quality management” with manufacturing businesses and industries creating physical products. Quality management and consistency are key factors across many industries, including banking, healthcare, software, education and government institutions.

With ISO 9001’s flexibility and the diversification of its latest iteration, ISO 9001 can be applied to businesses and organisations of all sizes in many industries.

The quality of a business or organisation’s products and services can significantly impact customer engagement, brand trust and loyalty, and profit, meaning it’s in a business’s best interests to provide the highest quality products and services they can. By becoming ISO 9001-certified and implementing a QMS, businesses and organisations can create custom, efficient processes that help generate high-quality products and services that benefit their bottom line.

Small businesses and organisations should not be discouraged by myths about ISO 9001. By implementing this standard practically and relevantly, small businesses can improve their operations, increase customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive advantage in their market through a tailored and efficient quality management system.

Read our guide on quality management for small businesses.

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