Overcome SME Challenges with ISO 9001

Posted on Posted in ISO 9001, Quality Management System

Being a small or medium enterprise brings with it many challenges and obstacles, implementing an ISO 9001 based QMS helps you prevent, take corrective action and overcome. This post highlights some of the common issues experienced by SMEs and outline how ISO 9001 can help you triumph despite these adversities.

Failure to reserve capital

Unfortunately it is true that money makes the world go round. As an SME you need to ensure that you have enough money in reserve for rainy days. A rainy day can be anything from a seasonal slowdown to supply chain problems backing up your inventory. When this happens it is not unusual for a small company to go out of business because they simply can’t cover costs during the tough times. Through pro-active action this could have been prevented. ISO 9001 places strong emphasis on proactive thinking and putting preventative measures in place. It better enables you to plan and manage resources and prevent your company from running out of them while achieving its objectives. It also ensures that you have documented corrective actions in place so you and your employees know how to react when presented with unexpected circumstances such as increases in the costs of things like utilities, materials, and labor.


While growth is desirable, growing too fast brings with it a whole host of issues that can actually be counterproductive and ultimately detrimental for a company. An ISO 9001 based QMS allows you to reign in your growth and take back control. Set realistic goals and expand only as needs and resources dictate. With well-defined processes you will be able to identify and forecast how new business will affect your company and impact its resources. It also ensures that you and your employees know how to react accordingly.

Too much debt

Failure to pay debts as they fall due is another common killer of SMEs. This is primarily due to a combination of taking on too much debt and a failure to efficiently manage cash flow. Managing flow of cash is critical in small businesses. ISO 9001, with its customer focus principle, enables you to build and operate a customer-centric business model. When you know what your customer expects and requires you can adapt your cash flow to reflect this, ensuring that both your customers and your debtors are satisfied.


Lack of customer care

SMEs can often succumb to poor customer service and overall employee incompetence. If you are not clear that you place a strong emphasis on customer care, then your employees won’t either. The core requirement of ISO 9001 is meeting customer expectations and managing satisfaction and proper implementation ensures that your employees place a premium on customer service. It enables you to develop systems, processes and procedures for how to operate the business in a customer centric light. The regular audit of internal processes and measurement of satisfaction will ensure that your focus on customers is maintained. Customer loyalty doesn’t just happen – you have to earn it. Watch your competition and stay one step ahead of them. If you don’t take care of your customers, your competition will. Measurement of customer satisfaction is a key part of ISO 9001, so you will be able to identify trends in retention and repeat purchase, two indicators of customer satisfaction.

A poorly implemented business plan

We find that, to a large degree, business plans are created for the purposes of just having a business plan. In a lot of cases, SMEs almost see a business plan as a checkbox that needs to be ticked as a means of securing investment, and once the investment is sought and the business up and running the business plan is well and truly discarded. However, a business plan is critical. A robust business plan forces you to think about the future and the challenges you’ll face. It also forces you to consider your financial needs, your marketing and management plans, your competition, and your overall strategy. But all this goes to waste if you fail to communicate the plan throughout the business. Everyone needs to know their role and how to perform. ISO 9001 ensures that your business plan is clearly communicated across your business.

Failure to adapt

The fact is that dynamic companies survive longer than those whom are static. To survive and thrive you need to be able to recognise and capitalise on opportunities presented by changes in customer preference. ISO 9001 focuses on the customer and it’s requirement to continually improve will assist in keeping you focused on changes in the marketplace.