ISO 9001 is a waste of time and is useless for SME’s, right?

ISO 9001 is a waste of time and is useless for SME’s, right?

Editors Note: Expert content needs an expert content writer and Yorkshire Powerhouse is pleased to publish this business advice article on being ISO Certified, kindly written by a real expert in his field – Roger Etchells from Episode Consultants Ltd.

Please Contact Roger for any aspect of ISO Certification, Quality Management, Environmental or Health & Safety systems – click on the advert links above or below – please mention Yorkshire Powerhouse when you make contact.

ISO 9001, quality management systems, is a standard produced to help businesses be more efficient and improve customer satisfaction.

It has been around for decades, starting life as a British Standard, BS 5750. In 1987 ISO formed a working party of 163 representative bodies from around the world (boy, that must have been an exciting set of meetings).  It has been revised several times in line with modern business practice, and to make it more relevant across any business sector. The latest version, ISO 9001:2015 was (predictably) released in 2015.

There are 7 myths that we will dispel in this article, and show you why it is useful for you and your business as it grows.

1. ISO 9001 – it’s for big companies only!

Not any more. In 2015 a lot of work went into making the standard less demanding and easier to implement. You decide what systems and processes go into your quality management. All the standard does is gives you seven topics to consider.

BSI has published a great guide for SME’s that helps you get the best from the quality management principles in ISO 9001.

There are many companies who have adopted the standard that are SME’s. We know of one business providing interpretation services, with 3 employees, another providing sprinkler systems with 2.  And both get real operational benefits from ISO 9001.

2. It’s for manufacturers only

Again, not any more. BS 5750 was produced for the manufacturing sector, but ISO 9001 has been structured specifically so any organisation, public or private sector, can use it.

The table below shows the sector split globally:

(Taken from ISO’s own The Survey 2017)

Of the top 10 sectors, accounting for 73% of businesses certified, general trading comes 3rd with 9%, and two service categories account for 10%.

3. It is paperwork for paperwork’s sake

Not necessarily. The standard requires you to document a number of things but, actually, these are relatively limited. Its flexibility means that you will be able to find a way of using it that fits your business without requiring unnecessary paperwork.

The only documents it calls for are:

  • A policy
  • Objectives
  • Calibration records (if you need calibrated equipment in what you do)
  • People’s qualifications (if the qualifications are a prerequisite for doing their job)
  • Relevant information if design products (but you decide what is relevant)
  • Traceability records (but only if traceability is a requirement of your products or services)
  • Non-conformance records where appropriate
  • Management reviews of the system

So, 3 you have to have, some more, depending. After that, you chose what documents you want.

4. It takes a lot of time to do

Not if you do it right. If you start by focusing on how you want to run your business and decide just how much you want to control things, you will find there isn’t much, if anything, that you won’t be doing daily as “business as usual”.

Typically, a well-run business might have to do two things it hasn’t been doing, both of which make absolute sense:

  • Periodically review how its all working (called internal auditing)
  • Spending time thinking about how to improve things (called management review).

5. It’s very expensive

The ISO 9001 quality standards documentation costs £200 to buy. You might even have a friendly associate that can lend you a copy (infringing copyright but saving you the £200!).

Beyond that, an SME will have the cost of being certified (2 to 3 days of audit at £800 a day), and an annual surveillance audit (1 day at £800). Only you can say if that is too expensive for your business.

6. It’s very complicated

No. ISO 9001 can seem difficult at first but the concepts behind the standard are very simple. The seven quality management principles are a good place to start and will be of great help when it comes to defining your quality management system.

In addition, a lot of supporting information is available on the internet, not least the ISO Website (

7. It adds no value to the business – it’s just a sales certificate I have to have

In a recent survey of its clients, BSI found:

  • 75% acquired new customers as a direct result
  • 75% said they boosted their operational performance

ISO 9001 can help bring financial benefits in a number of ways :

  • Using ISO 9001 can increase productivity and efficiency, thus lowering the costs of an organisation.
  • Using ISO 9001 can improve customer experience, resulting in repeat business, increased sales and additional income for your business.
  • Getting certified to ISO 9001 can enhance your reputation, attracting new customers to your organization.


Implementing a quality management system will help you :

  • Assess the overall context of your business to define who is affected by your work and what they expect from you. This will enable you to clearly state your objectives and identify new business opportunities.
  • Put your customers first, making sure you consistently meet their needs and enhance their satisfaction. This can lead to more repeat custom, new clients and increased business for your business.
  • Work in a more efficient way as all your processes will be aligned and understood by everyone in the business or business. This increases productivity and efficiency, bringing internal costs down.
  • Meet the necessary statutory and regulatory requirements.
  • Expand into new markets, as some sectors and clients require ISO 9001 before doing business.
  • Identify and address the risks associated with your business

Good luck with your planning and approach to quality management systems.

As mentioned above, getting certified to ISO 9001 can enhance your reputation, attracting new customers to your organization.  What’s to hate?  Find yourself an ISO Consultancy who can work with you in a practical way to develop and enhance your business.

Straight talking advice from Yorkshire Powerhouse

Have you any questions?

Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you, do you have any further questions or can we help introduce you to an expert – please let us know:

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