When we started Eagle one of the things we considered was whether to go through the rigor of getting ourselves ISO certified. Certainly there were indications that clients would recognize such a commitment to quality, and might even begin to dictate it to suppliers. The big issue was that as a growing company, we really wanted to be able to continually improve our processes and not lock ourselves in to a set way of doing things, because of the ISO process. Back then the ISO certification did lock you in to a very rigid way of doing business … but that has all changed. Today the standard allows you the flexibility to continuously improve and yet forces a commitment to consistency and quality.
So, eighteen months ago we took the plunge and embarked on the journey to ISO certification. Why, you might ask? There were a few reasons but the primary one was that after 5 years as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies we felt it was time to “up the ante” on our commitment to quality. We also felt there would be marketing advantages to being certified and finally we felt that the process might help us to be better at what we do.
We signed on with the Business Development Bank of Canada to provide consulting services and help us prepare for ISO certification. Initially we were keen on an aggressive schedule and were thinking we could “get this done” in eight months, and on to the next thing. A funny thing happened along the way … this whole process had a very positive affect on our company! Suddenly the act of being certified wasn’t the most important part of this project, we were finding ways to improve our business because of the systems we were putting in place, very cool.
As we discovered projects that needed to be addressed, we slowed down our whole implementation schedule and really the journey of just “getting better at what we do” was the focus. Our BDC consultant was very patient with us and as a result we have now reached the time for our external audit … and actually I’m pretty relaxed about it all.
We have implemented systems that allow our people to truly provide important feedback to help us get better … that is illuminating when you realize that we really were not all that bad before! Remember we have been a 50 Best Managed Company for a lot of years and have even reached Platinum Status now! We have implemented customer surveys and solidified processes that we had previously thought worked … but now know they didn’t work as well as we thought! We have developed quality measures, a quality manual and quality processes. We have trained our staff about the importance of ISO to Eagle, and it has really become key to the way we do business.
I have to admit that a couple of years ago I was skeptical about such an investment of time and money on this initiative. Today I’m a believer. If we pass the audit I will be a happy man … if not, we’ll get there sooner or later, but we are already reaping the benefits of this commitment to quality! I guess I’m a convert!