What ISO Do I Need and Where Do I Start?

Running a business is tough, particularly when you are a small business in a world of corporate giants. We recently spoke to Jo Shaer, founder and director of Lollipop Local, who helps small businesses to make the most of their digital marketing opportunities.
Her blog, Will My Benfleet Google Map Listing Put Off National Visitors? Helped solve some questions we had about making our mark on Google Listings.

But Jo had some questions of her own:

“I’ve been researching which ISO is best for my small Digital Marketing Business, but I have no idea if what I’m looking at is what we need! How can I figure out which ISO is best and whether it is a viable project to take on?”

ISO’s can be a confusing thing. So let’s start at the beginning. ISO’s (also known as International Standards and Management Systems) are developed by the International Standard Organisation and are designed to help you effectively manage and improve certain elements of your business.

There are many types for almost anything you can think of, but the big three are 27001 (Information Security Management), 9001 (Quality Management) and 14001 (Environmental Management). Many people include OHSAS 18001 (Health and Safety Management), although this is not currently an ISO. It will soon join its counterparts, however, as ISO 45001.

Which ISO?

When considering embarking on an ISO project, the first thing to decide is what you want it to do for your business. The type of products or services your organisation provides will influence which ISO(s) will be best for you. Manufacturing? You may benefit from OHSAS 18001. Consultancy? Perhaps ISO 9001. Logistics? ISO 14001 may suit you best. Handle a lot of sensitive information? ISO 27001 is a good fit.

Most organisations find themselves drawn to ISO 9001: Quality Management as their first ISO. This is understandable, as it can be applied to any organisation, any size, any location and focuses on improving quality across the organisation.
Something that may have caught Jo’s eye is the emphasis on customer communication and performance evaluation. It is here that Lollipop Local would come into its own, as the internet is an incredible tool for both communication and for identifying key areas for performance improvement.

Take social media, for example. Many organisations actively avoid it because “if someone complains everyone will see it and we’ll lose custom”. However, this is where you can restore customer’s faith in your organisation with a speedy and well-handled response.
The right response can show that you value your customers and care about providing them with the best possible. For example, someone might tweet a complaint. A commonly used response is “Hello [name], I’m sorry to hear you’ve had an issue. Please send me a Direct Message with your phone number so I can call you to resolve this.”

You can also gather performance data through several key indicators, for example with a complaint via Twitter you can: measure the time between the complaint tweet and your response, the number of positive vs negative tweets, and the subject of complaints.

Chosen an ISO to suit your business; Now What?

Once you have decided which ISO to go for first (you may find them rather collectable!), it’s time to decide some parameters: do you have just one office to apply it to, or several? Is it the entire business that will be part of the management system, or only certain products, services and processes? How soon do you want to achieve certification?

Some information which may help you decide:

  • Certification Bodies require the management system to have been in place for at least 3 months before they will begin the certification process.
  • Having a copy of the standard can be handy, but you may wish to have a consultant on hand to help ‘translate’ it – you can browse and purchase standards here.
  • We recommend that you allow 3-9 months to complete the implementation, get the management system ‘settled in’ and certification achieved.

ISO for a Small Business

If you are from a small enterprise, taking on an ISO can seem daunting. That’s why we created Prosper: the Small Business Scheme. With Prosper, prices are fixed, less of your time is required to sit with consultants and more of the consultancy takes place off-site with continual communication to help you put together and implement a management system that works for you.

Kathy Clements
Kathy Clements
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