If you have a small business, it means that you’re good at what you do. If that weren’t the case, you’d already be out of business by now. That means that you’ve got plenty of potential to get even better at it and to grow your enterprise.
In order to make that potential flourish into something substantial, your customers and your partners need to trust you, to believe that you will continue to maintain your good name. You need to develop a brand, a significant reputation that will inspire confidence in your product or services.
One very significant way to do this is by obtaining certifications of endorsement from accredited and widely recognised domestic and international organisations.
These certifications take many forms and depend heavily on the industry that your small business is in. Endorsement can be obtained in the form of the certification of employees in specific areas of expertise. Microsoft, Cisco and Red Hat offer well known and widely recognised certifications in hardware and software at many different levels.
Often these organisations will adjust the partnership status of your business to “Silver” or “Gold” partner for example, according to the number and level of certified employees you have.
Other certifications include those which are not given to specific people, but are granted to your company as a whole. One well known example is the ISO family of certifications, the most common of which is ISO 9001.
According to ISO itself, its purpose is to “provide guidance and tools for companies and organisations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved.” ISO is the best known, but not the only organisation that presents such company-wide certifications.
Another important aspect of certification for your small business is certifying the products you produce. Certifications symbols such as those of UL, CSA, CE, RoHS and others are well known throughout the world and are almost always requirements when governments or organisations, large or small, purchase technology and other types of products. More specific accredited certification bodies exist for specialised products as well.
For example, the British Approval Service for Cables (BASEC) certifies cable types including Low Voltage cables to BS5467 and BS6724, and Medium Voltage cables to BS6622 and BS7835 among others; whilst the Food Standards Agency inspects and approves meat establishments to ensure the health of the public is safeguarded.
There are specific and important benefits that come from acquiring such endorsements regardless of whether a business is relatively new or has been operating for years. Some of these are listed below:
- Helps to avoid problems in the future. Implementing compliancy systems and standards from the very early stages of your business can help you avoid common complications that arise concerning product quality, safety and environmental issues. In this way, you efficiently manage risks and legal conformity allowing you to focus on business growth.
- Provides security for stakeholders. Acquiring certifications shows that you are committed to well-established and effective business practices. Your stakeholders include customers, regulators, suppliers and investors, all of whose confidence in the competency and stability of your business must be maintained. Having been assessed by accredited and independent third parties ensures that you have the required mechanisms in place to achieve this.
- Presents an additional marketing tool. Certification can be a very powerful marketing tool. By informing the market of the accreditations that your business possesses, you are setting your business apart from your competitors. Achievement of accreditation is something that should be expressed, communicated and even flaunted! It demonstrates that you have worked hard and employed an efficient and robust system. It tells your marketing audience that you are committed to delivering products or services that will meet your customers’ expectations. This is why an ad campaign will carry much more weight when each ad is supplemented by the CE conformity marking, an ISO certification or an official partnership with a supplier company.
- Improve the skillset of your employees. Obtaining partnerships with large companies such as Cisco or Microsoft require a business to have a predefined number of in-house employees that have obtained certifications at a specific level in their products. This ensures that a business has the know-how and the skillset necessary to successfully provide services in partnership with these companies. It also gives an incentive to continually train a business’ workforce to achieve higher standards and improved skillsets. Many such companies also provide discounts for training when a business desires to achieve a partnership status with them.
- Makes your business more competitive. As mentioned before, certifications set you apart from your competitors. Accreditation however is a process, and as your business grows, it should also acquire additional recognisable certifications for the purpose of maintaining the competitive edge. It is also an effective tool in the tender process as many governments and organisations seek to do business with specifically certified businesses, especially for larger scale projects.
- Allows your business to enter the international stage. With the freedom that the Internet provides to businesses of today, it doesn’t matter where you are located in the world – you can literally do business with anyone anywhere. Internationally recognised business certifications become even more valuable and necessary when interacting with businesses on a global scale. Demonstrating a business’ commitment to world class specifications literally proves to the world that you are ready to provide the best for anyone anywhere.
Obtaining certifications from accredited third parties shows your customers, your partners, your suppliers and your investors that you are competent in what you do. Experienced professionals have evaluated your business and have found it to be sound.
Your processes, the quality of your products and services and the skillsets of your employees have been proved to provide a solid foundation for your business to grow and flourish.
All of these have been shown to have tremendous positive effects in areas including investment, employee satisfaction, market share, sales growth, sales margins and competitive advantage.