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Plan your systems for quality improvement

Quality is not an act, it is a habit. — Aristotle

Report by Phillip Chichoni

Quality is not a competitive advantage; it is a basic necessity expected from all serious businesses.

 
An enterprising young printing business owner found this out the hard way. A friend gave him a tip that the company he was working for needed a printing job done urgently. He submitted a quotation and was promptly awarded the contract.

 
The job involved printing brochures for a promotion the company was running. This young man was given a sample of the brochure and got down to work.
Within a few days, the job had been done and was delivered. An hour after the delivery, the young man received a phone call. The procurement manager said the brochures were not matching the specifications and quality of the sample that had been provided.

 
The young man was told to come and collect them, as they were not going to accept nor pay for them. Admitting that he had taken some short-cuts, he collected the cartons of printed material and went back to redo the job, at a greater expense than he had planned. Eventually, he delivered the products and he got his payment, but he had made a big loss.

 
The lesson is, if you are building a sustainable business, you have to accept that customers expect good quality as standard, not as an option.

 
Many SMEs fail to get repeat business because they neglect to take the issue of quality seriously. As a result, they find customers going to other suppliers and thus suffer from slow or no growth.

 
The only way to ensure consistency of quality is to have systems in your business. Business systems are written documents that describe in detail, the processes that take place in your company.

 
They also provide measures for monitoring and controlling all activities in order to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and quality. With good systems in place, each person knows his duties and responsibilities so that production and service delivery move like clockwork.

 
Systems simplify your business and enable efficient and optimum use of resources. As management guru and the author of In search of Excellency, Tom Peters, said: “Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing . . . layout, processes, and procedures.”

 
Planning and developing your business systems
We all know that the difference between a job and a business is that a business is supposed to give you more freedom and become an asset that you can sell some day.

 
But without systems, you will never have a business, you will only have a job with overheads.  Think about yourself and your business.

 
If you are like most small business owners, you spend most of your time working in your business. You don’t own the business, it owns you. This is because you cannot be away from your business without worrying about how things are moving at the factory or office.

 
In every business, there are many processes and activities that are inter-connected and result in your final products or services being delivered.

 
As the business owner, you probably know all the processes entailed. You therefore have to be there to ensure that everything is being done correctly.

 

This includes ensuring that quality standards are being met.

 
A properly documented systems procedure will free you from the strenuous and routine activities that can be delegated to staff.

 
In order to maintain good quality, your business system must be planned and developed to incorporate quality control and continuous improvement. That way you ensure that all your products and services are delivered with consistence and quality that your customers can rely on.

 
Many businesses include commitment to quality in their vision and mission statements, but few actually take this issue seriously, only reacting when customers complain.

 
Like any important goal or objective, commitment to quality and its continuous improvement must start right at the top. You and your top managers must show and prove that commitment, so that your people also follow.

 
Employees observe your behaviour and will do what you do, not what you say. Quality does not result from a single act, but from numerous and continuous improvements.

 
On September 27, AfrAsia Kingdom Zimbabwe founder and executive chairman, at Success Motivation International (Africa), Nigel Chanakira, will be the guest speaker at the monthly BusinessLink Networking breakfast meeting.

 

You will find more information at my website http://smebusinesslink.com, and on the SME Businesslink group at http://www.linkedin.com and Facebook. I am giving away two free entries to two people who will answer two questions that are posted on our website.

 
l Phillip Chichoni is a business planning and financial management consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses. You may contact him by email on chichonip@smebusinesslink.com

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