Management of a small firm is a multi-faceted thing. On the one hand managers must lead by example in operations and delivery and on the other they must set strategy, develop the people and manage finances. And all that in a changing economic and market environment.
There are two essentials to success: systematising operations and having competent staff and managers. Both drive competitive advantage.
Competitive advantage comes from reduced costs (allowing price flexibility) and differentiated products and services (such that customers will buy). Competitive advantage also comes from people; people driving systems that allow efficiency, high productivity and opportunity for improvement. And people engaged in innovation leads to new, highly desirable products. So how does one achieve competitive advantage?
There are two possible vehicles – ISO9001 and Investors in People (IiP) – both often wrongly considered as ‘big company PR activities’. The former demands that management sets out the way it wants the firm to run and then is able to prove to an assessor that it does indeed run that way. The latter asks management to determine strategy, measure current and desired competences and train staff to bridge the competence gap to meet that strategy. As research at Cranfield University shows, working towards such standards “triggers a chain of events” that leads to higher organisational capability and better management performance.
The Benefits of Systematising Operations and Developing People
Both ISO9001 and IiP can be achieved for relatively little cost. With a bit of knowledge and a good plan, all firms can achieve these standards and with them the huge organisational benefits that systematised operations and developed staff and managers bring. It might even bring some ‘small company PR’ too!