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Quality Should be a State of Mind for Entrepreneurs!

Ask any business owner if they focus on quality and the answer is obvious. Just the mere mention of the word quality is like talking about motherhood and apple pie. Hushed tones and reverence abound. But often it's high sounding programs for world class big companies. But quality isn't just about ISO9000 or SixSigma. It isn't just about being a disciple of W. Edwards Deming or Kaizen. It also is not just about emulating companies like Toyota or Nordstrom's.

Plain and simple, it's a state of mind.

It's one that transcends company size and documented procedures. And, it starts the day you open your doors. Being dedicated to quality means that everything that's done in your company is done with pride, at the absolute highest level of your capabilities, to provide the highest possible level of service, in the most professional manner possible.

It should be part of the fabric of your company, embodying its culture. It's about delivering on a promise to employees, customers and shareholders, alike. It's what you stand for. Quality can't be assumed in the best of cases, or dictated, in the worst. It simple has to be something that in the fiber of the company. And, it has to emanate from the desk of the owner or CEO.

What does it mean?

Quality means setting the bar high. That every product/service that is developed addresses a customer need or problem with as much input from that customer as possible. Then it's delivered to exceed expectations as cost-effectively and timely as possible. Then it's supported with a responsiveness and service level that is simply "off the chart" when compared with the competition. That's the quality standard!

You're never too small for quality.

Quality has no size restrictions. You can't hide behind being too small or needing to embrace programs like ISO9000 or Six Sigma, thinking that that's what quality is all about - procedures and only for Fortune 500 companies. You have to find a way continually stress its importance in the way you talk and act. As an entrepreneur, you can't just give quality "lip service." Nowhere is the ability "walk the talk" more necessary than with driving quality. Document some guidelines and direction and then manage to them.

It can't be dictated; you need to be an evangelist.

Many entrepreneurs figure that everybody in the company will have the same pride as they do and that, necessarily, quality will somehow find its way into the way products are developed, delivered and supported. But, sadly, that's not always the case, human nature being what it is. But, further, you can't make it a mandate, dictating that this is "how it will be." You must be an evangelist for quality. If you are not an evangelist for quality from day one, quality will never become "how you do things." In, virtually, every company I've ever started or run, I had quality reporting directly to me for at least a portion of the time, especially in turnaround situations. It simply sent a message about how important it was.

It's a functional "way of life" that keeps improving.

Quality can't just be some department in the company, with boatloads of procedures and processes. It has to be something that pervades every aspect of the company, driven by the evangelism of the owner, creating a pride in what you do and continuously improving, with employees constantly asking "how do we make this _____ (fill in the blank - process, product, interaction, etc.) better."

Quality is not a program; not just a set of processes and procedures. Quality, especially for a small business, is a state of mind, a way you conduct your business, from the CEO down to the shipping clerk. It's what you stand for as a company.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

What have you done to make quality a state of mind in your company? Please share your thoughts in your comments.  It can help another entrepreneur.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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