In our industry – fencing and security solutions – bureaucracy can (and often does) paralyze business growth. However, I’ve discovered an antidote to bureaucracy. This antidote has equipped me to transform my small family enterprise into one of the largest, most efficient and successful businesses of its kind in Sweden today. It’s called ISO certification.
ISO, short for International Organization for Standardization, is a global system of business standardization designed to bring standards and efficiencies to the manufacturing world. You’re getting excited, aren’t you? Standards? Efficiencies? These words make my heart skip a beat too.
When I discovered ISO, my instincts told me that the efficiencies promised by the standardization process were exactly what Demex needed to reach next level development.
You see, we had our sights set on becoming a global, scalable, business, yet we were immersed in confining operating procedures (aka bureaucracy). We needed an outside system of accountability to change the way we did business.
As we set out to implement ISO certification, the transformation began.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that the ISO certification process began by addressing how we managed relationships across our business, starting with our employees. One of the first things we were instructed to develop and implement was a more effective salary and bonus system for our employees. It was a pivotal, strategic move that amplified the level of employee motivation throughout the company.
To complement the new remuneration structure, we were guided to develop a new employee handbook, which more clearly defined the terms and conditions for employees at every level of Demex. For me, as the CEO, this employee handbook instantly became a critical tool, equipping me to better communicate my expectations of the team in a transparent, egalitarian way. Ten years later, this evolving guidebook continues to help me inspire employee buy-in and adaptation across all levels of our enterprise.
From there, ISO walked us through standardizations across every area of our business – from customer management and business development to production, testing, shipping, packaging and installation.
This month, Demex celebrates 10 years being ISO certified. Today, we’re a multinational leader in our industry. We’ve dramatically cut our wastes and our costs, while also distinguishing ourselves as a premium supplier. The benefits of these standards have been profound. We’ve got a rock solid foundation as a company, and we’re growing rapidly.
Though the benefits of ISO in the larger business world are often hidden and little discussed, today, most of our business relationships require a guarantee that we are delivering to an ISO certified standard.
Given this, it’s surprising that only 3% of the companies in Sweden have ISO Certification. For our business, ISO Certification has not only helped us leverage key business partnerships, but it ensures we stay ahead of the curve.
Full disclosure: securing ISO certification is not quick or simple and maintaining the certification requires ongoing demands. Twice a year, we are audited and any deviations (grievances, complaints and delivery deviations) greater than 0.5% can lead to the loss of license. That means a maximum of SEK 5000 at a turnover of SEK 1 million. We’ve got to run a tight ship!
I’ll never forget the day we officially received our certification. When I called Olof Carlsson of ISO to thank him, he said: "Now you are swimming with the big fish". And he was right. As a business with big aspirations, you simply can’t take large orders if you don´t have the systems in place to support large-scale customers and suppliers. ISO certification guarantees we check all the boxes and strive for constant improvement. It’s a lever, driving our business full speed ahead.
For me, the hardest part of this journey was shifting my perspective from bureaucracy to betterment. I haven’t looked back since.
David Malmström | MD/CEO