One of the most common misunderstandings about ISO 9001 certification is what must be in place to get your quality management system certified. Many people ask, “What does it take to PASS an audit?” The problem with that question is that no one really passes or fails audits. I’ll explain.

Let’s say a certification auditor comes and reviews your system and finds 3 things wrong. That doesn’t mean you have failed the audit, it means you will fix those 3 things and then you get your certificate.
The first step in getting your quality management system certified is believing that you can and deciding to do it!

Granted, ISO 9001 has been around over 25+ years and has developed quite a reputation. Many people understand the benefits associated with certification. Some myths have developed too and some that are commonly heard include:

ISO 9001 is too hard for a small business

ISO 9001 is nothing more than added paperwork

Small companies must hire someone full time to implement ISO 9001

The question to ask is “Are these really true?”

Let’s take a closer look.


ISO 9001 is NOT too hard for small businesses. Every year, hundreds of small businesses are becoming ISO certified. The requirements can be hard to understand at first, but with perseverance, you too can learn how to satisfy each one. To stay competitive, many small companies are finding it more and more advantageous to become certified. Small business owners can do this!

ISO 9001 does NOT mean you have to add a bunch of paperwork to your system. Sure, documents and records are a necessary part of any business and ISO program, and these are covered in Part 2 of this article. The paperwork you have now may be all you need. ISO 9001 is better thought of as a structured improvement program. By implementing processes that are required, your company will be better run, customers are better served, and employees better understand what is expected. Life is just better.

Small companies do NOT need to hire someone full-time just to implement an ISO 9001 quality management system. Quality consultants are available from companies such as Core Business Solutions and they can help you to understand and fulfill the requirements. A good question for any consulting firm is “Are you certified to ISO 9001?” You should get a consultant who practices what they preach.

ISO 9001:2015

With the 2015 revision of ISO 9001, small companies should be shouting for joy! There are several reasons for this.

  1. The 9001:2015 standard is more focused on results and less focused on paperwork.
  2. This revision is more flexible and easier to tailor to smaller companies and those in service-based industries.
  3. It provides general guidelines that you apply to your organization rather than telling you how to run your company.

Many small companies are finding ISO 9001 simpler than they thought and much more helpful for realizing actual improvements that their customers can notice. Isn’t that the point, after all?

What is all boils down to is this: If you want your company to be ISO certified, then do it!

  • Decide to become certified, buy the standard and read it
  • Decide if you need a consultant
    • Yes- Select a consultant from an ISO 9001 certified firm
    • No- Assign the project to yourself or another capable individual
  • Compare each requirement to what you already do
    • Meets requirement- continue doing what you’re doing
    • Does not meet requirement- improve your system to meet the requirements
  • Select a certification body (or registrar)

ISO 9001 is not rocket science, but it will give your business a boost!

See Part 2 for more about documentation requirements.