A big part of our business is addressing common misconceptions surrounding the requirements of ISO 9001 compliance and certification, and the practical use of a quality management system for small business. Because of its ill-fitting reputation for complexity, small businesses are often intimidated by the over-complication of a system that is simply designed to use what you have already developed, document it appropriately, and improve it if necessary.

In working to debunk a few of the myths surrounding the procedure for obtaining ISO certification, we’re going to uncover the truth and illustrate the benefits small businesses will realize when they commit to pursuing compliance and certification.


MYTH: The procedure for obtaining ISO certification requires you to pass an audit.

TRUTH: It’s not a matter of passing or failing an audit. When the certification auditor comes and reviews your system, they measure the processes you have in place against the requirements set by the standard. If they find areas of non-conformance, that does not mean that you have failed an audit – it simply means that you will need to address and fix those issues before you receive your certificate.


MYTH: It is too hard to set up an ISO 9001-compliant quality management system for a small business.

TRUTH: The first step in understanding the process is taking a good look at the one question we hear more often than any other: “What does ISO 9001 certification mean?” When handled properly, the process of becoming certified to ISO 9001 gives businesses the opportunity to take a holistic approach to process review and whole businesses improvement. And each year, hundreds of small businesses take the time to evaluate their systems in order to meet compliance and achieve ISO certification.

The key is taking time to understand the requirements and what is needed to satisfy each one. The 2015 revision created a more simplified process that actually made it easier for small businesses to comply with ISO. It shifts focus from paperwork to results, creates flexibility that allows the program to be tailored to small companies and those in service-based industries, and it provides general guidelines which can be applied to any organization.

We can simplify the steps as follows:

  • Decide to become certified
  • Buy the standard and read it
  • Decide if you need a consultant to help you implement the standard
    • If yes – select a consultant from an ISO 9001-certified firm
    • If no – assign the project to yourself or another capable individual in your organization
  • Compare each requirement to the processes and systems you currently have in place
    • If they meet requirements, continue doing what you’re doing
    • If they do not meet requirements, make improvements to achieve compliance
  • Select a certification body/registrar
  • After audit, address any non-conformance issues identified (if applicable) and receive your certification.


MYTH: Small companies must hire someone full time to implement ISO 9001.

TRUTH: While it is helpful to have an individual assigned to the success of the ISO 9001 certification process, it does not require a full-time hire. Small business, especially, are concerned about the cost to get ISO 9001 certified, and adding a whole new position is usually out of reach for them, financially. If you aren’t sure that your team has the capacity to completely handle the process with your existing workforce, quality consultants from organizations like Core Business Solutions can help you develop understanding and fulfill the requirements.

If you choose to partner with a consulting agency, be sure to ask if they themselves have successfully achieved ISO certification to the 9001 standard. Doing so will ensure their knowledge of the process and commitment to the theories, and you’ll rest assured knowing you’re working with a consultant who practices what they preach!


MYTH: ISO 9001 is nothing more than added paperwork.

TRUTH: Records and documentation are a big part of ISO compliance, but the process of certification does not require the addition of paperwork. It simply requires organizations to organize and document their existing processes and systems in a way that is controlled and easily accessible. As you move through the process to ISO 9001 certification, you may find that you already have all of the documentation you need to comply with the standard.

We take a deep dive into documentation requirements in Part 2.

So, is ISO certification worth it?

When we get through explaining the process, we’re always greeted with skepticism that sounds a lot like, “Is ISO 9001 worth it? Is it worth the extra work and examination of our entire business just for a certificate?”

The clients we work with understand the benefits associated with certification. Small companies, specifically, are finding ISO 9001 simpler than they thought, helpful for realizing whole business improvement, and advantageous for growth goals. By implementing ISO 9001 standard requirements, your company will be better run, employees will better understand what is expected of them, and customers will be better served. With attention, care, and a little tenacity, you can take the steps to help your business stand out above your competition through ISO 9001 certification.

Check out our Top 10 ISO Myths Video Series.