Here me out for a second: quality assurance is one of the greatest challenges of small businesses. I know that some of you might not agree with this statement because small business owners take pride and ownership in their business and are producing their products/services in a much smaller quantity than any large business would therefore, you assume that lower volume equals higher quantity. However, my argument is that this is not the case. Although lower volume should equal higher quality, the issue that small businesses have is a limitation of resources, which impacts quality.
Take the example of a bagel shop in New York City – on a few occasions, if you ordered a bagel with egg, cheese, salt, pepper, and ketchup, they might forget the cheese. For the amount of volume that a small bagel shop does vs. a large scale breakfast egg sandwich manufacturer (a product that you might find in the frozen aisle of your grocery store), the small bagel shop has a much higher % error than the large scale manufacturer. This is so because a large manufacturer has the capital to invest in labor and systems to provide higher quality and assurance than a small business.
So what can you do as a small business owner to ensure quality assurance if you do not have the money to invest in systems or additional labor? Below are my solutions for you:
Attention to detail: This is the most obvious of solutions. However, one that many small business owners forget as they get entrenched in a busy workday where the goal might be to produce “x” amount of product or finish “z” jobs. In everything that you do, ensure that your T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. Don’t release product or finish a service without properly inspecting your product. Although you might think that this will slow down your business and make you less efficient, in the long-run, your unprecedented quality assurance is a point of differentiation for your marketing strategy that you can charge a premium for or that you will receive more business for through word-or-mouth and referrals.
Kaizen: Japanese for “improvement”, the moment you or anyone that works for you comes across a problem, stop the service work or production immediately. This will allow you to track back the source of any problem before you are too far along where you will never be able to find the source! Finding the source of a problem will enable you to prevent future occurrences of a similar problem.
Check-ins: Enable a staging process in your production or service so that at the completion of each stage, you can review your work to ensure quality assurance (as well as anything else for that matter). For example, review random samples of every 200 units that you produce. Or if you are a service company such as gutter installation company, don’t focus on banging out your job and moving on to the next, stage your installation in 2 or 3 stages (old gutter removal = 1, new gutter sizing = 2, gutter installation = 3) to make sure that everything is still good after each stage.
Again, although you might think that the above quality assurance solutions will slow down your efficiency, the long-term benefits will lead to increased positive referrals and word-of-mouth, ability to use the quality assurance as a point of differentiation for your marketing strategy, or the ability to price your product/service at a premium due to the quality that you provide vs. any competitors.