Like many small consultancies, our processes haven’t always been a priority – we are creative people, after all. So when we won the contract to rebrand BSI Management Systems’ literature we couldn’t have guessed how beneficial to our business it would turn out to be.
It was a year-long project looking at the brand communications on a global scale, but the more we started to understand the BSI MS offering, the more we began to appreciate the benefits for ourselves.
Working with this client enabled us to reflect on our own organisation, leading us to look at the areas where we could benefit from articulating and implementing key business processes more effectively. By taking time out to review, document and streamline our systems and processes, we have now nearly doubled profitability – I only wish that we had done this before.
Primarily, BSI MS has three portfolios: performance (creating competitive advantage through improved performance); sustainability (creating value through sustainable processes); and risk (minimising disruption through effective risk management). We began by mapping out the key business processes that drive the way the organisation operates. For instance, our pitch process is now far more focused and effective – we took all of our experiences and mapped out the best possible pitch process.
We learned that a management system is not necessarily prescriptive, but that it should be treated more as a framework, or a guide. The priority is to review how you work, so that you can see where you need to make improvements. We also needed to document these processes so that they could easily be replicated and understood by everyone.
Having seen the initial business benefits of this low-level review, everyone in the organisation decided to up the ante. I realised we could do even better, and we set about developing an environmental policy with the aim of becoming carbon neutral. We are now all enjoying organic food – delivered to the office by a carbon-neutral company – and tea made using an eco-kettle.
We have also produced a continuity plan, which has made us think seriously about the risks our business face and how to combat them should they materialise. What would happen if we all got food poisoning? It’s a real risk and you have to ask yourself, ‘What would it mean to the business and what would we do in such a situation?’ Like all creative groups, we need to ensure that client deadlines are met, and our solution has been to build a sufficient pool of freelances, with enough knowledge of the company, its culture and procedures to be able to plug any immediate short-term gaps.
We had already considered the impact of severe data loss, server failure and the impact of a major fire or burglary, but this review process makes you face up to all possibilities and assess the risks when you are not in a crisis situation. That way you can ensure you have the right procedures in place for all eventualities.
Of course, you can insure against such catastrophes, but that is cold comfort to your clients. An added benefit is that, by demonstrating you have such plans in place, you can negotiate lower premiums.
We are now seeking full accreditation for ISO9001, which requires the company to make ongoing quality improvements. We are investigating what is involved in this, but we aim to start soon and achieve accreditation by next year.
The process involves benchmarking, which not only brings rigour to our business internally, but also sends a very positive message to clients. Our business is all about brand communication. Branding is about perception, so if we are all working to the same high standards we can ensure that the client experience of the Aricot Vert brand is consistently good.
Being highly creative and in possession of effective systems and processes is a true integration of left and right brain. Working on systems doesn’t mean being swallowed by manuals. You don’t need to over-complicate, just keep it simple and communicate the value.
Lin Dickens is managing director of Aricot Vert
KEEPING UP STANDARDS
• ISO9001 quality management – monitor and improve performance in any chosen area
• ISO14001 environmental management – maintain profitability and reduce environmental impact
• BS25999 business continuity – minimise risk of disruptions
• SA8000 social accountability – create fair and equitable working environment and transparent business practices
• ISO27001 informational security – manage and protect valuable information For more information, visit www.bsi-global.com