OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT FOR THE ENTREPRENEUR

This is a rather late post for the week, in light of my usual timing. Nevertheless let’s have a go at it.

Now, there is this word or term ‘quality’ that we often use in our personal, official, social and business lives. You could come up with literally hundreds of definitions of quality. However, in the context of my subject today, and more so relating to entrepreneurship management, products and services, we can say that quality represents the unique properties or characteristics of products and services, valued by the customers or clients. It is what the customer perceives as worth paying so much for. It is the perceived degree of excellence in meeting and even exceeding customer’s expectations or desires. Quality is relational and could also mean the extent to which goods and services are free from defects and constraints in adding value to customers or meeting the need it’s designed for.

I could go on and on defining quality until you get bored stiff and run away from this blog. That’s not my intention please. Excuse me. I just thought I should provide some top tips regarding quality today. Don’t you think it’s a good idea pal? Certainly many of us desire quality things – goods and services – but some of us are a bit skewed in that we want quality but like giving out junk, or whatever word you have for the opposite of quality. My principle is this; give out quality and you will get quality in return. Isn’t this terrifically good? The natural law of restitution will somehow ensure you receive quality for giving out quality. So, Mr. Entrepreneur, you have got to understand and appreciate quality for you to produce and deliver quality through your enterprise. If you don’t get this in the mind first, you won’t go far with your quality agenda.

So, what are the top tips regarding quality for an entrepreneur? What are the principle issues relating to quality that an entrepreneur must know? What are the issues that you must consider in your enterprise to be able to compete locally and internationally as far as the quality of your goods and services are concerned? It’s a bit unfortunate that many people in the world today are still gravitating towards less quality products, possibly due to economic limitations. This is not to say that there are no humans in the world who entirely focus on the best possible quality. Nevertheless, how are you going to guarantee quality in your enterprise? Let’s take a look at some of the key issues you should not miss if you want to achieve your quality agenda.

  • Gear up to quality and the quality agenda first. One of the emerging trends in today’s business world is that there is a move from quantity into quality. The market no longer places more focus on quantity but rather on quality. It’s no longer speed alone that wins but the art. This implies that enterprises have to gear up to this trend. Therefore, Mr. Entrepreneur, quality is something that you can no longer comfortably avoid or treat lightly because the world is demanding for more of this. Improving quality in your enterprise starts with you the entrepreneur appreciating quality and then taking steps to ensure you produce and supply quality products and services. This is the starting point.
  • Quality must be inbuilt and not added. Now, this is another top tip in improving quality in your enterprise. Quality must be inbuilt and not added to. What I mean is that quality must be evident at every stage in your system – such as procurement, design, processing and conversion, delivery and after-sales or after-service stages. Quality has to be part of your objectives, decision making and planning. The various systems and sub-systems in your enterprise must have quality in them. A quality plan and manual must be part of your operations. This implies that in your enterprise you work towards having zero defects because you know that the cost of rework is very high. Do you understand what I’m saying here? My dear, don’t dream that you can add quality towards the last stage in your process. It does not work that way. Ok?
  • Quality has a cost and a price tag too. Don’t be mean with money and hope to implement quality without spending. I know that some entrepreneurs are so mean that their meanness creates a story all around the enterprise. I mean so hopelessly and terribly mean. Quality systems, processes, delivery etc. come at a cost and you should be ready to disburse part of your hard-earned money if required for quality. And don’t blame those poor staffs for producing substandard products and services if you have not put in place the requirements for them to deliver on quality. On the other side, don’t be afraid to charge something more for quality. Do you get me? Feel free to pass on the costs of your quality program to the market. However, if you chose to be a donor entrepreneur and absorb all the costs, that’s up to you! It’s your business. Isn’t it? You can’t blame anybody. Can you? Sometimes I muse when I read business names containing the word ‘cheap’ in it. For example XYZ Cheap store. Come on, you don’t need to bring out the cheap element even if you want to be cheap. Don’t you agree with me? The point is this; many people mentally associate cheap with substandard or poor quality. I’m talking about quality. Good quality is money, unless you are on another planet.
  • Automation adds value to quality. With developments in technology today, many quality systems can be automated. This makes it easier for you to guarantee quality in your enterprise. So if you can, why not? Get me right here. I’m not saying that automated systems miraculously produce and guarantee quality. The systems themselves have to be qualitative systems, and some sane and awake human beings have to further ensure that the automated systems are operating optimally and are performing qualitative work and procedures as required. There is nothing for nothing. Don’t start thinking that the machines are smarter than human beings. It is human beings that develop those systems and also define the parameters including the level of smartness they should have. If you blindly rely on machines, you will pay a price. You will be alone at that time. Don’t say nobody warned you! Ok?
  • You and your staffs have to speak the language of quality in your enterprise always. Never leave your staffs behind in the quality agenda. You certainly need staff buy-in to effectively roll out and sustain your quality agenda and program. Beyond quality, I candidly think that any major programs in an enterprise require staff buy-in. You might be the dictatorial entrepreneur who pushes issues down the throats of your staffs without any concern. You might occasionally disagree, but you can’t always. So, get that buy-in and co-operation. Additionally, try and avoid too much complexity otherwise you get resistance and you miss the whole thing. Set quality service goals for your staffs. Motivate your employees. Recognize and reward employee improvements. If you have that buy-in and everybody in your enterprise sleeps and dreams about quality, then you are on your way to have a fantabulous qualitative environment in your enterprise. This is another top tip to improve quality in an enterprise.
  • Keep your ear to the ground always. Customer complaints are one of the best ways to assess your quality performance related to your products or services. Some time back I wrote an article about the value in customer complaints. You can read this article if you like, but I’m not going to force it on you. Don’t blame me for this. Ok? So, what am I saying? Analyse customer satisfaction data for your enterprise because you will get some good clues regarding your performance in terms of quality. Whether it’s quality products or services, quality delivery and aftersales services etc., or the stark opposites of these, you will get them. Then here is the tip; make use of that feedback to improve your quality systems.
  • Quality requires a continuous approach. Today again I will mention the Japanese word kaizen. I love this word, and I suggest you read more about it. Of course if you are already an expert in kaizen you can simply ignore my advice. I think Japanese blog readers will be smiling when they come across me promoting their word in this blog. On the other side, if you don’t like Japanese, just try and contain your dislike so that you don’t miss the points I’m bringing forth here. Kaizen simply means continuous improvement. It is derived from the word ‘kai’ meaning change, and ‘zen’ meaning good or for the better. I’m not Japanese; so if I miss something they can come forward and correct me. Ok? The continuous approach to quality in your enterprise is another top tip in improving quality. Mr. Entrepreneur, you need to be forward thinking as your enterprise evolves and grows. Don’t be static in your approach to quality. Rather, be dynamic. Make use of brainstorming, work studies etc. to eliminate waste and develop new approaches to continuously improve quality in your enterprise.
  • Execute quality into existence. The word execution is another powerful word I love, and was the subject of one of my blogs on the execution culture. You can get that blog here. Another top tip in improving quality in your enterprise is the aspect of execution. This is not drama. I mean execution. I mean, you need to commit, organize, train, review and remodel, track mistakes, measure, focus on processes. Use quality tools such as charts, checklists etc. Define quality. Identify key issues to focus on. The key issues are those that rank high and have the most impact on your quality once implemented. Document your processes. These are practical things you need to get done if you would like to guarantee quality in your enterprise or business. Don’t be lazy in executing this, and instead dream about quality making a stop in your business while passing by. It does not work that way unfortunately. You have got to grab it, keep it and get around implementing it by making use of the various guidelines. The above are just a few points I have mentioned, but you can go ahead and read hundreds of articles on how to implement quality. Don’t stick to the few points I’m jotting down here. Feel absolutely free to explore other issues or tips to improving quality. You don’t need to ask me why I’m calling mine top tips. You will discover more along the way, and judge for yourself. Ok?
  • Let Total Quality Management (TQM) be the operating philosophy in your business. This will guarantee your business success. Entrepreneur, you will improve quality in your enterprise by making total quality management a philosophy in your business operations. Don’t you believe in this? Come on. And there are benefits of doing this. You will generate revenue because you have demand. You will sell enough to operate profitability and get a good return on your investment. You will have customer loyalty that could pass on from generation to generation. Come on, can’t you enumerate some brands that have been there forever? You should. They have existed for ages because quality is one of their fundamental operational cornerstones. Quality assisted them build their brand. You can rely on them and sleep. You can’t develop a brand without consistent quality. I think one of these good coming days I should write something about branding. Watch this space, and you could come across that article. The TQM principle was apparently introduced in Japan by some American engineers but I think the Japanese have made better use of this principle than any other nation in the world. It is one of the bedrock principles of doing business in Japan, so it’s not a surprise that their economy is a force to reckon with. So, why don’t you be smart Mr. Entrepreneur! Adopt this approach. Nobody is going to arrest or prosecute you for following this. You don’t need to fly to Japan to learn and adopt this. Ok? I leave it there for you. It’s really up to you.
  • Ignoring quality could dispatch your business to the dinosaur world. My last but not the least top tip to improve quality in your enterprise, is the potential price you might pay by ignoring quality. Now, this might be a fear factor I’m leveraging on here. The mere fact that your ignorance of quality could easily dispatch your entire enterprise to start its transformation into a fossil should be enough to get you on your toes to start working towards quality. Get me right. I’m not threatening you, and it’s your choice. Your business; your choice. What I’m simply saying is this; if you don’t improve quality in your enterprise, you might not be able to keep that enterprise afloat and sustainable in some years to come. You don’t need to ask me why. Do you? If the rest are improving day by day, can you really survive by your stagnation? That’s for you to answer!

Before I run now to other things, I want to use Aristotle’s words in conclusion. He said, ‘Quality is not an act, it is a habit’. Again, William A. Foster said this; ‘Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives’.

Till then,

The Wise Entrepreneur

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