You have personal values, beliefs and performance benchmarks. Your business also has these characteristics and they are referred to as company standards. Think of standards as your business personality and vision coupled with the rules you live and work by. Your small business standards will likely mirror your personal standards, and your customers, clients and employees will form an opinion about your business – and your brand – based on these values.
What are standards?
Your standards define how your company acts, which, in turn, builds trust in your brand. They can be guidelines that describe quality, performance, safety, terminology, testing, or management systems, to name a few. They can comply with authoritative agencies or professional organizations and be enforceable by law, such as required medical degrees for doctors or credentials for financial planners. Or they can be voluntary rules you establish to create confidence among your clients that your business operates at a high and consistent quality level, such as a restaurant only using the highest quality, locally-sourced ingredients.
Standards must align with your mission, business objectives, and organizational leadership, and be implemented consistently across your enterprise. Employees need to buy into the value of adhering to standards so everyone is pulling in the same direction and reinforcing your brand.
Controlling and measuring standards
Standards are what your business aspires to, but they don’t guarantee performance. You need to create processes to control how your standards are implemented, and measure and evaluate how they help your business grow. Written guidelines, technical specifications, product inspection processes, management and financial audits, and even customer surveys can be effective performance indicators and help you determine if you’re meeting your standards, or if the standards need to be tweaked in some way.