Incorporating TQM in All Activities

The personnel in a small company are analogous to the famous "20-mule team" that pulled Borax raw materials out of Death Valley. If a single team member is not doing his or her best, the performance of the entire team is negatively affected. Quality and customer satisfaction is everyone's job!

Small companies are often sales-driven, instead of market-driven or customer-driven. Strong sales talent is the most common way a small company grows. So it is natural for a sales-driven company to think about TQM improvements in terms of "where it counts the most," in sales. But the sales force cannot succeed without good quality products and services that are distinct from and valued by customers when compared to what competitors provide.

Sales also needs good support from manufacturing and shipping in terms of correctly filling the order, on time, every time. Sales may need quality technical support to help obtain the sale and to service the customer after the sale. What about proper billing of invoices and credit terms from the accounting department? And does anyone assume the role of customer relations to follow up with the customer after the sale?

Small companies are often too busy trying to find and close new customers. They may not think about or have the time to follow up on current customers to see if they are indeed satisfied.

Problem: how can small businesses incorporate quality and concern for customer satisfaction into every company function? Often, even critical tasks, like monthly closings for company P&Ls (profit and loss statements), get delayed because there are not enough hours or people to do everything.