BIZTIPS - October 29, 2006

Biz Tips: Business Focus of Quality if Worldwide
Sunday, Oct. 29, 2006
By Art Hill

Our new Small Business Management coordinator, Doug Lamberson, and I have been meeting with business owners in the program from all over the region. While their businesses are very different, we hear the same word over and over - quality - quality of products, quality of services, quality of employees.

Turns out that quality is the key to small business success all over the world. A couple of weeks ago I met the owner of PAB, a company in Buzet, Croatia that produces some of the finest protective helmets for firefighters in the world. Ivan Akrapovic is 83 years old. A designer and engineer, he was proud to show us PAB products with the most advanced ergonomic features and aerospace compounds. "Haven't been able to sell them in the U.S." he said, "all they want is lower price."

But that doesn't keep Ivan and his 26 employees from pursuing the quality that makes them the top brand in the rest of the world. Hanging in a plain black frame next to the door used by every employee (and every customer) is a statement that can be adopted by any business, large or small:

"Quality Policy. PAB is value added and customer oriented, and at all times we fully satisfy our customers' requirements beyond their expectations. We deliver to our customers proven products that are always competitive in price and target delivery date. Our goal is to continuously improve the quality of our products and services beyond everyone's expectations and our internal standards. That is why we ask our employees to perform every work assignment with discipline and to strictly carry out documented procedures. In order to be successful, we must demonstrate anew each day and in everyone's job, continuous improvement."

This straight, honest statement was not written by a high-priced consultant. But it includes the most advanced quality "best practices" in today's business world. It identifies the customer as the top reason for quality, and each employee's responsibility for the success of the company. Every employee and customer of PAB knows that if their product fails, a firefighter can die. Employees who didn't agree with the company's quality policy no longer work there.

Quality. More than a word. For the 83 year old owner of PAB and his employees, it is a way of thinking, of working, of living. In this global economy, it had better be ours too.

Content © 2006 East Oregonian