“When you’re growing your business, you know you need to have processes in place,” says Bill Carello, vice president of Case Snow Management. “But when you’re small, you don’t need all those processes, and they actually get in the way. In order to grow our business, we knew we needed ISO.”
When Carello and the other leaders at Case discussed the concept with Kevin Gilbride, Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA), consultant John Allin and others a couple years ago, it just made sense to him. And with a background as a CPA, he already had a good understanding of ISO.
“It’s a quality management system that’s all about customer satisfaction, and that’s what we do,” says Carello. “We looked at it and said, look, we know we want to grow, and it’s a quality management system that’s all about safety, training, customer satisfaction, crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s and the whole nine yards. It was perfect.”
Gilbride admits there are many benefits to becoming ISO certified, but the initial driver for ASCA creating the SN 9001 quality management system (which works in conjunction with ISO 9001) was risk management. “The ASCA was looking for ways to reduce risk because of the skyrocketing insurance costs out there,” he says. “We wanted to give professional snow and ice management companies the tools to manage risk themselves to reduce that risk for insurance companies.”
Gilbride continued, “Of the slip and fall lawsuits that are lost or settled, more than 50 percent of the time, they’re lost or settled due to a lack of documentation. ISO 9001 plus SN 9001 ensures that you have that documentation and that it’s verified by a third party.”
After hiring an outside internal auditor to examine his quality manual, Carello says he set up Stage 1 with Smithers where the auditing company looked at Case from top to bottom. After Case fixed a few minor things, Stage 2 was scheduled, where the company passed and Merriman was witnessed and accredited.
From start to finish, the process lasted roughly six months. Carello estimates it cost $8,000 to $10,000, including the internal auditor he hired outside of Smithers because he felt he was too close to the process itself and an outside opinion was needed. “At the end of the day, you will be more efficient, and that will correlate to customer satisfaction. But [employees] have to take the steps in place in order to get to that point,” says Carello. “By implementing and living ISO, the product is better at the end and the customer is satisfied.”
Carello says Case had no trouble with employee buy-in as they had already been doing a lot of things ISO requires anyway. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard and employees know that, so they bought in 100 percent. If someone had acted out and said, ‘This is ridiculous,’ they wouldn’t be with us.”
What Carello loves most about ISO is that it’s auditable and never-ending. Every year, the company will be audited to see that it’s conforming to the ISO standards. “Every single year, we could be audited any day, so we have to be 100 percent. That’s what I like about ISO – you have to keep on top of it. With ISO, it’s not just a piece of paper. If you’re not living it, you will have nonconformities and you could lose your certification.”
Other benefits aside, Gilbride emphasized that the risk management advantage of ISO 9001/SN 9001 is huge in the snow world. “Plaintiffs’ attorneys are running a business just like everyone else, and they ask three questions when a case comes in: can I win it, how much can I win it for and how quickly can I win it?” says Gilbride. “They’re going to find out very quickly when they’re filing claims against ISO 9001/SN 9001 companies that they’re not going to be able to answer yes to all those questions. Therefore, in time, there will be a reduction of lawsuits because ISO 9001 and SN 9001 will be like a neon sign to these guys saying these companies are going to have their documentation and be able to paint a picture from two years ago.”