The health of U.S. small businesses is a key to the health of the U.S. economy. Small firms account for about half of the nation's gross domestic product and employ about half the workforce, so if they are struggling it is very hard for the economy as a whole to grow in line with its long-term trend?
A recent study "Quality management (QM) leads to healthier small businesses," published in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, explores how small businesses in the housing industry have embraced quality management approaches. Study authors William H. Murphy and Denis Leonard interviewed ten owners of small family-owned businesses who have won the National Housing Quality Award (NHQA), which is based on the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its criteria.
"Once small business owners realize that the QM journey is a sensible, necessary, business-changing journey, change can happen swiftly," write Murphy and Leonard. "Yet, truly seeing the truth of this claim and following up by changing one's business toward a QM journey is often a tough step for many small business owners to take. After all, small business owners are often extremely busy, with time-pressing commitments and little wiggle room for figuring out how to engage new platforms such as QM. Yet, as our interviews repeatedly revealed, life gets a lot easier for everyone once QM is part of the business."
As a whole, the small business owners interviewed in the study were "certain that positive outcomes follow" once a business implements QM; however, the owners did recognize some barriers to engagement. Small business owners recommend customizing tools and staying the course once started on QM.
According to Murphy and Leonard, "The first step toward launching QM is generally the hardest, as most businesses have to stumble along for a while before truly catching on to QM's logic and potential. And yet, by targeting easy projects and using a few tools from QM toolboxes, change for the better is soon realized. Over time, with a conviction gained by success and the developing belief that QM is a game changer for one's small business, owners may find themselves pushing their QM platforms in unexpected directions."