Like success and life, product safety and compliance programs are about the journey rather than the destination. Compliance programs are not a black-or-white, pass-or-fail, all-or-nothing exercise. I've heard plenty of skepticism from people on the veracity of other companies' efforts when perhaps an inward focus on what is actually within their control is warranted. Who knows, maybe those comments are a defense mechanism that allows them to deflect attention away from their own potential shortcomings.
I regularly hear questions or concerns about those companies who are on the product safety journey. Perhaps these comments are misplaced. Rather, we should be not only giving credit to companies that admit they need to get better in an area so critically important to Fortune 1000 companies, but also applauding the fact that these companies are actually doing something about it. Product safety and compliance efforts are not easy, nor are they inexpensive. They carry with them the associated costs and pain that so often accompanies meaningful change. These companies are making our industry better, and we should be encouraging their efforts to improve themselves and build the overall reputation of our industry.
A robust compliance program is a pretty good window into the overall quality of an organization. These programs are a reflection of a company's ongoing commitment to you, its customer. They also provide key insights into the overall quality and character of the company you are choosing to do business with. Does the company value the relationship it has with you? Does it value the relationship you have with your customers? Is it focused on growing your business? Or does the company just want to sell you more stuff? Seriously! Is it really an unfair expectation that the products you sell do no harm? That the products do not jeopardize the health or safety of recipients? We're supposed to be enhancing our clients' brands, not putting their brand reputation at risk.
If a company values the relationship, it will be passionate about making you look better to your customers. It will be committed to being better than the average in the things it does. It will be embracing change as a path to long-term success rather than fighting to maintain the same old tired offering. It will have a comprehensive product safety and compliance program, and it will be able to both quickly demonstrate the program exists to you and explain why it is important to your customers. The company will have product liability insurance and a process in place that prevents the insurance from ever having to be used.
Having a rigorous product safety and compliance program is not unlike an insurance policy. It's hard to argue that car insurance is not important. Many states require it as a condition of getting a driver's license in an effort to protect us from ourselves. But having car or health insurance does not mean that something bad is guaranteed from happening. It just means that if something does happen, it doesn't destroy everything that we have worked so hard to build. It means that you are more responsible and have some protection from the knucklehead texting on the freeway next to you. I choose to align myself with those companies who are committed to exceeding their customer's expectations on compliance matters and am excited about the rapidly growing ground swell of distributors who are now voting in support of compliance programs via their purchase orders.
To me, the critical issue is that these companies have cultures that value product safety and are taking steps to improve themselves. The question shouldn't be whether they are perfect or not. The question should be why aren't you, as demonstrated by your actions equally committed to meeting the demand for safe and compliant products?
Brent Stone is executive director - operations for Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the promotional products industry's only independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping companies provide safe products. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Stone has more than 25 years of in-depth supply chain management experience with extensive expertise in process design, development, improvement and management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.qcalliance.org for more information.