Best practices: How consistency leads to excellence

Laying the groundwork for a standardised way of running a company is best done in the fledgling years of a business

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Employees of Brazilian health equipment startup Hi Technologies, work in a batch of tests to diagnose the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at their office in Curitiba, Brazil, March 19, 2020. Picture taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS

Image used for illustrative purpose. Employees of Brazilian health equipment startup Hi Technologies, work in a batch of tests to diagnose the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at their office in Curitiba, Brazil, March 19, 2020. Picture taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS

Rodolfo Buhrer

Best practices, or the methods and procedures that help organisations standardise their operations, are not usually implemented by fledgling start-ups. According to industry sources, this may be attributed to several factors, including the absence of best-practice experience among founding entrepreneurs, who are often young and may not have had the experience of working for an established company; and the number of issues, such as funding, that take priority over best practice.

“Implementing best practices in a small company is relatively difficult because there are typically other things that entrepreneurs have to accomplish,” said Panos Manolopoulos, managing partner of Stanton Chase in Dubai. “But establishing and implementing this set of standards from the beginning is essential and will make things easier for the company as it grows.”

Manolopoulos was quick to point out that he believes start-ups are not avoiding implementing best practices because they lack value. But in a lean operation, it is unsurprising that entrepreneurs direct their attention and resources on tasks that will help them get their small businesses off the ground.

He said that discovering and implementing best practices that work for a company takes time. Companies usually have to be in operation for a number of years before they can effectively identify techniques that would best solve their pain points.

He added that there is no cookie-cutter approach to best practices – what works for one company may not work for another – and therefore, organisations must implement standards that meet their respective mission and vision.

Start-ups must also expose themselves to more opportunities for mentoring so they can understand the best practices in their specific industries. Across the Middle East, there are industry-organised workshops, forums and conferences that allow entrepreneurs to gain the knowledge required to draft their own best practice programme.

Other start-ups turn to the International Organization for Standards (ISO) and more established companies in their attempt to find a basis for what they themselves should implement.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

However, following best practices may not work for all companies, especially those keen on innovating.

“I think that it is important for companies to know what the best practices are in their industry, but sometimes that is not the way they should follow,” said Emmee Haun, a business consultant with SAS Center for Entrepreneurship in Oman. “If you are trying to create a value proposition and a competitive advantage for your company, then sometimes you can’t go down the route of best practices. You need to think outside the box.”

In order to find out whether your company thrives by adopting best practices, Haun advises entrepreneurs to assess the quality, the size, and the achievements of their organisations. However, she cautions that there are no identical guidelines or bylaws that can be implemented based on these basic assumptions. Best practices need to be localised, taking into account the culture and clientele of a specific company.

In addition, organisations must create and implement their procedures for a number of years and follow this through with regular evaluations. Creating a system in which excellence isn’t accidental, but habitual, requires time.

Throughout a company’s life cycle, it will eventually reach a stage of maturity, but how long it takes to get there differs from one company to the next, according to Manolopoulos. But for companies that have reached this stage, best practices often become customary.

“Every company has a certain maturity stage. Once the company has reached this level, only then does the excellence become habitual,” said Manolopoulos. “In order for it to become part of the companies’ culture, companies need to ensure consistency and a long-term strategy. There needs to be fewer changes overall.”

He said there are two kinds of best practice. The first is printed on paper – these are the guidelines your company follows. The second is ingrained into an organisation’s culture.

Both can be maintained by observing a consistency in operation, regular monitoring, and implementing a system of checks and balances. Monitoring can occur through a committee or board. With checks and balances, a system should be established that promotes a kind of auto check, with regular self-audits.

“It requires continual reviewing and checking but best practices are the best way to ensure stability,” said Manolopoulos.

Note: This article was originally published on Accelerate SME and it has been republished on Zawya with full copyright permission.

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