Coast & Country Housing (CCH) is a registered housing provider, established when they took over from Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council as part of a large-scale voluntary stock transfer in July 2002. Regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency, they now own and manage over 10,000 homes.
They are relative new-comers to ISO 9001, having first successfully registered their certificate in 2014 in a process overseen and subsequently audited by Exova BM TRADA.
The impetus to seek certification was for strategic reasons. CCH had recently created a commercial development arm to their organisation and were seeking out commercial contracts for property maintenance.
However, they were finding it difficult to compete in the commercial environment without an ISO 9001 certificate. Ironically, they changed their whole strategic direction for compelling economic reasons. The original motivation– securing the badge of quality that would open commercial doors for them – no longer applied.
Lyn Peacock, Group Company Secretary, has no regrets however. “While we no long carry out commercial works, we felt that applying the standard anyway is just good business. It’s led us on to a project management system framework which feeds the business so easily. It’s served us really well.”
Early communication with staff about their intention to adopt the standard and go for certification received a mixed reception. Lyn Peacock recalls some pockets of cynicism and resistance at first. “It’s like any change. People groan, and I thought we’d have a job on our hands. But I was quite surprised how quickly we managed that culture change.” Staff are now fully engaged, actively taking advice from the quality assurance team if they plan anything new or different.
Lyn Peacock puts this down in part to doing the necessary groundwork internally but also recognises the immense contribution from Exova BM TRADA in what she calls the pre-assessment meeting. “We received very good feedback from Exova BM TRADA from that first meeting, enabling us to communicate what ISO 9001 was in a more staff-friendly way just by softening the wording in our manual. That was all down to that two-way dialogue we had with Exova BM TRADA.”
Exova BM TRADA was appointed through CCH’s standard tendering processes, which included a short pitch, competing against other providers. Since then, CCH have developed a good working relationship with their Exova BM TRADA auditor. Their experience so far is that his approach is very fair and flexible. As Lyn Peacock says, “He’s a familiar face and not just a box-ticker. Personality plays a big role in how you interact with the client, and I have to say that the whole process for us has been really positive.”
They plan to transition to the 2015 revision of ISO 9001 next year – with Exova BM TRADA’s help.