When WOVIN Brands began the QCA Accreditation Program, they wanted to be better prepared and more proactive in meeting compliance requirements for distributors and their end-user clients. Now that they have achieved QCA Accreditation (read the official press release here), they are even more confident in their decision to participate.
“We find that many distributors are craving to work with suppliers who understand brand safety and responsible sourcing so that they can have comfort in the products they sell,” says Joe Johnson, WOVIN Brands’ director of operations. “QCA has enabled us to prove to our distributors that we can handle their requirements. Our conversations with them have become more proactive and authoritative, and we can answer the difficult questions because we have the audits, documentation and testing to back it up. We are a resource for our distributors, and we’re prepared to work with them to ensure their requirements as well as the end buyers’ requirements are met.”
What WOVIN Brands’ leadership didn’t realize at the time is how going through the process of QCA Accreditation would have additional, albeit unexpected, benefits for their employees.
Improving Employee Relations
Come to find out, developing more structured policies and procedures addressed many employee needs as well.
Joe says that there weren’t a lot of brand-new procedures created. Rather, the process was more of a review of existing operations to refine and define them in writing so there is a reference document for employee use and training. Cleaning up the policies that had vague or loose guidance was a challenge, but one that was well worth it.
“Many of the clarified policies and procedures were things that our employees were looking for and were happy to now have written down,” Joe explains. “For example, we implemented a book of pictures defining minor quality issues vs. major issues that should be rejected. Everyone really liked the idea and was craving to have that guidance available to them.”
As the policies were being refined, Joe admits he was concerned about the potential burden of too much information or too many policies and procedures to navigate. “I was afraid it would be a challenge for our employees to adopt the change to more formal processes and procedures,” he says. “To my surprise, I found that most employees welcomed the greater clarity and information. They wanted documentation available and greater guidance on what to do as situations arise.”
Overcoming The Overwhelm
When embarking on a compliance program, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But Joe found that having a structured program through QCA eased the burden that comes with trying to develop a program from the ground up by yourself.
“Despite my initial overwhelm at the scope of the QCA Accreditation Program, it was a well-organized step-by-step process,” Joe says. “Going through the program is similar to taking a college course, with the large scale of work broken down into easily digestible chunks of weekly homework. I’ve learned so much that I feel like I am taking a master course in compliance and product safety. Dee Fenton, QCA’s executive director of compliance, has been a great partner and resource to lean on when there are difficult questions or you need guidance and input.”
The program’s structure, while self-paced, easily allows participants to know what to do next in order to stay on track so they can achieve Accreditation in a timely manner. “I was amazed not only at how smooth the process was but also the steady progress that we made,” Joe says. “Looking back at what we accomplished, it’s astonishing how much we have done, yet it did not seem overwhelming at the time.”
While the company has achieved QCA Accreditation, the work isn’t over; it simply continues as an integrated part of daily operations. As new products are introduced, regulations and legislation change, and market demands shift, WOVIN Brands now has a process in place to address these issues. “I came to learn that it is a journey and you will never be ‘done,’” Joe says. “The most important part is getting started on the journey and continuing to improve.”
Making The Investment
There’s no doubt that instituting a compliance program is an investment. But so is your website, sales team and facility. All of these costs are part of doing business, but each of them, including compliance, can help take your business to new heights.
End buyers are demanding that the branded merchandise they use is safe and responsibly sourced. Those who embrace compliance and use it as competitive differentiation have an incredible opportunity to land the larger, more lucrative clients.
“If you want your company to move up to the next level, you need to make the commitment to quality and product safety,” Joe says. “QCA’s Accreditation Program is an incredible opportunity to dig into your business and look at it with a fresh set of eyes. While it may look expensive or challenging up front, the cost of non-compliance is substantial, ranging from possible recalls and disposal of poor-quality inventory. Don’t gamble with your company’s future; make the commitment.”