A simple question on a lengthy annual form from one of its largest customers served as a catalyst for Omni Capital Corporation to seek ISO certification.
“Every year we have to fill out a questionnaire and one of the questions asks if we are ISO certified. For 12 years I wrote ‘no’ but then I thought to myself, if they are asking, one day they might require it,” Omni Capital President Mark Dodd said.
The Big Bend firm buys or repossesses leased business items, such as medical equipment, computers, copiers and even tractor-trailers, and then remarkets them. When Dodd also began noticing that some of Omni Capital’s larger competitors had ISO certification, a widely recognized international standard for quality management, it became even more imperative to at least inquire about the process.
“No one asked us to be certified, but we thought we’d get ahead of the game,” Dodd said.
Omni Capital, which has about 20 employees, contacted other firms before choosing to work with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership in becoming ISO 9001:2015 certified. The Omni Capital staff made a quick and strong connection with WMEP Senior Consultant Carol Crawford, who led the firm through the ISO certification process.
“The process was extremely organized because of Carol,” said Mary Dodd, who handles business development for Omni Capital. Omni Capital’s ISO journey kicked off in May 2018. The firm received certification in February 2019.
“The WMEP takes a more holistic, integrative approach, so we don’t just hand over a bunch of canned procedures and then vanish,” Crawford said. “We help develop existing systems and build on the foundation and leverage all the good people you have in place and develop them.”
The process presented some challenges, Omni Capital’s Repossession Specialist Michele Whitehouse said. “It was hard to find the time, I’m not going to lie,” Whitehouse said. “We put in a lot of hours, especially on the days that Carol was here. But we knew there was an end in sight and Carol kept us on track.”
The WMEP worked to leverage the infrastructure Omni Capital already had in place and built on it, Crawford said.
[caption id="attachment_489697" align="alignright" width="121"] WMEP Senior Consultant Carol Crawford[/caption]
“People think ISO comes in and puts a big blanket of bureaucracy over you,” she said. “That’s certainly one way of doing it. You could just sign up for an in-the-box ISO and suddenly you are doing all this stuff and you don’t even know why.”
Omni Capital’s business is focused on remarketing leased commercial business equipment. Computers, copiers and medical equipment tend to be the most commonly leased items, Mark Dodd explained.
Uncommon items also can be found in the Omni Capital warehouse, including pedicure chairs from a recently closed nail salon and even a machine used to debone chickens. “Equipment comes in and we test it to the best of our abilities,” Mark Dodd said. “Then we sell it.”
If an item is unique, Omni often turns to the Internet to find buyers.
Although competition can be fierce in certain product categories, there are very few companies like Omni Capital that deal with all types of products, making it more convenient for its customers. Leasing companies can have 200 to 300 leases expire every day, Mark Dodd noted.
“Then you’ve got to divvy up all of those different leases based on what type of equipment it is,” he said. “You need a lot of manpower for that, and it’s just not practical. So, they just send the equipment here.”
Through the ISO certification, Omni Capital has improved many of its processes, Whitehouse said.
“We found that there were a couple steps we were missing, and we weren’t communicating well with our warehouse employees,” she said. “They weren’t feeling that they were part of our process. They didn’t understand what we were doing. That was a main pull for us, getting us to work together as a team.”
The processing of equipment that comes into Omni’s warehouse requires relationships built on trust that develop over many years, Crawford noted. “You can’t always put that into a form or a procedure,” Crawford said. “A lot of it is relationship-based, and now we are proceduralizing that. We didn’t want to burden everyone with a bunch of forms. We tried to leverage all of the good things that they already had in place, like their audit report, and build ISO-compliant systems around it.” Becoming ISO certified has led Omni Capital to track various aspects of its business.
“In the past, information wasn’t shared with everyone. As soon as we shared everything, we had employees say: ‘Now I can do my job better because I understand why I’m doing it.’ Before, they were just taught how to do it but not why it was important.”
The speed, efficiency and accuracy of Omni Capital’s audit reports is among the many improvements realized through ISO certification, Crawford said.
The ISO process has had a positive impact on all of Omni Capital’s employees, including part-time employees in the warehouse, some of whom are high school and college students.
Having all employees aspire toward a common goal has been highly beneficial, Mary Dodd said. “Just incorporating the warehouse into what we are doing has had benefits,” she said.
Omni Capital has also recently expanded its business to include tractor trailers and box trucks, a decision that stemmed from a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis conducted as part of the ISO process. “We started looking for other opportunities, so we started doing trucks,” Mark Dodd said. “That’s turned out to be pretty good. Computers have been our main business, but every quarter computers are going down. So, we looked at trucks, and it’s working.”
ISO not only helped develop the strategy but also the action plan to make getting into the truck business happen. Higher revenue can be generated through selling tractor-trailers, Mark Dodd pointed out. “You can sell a tractor-trailer for $45,000,” he said. “You’ve got to sell a lot of computers to get to that number.”
Omni Capital’s ISO certification has drawn the attention of the banks and leasing companies that are among Omni’s top customers. “We’ve told them all that we are ISO certified, and they really like it and it puts a smile on their faces,” Mark Dodd said.
Omni Capital emerged from the journey to ISO certification with optimized, streamlined processes to better serve customers and cultivate an expanded and diversified business base that has led to vital revenue growth.