Case Studies

A blueprint for a better business

Herefordshire may be the home of cattle and cider, but one local firm is carving a niche for itself in the field of innovative product design. Find out how ISO 9001 is helping Simple Design Works evolve and sustain its outstanding 33% growth rate.

Where the company came from

Like many of the World’s biggest businesses, from Facebook to Dell, Simple Design Works began operating from a bedroom. Founder Kristo Shivachev was an experienced design engineer specialising in designing medical products in his thirties when he realised his dream of creating an industrial design house that could produce well styled, practical and meaningful design.


The challenges it overcame

“We’re rather unusual in that we don’t have a ‘typical’ client or a ‘typical’ product that we specialise in” explains Kristo. “We work with private individuals who may want to produce a consumer item alongside automotive giants who want to design and manufacture tooling to make production more efficient. It’s not unusual for us to be working on products aimed for the beauty, defence, healthcare and retail sectors all at the same time.

Kristo realised that his growing business needed a management system that would allow for agility and evolve with his business. He chose ISO 9001, the Quality Management System, which helps growing businesses identify barriers to development, manage suppliers and keep attention focused on customers’ needs.

Building a team with ISO 9001

Although Kristo had used subcontractors whilst establishing the business he found that this added a layer of time-consuming project management. He realised that building a reliable and responsive team would allow him to focus more on the firm’s goals whilst ensuring clients received a consistently high quality of service. The team soon found that embracing the principles of ISO 9001 helped them detect gaps in their recruitment strategy.

Richard Sutherland, Design Director, comments, “We’ve attracted local talent but our work with our ISO consultant, Dan Pemberton, helped us realise we needed to attract a new type of person to the team. We already had some  people with 20 to 30 years’ experience and a few more fresh out of uni that we’d enticed into Herefordshire. We had a gap for someone in the middle so were thrilled when we found that they would relocate from Leeds, bringing skills back to Herefordshire.”

Reducing risks and setting clear objectives

With Dan’s help, Kristo and Ruth set up a system to minimise risk in terms of corrective and preventative measures. After looking at the strategy in place and what was working and what wasn’t, they also reviewed their current offering and future aspirations. By matching this against what they knew they needed to sustain their growth, they could orchestrate what they needed to take them to the next level of service for their customers.

As Kristo comments, “Design and protection of a product go hand in hand and we knew we could improve both aspects of this customer experience. We’re designers, not legal specialists, so had to find a way to offer a legal service to protect brands, ideas and designs. But of course these had to fit seamlessly with our personal approach and quality.”

That’s when Simple Design Works embarked on a relationship with Barker Brettell, one of the UK’s leading Intellectual Property (IP) firms. “Like us they work with everyone from entrepreneurs to multi-national corporations. They speak on our level – clear, jargon-free advice – and make the process of bringing ideas to life fun” explains Kristo.

Having impressed Barker Brettell with their existing ISO 9001 processes, the two firms worked collaboratively to scope out a new customer process using shared document templates. This makes the customer experience seamless with both companies and is much more efficient than having to brief and update the two firms separately!

Kristo adds, “This partnership is of great benefit, it provides us with excellent credibility and it’s also a great support to our clients. ISO 9001 was critical in helping us secure this arrangement; the level of professionalism and the way we approach things was attractive to them.”

What’s next for the team?

With a client list that includes Nissan, Schwarzkopf, Joerns Healthcare and Race Furniture, the protection of confidential data is critical. ISO 27001, the management standard which helps protect computer systems and data, is therefore on the company’s radar for the future.

In the meantime, the firm has just extended its offices to include a small workshop to allow for in-house 3D printing which helps to reduce the risk of losing confidential information. This expansion takes the firm up to its maximum capacity at its current home in a Rural Enterprise Centre so they’re looking for larger premises. Not only will this accommodate future growth but also enable them to carry out small batch manufacturing for their clients as well as host educational events.

In the running

The team were shortlisted for the first business award they applied for: the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce’s High Growth Business of the Year award. Find out more & read our top ten tips for writing business awards entries here.

Keeping the team on track

The integration of software with their processes keeps the team on track and provides them with clear lines of communication throughout the whole project journey. Using a consistent way for everyone to manage projects, time and expenses, it allows them to see where margins are eroded so quotations can be more accurate in the future.

Find out more about ISO 9001

If you want to follow in the footsteps of Simple Design Works, take our free online training module: Introduction to ISO 9001. It gives an overview of the standard in just 30 minutes. Sign up now.