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Quality management (QM) leads to healthier small businesses

William H. Murphy (Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada)
Denis Leonard (Business Excellence Consulting, Bozeman, Montana, USA)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 21 November 2016




The purpose of this paper is to add to the current knowledge of how and why small businesses should engage in quality management (QM) by providing insights from small business owners who are committed advocates of QM. By so doing, to encourage small business owners to see that QM is right – and possible – for any small business wanting to improve performance.


Using an inductive method, semi-structured interviews followed a template of six open-ended questions. Study participants were ten owners of small family-owned business winners of a National Quality Award (National Housing Quality Award (NHQA)), making them industry leaders in applying QM. Data from these QM advocates are presented and discussed.


The cases reveal consistent encouragement for small businesses to engage in QM, with every owner certain that positive outcomes follow. Despite recognizing barriers to engagement, interviewees strongly feel the barriers are small relative to gains realized through QM. These QM advocates advise getting started by choosing one or a few QM tools and/or customizing tools rather than becoming overwhelmed by prospects of the complexity of doing QM to the exacting standards of various quality programs. Finally, they encourage small businesses to stay the course once started on QM.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations are that the paper relies on just ten case studies and these were taken from just one industry. While these limitations cannot be disputed, the rich data, interpretations, and opportunities for future research emerging from the inductive approach seem likely to resonate well beyond the particular industry involved here.

Practical implications

This paper speaks directly to small business owners by including many quotes from owners and summarizing themes from multiple interviews. The advice provided can be acted upon by any small business, with the opportunity of realizing improved business performance.


Few articles provide insights on the merits of QM for small businesses directly from interviews with small business owners. Here, the authors learn about the rationale for small businesses engaging in QM, are given thoughtful comments on how to get started, and told about the realities – including difficulties – of small business QM.



Murphy, W.H. and Leonard, D. (2016), "Quality management (QM) leads to healthier small businesses", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 1104-1119.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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