Hiring a consultant for ISO certification based on cost alone can prove to be short-sighted, according to Denise Chambre, managing director of ISOtec Hong Kong. She said companies seeking certification needed to consider a consultancy's expertise rather than how much the service would cost. 'Before choosing a consultant to work with, companies should carefully consider what the consultant is going to bring to the party.' Documentation is the foundation for the ISO quality system. While the traditional off-the-shelf approach to structuring documentation usually achieves ISO certification, it does not necessarily mean that the company will automatically benefit from cost reductions or productivity increases. The client company might incur further costs from maintaining the documenting system, Ms Chambre said. ISOtec focused on helping clients develop and implement a system that enhanced company performance. Its approach to developing the quality system was based on the client's existing processes, rather than the ISO 9000 requirements. 'The benefits of incorporating ISO requirements into existing processes rather than [doing it] the other way round minimise the need to change documentation when ISO 14000, TQM or Business Process Re-engineering are introduced because they are also based on a process approach,' she said. By working with people involved in the process on an individual basis, the need for management to be tied up in team meetings was reduced. 'This allows them to continue with the daily business of running the company,' Ms Chambre said. Since ISOtec was established in Hong Kong in 1992, the company had helped more than 100 firms achieve ISO 9000 certification and had conducted many TQM assessments and management training courses. Clients ranging from construction project management, civil engineering and property management to corporate services have all passed the ISO certification audit at the first attempt. 'We like to practise what we preach,' Ms Chambre said. ISOtec achieved ISO 9000 certification 21/2 years before any other Hong Kong consultant. The company has recently been audited for ISO 14000 certification (which meets ISO environmental requirements), is piloting an 'Investors in People' programme and is preparing for health and safety certification based on an overseas standard.