The Queen's Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) team supports the University’s strategic goal to build community partnerships and fully embed Queen’s in the community. With support from external funding, the QPI team offers numerous services, resources, and programs to support entrepreneurs, including those from Queen’s, and to accelerate the growth of startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within Kingston and Eastern Ontario. The University is receiving federal funding from the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, which helps to address gaps and build capacity in the entrepreneurship ecosystem for women. Led by QPI, the WE-CAN (Women Entrepreneurs Can) Project inspires and empowers existing and aspiring women-identifying entrepreneurs by providing them with tools, resources, expert mentors, networks and community building to expand existing businesses and to launch new ventures.

Finding the support and expertise needed to pursue ISO 9001 Certification can be a daunting process. So when Kingston business owner, Kathy Wray, CEO of Southeastern Telecommunication Services, decided it was time to level up her business, she turned to the WE-CAN Project for help.

Fortunately for Wray, the WE-CAN Project was able to match her with Judith Pineault, former CEO of Eastern Fluid Power Inc., a Kingston-based custom manufacturing enterprise. Today Pineault is invested in mentoring other women business owners and leaders as they grow and scale their own enterprises. For the past three years, she has also served as lead mentor for the WE-CAN Project’s PropelHER Program.

“After selling Eastern Fluid Power Inc. in December 2019, I had an opportunity through WE-CAN to help other women founders,” says Pineault. “It’s my way of repaying my own mentor and is immensely satisfying.”

Kathy Wray headshot
Kathy Wray, CEO of Southeastern Telecommunication Services. Photo courtesy of Kathy Wray.

When Wray and Pineault began working together, the two discussed various opportunities to grow and scale Southeastern.

“The PropelHER Program has helped us realize the growth potential and changes we need to make to improve our business,” notes Wray, whose company provides full-service voice and data communications and has been serving businesses in southeastern Ontario for more than 40 years.

One of the opportunities the two discussed was ISO 9001 Certification which refers to the international standard organizations use to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

“ISO certification means a lot to our business, as it is a way to demonstrate that a company has implemented and maintains a quality management system that meets the standards of other companies in the industry,” Wray explains. “This can help with better customer satisfaction, lead to greater efficiency, reduce risks, and ultimately contribute to the success of a business.

Adds Pineault: “Once a business starts to scale, it must become process-driven (as opposed to owner- driven), to achieve optimum growth trajectory. By developing the best possible processes, a business can gain productivity, eliminate errors, empower employees and drive customer satisfaction.”

Implementing a strategy to pursue ISO certification can be a lengthy process. Some of the many stages include: developing a plan that outlines the steps and resources needed to meet the organization’s ISO requirements; completing an assessment of existing internal systems and processes; training personnel on the standards and requirements; implementing necessary changes or upgrades; and preparing for an audit. Once the audit is complete, any identified gaps must be addressed, and a certificate will be issued if the organization has met all the standards. Having a business mentor at her side to walk her through the ISO certification process was invaluable for Wray. “Judith helped us with everything!” she shares. “Her knowledge and experience has helped us to see the value in becoming ISO certified. She clearly explained the process and pushed us to get it done.”

While the process of ISO certification can be demanding, Pineault believes the effort is a worthwhile one for growing companies like Southeastern.

“When a business transitions to process-driven, it has the ability to scale, while allowing the founders to concentrate on the company’s strategic goals,” she observes. “ISO certification also enables employees to excel, customers to be thrilled and the owners to work on their business, not in their business.”

To learn more about Southeastern Telecommunications Services, visit their website.