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How do you feel about spreadsheets? Are you a fan or do they fill you with dread?

This week my guest on the podcast is Alison Pollecutt of Excel Confidence. Alison believes that spreadsheets are a vital tool for any business owner and it’s her mission to demystify spreadsheets for them. In this episode, we’ll talk about how spreadsheets can really help your business. We’ll cover how to get started, what you can do with them, and the different ways they can open up possibilities for you.

I’ve always used spreadsheets for keeping track of things, but Alison has shown me how I can use them even more effectively. No matter if you’re already a fan of spreadsheets or not, Alison will share how you can learn more about your business by setting up some simple systems and keeping track.

  • An introduction to herself and her businesses (02:04)
  • The versatility of spreadsheets (02:43)
  • Excel and Google Sheets are both forms of spreadsheets (05:33)
  • Using a spreadsheet as a CRM  (06:33)
  • Turning data into easily digestible visual information (08:24)
  • Using spreadsheets to track things like your hours, mileage, expenses (11:00)
  • Using spreadsheets to work out which channels to prioritise for social media (13:02)
  • Using spreadsheets to plan your social media (14:36)
  • How spreadsheets save time and reduce the feeling of overwhelm (15:10)
  • Using spreadsheets to track stock for retail and wholesale (19:30)
  • Using spreadsheets to help work out your pricing and margin for products (23:18)
  • Using spreadsheets for stock control (25:40)
  • Downloading data from platforms like Shopify into a spreadsheet (26:49)
  • Empowering you to understand spreadsheets so you can build your own (29:29)
  • How to get more confident with using spreadsheets (34:02)
  • Her number one piece of advice on using spreadsheets (36:30)

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Transcript
Vicki Weinberg:

Welcome to the bring your product idea to life podcast. This is the podcast for you if you're getting started selling products or if you'd like to create your own product to sell. I'm Vicki Weinberg, a product creation coach and Amazon expert. Every week I share friendly practical advice as well as inspirational stories from small businesses. Let's get started. Hello. So today on the podcast, I'm really excited to introduce you to Alison Pollecutt. So Alison believes that spreadsheets are a vital tool for any business owner and it's her mission to demystify spreadsheets for them. So this was a really interesting episode. I came across Alison online and was really fascinated by what she does and her enthusiasm for all things spreadsheets. And I invited her on to talk to us about how using spreadsheets can help a product's business, how you can start using them, what kind of things you can do on a spreadsheet. And it really opened my eyes genuinely to all the possibilities. Um, I love spreadsheets, but mainly for just tracking things myself. And Alison made me realize actually I could be making them work for me a lot better than I am currently. And, um, I'm really excited to actually do some of the things that Alison speaks about in this episode for myself. So whether you are a fan of spreadsheets or not, Alison explains the kind of things that you can find out about your business just by setting up some systems and, you know, keeping track. And I think this is, you know, really invaluable episode for everyone to listen to. And I honestly believe that even if you only just start using one spreadsheet to track one thing, um, that would just be the start. And then there'll be just, you know, the opportunities are going to open up for you. Alison definitely had me convinced that this is a really useful tool. So I would love now to introduce you to Alison. Hi Alison, thank you so much for being here.

Alison Pollecutt:

Hi, thanks very much for inviting me. It's lovely to meet you.

Vicki Weinberg:

Can we start if you please give an introduction to yourself, your business and what it is that you do.

Alison Pollecutt:

So yeah, my name is Alison Pollecutt. My business is called Excel Confident and it's called that because I love spreadsheets and I would love all business owners to feel confident using spreadsheets because I think they're an amazing tool for any business owner. And what I do is I build spreadsheets for people. I help people where they're stuck with spreadsheets, but I love the bit I love most is actually showing people how they can get the most out of a spreadsheet and how it can really help them in their business in ways they probably don't even realize are possible.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, thank you so much. Oh, I've got so many follow up questions, Alison. I'm wondering where to start. Thank you. There's so much we can talk about today. So, let's start with... Why you love spreadsheets so much. Um, tell us, yeah, why you love them, why you like using them and how you feel they can help a small business. And I know that's a big question.

Alison Pollecutt:

So I think there are, there are, you're right. It is a, it's a big question because there are so many things that spreadsheets can be used for. I mean, I kind of, I tell people they're a bit like the Swiss army knife on your computer, they're incredibly versatile. Um, and, and, you know, there are lots of things that spreadsheets can be used for that I don't even go near. I don't do any kind of scientific analysis or financial forecasting. They're great for stuff like that. If that's what you do, the bits that I do most of, the bits that I love working with people on is helping, helping people understand how spreadsheets are a brilliant tool to keep you organized. So, you know, for example, you've got a whole list of things and the spreadsheet tells you the bits you need to do rather than you having to eyeball it and say, oh, mass of information, what am I looking for? But also things like metrics. So, um, I love, I love working with people and showing them how they can get more out of the data in their business. So, you know, for example, the small business owners will generate data, whether we use it or not, whether we know much about it or not, but it's such a critical tool for allowing us to be able to make good decisions. So, you know, if we've got data and we can see what's going on in our businesses, you know, we can plan to do more of the things that are working, but maybe do less of the things that are not or tweak the things that are not to see whether we can help, uh, you know, if they can help us and do things, you know, work things in a different way. So I think metrics particularly are the things that I think are really powerful, and I love showing people how they could take their data and you know, do something with it they didn't even know was possible and easy even. So, um, yeah, organization and metrics are my favorite things. I use them for all sorts of things though. Um, yeah, just hugely versatile tool.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really interesting because I think historically, I think spreadsheets have been thought of something to track numbers on. So maybe your finances, for example, is probably a good, you know, I think, I don't know how long back we're going, but I think that's all spreadsheets used to be. Certainly, weren't they just a place to put your numbers and maybe track sales and that kind of thing. And I know that it's what you can do now has grown so much. Um, it would be really interesting to actually get some examples of things you can do and see on a spreadsheet, because I think again, people think of spreadsheets as thinking of columns and columns of numbers. What, um, are there, how else can you view a spreadsheet other than a column of numbers? And what are some of the, what are some of the things you can do and see on them?

Alison Pollecutt:

So, um, so actually, I think probably one of the things that's useful to, to sort of, I guess, by way of a little bit of an introduction, because you're absolutely right. People think, you know, it's for your accounts. I'm not, I don't have an accountancy background. While I do use spreadsheets for my own numbers, it's not something I tend to work with people too much on. But, um, I'm just going to do a little bit of a, uh, I suppose explain something because you talk about spreadsheets. My business is Excel Confident. Um, I've had a number of people where they say, well, what's the difference between Excel and a spreadsheet? And actually, Excel is a spreadsheet. So in the same way that you talk about Hoover or Dyson, and they're a vacuum cleaner, Google Sheets and Excel are both forms of spreadsheets. So basically, spreadsheet is the general term, and Excel or Google Sheets, as an example, is the brand name, if you want to think of it like that.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah.

Alison Pollecutt:

So if I talk about excel or spreadsheets. It's kind of the same thing. It's just specific, um, specific piece of software being a version of a spreadsheet. So, um, so yeah, you're right. So spreadsheets. Yes, they kind of can look quite dull. They can look quite, um, information heavy. So you've got lots of data. You've got these columns of numbers. And, oh, now, how do I make sense of that? And I think that, uh, the way that you can get real value out of it is doing a number of things that help you interpret those numbers. So when we talk organization, for example, um ,let's, let's imagine, um, simple CRM system. So I've, I've shown people how to do this kind of thing, whereas a small business owner, you get, you talk to people, maybe there's an opportunity for you to work with them. Um, maybe there's some, some conversations that you're starting to have and you want to just track what's going on with those potential leads. So you need to capture their data. You need to know who they are. You need to know how to, you know, maybe like a mobile number, email address, that kind of thing. And then maybe you want to follow up in a week or follow up again in three weeks. So whatever, whatever your, your kind of, you know, your, your flow looks like. And instead of having to sort of put that information in a spreadsheet and then think, oh, I've just got to have a look at that. Which one, which one am I looking for? You can use the spreadsheet to make those numbers a lot easier. So let's, let's make the ones that were interesting to us pop out. So for example, you can use tools that are called, for example, conditional formatting that will allow you to see, uh, you know, if you know that you've got to follow people up by email, you can put the data in and it will tell you which ones you need to follow up today because it will highlight for you. Um, or you can, you can highlight the ones that you're due to do tomorrow so you can see what's, what's coming down the pipeline and what you need, what you need to plan the timing for. So it's not just data, it's making the data easier to understand for you and making it a lot less, um, I guess it's time consuming, just making it easier to pinpoint the information that's important for you. Um, you can filter that data so you can, you know, if you've got a hundred rows, but actually you're looking for one particular piece of information, then you can take that information and you can use a filter to narrow it down to only show the bits that are important. So again. You're not overwhelming your brain with all the information that's not relevant to what you're looking for. It makes it easier to understand. Um, but then with the metric side of it, you can take the, again, that data, and I like to talk about it as turning data into information. So data is, is, you know, you can't really look at it and get any sense of it because often there's a lot of it and it looks a little overwhelming. But as soon as you take that and you turn it into to, uh, graphs so that you can see maybe progress over time, what your sales look like over time, uh, you know, those kinds of things where you're turning it into something that's a picture and that it shows you something that's a lot easier to see visually, then that's the kind of, uh, that's the kind of power that you get from the spreadsheet.. Showing you the information, but then actually allowing you to turn it into something that's meaningful. And I like to, to show people how you can set things up so that, you know, this, this week you've got your data that you've recorded, it turns it into a graph. And then as you add more information to it, maybe you're downloading it from your, from a website, if it's a product sales, for example or you're just adding manually your, your leads, your potential, potential opportunities on there, then you don't have to sort of keep thinking, oh, right, I've got to put that in the graph. We're going to put that in the graph. You set it up in such a way that it will do it for you. And once it's done, once it's there, once it's in place it just kind of makes your life easy. So, instead of spending a lot of time working out how to make, how to wrangle that data into a shape that helps you to, to see what's going on, you don't have to wrangle it at all. It just does it for you, and you can spend all that time doing the useful analysis. And that's the, that's the power of it, I think. It's being able to take the information that's there, take the data that's there. And using it to actually help you make decisions and be strategic within your business.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. Thank you so much. That really helps. Because I think, and what I'm getting from you, Alison, is that it feels like you can really make spreadsheets work for you.

Alison Pollecutt:

Absolutely.

Vicki Weinberg:

So yeah, it sounds like, yeah, that they can be really fair. I mean, I use spreadsheets. For lots of different things. I've, I use Google sheets and although mine are very basic, um, but I do quite like putting things in boxes for of organizing things, but I'm sure I could be doing much cleverer things. Um, but I guess it sounds like a lot of it is in the setup. So having your sheet set up so that it works for you, um, to help us. You know, get, get some ideas because I'm sure that, I mean, I'm definitely listening to this thinking, wow, there's probably so much I could be doing, but I just don't know what, are you able to please give us some ideas, perhaps how you use spreadsheets in your own business or examples of clients you've worked with and how they've used them just to give some, you know, just to get some ideas of how we could be using them as well.

Alison Pollecutt:

Sure, absolutely. So, um, one, there's a spreadsheet that I. It's pretty much open on my computer all the time. Every day, first thing I do is go in and I put in the hours that I've started, or the hours that I'm working, or the hours that I've started working. So, as a self employed person, there are lots of things I need to track, so I need to, um, and this is all to do with kind of, you know, the really exciting subject of self assessment. Um, but I, I, I track my hours, I track my mileage, uh, I track any meals that I'm claiming. So everything that I do, I usually do it and think, what did I do yesterday? But everything I track. It helps me when I have to come to, to, you know, work out what I'm claiming, work out how I'm, I'm doing my self assessment because I'm doing it as I go along and it's really easy. And then the spreadsheet has all the information in quite a detailed format. But what then happens is at the end of the year, it's really easy to, to, to add all that up. And it makes that job of, you know, what does, what, what, what do these numbers need to look like when I do my self assessment? It makes it really easy to get them because I've tracked them as I've gone along. So that's something I do every day. It's a little routine that just keeps me on track and just makes my life easier at that point of the year when I think, right, I've got to do this piece of work.

Vicki Weinberg:

You must really thank yourself for doing that every year when it comes to filing your self assessment. Are you so proud of yourself?

Alison Pollecutt:

I'm very proud of myself.

Vicki Weinberg:

Brilliant.

Alison Pollecutt:

I mean, I will be honest, there are things I do, and this is a good example where I've probably. Okay, let's, let's call it, I probably over engineered it. I mean it doesn't have to be complicated. I've made it complicated. The reason I've probably made it more complicated than it needs to be is actually because it's like, it's testing my skills. I think, oh, I wonder if I can do that. And then, and then I, I try and do, try and accomplish the difficult thing purely because it, it makes me better at what I do and helps me when I need to do some work for other people. But I am, I just make my life so easy and I'm very grateful, yeah, that future Alison will thank me when I've done all that work. So that's, that's probably the first thing every morning that I go in and I have a look at that. But then the CRM system, so a simple CRM, I've got that information and not only do I, I have details of people I've spoken to when I need to follow up with them, and it helps me by highlighting that, but what I can also see is where I found those people from. So, for example, if I've met someone networking, if it's somebody that's made an enquiry via, say, LinkedIn or other social media. If it's been a referral, I track all that information and what's really useful about that is I can then see where the, you know, which channels are actually working for me. So, as an example, um, networking is great. You spend money on going to networking meetings, but I can see my return on investment there because I know what I've spent on networking. I also know the clients that have come via networking referrals. What I've also learned is that although I post tips on Instagram, and I don't spend a lot of time on Instagram to be fair, but I don't really get any, um, you know, nothing comes through Instagram, probably because I'm not prioritizing that as a channel. So it's not somewhere that I'm going to necessarily devote a lot of time. So I can see this is great. This is an opportunity to, you know, to sort of, um, uh, grow my audience via networking and also LinkedIn, for example. But this over here is something that I'm not going to at this stage in my, in my business devote a lot of time to, because I know that it's not necessarily, um, you know, bringing me the return. So that those kinds of things are also very useful I guess, again, from a strategic point of view, understanding what works good, works well for me in my business. Um, I, uh, I use spreadsheets for social media, so, you know, we're all, we're all marketing ourselves, aren't we? We're all sort of doing, whether it's social media or blogs, all those kind of things. And I will have a, I have a spreadsheet that shows me. Uh, you know, what am I going to do this week or for the next few weeks? What have I written content for? So where am I in the process? Is it created? Is it published? Uh, I've got something that will show me when I've published it, it will, um, hide it for me so that it's no longer visible and distracting because I can filter that information out. And I think the, the, probably a lot of this is it ultimately, I know it will save me time. So you're right. You talked about the setup and how that can, uh, you know, that's really valuable. And it is because I spend time making these things work the way I need them to. And then I can be freed up to spend the time on the things that are important. So I don't have to worry about, you know, getting to the point where I need to do my self assessment and think, well, how many, how many miles did I drive in the last year that are business miles? Uh, oh, I've done my, you know. I've done my, um, uh, social media. I don't need to worry about that one. That one's all set up and published. I can, I can forget that and focus on something else that's then the future, the new thing I need to think about. So it saves me time and it really stops my brain getting overwhelmed with all the things that we all need to do on a regular basis.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I can totally see that. And I also really liked what you were saying about tracking and where your leads come from. So whether it's LinkedIn or Instagram or networking and actually been able to say I've spent this much on networking, but I've got this many clients through it because that's the sort of data where, um, if you ever work with, I don't know, maybe you work for a business coach or maybe you sit down at the end of a year and you review, how's my year been and what's worked and what hasn't worked, often most of us and I include myself in this, just don't have that data. If you said to me now, where do you get most of your clients from? I could tell you what I think, but I don't have the data and I've listened to you talk and I'm thinking that's so valuable and actually that's something I probably need to start doing because yeah, it's some of, some of these things, I guess they're very, well, I'm not sure they're not simple. I'm sure it obviously takes work to set these sort of systems up, but I guess once you have them, they're probably fairly easy to maintain, but they're just so valuable because often there are things in our businesses that all of us, I think don't know. You know, there's probably plenty of things you could ask me right now and I'd go, um, and I'd have to spend half a day you know, looking into things, whereas it seems like tracking things in the moment. I'm sure there is time involved in the setup, but I can't imagine it takes much time on a day to day basis to just put things into a sheet.

Alison Pollecutt:

No, you're absolutely right. And that is the key thing. So the way that I tend to explain it to people is that, you know, you, you could, the numbers, the numbers are, you know, every project's different. The numbers are a bit arbitrary, but you know, do you want to spend two hours setting something up or even 30 minutes setting something up and then spend you know, 30 minutes every Monday morning, putting your data in, or do you want to spend five hours setting something up and you spend two minutes every Monday morning, putting your data in or looking at your data, and then actually all that extra time that you would have been spending putting it all together. You've got the time to use it for the analysis. But yeah, once it's set up, just setting things up properly. update it while it's fresh in your mind, update it while it's not something that you're kind of having to go back over all your old diaries and think, well, what did I do? Where did I go? What, what did I write? What was that note that I've put in and I can't understand it anymore. So it does make life easier for you in the future for sure. And, um, you know, I think things like, uh, things like having a, uh, a way of tracking data in your business. I tend to find that people don't know what's possible. I show them what's possible on a, you know, with some simple examples that work for their business. And generally the people that I work with, I tend to find that the more they know, the more they get excited about what it does for them. And the more they want to know I've done it myself. You create something, you think, oh, I just need this information. And then the more you use it, the more you think, oh, what about that piece of information? Oh, what about that piece? And it, it just escalates because it's so useful. And you realize how it's benefiting your decision making in your business and you want more of it. So I don't know, it makes me sad. It makes me sound like I'm pushing some kind of truck, but it is, it's really exciting to think, wow, I know things that I didn't know. And It's, it's helping me to, to, to be strategic and move forward in a more structured way.

Vicki Weinberg:

I think that totally makes sense. And yeah, I've got a few more questions. I'll say, I'll ask the questions that's on the tip of my tongue now, and then I'm going to come back and ask for some more examples. So is something that, that maybe you can do for people that people can do as spreadsheets that is, if that you have some sort of problem, um, I'll give, I'll give an example. I'm not saying you need to have a solution for this, but say for example, I have clients who send stock into Amazon for them to fulfill. And a big question I get is how much stock should I send in and how often that's the question people will ask me. And, um, often I say, okay, well you need to be tracking how much you're selling and, you know, what your sell free rate is and. Things like that. So taking that as an example, is that the sort of thing where if someone came to you and said, this is my problem, they can set up a sheet that will help them figure that out? Is that the kind of thing you can do with spreadsheets, I guess, is what I'm trying to ask?

Alison Pollecutt:

Absolutely. I mean, I, funnily enough, I have, I have, I have something that does exactly that. I've solved, I've solved the problem funnily enough. No, it's, it's absolutely the kind of thing a spreadsheet is helpful with. Um, so I also, my main businesses is with helping people with spreadsheets, but I do run a business with a friend where we have a craft business. So we do sell physical product and, you know, service based and product based businesses have some similarities, but they also have some big differences as well. And stock is quite a critical one. So what I do in that business, because we wholesale and, and retail, uh, I have a, a, a a spreadsheet that shows me for all of our different products with all the different Q codes, it shows me, um, what, uh, what the current stock levels are. Uh, we sell via our website. So every, every week I download the information that that shows us the sales on that. I plug that into my spreadsheet. And then it shows me what the, what the current, what the new stock levels are. But critically, because I'm collecting that data over time, what I can then do is on a weekly basis, I, I run a report or I, you know, I run a, a query that shows me what my last 12 weeks of, it could be whatever, but my last 12 weeks of stock usage were for each product. And then balancing that against the current stock, I can predict what might be necessary for the next 12 weeks. Now, obviously things like seasonality, we have products that are Christmas related, Easter related. So, you know, it's not always, um, uh, you know, the last 12 weeks doesn't always accurately predict the next 12 weeks, but it certainly gives you an idea of what's, what's useful. And it starts to then, because you're looking at a period of time, which is quite, you know, 12 weeks is quite a reasonable length of time. It starts to then show you where maybe sales are going up on a weekly basis because the product is new and becoming popular, or maybe they're going down because maybe it's less, less popular or isn't something that's, you know, that's selling as well. So it does help to smooth out those kind of spikes of, of where something might have suddenly, you know, you put a social media post out and all of a sudden everybody wants it. So yeah, exactly that kind of thing. It's really useful to help us a bit of a predictor of, well, this is what that period looked like. This is what the next, you know, X number of weeks might look like as well. And yeah, it's, um, it's a really useful process to be able to, to help you understand what might be, you know, what you might be looking at.

Vicki Weinberg:

That makes real sense. Thank you so much for that example. Um, I knew you'd have a solution. I also think that that, I guess the historical data is quite useful as well, because presumably you can look back at say the Christmas periods last year and say, okay, what, what were my best sellers last year? What so yeah, what sold really well, or, you know, things like that to kind of make predictions for future years as an example, I would imagine that that's something that if you know how you can, you can do all kinds of things. That and that's really, that's really clever that you can do all of that on a spreadsheet. I have to say, this is blowing my mind a little bit. Um, what are some other ways that product businesses, especially in your experience, so running craft business, what are some other things that product businesses specifically can do on spreadsheets?

Alison Pollecutt:

So, um, I think one of the, one of the things that's very, uh, very applicable to product based businesses and particularly where, as a business, you might be making something. So I, I mean, my, my business, we, we'd make embroidery kits, but, uh, I tend to use the example of candle making as a, as a, as a, an example when I talk to people. And if you make candles, there are certain things that you're going to need, um, you're going to need, like, you're going to need wax, you're probably going to need oils. Um, that, you know, create a beautiful smell. You're going to need wicks. You're going to need a container to keep it in. You possibly need a box. So there's lots of components and, and obviously all these things that, you know, you have to price for your time if you're going to run a business that's going to pay you, you know, pay you some money. So, um, pricing models are a great example of how spreadsheets can be helpful. So for example, you can have a list of all the different components that you might have. So it doesn't matter whether, you know, glass jars come as a unit. You've got one or two or three or a hundred or however many in stock. Some things like wicks would probably equally come like that, but you might have things that come in, you know, liquid form or so they're in volume or they're in, um. I don't know, let's say you have tissue paper and you cut that up and you wrap your candle nicely, whatever that might look like. So you can have those kinds of things as a, a master list of all the things that are component parts for your, for your item or whatever you're making. And then you can, uh, you can decide how many of those things go into each product. So one wick, one glass jar, however much wax, uh, etc. Plug that into your spreadsheet with your prices from your master list and it will tell you how much the individual components cost. You can put your time in. You can work out how much you spend, you know, time you spend putting, making the, making the product and packaging the product and making it all lovely so that you're ready to, to ship it out to somebody who buys it. And then you can see what your margin is. So for product based businesses, particularly small businesses that are making their own, it's a really great tool to be able to help you with pricing, because at least, you know, that your starting point to cover your costs looks like this. And then obviously it's what, what value you're adding as well. It's not just necessarily, oh, you know, twice, twice as much as the right price. Then that becomes a little bit of a, uh, an equation that you need to work out how you price your, you know, you price the value that you add. But those kinds of things for product based businesses are just so useful. Um, yeah, stock control is, is, is another really good one. Um, at the moment we're, um, we're in a period where we're, we're we have a festive cross stitch advent calendar that we send out, and I have a huge list of people that have bought them, and some people have bought one, some people have bought more than one, some people have bought other products to go with it, so I'm using a spreadsheet to help me manage what that looks like when we send it out, so I make sure that I've got, got that to help me, uh, send the right products to the right people. And another example is that people have bought them as a gift. So we'll put a little note in to say, this is by, you know, gift to you from this person. And I know that because the billing and shipping name are different. So I can tell from things like that. My website doesn't really highlight that for me. The spreadsheet is something I can set up to highlight that perfectly. So it's helping me to do a better job of customer service as well and be a little bit more personalized. So it feels more, um, you know, kind of a nicer experience for the person who receives it at the end of the, you know, at the end of the day.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really helpful. Thank you. Thank you for all of those examples. And can, um, can you automate things like for example, data from other places going into spreadsheets, or does it always have to be something you manually input?

Alison Pollecutt:

You, so there's. The answer to that unfortunately is it depends. So you can, there are, there are ways that you can connect from your spreadsheet into a platform, for example, uh, you know, Shopify or Wix or WordPress or something like that, which ultimately has a database on the other end of it. So you can, usually you connect to things like that using a, a, a connector that often you, there's a small, there's a, you know, a charge for it from the people that provide it. Anything like that will allow you to download stuff. So for our website, we have a, uh, a WordPress website. I have a, a plugin on it that every Monday morning, it emails me a number of reports that shows me the weekly, the weekly sales. And all I do is I, um, open that up. I copy the data and I put it in my master spreadsheet. So it really is open, copy, paste safe. It's as simple as that. So it's not quite automated, but it's not far off and it's a very simple way of doing it. Um, yeah, there's, there's, there's various different ways that you can do it. Obviously, you know, where, where it's something that isn't that kind of big scale, you might be recording it manually. So, you know, you're potentially, your leads and enquiries that are coming in for service based, but there are different. There are different solutions and it really depends on the person that wants to solve the problem, whether there's a cost involved, how easy they want the process to be for them. Uh, different, yeah, different ways to do things under different circumstances.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. And that, to be honest, that was the answer I was expecting. That it's because it depends on what you want to achieve, I guess, and what's possible and what you say, what the cost implications are on the time and implications are so many variables, but that's really just useful to notice. That's something that people can explore. Um, so how might business get started with spreadsheets? Someone who's listening and is going, Oh, this sounds really good. I could definitely use some spreadsheets. Um, well, like me, for example, where would you, um, how, what's a good way of getting started, Alison?

Alison Pollecutt:

So, um, there's, there's loads of resources out there to help you and to sort of help you with some, some basic training. I, I run some training myself. Um, one of the things that I, uh, that I do is I build, I work with people to build the bespoke solutions for them if that's what they need. But the bit I'm moving towards is actually trying to help people who run a business to do things that allow them to understand how a spreadsheet will help them and, and build a tool that will help them. So. You know, lots of, you could, you could, when I know, when I need to help, when I need some help to figure out something, I'll often Google this function or this particular thing, but it's the putting them together, I think that's quite daunting. So the work that I'm doing is actually building some training so that I can help businesses to say, do you know what? You don't have to know anything about this. You know, if you can spell spreadsheet, they don't, that's not even that important. You know, you don't have to come along with any prior knowledge, but to help people build something fairly simple, like a, a lead tracker, a CRM system that allows them to, um. Figure out what they need, put the, put it together in a, in a structured way where I show them the kind of things that they, uh, that they can do with it that will make their lives easier. And then at the end of it, they have a tool that they've built that they can use in their business, but they've also learned how to put things together. Because I think sometimes it's the, you know, an example of how to use this function or how to use this piece of information or this tool with an Excel or Google Sheets. It's fine, but you sort of need to know how to apply it. So if you don't even know it's there, you don't know what you're looking for, and even if somebody says, oh, go and look at this. If you don't necessarily have a good example of how to work with it, then it's more difficult to understand how you can make it useful for you. And I'd love to show people the how and the why and the how to stick it all together. So, um, those are the kind of things that people could do to get going. Also, I have a Facebook group. So if people wanted to come along to that. There's opportunities to say, Alison, how do you do this? And I have got a couple of things planned where I'm going to show people how to do it so that they can, uh, get some, you know, get some insight into some of the processes that I use. There are a couple of things I've got on the agenda where I'm going to show people how to do something that will make their lives easier. So yeah, but there's lots of, there's lots of people that, uh, that are sharing lots of tips and tricks out there that are really, really helpful, um, and really keen to sort of show people the magic of spreadsheets. I think in some ways there are so many fancy tools out there that spreadsheets almost get to the point where people think, well, that's a bit mundane, that's a bit boring, but actually, you know, learning one tool that you can do so much with is actually more beneficial, I think, than learning multiple different tools that all do something, you know, useful, but they will do them in different places on the Internet or on your computer when you can have everything at your fingertips. So, yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. Thank you. I think that makes sense. Also, I think is if you need, if you build something yourself, you sort of set up your own sheet. You've, I think just gives you a bit more confidence if you know how it works, particularly if something isn't working for you, you want to change something because I've definitely used those, um, sheets before, you know, sometimes you might get them as a free download, a spreadsheet that does something. It's a template and you. It's usually a Google doc and you can fill it in, but nine times out of 10, there's at least something that doesn't work, um, or doesn't work for me because obviously these things are quite generic and then it's, um, knowing how to change it or having the confidence to, to mess around with it as it were. Um, I think if you've built your sheet yourself for what you need, I think that must, yeah, I can see that's quite empowering actually, because then if you want to add in more data or look at something a different way, hopefully you'll sort of be able to do that.

Alison Pollecutt:

Absolutely. And I think that, you know, you're absolutely right. Templates are a great thing if you want something that, that does one job for you. But yeah, to go back to the point I made about as soon as people get a bit of data, they want more and more and more because they realize the value of it. Exactly that. If it doesn't do quite what you want, and you don't know how to make it do what you want, then you're either in the realms of downloading something else and updating two things, or you don't have the means to be able to collect that information and help yourself and your business.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, thank you. And something else I picked up on that you said as well as talking about knowing what you, what you want from the spreadsheet. And I guess that's also really key, isn't it? To know either what it is you want to achieve or what it is you want to track. It's probably a really good starting point to figuring out how to go about it.

Alison Pollecutt:

Absolutely. Um, I mean, yeah, it's, it's, it's definitely useful to know what you want to do, but that evolves over time. Your knowledge of what's possible evolves over time. And rather than, uh, yeah, that's where I think that having a bit of knowledge and being able to build on it and a bit of understanding of data and how to build on that is, is just. It's a bit like we do lots of things, don't we, as business owners, where we, um, you know, we, we have to learn something because it's critical to us to be able to, to, to, you know, achieve something in our business. And we don't know what we don't know to start with, but the more we do, the more we get, get better at it. And the more we gain confidence in it, and the more we can, we can kind of do things a lot quicker. And I think spreadsheets are no different. I think they can be, they can sound quite daunting to people and they think, oh, God, you know, it looks like a really scary tool when you first look at it and you don't know. But actually just knowing a few things and being able to use them well just helps us to, to gain that little bit of confidence to, to, to try a bit more and to learn a bit more and to understand a bit more of what it can do to help us and how they can make our lives even easier.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really helpful. Thank you. And I guess also maybe knowing the why you want to track something too, because I can, you know, I could imagine that you could very easily get carried away and have spreadsheets, all sorts of things. So I guess keeping track of why you're recording something is also quite useful.

Alison Pollecutt:

Yeah. I mean, I, you can probably imagine I've got spreadsheets all over the place with all sorts of doing all sorts of things for me.

Vicki Weinberg:

But then I think if you, again, if you enjoy it, then, you know, that's a good enough reason.

Alison Pollecutt:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, yeah, I'm not going to pretend I don't run my life on spreadsheets because I do. But, you know, it definitely, I think it's definitely helpful to be, I like being organized and it's the way my, my, you know, the way that my brain operates. But yeah, it's a really useful thing to have, you know, things that I don't have to think about too much because the spreadsheets keep me on track.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense. And, you know, as we've been talking, I've been thinking about all of the things that I track on spreadsheets already, and, um, yeah, I'm thinking there must be ways to make them work for me a bit better than they already do. As I said, I think I just like the fact of putting things in boxes and lines and columns, but yeah, I might have to have a chat with you about how I can actually make some of this work for me.

Alison Pollecutt:

Sure.

Vicki Weinberg:

So thank you so much for all that you've shared, Alison. Um, what, before we finish, what would your number one piece of advice be on whether it's Excel or spreadsheets in general? What's the one thing you'd like people to know?

Alison Pollecutt:

I think I would say, don't be scared. Just have a go. Um, you know, it's, I suppose going back to the point I just made, there are. You open up a blank spreadsheet and it might look really scary and look really daunting. Of course, all these buttons to press, all these things I don't understand. Um, I don't understand all of them. I'm not going to pretend I know every single function that there is in Excel because I don't. But I do know the ones that are important. For me for as a business owner, and I know the things that I use all the time. So honestly, there are probably, um, probably about 20 things that I use all the time. And there are probably 500 things that I either never use or use very infrequently. So you don't need to know a huge amount to get a really decent amount of value out of using a spreadsheet. So just start. And again, I suppose the thing I said before, we all, we all sort of start off doing things in a, maybe a simple way. And, you know, we do, we learn what we need to learn to, to, to, you know, carry out whatever tasks we need to carry out in our business. But if you do that with a spreadsheet, you might find that you think, oh, that actually, that wasn't as hard as I thought. So. You know, if you do some simple things and they help you, perfect. If you do some simple things and they intrigue you and you think, oh, I want to know more. What else can I do with this? Then that's even better because then that's kind of started you on a journey, which is, I guess, my journey. I've, I've, pushed and pushed and pushed to see what I can learn because I think it's a, uh, because I've enjoyed the process of learning. But yes, don't be scared. Just start. Just have a go. Um, maybe just kind of find some people that can, that can help you and, and, and share a few really simple ways to get going. And then, you know, your imagination will probably run riot and you'll think, huh. Maybe I can, maybe I can do this, that and the other and it, it will just help you so much, I think.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's brilliant advice. Thank you so much, Alison. And I'm going to link to your website in the show notes as well, so people can come over and see more about you and how you can help people.

Alison Pollecutt:

Thank you.

Vicki Weinberg:

Well, thank you so much.

Alison Pollecutt:

It's been lovely to talk to you. Thank you so much for, for letting me have a chat with you about spreadsheets. Uh, and yeah, I've really enjoyed it.

Vicki Weinberg:

You're welcome. I've really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for listening right to the end of this episode. Do remember that you can get the full back catalogue and lots of free resources on my website vickyiweinberg. com. Please do remember to rate and review this episode if you've enjoyed it and also share it with a friend who you think might find it useful. Thank you again and see you next week.