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In the world of product business, managing inventory, finances, customer relations, and strategic planning can often become overwhelming. Yet, the solution to streamline these aspects might already be at your fingertips—spreadsheets.

This blog post, inspired by a podcast episode featuring Alison Pollecutt, a spreadsheet enthusiast and founder of Excel Confident, delves into the practical applications of spreadsheets for product business owners. Alison passionately believes in demystifying spreadsheets for business owners, enabling them to leverage this tool to its full potential.

Streamlining Operations and Organisational Efficiency

Believe it or not, spreadsheets are capable of performing a variety of functions beyond mere number crunching. Here are some ways you can use them to run your business more efficiently:

1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A simple spreadsheet can track potential leads, recording their contact details and interactions. Utilising conditional formatting and filters can highlight the most urgent tasks, such as follow-ups, making it easier to prioritise your actions.

2 Inventory Management

For businesses dealing with physical products, spreadsheets can be a godsend. They can help you keep track of stock levels, predict future inventory needs based on past sales data, and manage seasonal variations in demand. For instance, a craft business could use spreadsheets to manage stock levels, predict future inventory needs, and analyse sales trends to make informed decisions about product restocking.

3 Financial Planning and Analysis:

Alison herself uses spreadsheets daily for tracking her work hours, mileage, and business expenses, simplifying her self-assessment process.

Beyond tracking expenses and income, spreadsheets can also assist in creating detailed financial forecasts, budgeting, and analyzing profit margins. For example, they can be used to calculate the cost of goods sold (COGS) and determine pricing strategies for your products.

In a different scenario, a candle-making business could use a spreadsheet-based pricing model, entering the costs of materials, labour, and the desired profit margins to determine the selling price of each candle.

Image taking you to podcast image for this blog post

4 Project Management

Organise your business projects, track progress, deadlines, and deliverables all within a spreadsheet. This can help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and your projects move forward as planned.

Taking Action: Implementing Spreadsheet Solutions

1 Start Simple

Begin by identifying a single aspect of your business that could benefit from better organisation or analysis. This could be tracking customer interactions, managing inventory, or financial planning.

2 Learn the Basics

Familiarise yourself with the basic functions of your chosen spreadsheet software, whether it’s Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or another program. Understanding how to use formulas, filters, and conditional formatting can significantly enhance your spreadsheet’s utility. Alison shares lots of useful tips and tricks on her website and Instagram, where she posts a week tip.

3 Customise to Your Needs

Use the spreadsheet to create a system tailored specifically to your business’s requirements. For example, you could set up a CRM that not only tracks interactions but also highlights when a follow-up is due, based on the criteria you define.

4 Analyse Your Data

Once you have collected data, use spreadsheets to analyse and visualise this information. This can help you identify trends, make informed decisions, and strategise more effectively for the future.

5 Refine and enhance

Your needs will evolve as your business grows. Regularly review and update your spreadsheets to ensure they continue to serve you well. Don’t be afraid to add new features or data points as required.

Conclusion

Spreadsheets are a powerful, versatile tool that can help product business owners manage and grow their operations more effectively. By starting simple, learning the basics, and gradually building a system that meets your specific business needs, you can unlock the full potential of spreadsheets.

Remember, the key to success with spreadsheets lies in customisation, analysis, and continuous improvement.

Whether you’re tracking sales, managing inventory, or planning your finances, spreadsheets can provide the insights and organisation needed to make informed decisions and drive your business forward.

You can find out more and listen to the full podcast episode here.

Alison Pollecutt is the founder of Excel Confident, a business named for her passion for spreadsheets and her desire to see all business owners become confident in using them. She believes spreadsheets are an invaluable tool for any business owner. Alison’s work involves building spreadsheets for individuals, assisting those who encounter difficulties with spreadsheets, and, most importantly, teaching others how to maximize the benefits of using spreadsheets in their business. She is particularly passionate about revealing to people the extensive capabilities of spreadsheets and how they can significantly enhance business operations in ways many may not have previously considered possible. You can find out more here, and join Alison’s free Facebook group here.