John Dray (CEO), Author at Cloud Genius Ltd
Spreadsheets are enough for my business – move on

Spreadsheets are enough for my business – move on

Spreadsheets are wonderful. I have a load of them. Everything from personal ones that calculate my kg weight in stones and pounds (apologies to US readers) and my BMI through to things that help me calculate budgets and so on.

I even have transient data in them, when I am doing data imports, etc.

I do not run my business on them.

When I say this to fellow small business owners, I often get the response:

Of course you are against spreadsheets, you use CRMs all day.

I then show them my mastery of spreadsheets. For instance, if you have a first name and last name in one field of a spreadsheet there is a (relatively simple) formula to split them into two cells. I have seen people who live in spreadsheets doing this work manually… for thousands of entries.

I then show them how you can copy this formula to their entire spreadsheet with a few clicks.

To finish, I show them how you can autosize all of the columns in your spreadsheet in one single-click and two double-clicks.

I do not claim this as high-level mastery… but it is often what those same business owners are capable of.

They then show me how they keep all their accounts in a spreadsheet

I know that even in my small business, it causes ‘problems’ if I send out two invoices to different customers with the same number. I often use a laptop on the road and a desktop at home. Sometimes the sync isn’t as fast as I would like, so I would risk the spreadsheet getting out of date or corrupted.

Heaven knows what would happen if I had my accountant accessing it at the same time. (Did you know that AT LEAST as far back as 1995 you can put Excel spreadsheets in ‘multiuser mode’. You lose a few features, but you can safely have multiple people accessing it!)

So, for my accounts I use a simple, online accounting system. It auto-numbers my invoices. It automatically sends out my regular invoices. The data is held securely and, even better, my accountant can access it without bothering me.

People who run their business in spreadsheets are keeping personal data on their PC.

Why would this bother me? Well, I can ethically get into a laptop or PC in a few minutes by bypassing the password. There are legal, ethical tools on the internet to enable this.

I can even do this on enterprise servers. How? Microsoft document this process on their website. It is not illegal (as long as you have permission) and the information is freely available.

I have done this for clients when they were stuck. ‘Breaking into’ a corporate server took me about 15 minutes… and I was being slow and careful.

If I wanted the ‘quick and dirty’ way, I would just take the hard disks out and shove them in my disk reader. A process of a few minutes.

There is a preventative measure you can take and that is to encrypt your hard disks. When I ask small business owners, ‘are your hard disks encrypted’ they tend to look at me blankly. Basically, if they lost their laptop someone could be reading their data in under a minute.

This is the ethical, computer tech way of accessing data.

Cyber-criminals attack your computer while it is switched on. Disk encryption is no protection against this type of attack. For recent attacks most anti-virus/anti-malware software is useless. (With certain caveats.)

That is not to say that disk encryption is useless. It does protect against loss of laptop or theft of desktop in a burglary. I does not protect against many types of malware attack. 

If this is buzzing way above your head already, then you have answered the ‘why’ of why you should not be storing your business data on your local computer. It is a complicated subject and you do not have time in your business to work on this.

I am not here to convince my potential clients away from spreadsheets!

That sounds like a bold claim, but if people are ‘believers’ that a spreadsheet solution is sufficient then I do not have enough breath or, frankly, will to convince them otherwise. Where I have tried that in the past they tend to be suspicious that I am pulling a fast one to get them into a solution that does not involve spreadsheets. Every decision will have to be justified, repeatedly… and their mate down the pub says that I am just scaremongering.

I am fine with that. They are not in the required state of maturity to become clients.

I know that at every stage they will be trying to circumvent the safety measures I put in place. When they go down, they will be trying to bring me down as well. Like a petulant child they will spend their time trying to prove me wrong. Time that I could be using to help them improve their business processes.

Let me be clear:

I am not against people who use spreadsheets. My opinion is that they are not adequate for running a business.

So, I have usability concerns in terms of accounting. I also have security concerns when handling personal data. Frankly, the most compelling argument is that running a business through spreadsheets is so damned difficult. Keeping track of which spreadsheet holds the latest version of what, following arcane copy and paste procedures to create new invoices.

Why do a twenty stage process where any incorrect step can lead to disaster as opposed to a simple, single-click where the computer will hold your hand and guide you?

The point of online accounting and CRM systems is not that they are there to make things difficult. They are there to make things easy. Even for single-person operations this brings benefits that far outweigh their costs. It also means that if/when you sell your business or expand your business you have solid procedures in place that enable collaboration. 

Use spreadsheets to run your business if you want to stay small and vulnerable.

If you have an eye to growth, then you need something better, easier and more robust. You need something that will stand the rigours of due diligence and regulatory compliance. At that stage you need someone to help you take that next step. We are called consultants. When that nagging feeling that using a spreadsheet is not the right tool, come and talk. You will find that we are lovely and helpful. My job is not to convince you that spreadsheets are inadequate. That is your job. 

My job is to help you on your journey into a bigger, brighter world.

Growing the Business in Interesting Times

Growing the Business in Interesting Times

Did you notice that the last 12 months has been interesting? Rather like that curse, may you live in ‘interesting times’.

For me, it has been a time of re-engaging with my lovely, lovely customers. A year ago, I gave up my staff, gave up the office, started working from home (again).

What I realised is that I love being the ‘front-man’ for the business who works with customers and discovers what delights them. I also found out that there is a lot more demand out there than I could satisfy on my own. What to do?

Whatever Cloud Genius is, it is a small business. By that, I don’t mean that it is small-minded. We have our eyes on the stars! What I do mean is that I always want it to have that feeling where you are talking to someone real.

I know that asking you to submit requests through the support@ email has been a challenge, at times, for some. What happens behind the scenes is that it means you get served quicker. It means that subsequent emails you send are grouped together… so that when you ask? What has happened, we know. When we want to look at the issues you have, we know, too. It also paves the way for expansion. You may have noticed the use of the word ‘we’… it has already begun to happen.

In the last year, I have tracked down an excellent recruitment agency. (Believe me, there are lots of bad ones.) I have also begun to engage trusted individuals, who I have worked with over a period of 14 years. These are coming together to increase the capacity of Cloud Genius. At the same time, I don’t want to lose touch with customers.

The challenge: how do we maintain that small business closeness and flexibility, but also expand to give you a better service?

There will be a couple of changes. First, some of those help requests may be dealt with directly by other people.

Second, I am going to start up a ‘Lunch and Learn’ group. We had a trial this month (March 2021). The sharing of information is going to happen monthly, on a Thursday, for 45 minutes at lunchtime. Of course, we will be using Zoom. It gets rid of travel, need to hire venues and gets rid of travel time. These are going to focus on different aspects of Salesforce. You guessed it, the customers get to name the topic. Look out for an email, soon!

This article will also be published on Medium… if you slide over there, you will have an opportunity to comment!

Training on Salesforce for free?

Training on Salesforce for free?

On of the advantages of the current crisis is that it has allowed us to meet virtually, at a moment’s notice.

No travel time. Distance is no longer an object.

It is a tiny sop, out of a global crisis.. but it is very real.
Running on cloud-based technology, my clients have been all around the world. When I spoke of learning, everyone thought of a classroom.

One of the side-effects of the crisis is that people are much more familiar with Zoom. So, now we can bring everyone together in a new and wonderful way. Rather than having to hire a classroom, have everyone travel to the same place AND put on food we can just spend some time together.

I was able to experience this at the first Cloud Genius ‘Lunch and Learn’ event on 11th March.

So, it set my mind thinking… perhaps we could have more of this.

What I am proposing is a monthly Lunch and Learn, where we look at different aspects of Salesforce and learn together.

Expect details to be posted here, soon.

Together, we can make amazing things happen.

A heart to heart – what I learned from Lunch and Learn

A heart to heart – what I learned from Lunch and Learn

One of the mind-games that I play as a business owner is that I am not good enough. That in many ways I have failed each and every client at some point in time. So, asking for a testimonial is only asking for trouble.

This week, I held a ‘Lunch and Learn’. My brilliant business advisor, Kim Jones of HGKC, had suggested this as a way to promote our Event Bridge service. So I sent out the invitations and monitored the bookings on Eventbrite (of course I was using Event Bridge to do this!) Some of the attendees were my existing clients. Some of the attendees were contacts of contacts and some of them were new people who had heard about what we were doing through advertising.

There were several lessons from this:

1) There are clients who are not only willing to attend my events, but are also willing to promote me to prospects

2) I really like my clients and having them all in the same (virtual) room was really enjoyable

3) Yes, we know that word of mouth is the best marketing… but there is nothing to beat that sense of pride when someone you have done work for is willing to put their reputation on the line to promote you to someone else.

So, thank you all!

So, what I have I gained from this?

Well, firstly, I have some great collateral to help explain what I do – both a slide deck and a video. 

I have discovered something about why my clients like me.

I have some hot new prospects.

I have renewed enthusiasm to develop the company. After all, if I can create something that gives people joy, promotes the work of charities and, perhaps, changes the world to be a better place… who wouldn’t want that?

My message to business owners is – get out of your own way and bring your clients together. It is easier than ever with virtual meetings. It gives you a chance to educate them about you and your services.

My message to myself is – this was enjoyable. Perhaps I should run more educational sessions. I enjoy it and, to use an over-used phrase, ‘all ships rise on the tide’.

I feel a change coming on. I have a vision.

I feel a change coming on. I have a vision.

These are odd times.

To say the least.

Many people have been furloughed or wondering what to do with their lives. Will they have a job? Are they happy with the job they have?

With so much spare time, many people have taken this as a opportunity to think about their future.

However, money is scarce.

Many people are choosing to PIVOT to new careers, but budgets are tight.

Part of launching a new business is having a website to go with it… but just getting some hosting and an installation of WordPress is only the start. What about SSL certificates, forms for people to request you contact them, a high quality theme… all those cost money. Then there is the hosting… some is just so slow that you will lose customers.

I saw these problems and came up with a solution.

It is a package with everything you need set up. All you do is give us some text and graphics. We will put them up for you and get you going. At that point you have an amazing website package. When we totted it up, if you purchased it yourself the components would cost £450 per year. That would stretch most starter budgets. As we have mass buying power, we offer it all for £247… and it is all properly configured… and backed up… and the software is regularly updated, minimising data risks. Even if you completely ‘break it’… we can have it back to the previous days configuration in under an hour.

So, you have one fewer thing to worry about.

You save money.

You have a full, working website. (Unlike some other providers who give you a ‘reduced functionality’ website.)

How much?

Just £347 (inc VAT!) per year.

Look at what some of our recent clients have done with it.

 

Your Path . Guru – where Em Melrose will gently help you find Your Path

Ty Llwyd Fach – Socially distanced camping

Perky Wales – Expert counselling from Gwilym Roberts

All of these are on our super-fast hosting.

So, what have you got to lose?

To book yours, go to Pivot Sites – we set it up for tutors, dog groomers and virtual assistants… but so many others are making use of it.

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