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 Sometimes the sync isn’t as fast as I would like, so I would risk the spreadsheet getting out of date or corrupted.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.
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!
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.
I recently heard a great story about a man with a hammer… bear with me as I have a more up-to-date version.
The story starts with a submarine captain. His submarine is broken. This is a big problem. The submarine had a large crew. Every day that he was stuck in dock would cost a lot of money. Not only that, but he had a mission to complete. He was desperate to get going again. He asked around the docks and could not find anyone to fix his craft.
Eventually, his first officer managed to find an old chap with a hammer. The captain was sceptical, but invited the man aboard. He went straight down into the engine room. The man looked at all the pipes, took out his hammer, tapped a pipe and the submarine sprang back into life. The captain was overjoyed. He asked the man to invoice him. The invoice was immediately produced: £2,002.
The captain was staggered and challenged the man.. why so much money? All you did was tap a pipe it only took a few seconds.
The man patiently explained: Cost of tapping the pipe £2. The thirty years learning where to tap the pipe – £2,000.
A client of mine has been trying to integrate their website and their email and their CRM system. So far they have worked their way through 3 volunteers. The volunteers were great people, but they did not have the experience and knowledge necessary. They had not put in the time to build up the certifications, the years building up experience (through mistakes as well as successes). Although the volunteers were committed, they did not have all that experience and all those certifications.
The lack of functionality has cost their organisation dear… possibly thousands in lost donations, wasted time, etc.
When they came to us, we were quickly able to see the issues and get everything working closely together.
Like the man with the hammer we then have to send in our bill. Although it is not free, it will save them thousands. We are not ‘cheap’, but we try to offer great value.
Let us help you!
Back in 2015, I wrote a short article about Breadwinner and how this amazing product was integrating all of our Xero accounts into Salesforce. It seems to have made our lives so easy for so long. All our contacts in our accounting software match up EXACTLY with our Salesforce contacts. In that time it has been great to see Breadwinner continue to develop and add new features. At the time I said that Breadwinner was so good that it was a reason to purchase Salesforce.
If you were a Netsuite user, you had no such luck. You were left out in the cold with not proper 2-way integrations between your accounts/ERP and your Salesforce. Similarly, getting information from your Stripe account into Salesforce was ‘difficult’.
TODAY, I have heard that all that has changed.
Breadwinner is also launching integrations to connect Salesforce to Stripe, and another one to integrate Netsuite with Salesforce.
Breadwinner has brought out an integration for Netsuite. That has to be big news – your CRM and your Accounts/ERP package talking to each other. Using all the power of Salesforce reporting to give a real insight into how your business is doing.
Stripe talking with your Salesforce has to be big news, too! (But I am still more excited by the Netsuite news.)
So, what are you waiting for? I have always found Breadwinner to be super helpful, so why not find out more from the links.
Salesforce to Stripe, and integrate Netsuite with Salesforce.
Has your synchronisation between Salesforce and Eventbrite been abandoned?
Occasionally, we have to claim our bragging rights. We do a lot of work with charities – more than 50% of our Salesforce work is with charities, but it is not all directly with Salesforce.
We (safely) unleash data you hold in one system and move it over to another system controlled by you.
What is the benefit?
Well suppose you have lots of events running on Eventbrite and you want to grab that data and put it in your Salesforce org.
In other words, you have lots of people who are interested in you and your products – they have attended your events – and you want to convert them into customers. Their data is TRAPPED in one system (in this case Eventbrite). You need it in Salesforce so that you can put it to work.
There are a number of ways of doing this. Most of them are half-hearted. A year or two after they have been written, they are abandoned. We are able to do reliable, repeatable synchronisations. Our tools are never ‘abandon-ware’.
Our Eventbridge has been continually developed over four years, through API and data requirement changes.
It has allowed our clients to revolutionise their conversions. It could for you.