Most entrepreneurs and small business owners I encounter these days are struggling to deal with information overload. Specifically, how to keep track of all the moving parts of their business. This gets even more difficult as you grow, hire employees and your business becomes more complicated (and all businesses eventually get more complicated).
For years, I’ve recommended that every company get a small business intranet. However, for some businesses that’s overkill and a simple spreadsheet will do the job of keeping your business organized and information mostly in one place. And yes, a spreadsheet is powerful enough to even run multi-million dollar businesses. After all, most software is just a spreadsheet or database with a fancy interface. For those that prefer an intranet you can basically take every page listed below and create them on your intranet.
With that said, let me introduce you to the My Company Manager Spreadsheet (MCMS). It’s a simple spreadsheet that covers the basics of keeping everything in one place and is infinitely expandable by simply adding other workbooks to the spreadsheet (or linking to other spreadsheets).
The concept is simple: we create a spreadsheet with several workbooks (or tabs as some refer to them) to cover the major areas of any business. You can make this spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel but I recommend using a Google Spreadsheet because 1) it’s accessible from anywhere and any device with just a link and 2) you can share it easily with your team or key employees (or even vendors, etc.). Some business owners may not want to share everything with employees so in that case you can hide worksheets or even make a separate spreadsheet just for the team and one for “management” (or just you).
From there you can customize each workbook to fit your company best. Some good examples of workbooks include:
Dashboard – The ultimate experience would be to get a grasp of your company from one screen. Using a dashboard you can put your mission and big goals on one page as well as any relevant information from the other workbooks. For example, open projects, specific to-dos, announcements or calendar reminders that need to be made, etc.
Strategic Plan – As I wrote in my book Startups Made Simple, every company should have at least a very simple strategic plan, even a one pager is better than nothing. You should indicate where your company wants to be in 10 years or more and then break that down into yearly plans and outcomes. The One Page Strategic Plan is a great tool to get ideas for this worksheet.
People – As your business grows, it will be hard to keep track of everyone or even remember their names. The People worksheet is great for listing them out, their department, location, linking to their personnel files, etc. You can add things like dates hired, dates of their annual review, birthdays, notes and more.
Contacts – Every company deals with vendors and customers and hunting around for their contact info is a waste of time. Put them all in one place (or separate customers out, if, for example, you have many thousands) and make your team’s life easier.
Financials – Do you know your fixed monthly costs – the amount you need to break even to survive? If not, that’s a good place to start on the Financials worksheet. You can add income, inventory, compare quarterly results vs previous years and much more. Basically, figure out the top 3-5 metrics you should be tracking and get them in this section.
Procedures – If there’s one worksheet that will change your business for the better it will be a central place where anyone can find the written procedures for your company. Procedures, as I’ve written about extensively in my book, will not only make your business run better, it will make employees easier to train and ultimately your business easier to run (or sell). In fact, if there’s one worksheet to start with it would be listing and linking up your procedures (again, Google Docs are preferred here). Number them for easy reference and assign a person to be the “owner” responsible for keeping them updated to really supercharge your procedures.
Documents – Where’s the employee manual? Where’s the sales template we use for customer proposals? Corporate America spends something ludicrous like 20% of their day just looking for information like this so we need to list documents and their location in one place. You can then number them, assign an owner and all kinds of cool things once you get them in one place.
Projects/Tasks – There are literally dozens of project and task management software solutions but it truly is hard to beat the raw simplicity of a spreadsheet. You can have columns for due date, assigned employee, link to a document or specs, priority, and more. The possibilities are endless but again the main thing is just to get them listed somewhere so you know what’s going on in the company.
Issue List – In my opinion, the Issue List may be the second most important worksheet after Procedures. The Issue List is basically where you track everything that’s not working optimally or new ideas the team may have. Anyone should be able to submit to it (or you can make an email address to gather this from everyone) and you should review it at every team meeting to discuss and solve issues. Issues can be problems with the company internally, problems customers are having, problems with vendors or anything that is not running optimally. New ideas for products, process updates and more can all be added to the list. I’m telling you, the Issue List will make your company work better, your employees happier and your life easier.
Ideas – If you’re an entrepreneur you’re probably an idea-making machine and can barely keep track of them. In fact you probably drive people crazy with all your ideas so I like to keep them all in one place to let them “percolate” for a bit and see if they make sense before reorganizing your whole company around an off-the-cuff idea you had one night. This is a good place to let your team contribute too. Problems should go on the Issue List but this worksheet is more for any “crazy” ideas you can think of and may want to do at some point.
More ideas – If you do a lot of web research or use a lot of web-based tools a Tools or Bookmarks worksheet might be appropriate. If you have a lot of physical tools or vehicles, you can make various tracking workbooks for those or basically anything. The options really are endless – this is the power of a spreadsheet.
A lot of business problems come from lack of organization and communication. If you can centralize the information and get a handle on all the working parts of your business then a lot of those problems will go away. Even better, if you can start systemizing your business with procedures and fixing problems with tools like an Issue List then you’re not only organizing your company, you’re actively improving it and making it more valuable. Get your My Company Manager Spreadsheet started today.
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 at 9:36 am and is filed under Starting A Business, Small Biz Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.