Excel for Small Business

financial planningAs a small business owner, I’ve tried database programs and special-purpose programs to manage my finances, clients, and jobs, and to plan for the future. They never seem to do exactly what I need. I always fall back on Excel. If you have a special-purpose program that works for you, great! But if you learn a few basic Excel techniques, you can put together a spreadsheet in minutes to give you the answers you need.

Visualize your future

You can build a spreadsheet in minutes to visualize your future–work load, cash flow, profits. Then change your assumptions to see immediately how the outcome will change. Instantly work the problem backwards to see what you need to do to get where you want to be. When will I break even? How big of a loan do I need? How much of a client base do I need to be profitable? Is a particular job worth my time?

Here are the key Excel skills for building a spreadsheet to visualize your future:

  • Goal Seek to work the problem backwards
  • Write formulas by clicking on cells
  • Create names to make formulas easier to read and write
  • AutoFill to clone a formula
  • Build a spreadsheet to visualize your future
  • Play what-if to understand the possible outcomes and what drives them

Here is the key techniques for financial future guide that describes these techniques.

Organize your information

Keep track of finances, tasks, clients, contacts, jobs, invoices – anything you need to manage to make your business succeed. Organize it in a grid, with each row an individual item (e.g. income or expense, client contact) and the columns whatever you care about related to the item. Enter this in whatever order you want. Then sort and filter it depending on your interest at the moment. Create pivot tables to slice and dice and summarize it in whatever way is relevant. The questions you want to ask the data are always changing. Excel gives you the flexibility to change your viewpoint on the fly.

Here are the key techniques for organizing information:

  • Arrange information to make it easy for Excel to find what you need
  • Sort to prioritize, track, or identify problem areas
  • Filter to focus on a client or activity, home in on problems or opportunities
  • Make a pivot table to summarize dynamically

Here is the key techniques for organizing guide that describes these techniques.

Example spreadsheet

Here is a Small business spreadsheet showing the use of these techniques in some simple examples. Any of the numbers in blue are inputs that can be changed to see how that changes the result. Each of these took only minutes to build.