Entrepreneurs face two main challenges on a day-to-day basis: staying organized and figuring out what to do with their data.
Thankfully, technology has allowed for solutions to these issues. I started Deals4Meals.com in late 2011, a year after I graduated from Seton Hall University. On a regular basis, my staff and I used one platform to manage our finances, another platform for HR, another for payroll, a couple more for advertising, three or four for social media, and a handful of Excel spreadsheets to keep other things in order. Eventually we came to a point where (to quote the legendary Scarface character Tony Montana) we decided it was “time to get organized.”
We started by looking for companies that specialized in business intelligence. You can have all the data in the world, but if you can’t visualize it and make it useable, you’re squandering the opportunity to stay ahead of your competition and risk falling behind. Becoming organized isn’t easy or quick. But the longer you wait, the longer it takes to put the pieces back together later.
Start by grabbing a big sheet of paper and a pen. Pop on your favorite DJ or musician and get ready to think (if you lack “big” paper, be crafty and tape a bunch of pieces of computer paper together). Make a list of all the departments within your company (accounting, marketing and advertising, sales, HR, etc.) Now ask yourself, “What do I use to manage these main aspects of my company on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis?” (programs, documents, platforms, Quickbooks, Adwords, Site Analytics, CRM, etc.)
I’d imagine at this point, you’ve filled up about half to three-fourths of your big paper. This is a good thing. Now your business is divided up and you have identified your key data sources. Don’t worry if some overlap. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Depending on how bad of a mess you’ve made for yourself, you may not see it yet.
Finding a Tool You Can’t Live Without
Back in the day, I had heard of platforms that could help me organize my business, but I figured I could do it just as well on my own. I started doing some research. In the end my search led me to three companies I thought might be able to support what we were looking for: GoodData (which offers a free trial), Birst and Domo. I settled on Domo in early March 2015, since it offers a variety of features and customizations, including the ability to sync with the platforms we use on a daily basis. They also offer custom integration.
Domo gives us the ability to aggregate all our data into one secure location and visualize it in such way that we are able to spot trends, receive alerts, take action and make the best data-driven decisions we can as we expand and grow our business into new markets. Aside from being able to see all my data in one place from any computer or mobile device, Domo pro-actively monitors our data based upon the thresholds we set within the system and lets me share information in real time across my organization with key staff members. It helps me facilitate the management of our fast-growing business.
Two months ago I was all over the place, using multiple spreadsheets, logging into many different systems and wasting countless days, hours and weeks manually trying to make sense of it all. Now I have all of my most important data streams and key metrics in front of me at all times. Invest the time to look into what solution is the right “safe house” for your company’s data. And congrats — you’ve just taken the first step in creeping out from a mess of spreadsheets.