Saturday, January 27, 2007

Smart ups before start ups.
Databases trump spreadsheets

This post is directed to first time start ups or seed stage enterprises looking to get smarter about doing commerce as fast as possible.

I'm only afraid of what I don't know. This supports my conclusion that I have every reason to be paranoid.

Approaching your first start up enterprise – and again, this is for folks that don’t have much experience with this – there can be a lot of unknown and potentially scary new stuff in front of you.

There is good and bad in that.

Butterflies in your stomach are good. Not being able to store and retrieve all your enterprise information all the time is bad.

To make those butterflies work for your benefit, you need to get them flying in formation. Same with your data.

If you can’t get to all your enterprise information in real time, you’re screwed. Be afraid.

Spreadsheets only help you plan for all the ‘what ifs’. Planning and spreadsheet work has a place, of course, but it can’t stop there.

Spreadsheets don’t help you when the phone rings.

You’ll need information management. You’ll need databases.

People create enterprises without databases and without data capture processes in place all the time, thinking they can grow into that level of management when the time comes.

It reminds me of walking the plank in pirate movies. Probably some survived, but I wouldn’t volunteer.

A sustainable enterprise is one that can create repeatable value.

Repeatable processes require the highest quality, customized data management tools you can create for yourself.

Create for yourself? Yes, it’s easy, so hurry the hell up. The world of databases awaits you.

You can start your databases in your notebooks. These work if that’s what you need to begin with. I’ve started nice sustainable enterprises with notebook databases then morphed those into computer databases when appropriate.

Making your own, personalized computer databases is easy when you use the right tools.

There are a number of products out there to let you make your own databases. I cut my teeth on the late, great HyperCard from Apple. Bought my first copy in 1988. I didn’t even know it was called a data base program. I thought it was some kind of tool that would let you create places in your computer to store your stuff digitally. Did it ever. Bless that HyperCard team, especially Bill Atkinson.

I currently use FileMaker. It’s a simple, easy to learn, make-your-own-databases tool. It works across all platforms. You can print out any kind of report you can dream up. You can eMail your files, so working with partners remotely is simple. Your library may have a manual you can look through.

What is most useful to me about databases in general and FileMaker in particular, is the ability to create simple, easy to understand layouts for entering and managing your information.

The beauty of this is that databases allow you to enter your information once and then reuse it a zillion times in a zillion ways without ever reentering that same data ever again.

If you visit the FileMaker web site, don’t be daunted by their shiny, high end, new stuff. The kitchen door into FileMaker works fine and their core product / core value stuff gives start ups the kind of info management tools you can build on forever. There is a free 30 day trial you can download from the FileMaker site.

Because databases are customizable, they allow you to continuously improve your data capture and reporting techniques.

Getting control of that ‘stuff’, that information flow through your enterprise is like watching a really great sunrise that never quits. It just gets more and more beautiful as time goes on. The idea is to get out in front of the data flow with your ability to manage it through databases.

Sustainable = repeatable. Repeatable = data control.

Databases make you faster, smarter and much, much more efficient. Don’t wait until the phone rings to get your new enterprise organized.

The ability to organize information creates sustainable enterprises. Get your plan and your databases in place.

Get smart first. Smart ups before start ups.

FileMaker site

Wikipedia HyperCard

The quote about the butterflies flying in formation is from a Professor who taught at Dominican University, (Illinois) during the 1950s. Will cite her when I can find her name.

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