Start Small, Don't Overcomplicate Things

I’ve had a recurring task reminder on my Highrise, Google Calendar and iPhone Reminders app to “figure out workflow solution that is automated, deep, and cloud-based” for about 2 weeks (you can find me complaining about this problem in an earlier post here). I wish there more posts like this one, written by Peldi at Balsamiq Mockups, detailing businesses’ internal methods and operations. I know nearly exactly what I want, but I’m at a loss for figuring how to make it happen. Finally today, I just decided to start to create one aspect of what I was looking for: a dashboard that displays all of our key numbers (everything from accounting, website analytics, marketing, inventory, sales, etc). I simply opened up an Excel spreadsheet and started manually importing the data from all over, and then creating relationships between those data to give me a decent snapshot of (historical) results. It was tedious, but surprisingly effective, and it gave me some hope for getting a system in place before the holidays hit us. All of a sudden I’m seeing a conversion rate from last November from the two days we ran a specific coupon, segmented by referral source. I’m seeing the profitability of ourLivingSocial campaign vs. our Jasmere one. I’m seeing what areas respond best to local marketing efforts. Some of it is purely data-drive, some is anecdotal, and all of it is manually imported and calculated. Hopefully I’ll be able to automate most of this process shortly, to cut down on labor and the risk of human error.

But the lesson here, for me at least, is that things you want done may seem incredibly overwhelming until you start to hack some semblance of them together. Once you start to do that, things appear before your eyes that make it MUCH easier to grasp everything. It’s really remarkable how visual our brains are…when a bunch of ideas are left to build and build on one another in your brain, you’re doing nobody a service except the companies who make aspirin.