Forecasting: Automation Tools


In my last two posts, I have discussed the planning and process of forecasting for your business. Let me stress again how important it is to routinely engage in the process of imagining your business assuming different scenarios. It’s the most important business process you can engage in, second only to taking care of your team.

This post is about helpful tools you will need during the forecasting process:

  1. This one may seem like common sense, but it’s worth saying! You will need to create a spreadsheet using a program such as Excel or Google Sheets. Your choice of program can be based on personal preference or depend on how many people will need to view and interact with the forecast at the same time. I tend to prefer Excel, however, Sheets and other Google apps are often better for multi-user operations than the Microsoft 365 apps.
  2. You will also need a system for sales tracking and other business functions such as payroll, benefits, purchasing, and capital. I’ve used many CRM programs over the years, and while I’ll have a future post that goes into more detail on the myriad of options out there, a great one to get you started is the free version of Capsule CRM.

Remember: your forecast will be as useful as the amount of detail you put into it. That said, start simple, then build in detail and complexity over time.

Many industries have “rule of thumb” percentages for major P&L line items such as gross profit, labor costs, etc. If you find these approximations are realistic for your operation, plug those numbers into your spreadsheets and programs in the beginning until you learn more about your company’s patterns. Every operation is unique, so for your forecast to be most useful, customize it to your business as you go.

To learn more about forecasting tools, check out these articles from Chron, the Financial Post, and centage. As usual, for more reading recommendations, or to discuss other entrepreneurial tips and tools, contact Harvard Grace Corporation at stewart.heath@harvardgrace.com.

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