Spreadsheets like Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel Logos are Strong together

Every good business starts with spreadsheets

Your plant and equipment hire company is no different

Portrait avatar photo of Dylan Hrurukvit
Dylan Hrurukvit
May 5, 2021
6 min read (totally worth it)

Disclaimer: I'm a big fan of both Microsoft Excel ↗️ and Google Sheets ↗️ for their differing strengths, so beyond a few well earned jokes, consider this post equal parts 'helping you get organised' and 'constructive procrastination'.

As a startup founder with roots in the construction industry ↗️, my focus is hard and fast that the best solution always prevailing and often this involves a spreadsheet.

Not a day goes by that I don't learn of another hire company using a spreadsheet macro function or equation that I've never heard of.

Time is money and things need to just, work. And no, the irony of that sentence is not lost on me coming from a software startup 🌱.

Excel holding up the entire global financial system meme
Source: "Richard in accounting approves of this meme" Reddit

To use or not to use? 🤔

If you're just starting out, the short answer is: do what works for you; and then definitely learn how to use spreadsheets.

Chances are that if you're in the early stages of business you probably won't have dedicated software for managing your fleet yet.

Tracking orders, clients, jobs, billing and usage information throughout your rental fleet is critical, as staying organised is the backbone of any well run hire business.

When that phone rings at any given moment, your team needs to know your fleet's:

  • Availability 📅

  • Location 📍

  • Specifications 📏

  • Pricing ↕️ ; and

  • Delivery options 🚚

Not only that, but you as the Director need to understand your fleet's:

  • Billing 🧾

  • Performance 🏎️

  • Return on investment 💰

  • Maintenance requirements 🔧

  • Service condition ⚙️ ; and

  • Financial forecasting 📊

This is by no means an exhaustive list and although your plans may own nice plot of real-estate in the back of your mind 🧠, this information will never scale to new employees in future -unless you've learnt how to communicate telepathically of course 🔮💆.

Source: KC Green

When you think about it, every hire, from heavy plant and equipment to light vehicles and attachments is the 'same-same' but different.

You need to be able to apply processes and structure that can be repeated reliably, while handling all those moving parts and subtle differences.

This is where mere mortals like us can turn to spreadsheets.‍

🔄 = 💰

1. Excel vs Sheets 🥊

With thousands ↗️ of great resources online comparing the two products, I'd like you to take 10 seconds spot the difference below for a summary:

Google Sheets ↗️  using the Chrome Browser ↗️
Microsoft Excel for Mac OS

That right, they're practically the same (controversial opinion I know). Feel free to tell me otherwise. 💁

Yes, one is in your internet browser and one is dedicated software installed on your device; and yes one provides collaboration via said internet browser and the other through a cloud synchronisation -and yes, there are many more nuanced differences (🐝's ♠️).

Like the 'Windows vs Apple' or 'iOS vs Android' fight that will rage on for millennia to come, ultimately, they achieve the same outcome. 🍅 🥔

With large and growing communities that support both, you'll be sure to find solutions highly specific to your individual needs. Pick one and move on, we've got bigger fish to fry. 🐟

For newbies learning either tools, YouTube is a great place to start:

or newbies learning either tools, Youtube is a great place to start:

2. Download templates 📎

Once you've picked a team (or decided to sit on the fence and get both), download a rental template below:

  1. Microsoft Excel ⬇️

  2. Google Sheets ⬇️

Once you've nabbed that bargain, sit back and relax, your business is saved. Like open-source software, the internet has provided another simple solution at the click of a 'free download' link.

Source: "What my friends think I do" Pinterest

3. Customise it for YOU 💪

Once you jump into the template, you'll notice that it's actually quite simple. A few columns and tabs that hold information and viola, you've now got foundations.

Like most things in life, simplicity is key for creating an effective tool. With every layer of complexity come the obligation to explain and fix moving parts.

Source: "It takes that cell and magic happens" Imgur #forumlas

I've seen my share of complex spreadsheet macros and far too many ERPs ↗️, but at the end of the day, all that matters is that your team know how to use it.

It's not hard to see why so many small businesses choose to ride it out on spreadsheets to manage their fleet.

4. Trouble in paradise 🏝️

For those of you who've been on the spreadsheet grind, this section is for you.

With as much praise as we sing for spreadsheets, the unfortunate reality is that while they will be your saviour early on, the more successful your business becomes, the more you'll discover that spreadsheets are equally BAD for growing hire and rental companies.

Here are a few key reasons why they aren't great when you get bigger:

  • Data Integrity
    The power of endless customisation comes at the cost of structure and rules. Unfortunately, spreadsheets are only as good as their editors -and last I checked, most of us are imperfect humans.

    Inefficient layouts, tabs, grids, formulas and duplicate data are a few just ways off the top of my head that can suck the hours right out of your day.

    Like your favourite employee, your newfound spreadsheet won't complain if you tell it to do a pointless exercise -and in this case, it's not good.

  • Human Error
    On the topic data integrity we touched on being imperfect humans and we're going to again.

    We can do all sorts of fancy things with these squishy brains of ours, but doing them over-and-over again robotically, doesn't always go so well.

    Formatted cells, data and formulas are no match for a human ready to break the mathematics, make a spelling mistake, select the wrong tick box or forget a step in your fancy new process.

  • Functionality
    Once we've trained our staff methodically, drilled the process into them and are continually completing hire with all of our moving parts in one perfectly organised spreadsheet.. then what?

    Now you need to hird party integrations that synchronise into a spreadsheet aren't exactly the easiest thing in world to build and maintain.

5. Graduating spreadsheets 🎓

Lucky enough for you, we're working on it.