Why You Should Use Small Business Spreadsheets

small business spreadsheets

Small business spreadsheets can simplify your financial system.

We all love a throwback, don’t we? Bellbottom pants, 90s hip hop music, Back to the Future, and Eggo Waffles. However, when it comes to your small business, we want to keep you current. Your accounting system might be stuck in the Victorian age like Sherlock Holmes, but it’s as reliable as Dr. Watson. If it’s not broken, why fix it, you might ask. So why change now, right? That old ledger or counter book you’ve been using for the last century or two hasn’t failed you yet. From now on, you won’t be sleeping with your account’s logbook under your pillow. There are ways of using spreadsheets for business that can simplify your system even more.

You can start small. A simple weekly or monthly data entry can protect your records and give you faster access to specific info your accountant might need for tax filing. Packages like Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers have developed functions to make your life easier. Also, cloud-based software like Google Sheets means easy access from anywhere in the world with a mobile device. Sharing documents with your employees also makes task management and progress reporting a breeze.

How Spreadsheets Can Help Small Businesses

Outside of your accounting system, using small business spreadsheets will speed things up in other areas too. Storing condensed important info that can be call up quickly, without frantically paging through books like an enraged Harry Potter, is smart. You’ll be able to create tables and graphs that give you a handle on different aspects of your business. Some decisions are too important to make without the data to back them up. Without an overview of your business operation, how will you quickly find out when to schedule tasks? Maybe you need to know if there’s money available for buying supplies or hiring a new staff member. Even a simple yearly planner that you or your assistant update constantly will help you keep your eye on the ball.

We know what you’re thinking! You already have a unique system in place that only you know how to run. Perhaps you fear the slightest change will make your whole world crumble like a peanut butter and chocolate cookie. Well, we can put those doubts to bed. There is no operation too simple or complicated for using spreadsheets in business. If you only need to make an inventory or stock list or you require a customized budget and cash flow management solution, all the tools are now available for free. Simply by Googling what you need, you can find a template or a helpful YouTube tutorial to help keep track of what’s going on in your business. You might be looking for something more involved to give you a picture of what trends are happening in your annual balance sheet. Small business spreadsheets make this easy and allow you to collaborate with your employees online, which means the work gets done faster.

Your bookkeeper *raises hand* or the accounting service you use might request specific information within your records. A spreadsheet is far quicker to access than having to dive into accounting software. The tab-based functionality also means you don’t get distracted by other data. What’s more, spreadsheets in business are compatible with all the major accounting software packages. This makes it easy to upload the data when you need to or quickly send it off to your accountant to process.

You’ll become more efficient, as you won’t waste time entering the data manually into your software or duplicating data entries. Whenever something comes up, and there’s a decision or a projection to be made, you won’t have to change clothes and wear your accounting hat anymore because the information will be right at your fingertips. Managing a small business often means doing most of the work, so this will help you not to stall every time you get a curveball.

5 Types of Spreadsheets

In a small business, spreadsheets are kind of like hot sauce. They just seem to go well with everything! Let’s take a look at some of their uses, so you can decide which way will help your business the most.


You might use spreadsheets in business to record and manage your accounting data. They will also easily allow you to get to grips with your budget and keep tabs on your income and costs. There are different formats for working with currency parts of the spreadsheet that have an automated workflow. You can also make them more legible with color-coding. So, recording negative amounts in red might help. In some cases, like payroll, you might need a detailed breakdown of the costs of each of your employees. Luckily, spreadsheet software allows you to create multiple worksheets that reference individual totals between each other. This makes it easy to make a solution for accurately recording your income and expenses.


If you need to, you can also get more into the statics of your business. This can be super helpful info when making predictions and future planning, which we will cover shortly. For instance, if you want a reading of your average monthly profit or a graph with your average expenses over 24 months, you can use a formula in the spreadsheet once you have entered your data. Their flexibility means you can create a customized but straightforward system for quickly giving you financial readouts when you need them. This is great because it frees up more time to focus on other areas. You can even consult your financial adviser or accounting service and find out which aspects to focus on to succeed in your specific business type.


When you present your data findings to anyone, a spreadsheet by itself doesn’t get the information across. You could be busy with your marketing team or meeting a potential client, and the white blocks and a bunch of numbers simply won’t do you much good *drum roll.* Enter charts and graphs! Like Thor and Captain America, they will be your most powerful allies in getting your point across clearly, without throwing shade on your pitch. Your favorite spreadsheet software can create charts or graphs from your data. All you need to do is get familiar with the process, and you can use your data for visual communication and marketing.

Future Planning

Successfully managing your business means making long-term decisions that lead to growth. Your small business spreadsheets will help you get an accurate reading of where you’re at financially so you can plan accordingly with your targets and projections. Having recorded data showing how your business has performed until now means you can calculate the risks involved with any future moves you need to make. This is especially important when the economy is unstable, as there might be changes that you need to compensate for and react accordingly to keep your business going. The accuracy of your past financial data is essential for this.

Project Tracking

When you need to collaborate on a project, delegate tasks, or keep track of current work-in-progress, spreadsheets in business are an ideal solution. A single worksheet allows you to track the progress of a one-off project and slowly expand it into a regular component of your business. You can include the personnel you’re working with and their duties, as well as the timeline. Spreadsheets make project management so much easier, as you can lay out so much information and then prioritize the tasks that need to get done. This also makes it easy to monitor your performance as well as that of your co-workers or employees.

How to Strategically Use Spreadsheets

This is the part where things shift up a gear. We’ve talked about the types of small business spreadsheets, but how about learning more about exactly which part of the puzzle they fit into.

Cashflow Spreadsheets

The first choice you need to make when taking on cash flow spreadsheets in business is between accrual and cash-based accounting. Accrual means you will record every transaction, both incoming and outgoing. This allows you to track expenses and match them to their corresponding payments when you receive them. A cash-based system, on the other hand, only records expenses and revenue when they happen. You need to determine if you want to record when the money exchange happens or when the work is complete instead.

  • Accrual accounts for assets, liabilities, equities, revenue, and expenses. To record a debt on one account means you must credit another. Mark a tab of your worksheet for each account type and list your credits and debts separately on each tab.
  • Cash-based is more widely used, and for this, you will set up your spreadsheet into categories, and each month of the year will get a separate tab.

Tax Spreadsheets

Is your hair slightly lacking in body over tax season? We understand. Tracking your tax expenses makes it easy to find out the total costs involved. Using an audit tracker will list any documents required for the tax audit process. This will also help your accounts manager deal with any queries that may come up.

  • Familiarize yourself with the laws surrounding tax accounting in your state or region. You want to be sure of this before you start entering data into a spreadsheet.
  • To prevent any errors on your spreadsheet, the “Trace Precedents” function will highlight cells being used by any single formula.

Payroll Spreadsheets

Like a match made in heaven, small business spreadsheets are ideal for managing payroll data. This is where you record the salary and hours, while each employee can be tracked in a separate tab. It requires more work, but you might include payroll calculation and deductions or even pay slip printouts if you do more accounting internally.

  • Familiarize yourself with the law in your region, specifically of what needs to be tracked and how long to keep records. You must be aware of the level of detail you need for any tax or FICA compliance.
  • The costs of any benefits can also be recorded, so you can add them when you total up your payroll costs.

We hope you are much better friends with small business spreadsheets, or at least they don’t make you want to hide under your covers.

They are a hassle-free DIY solution for staying connected with what matters most in your business – the numbers! As your confidence in this area grows, so will your relationship with your financial adviser or accounting service provider will evolve (that’s us).

At Alchemy Accounting, we offer you ways to streamline the capturing, reporting, and management of your financial data. This will take some guesswork out of the process and make the ride through tax season a little smoother. There’s always a way of doing things that suits the style of your business, so relationships like these are worth building. We will help you determine which areas you’re crushing and others where you can up your financial game.

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Michelle Cooper

Michelle Cooper is a powerhouse entrepreneur, CEO of Alchemy Accounting & Bookkeeping, author of Confessions of a Money Rock Star, Your MoneyDate Journal, and co-author of the collaborative book, Women Rising. She has helped many business owners climb out of entrepreneurial poverty into the land of profit.