Business Planning, P&L?


Hi, I’m just getting started here and finding my way around. I understand Airtable is not a spreadsheet. Got that. Is there a way to use it to establish Net Income Detail of a business and then add in the actuals as time goes on so that you are able to track, project, etc.? Or am I thinking of the use wrong? I can’t figure out how to accomplish something like that, yet I feel like it’s possible. I’m just getting launch the business so now is perfect time for me to get my systems set up correctly. Appreciate any insights. Thanks!


Based on the assumption that capturing good data is 4/5 of the solution, you could start by building a simple solution to, say, track per-project costs. (Obviously, how you use Airtable will depend on what type of business you manage; I’m just tossing out some examples.) You would start by defining a [Projects] table where each record contains data about the project as a whole. Each data record would also contain a linked-record field pointing at a [Costs] table and, possibly, a [Revenue] table. Each record in those tables would track a single transaction: an outgoing expenditure or incoming payment related to the project. (Depending on how granular you wish to be at this point, you mighty consider having each transaction record link to one or more line item records; that way a construction-related cost record might contain a dozen or more line item entries corresponding to hardware, tools, lumber, and the like purchased for the project.)

Now, simply having this cascading hierarchy of project -> transaction -> line item wouldn’t buy you much if the data are isolated at each level. Here is where you’ll start to take advantage of Airtable’s relational features. Each transaction record could roll up and summarize all related line items, and each project record could roll up and summarize all related transactions; additionally, the summarized [Cost] value could be subtracted from the summarized [Revenue] value to arrive at your non-adjusted profit or loss.

As you become increasingly familiar with Airtable, you might decide to move up another level in the hierarchy and create a [Business] table that would link to, for instance, [Projects], [Employees], [Overhead], [Tax], and so on. Alternatively — or also — you might choose to add granularity at any level; for instance, you might decide initially to begin capturing data at the level of [Cost] and [Revenue], only later breaking out individual line items.

And that is one of Airtable’s too-seldom-sung strengths: Unlike many other RDBMS offerings, with Airtable you don’t have to have the system spring, fully formed from your forehead, on Day 1: The Application is forgiving and flexible enough you can grow into it. True, cumulatively, you’ll expend more effort on several waves of iterative development than you would if you’d built the finished base from the start — but if you were in a position to build the final version of the base, you’d be out there building it, rather than here, asking for advice. :wink: And it’s almost guaranteed the extra effort it might take to work through several iterations is far less than it would take to create a finished version, realize it doesn’t actually meet your needs, and tear it up and rebuild it. There’s a lot to be said for learning all the little ways Airtable can make your life better, implementing them as you move along, rather than always gunning for the big save, the quantum improvement — and missing more often than you hit…