Written by John Barbanas.
Many marinas and boatyards, even up to this day, are using a spreadsheet application, like Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or LibreOffice Calc, to manage their business.
A spreadsheet application is a very attractive solution to start with for a number of reasons. The list below outlines some of them:
- you can download and use some of these spreadsheets for free (eg the LibreOffice Calc and the OpenOffice Calc can be downloaded freely from the Internet)
- it is very easy to know the basics of it and therefore you can start using it immediately without much effort
- it gives the user absolute freedom to do whatever he or she likes, eg design the layout exactly as he/she wants, choose fonts and colors, etc
- it allows multiple people to share and use the same spreadsheet and, in a very small degree, to cooperate, e.g. Joe can open, use, save and close the spreadsheet, then Jane can open it and work on it also (note that two people cannot work on the same document simultaneously)
- in case you have someone in your team with advance knowledge of the spreadsheet application, you can even create functions and macros that can automate some labor intensive tasks.
During our extensive research we found that many small to medium size companies are still using Excel.
Some other companies use Excel and some other program (usually an accounting software like Quickbooks or Sage Peachtree accounting) for Invoicing and bookkeeping. By using a spreadsheet and an accounting software they tackle the weaknesses of the first application with the strong points of the second application and vice versa.
And there is a very small percentage of companies that have only an application that issues the necessary invoices to their customers and nothing more.
All the above configurations a marina and/or boatyard business can have "work" for them. They accomplish their objective which is to allow the business to be somehow better organized (from the pen and paper solution), issue invoices to its customers and keep its accounting books in order.
I personally prefer the "spreadsheet and accounting software" solution, than having nothing at all and do everything the old (pen and paper) way. The old way is dead and we have to realize this before it harms the business seriously.
On the other hand, the above "working" solutions are not at all efficient which means that we need to work long hours to make them work. In addition to this, they all have an expiration date. This expiration date depends on how fast your business (or the business of your closest competitor) expands. The odds are that, eventually, you will reach a point where you will outgrown these solutions.
When this is imminent you will notice a number of things happening:
- as the volume of your work increases you will have to spend more and more time to finish your work. Paying overtime will be the "normal" case
- you will notice that you must write the same information (eg the details of the Vessel and/or the Customer) two, or more times in two or more different spreadsheets
- searching will be more time consuming. Reporting will become harder to prepare
- mistakes will occur more often from one or more people that cooperate on these Excel sheets. Tracking who made the mistake will be virtually impossible.
- to minimize your business risk, you will need advance reports that you will not be able to take out from your software
When these things start to happen, you must start looking for an optimized solution for the business, like "Successful Marina" Management Solution (read more at: http://www.successful-soft.com/sm). The "Successful Marina" Management Solution is an optimized, all in one, turn key, management solution. It is designed especially for this line of business and it can manage the marina, the boatyard (Drystack), the diving shop, the Marine Shop (chandlery shop), the charter department, etc. "Successful Marina" can do everything all the other solutions can do and more. If your background is the Excel and/or some accounting software, the "Successful Marina" will literally transform the way you work (check out this list for the top 10 benefits of the "Successful Marina" Management Solution).
However, our experience showed that even the best management system, like "Successful Marina" can under perform due to the human factor. If the management team is not determined to go ahead, abandon some cherished solutions that simply do not work for them anymore (like Excel), then it is better to wait. Wait for the idea of changing things for the better to be mature enough before taking the business to the next level with a sophisticated, management solution like "Successful Marina".
Your comments or feedback about the ideas illustrated above is always welcome!