Claire Bradford: organise yourself with a brand new database

I’m starting this week’s column with a shocking admission. I have been in business for 12 years without any kind of a database.

A few weeks ago, Heather Godfrey of CM databases, took on the challenge of convincing me of my folly and holding my hand through the process of getting me into a brave new world of organisation.

It’s early days still, but I’m enjoying knowing where to look for the information I need, instead of scrabbling about for that lost Post-It Note.

In case you, too, need converting, I asked Heather a few questions. Here’s what she replied when I asked why a company should have a database:

“A business will not be able to survive for long unless there is an electronic way of recording what needs to be remembered.

“But how many of us use a combination of diaries, scraps of paper, mobile phone, phone books, internet-based systems, spreadsheets, documents, and our own memory?

“How many of us have the same information on several of these things?

“Perhaps it’s because contacts are so important, so fundamental to the successful running of a business, that they are needed everywhere - on your phone, your emailing system, and on business quotations and invoices.

“We need them to be available to us when we’re finding our way around for meetings. And we need the same information when we are reminded to do things.

“So that is where they end up - everywhere. But this causes a problem because as soon as you have a contact in more than one place, there is confusion.

“People move house, change jobs, have a different mobile number, or have several email addresses for different purposes.

“And as soon as things change, there is a need to edit all records accordingly, wherever they might be.

“Ask yourself, have you ever taken someone’s address from an old invoice? Have you ever searched your emailing system’s “Sent” messages for someone’s email address?

Have you ever found two telephone numbers for someone, and wondered which was right?

“If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes” then you need a proper database.”

Is that you? In next week’s column, find out what you need to look for in a database and why having a spreadsheet won’t cut the mustard.