EXCEL WITH JEN PORTLAND
For the most part whether you are a large or small business owner, it is at some point essential to engage in an Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of some sort to organize and evaluate certain things within your business. A spreadsheet can be used to compress certain inventory, list employee schedules and necessary budgets. And even for a recording artist or a manager who might need to keep track of performance dates, and rehearsal schedules, it can be used for that too.
Well for those of you that aren’t too savvy when it comes to using Microsoft Excel to create and use these spreadsheets, there is now a solution and Jen Portland created it. Check out what she had to say about her very interesting consulting firm ExcelRainMan.
FBE: Where re you originally from and where are you currently?
JP: Hometown is Pittsburgh, PA and current residency is New York, NY
FBE: Excel RainMan seems like a very unique company. What specifically influenced the launch of ExcelRainMan (Please elaborate on its concept)?
JP: After a Systems Engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a few years of working in “Corporate America”, I became an expert in the “business art form” of Microsoft Excel. While this certainly has helped my career, it was also a difficult cross to bear, as co-workers inevitably discovered my Excel talents and as a result, I found myself doing colleague’s Excel work for them.
It was after several particularly late nights of finishing others’ work that the idea for ExcelRainMan.com was born! I knew if demand for this particular skill was so prevalent in my company, it must exist elsewhere. I decided to test this theory and offer these services to the general public and in May 2008, ExcelRainMan started cranking out Excel Spreadsheet consulting work for companies of all sizes.
FBE: Do you work independently or with other people? (if so, what are their significant roles?).
JP: It was originally just yours truly providing the spreadsheet expertise and my husband helping out with everything from IT to our Facebook page. After a few weeks, it became abundantly clear that we needed a few more excel ninjas and we were lucky enough to find two amazing subcontractors (partners) who help out with responding to customer inquiries. They also assist me in creating our templates and assembling class materials. While these folks have other commitments (one is in law school and the other as a day job), they have helped make ExcelRainMan run smoothly and I adore working with these people!!!
FBE: What would you say makes ExcelRainMan different from any other consulting firm? Do you know of any others like it?
JP: ExcelRainMan takes an otherwise intimidating and complicated subject and makes it more approachable (and definitely more affordable) than most consulting firms. We take on projects of all shapes and sizes, and because we don’t have all of the crazy paperwork and corporate inefficiencies (i.e. overhead) as can be experienced with bigger consulting firms… we are able to get things done faster and cheaper. I certainly do not know of any other firms like ExcelRainMan.
FBE: What type of people do you typically do service for?
JP: While we have completed projects for individuals and businesses large and small; our bread and butter is helping small businesses. ExcelRainMan was launched a short time ago in a city where new businesses are born daily. We are designed to help these types of companies, whose employees work tirelessly without the help of Assistants and Analysts. Whether it’s a Start-Up P&L or an affordable Contact Management Solution; ExcelRainMan has found genuine success in providing simple (and cost effective) solutions to complex problems.
FBE: Who or what personally inspires your work?
JP: I would say the entrepreneurially/freelance spirit is in my blood. I grew up surrounded by people who always worked for themselves, and through all of their successes and failures, they were always pursuing their passions.
My grandfather, who passed when I was 3, started numerous small businesses in Pittsburgh, PA. In addition to starting his own ventures, he also helped others finance their entrepreneurial dreams as well. My mom told me that he only asked that people pay him back if they succeeded… I could really use him now J
Following in his footsteps; my mom started her own Real Estate brokerage firm in Pittsburgh when she decided that she didn’t quite like the commission structures at the other firms. While she would not consider herself an entrepreneur (she would say that she is just trying to make a living), I consider her independence and fearlessness to have made her my biggest role model.
Finally, my father is a freelance photographer (markportland.com) and an incredible artist. Really the best there is! While he came from a family of architects and was on the path to being one himself, he dropped out of architecture to follow his passion. His commitment and creative bend on everything is a constant inspiration to me!
FBE: What are dome of the challenges you’ve faced?
JP: If anything, I would say that ExcelRainMan is well suited for the difficult economic times in which we find ourselves. We are a consulting company that was built to perform work on small budgets.
FBE: Has your firm been affected by the countries economic changes?
JP: Truthfully, ExcelRainMan has really only existed during this current economic environment thus far and I think we have 2 key advantages helping us in these difficult times:
1. Companies are getting rid of expensive software subscriptions and using excel to cut costs. We are therefore able to help them make more sophisticated reports at a fraction of the cost. In addition, we are able to help companies keep their info organized in databases, such that it will be easy to re-implement the sophisticated systems when it is more economically feasible.
2. General reductions in workforce have strained companies’ ability to get everything done correctly and on time. This has lead to an uptick in requests. Kind of like a good band-aid for the tough times.
FBE: Do you have any exciting upcoming projects in the works? JP: Yes, in addition to offering custom Excel Webinars for anyone anywhere, ExcelRainMan recently started offering on-site corporate Excel tutorials… typically near the Manhattan area. We also just launched our Excel for Mac classes.
In general, our classes differ from the typical computer classes out there. Companies can choose selected topics from our “a la carte” menu OR they can let us know more generally what they are looking for. We can also cater to specific class needs as necessary. All classes include pdf handouts and spreadsheet practice materials. In addition to the formal training session, we also offer a Spreadsheet Assessment where we go through the spreadsheet(s) that an individual or their company use day-to-day and walk through suggestions for potential improvements.
In addition, we have a few interesting templates coming out for the holiday season:
We will be sending out a free Thanksgiving Template shortly, that comes pre-loaded with classic, delicious Thanksgiving recipes for appetizers, turkey, side dishes and dessert. It enables the user to overwrite the recipes (up to 10 recipes – up to 10 ingredients/recipe). It allows the user to select the recipes that they are making and print a grocery list.
We will also be launching a free Holiday Gift Guide around Thanksgiving. The Holiday Gift Guide allows users to input info on your “givees” including their relation to you and age range. In turn, the Holiday Gift Guide will automatically suggest gifts. Finally the user can input the gift they actually gave, and can track the status (bought/wrapped/given etc). It will be pretty simple and can be used on Macs or PCs. We are in the process of compiling a great list of gifts from all of the fabulous holiday gift guides that are coming out.
FBE: What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been? JP: Our biggest accomplishment is keeping fun and fresh ideas in a somewhat boring, technical business. We are making spreadsheets cool and approachable.
FBE: What does the future have in store for ExcelRainMan?
JP: Part of being a small biz owner myself, is constantly having to decide between doing things myself (saving money and losing time) and outsourcing (freeing up time and straining the budget). In the entrepreneurial spirit, my hopes are for ExcelRainMan to continue to alleviate these issues for other small companies. We get things done for people in no time and for a reasonable price. It is nice to take some stress off of their plate and to help them impress their prospects, customers, bosses, … anyone!
FBE: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
JP: Interestingly enough, for quite some time now, I have had a list of business ideas… and never did anything about it. I’m not sure what I was waiting for!?! I recommend jumping into the deep end! Because before you know it… “there will be an App for that” and your idea will have passed you by J. With the internet and blogging being so big, you can create a website and generate buzz about your business for a reasonable price while still having a day job. So my advice would be to explore your ideas, if one doesn’t work, try the next one!
Also… watch your pennies every step of the way!
FBE: How may viewers contact you to get more information about you and your company?
JP: Viewers can contact ExcelRainMan in a few different ways:
- They can submit a request via our website
- They can email us @ email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- They can call us @ 888-598-9992