Episode: 457 |
Jen Rudd:
Shares Airtable Use Cases:


Jen Rudd

Shares Airtable Use Cases

Show Notes

Jen Rudd, PMP is a Business Coach, Consultant, and a Cross-Platform Automation expert with an extensive background in creating systems and automation for a variety of business types. She is the CEO of Grow With Jen, an author, and has presented at numerous conferences and events, most recently at the Airtable User’s Conference, which she talks about in this episode. To learn more about Jen’s company visit GrowWithJen.com.  


Key points include:

  • 02:19: A case study on how Airtable works
  • 10:26: Applications of Airtable
  • 15:23: Different use cases for Airtable
  • 17:49: Programming skill requirements

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:


  1. Jen Rudd


Will Bachman 00:02

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with Jenn rod runs grow with Jen, she is an air table developer, and teach me about air table today. Jen, welcome to the show.


Jen Rudd 00:20

Thank you so much for having me. Will, I really appreciate being here.


Will Bachman 00:23

All right, well, and if you listeners are listening, you may want to watch the video version of this. Because we are going to be Jen is gonna be sharing her screen, and it’s gonna be highly visual episode. So Jen want to go ahead and share your screen. And let’s get into this. Maybe just start by giving me a bit of an orientation to what exactly is air table spreadsheet tool? Is it a database? How would you explain to people what needed air table is?


Jen Rudd 00:53

Absolutely. So airtable is a database. It’s a cloud based database, meaning that you can access it anywhere that you have an internet connection, which some people think is a downside if you don’t have internet for whatever reason. But it is great, because as businesses have more distributed teams, meaning that you could be anywhere in the world and run your business, and have multiple team members in different locations, a great way to have all of your data in one place where everyone can access it at their own speed on their own time and able to be able to collaborate within the base within the workspace. So it’s a great tool to keep all of your data as you get as your business grows. And as you start to do more processing, or you just are trying to find more ways to keep control of your business and scale data is going to be very, very important. So having all of your data in one place is really important. And then also being able to action off of that data. So that’s what your table does. It’s kind of a database, but it’s also an automation tool. It’s a visualization tool. It does some really cool stuff. And that’s the great thing about air table is it’s a completely empty box that you can do whatever you want with it. So it’s just really figuring out what the problem in your businesses and then finding a solution using the


Will Bachman 02:10

Okay, great. So the often the best way to learn something is by walking through an example and I know you’ve prepared one for us so So walk us through it.


Jen Rudd 02:19

Absolutely. So my demo is outplacement agency, I work with a lot of placement agencies, domestic staffing, mostly, mostly recruitment, some are staffing, meaning that some just placed clients long term with talent. And sometimes they need to fill temporary positions. So there’s a little bit of recruiting, and there’s a little bit of staffing. But no matter what you’re doing as a as a placement agency, you do have to kind of control two different customers, you have the clients that are paying you and the talent that you are trying to acquire to match with your clients. So it’s important to understand that you have to, you know, make the experience really nice for both both customers that you have. Because if you don’t treat your talent, well, they won’t be part of your agency and your clients won’t get what they need. And if you don’t treat your clients well, then they won’t pay you. So it’s kind of important to keep, you know, both sides of the coin, both sides of your business happy. And so a lot of software that’s out there a lot of CRMs kind of focus only on one customer, but having those two customers, and exploring the relationship between the two of them, is what’s really nice about air table because you have this database aspect, but it’s also relational. Meaning that you can explore those relationships and make sure that you’re kind of fostering both sides of your business model at the same time. Okay. So, um, basically, I have here, a nanny agency, basically. So I have a caregiver Applicants tab, which is where I keep all track of all the talents, all the people that I’m trying to recruit to the agency, make sure they’re really nice to show to clients, and that they have finished all the vetting steps that you would send to clients to see if they’re the right match for them. And then I also have a tab for clients. And tabs are just like different database tables was an air table. So you have some people like to keep everybody in one table. But sometimes it’s nice to be able to break out those two kind of pieces of your business into different tables. So as you are implementing any software, it’s especially air table, it’s really important to step back and think about the design of your base and not just trying to get your information in as quickly as possible. Good. So we have like a clip, the caregiver Applicants tab and we have a clients tab. And then the relational piece between the two of them is these positions. So as clients come to you and say I have a position that needs to be filled, your clients might come to you over and over again. So trying to keep those positions within the Clients tab doesn’t always make sense because you might have in the domestic staffing and example, if a client has a new child, they’re going to need a newborn care specialist, they might need a regular nanny, they might need a backup nanny. And they might also need a housekeeper. Or if you’re working with ultra high net worth individuals, you might have to worry about drivers, or chefs and things like that. So you have to make sure that one client might mean multiple placements. So you have this relation between the clients the positions they’re trying to fill. And then you also have people that are applying for the jobs. So the ones that caregivers are sending in their application saying that they want me to take place with the agency, they’ll send their applications and sometimes if you think you Microsoft, is sometimes if you also place a job posting on like, indeed, or some of the other job postings, sites, people might apply for the job that way. So you want to keep track of people who are looking for specific jobs. So knowing who the applying for a position that’s open is important, but also keeping track of who you sent to the client to see if they’re happy, if they’re interested in working with them. And then who’s ultimate placement for that client for that position. You want to keep track of those different components of the placement, not just the clients, not just the caregiver that’s ultimately plays, but also the ones that you’re sending, because you want to track all the clients not liking somebody, you keep sending a certain type of caregiver, and they’re like, Oh, we don’t like any of these caregivers, it’s important to understand why so that you don’t keep sending the same people over and over again. And then it’s also nice to know whose final placement is. So you can check in with the clients, and then pull on that relational piece of like the CRM, where you follow up with the clients at certain milestones, you know, week after they placed month over the place a year after they placed. So having that information as discrete pieces of data. It’s really important. Yeah. So that’s a lot of information. A question.


Will Bachman 06:55

Yeah, so let’s talk about this. This comes just out of the box, none of this, none of these different tabs are programmed, right? So as when you’re starting out with an air table, it’s, it’s clean, there’s nothing in it. So you when you were designing this for one of your clients, or this was a demo, when you were creating this demo, you would start by saying, Okay, I want to have a position sort of database. And you would decide what are the different fields that I want within that position database, obviously, I want to know what client it’s attached to. And, you know, probably be attached to just one client, I want to have a name for that position. So you create a name field for that. And then you’d want to have something about the applicants to that position. And that could be multiple applicants, and each one of those ties to the caregiver database. So you were sort of deciding each one of these fields. And I imagine each one of these fields, there’s probably different types, like a text field, or a name, a date field, or a time field or dollar field, or, or, or a picklist kind of field.


Jen Rudd 08:12

Yeah, definitely. So there’s different the different fields in your table. You can have a single select, you can have a short answer fields, a long answer field, they also allow for rich text. So if you want bowls and checklists and things like that in a big box, in one field, you can do that. Um, there’s checkboxes, you can track which collaborator owns the record. And also which collaborator the last touch the record, what can you really good when you have a lot of people working in the same database, you can see who last touched what. And it’s important to use, like, like you to your point of currency, because if you have a currency table, tab in here, fields, you can actually see some of the same things that you would see in Excel so like if you wanted to put even have sums and averages and some of that formulaic pieces to write, they wanted to keep track of the value of each client, you could see at the very bottom corner, you can see the suns and you can also see it up here. So any of the groupings at the top where you can a grouping is basically saying I want to take a status or some other attribute of a job, for example, and group those together. So I can start to see a trend to like if that if we are grouping on placement type, we can see the value of each placement type or the status like if it’s our like, who’s already been placed, who has already been invoiced? I can see what my you know, accounts receivable could be because if I have five placements in the last month, I know I’m expecting $50,000 Yeah.


Will Bachman 09:47

So I can see that there are it looks like there’s some ability to do some calculations or some functions using air table. But if you’re trying to probably do Heavy Duty Analytics, you might be better sticking off with Excel. Talk to me a little bit about, you know, when might Excel be a better tool? Because Excel can do some lookups. And you can do some V lookups and stuff. But you know, Eric Breck cells not really great relational database. So what would be a good application for air table? And what would be a better one for like Excel?


Jen Rudd 10:26

So that’s a great question. So for formulas, you can do a lot of the same kind of calculations you do in Excel. But it’s row based, each record is a row in Excel. So if you wanted to sum up a bunch of tables, you could using like the little SUM function up here, and you can do some of that. But if you’re trying to like, I always say like for accounting, it’s a great accrual calculator, because you can accrue across one entry. But it’s not a good place to try to build a balance sheet or an income statement, because you don’t have that column, columnar, and calculation that you really need in order to build out full accounting processes. So it’s discrete data, it’s nice, because you can do a lot and just understand one piece. There are also some charts like you would have in Excel, you can do a pivot table, but it’s on the sidebar. So if you’re trying to like build, like I build really complex FL spreadsheets, and so there are things that if you’re trying to take multiple records, or multiple pieces of information and try to, you know, do that processing or machine learning or things like that, air table is not the place for that it’s more for each discrete piece of information, you can see groupings, you can see some basics, but you’re not going to do this whole base calculation at the same level that you would in Excel.


Will Bachman 11:46

Alright, maybe you can show us a little bit more of the functionality here, like you just created a song row for us. Maybe show us how you could come up with like another relationship here. I don’t know what is missing from this. But if we were just kind of give us an example of how you would add an extra like fields to this,


Jen Rudd 12:09

though, this example like wanted to keep using. For example, if you’re trying to do place to do interviews between a client and caregivers, yeah, honestly, is not the place to do that. Because it’s only one resource. There’s only one person that there’s like this problem of trying to figure out what the client’s availability is, and what the caregivers availability is, or when you’re going to what you know what times you’re going to offer them. So you can keep track of the time that a specific client is available, and then offer them to the applicants. So you can keep track of what interviews are actually booked. And then the availability of the clients even just say, hey, caregiver, here’s three times and the clients available, pick one, and then there’s two left, and so forth. So there are some relational pieces there where you can kind of keep track of all those interviews that are happening without using an extra tool.


Will Bachman 13:01

I see. And you have one tab on here is email templates.


Jen Rudd 13:08

I’m working on a functionality, but it doesn’t really matter anymore. Because there’s automations and air table. So a lot of times as an agency, as you get more standard operating procedures are in a business in general, you might have these canned emails, which are email templates that you just mail merge the client or somebody else’s name into it. And it’s the same information you might push in like dates or specifics. But for the most part, it’s a templated, boilerplate email. So a lot of places a lot of businesses in general in their client relationship management like to have the same emails go out consistently. That way, you can tell the clients that same thing, you don’t have to remember what you told somebody. And then also, as you build up more team members, the communication is consistent across the board. So there was a time when I was trying to use buttons to do this, but now they have automations directly in air table, which means that if you change like a status or some other condition within a record, you can actually send an email from office 365 or Gmail out of your actual email clients. And it mail merge the information into the into the email.



Okay. So it’s cool because


Jen Rudd 14:21

I like to use air table as like the, the engine of your business. And if you use it as a dashboard, if you change statuses, you don’t have to go in your email and send an email if you just send an email that you’ve already planned out that you’ve already structured based on the change in the status of the client, for example. So it keeps those communication going without somebody having context but can go into the other platform. So, you know, having those canned emails, I know that some clients I have like to have just email templates in here anyway for things that don’t follow the SOPs, like refund requests, or we don’t have that yet, or I’m sorry, we’re booked or we have a waitlist some of those more like maybe personalized emails, they might keep them in here as well.


Will Bachman 15:05

All right. Talk to me about some of the different use cases that you’ve seen for air table maybe once. So I know that you work with businesses to help them set up their air table and design it and program it. What are some of the different use cases that you’ve that you’ve seen, though and construction,


Jen Rudd 15:23

I’ve seen where we keep track of new inquiries coming in the once they’ve been the drawings been made, once the proposals been sent out, and then tracking and sending information to the contractors or the subcontractors. So they can go out and actually build the thing that they’re building. I’m keeping track of what the we’re working on inventory pieces there as well, to kind of see what the inventory is and what needs to be ordered. Based on the jobs that are upcoming. I’ve used it for digital marketing, a lot of tracking time spent on projects against budgets. So understanding what the budgets left, and when it’s time to say, hey, you’ve already used a retainer give us more money, especially when you have multiple team members working on things. And there’s different price plans and doing some of those basic calculations, it’s a really nice tool as well. Have, we used a lot for project management for large teams, making sure everybody knows, like, once you say a new project on the horizon, like setting up all the deliverables, setting up all the times and updating calendars and things like that. So there’s a lot of different places, I’m trying to think of I built a really cool, cool calculator for somebody, there’s a whole like world things that we’re working on, not just in placement agencies, it’s just an interesting, you know, problem to solve. But there’s just so many problems to solve. And a lot of it is just trying to figure out, like how to take this data that you have in your business that you’re touching every day and do something with it action on it and kind of make it so that your team is not spending time on the ropes. Basics of you know, providing service, it’s really about taking them to the next level.


Will Bachman 17:07

Okay, um, what does it take to kind of learn air table? So, you know, to what degree if you’re a business, would you need to get someone like you, like on an ongoing basis? Or if someone really put their head to it and studied all weekend long? Is it possible to learn enough to set it up kind of yourself? Or, you know, or can you sort of learn enough to maintain a system going on? Like, what, what’s the level would you say of how much education and programming skill is required to set it up and then design it and maintain it?


Jen Rudd 17:49

I think it really depends on your technology level, like some some clients I work with just want the box to dance like they, they just want to start using it, they have zero and like they don’t want to move outside of the structure. So that’s where you would have somebody like a developer come in and completely implement it, I will say that I’m starting to see more trends of businesses, I’ve gotten to a certain point and airtable and are now like, I’ve gotten past the no code, low code point, I now need scripting, because now we’re doing crazy stuff with air table. If you if you sat down and just watched a bunch of YouTube videos, and air table videos, there’s plenty of training out there to get started and be really dangerous with a system and do some really cool things. And that’s not even getting into the automations. And apps, it’s really, I always say that’s the most important thing in the business, if you’re trying to adopt any technology is know what you do on paper first before you try to build it. Because if you try to like go into this box and be like the box is going to tell me what to do. It’s not. So if you know what your processes are, what you do by hand, and then say, okay, how do I translate this to technology? It’s a much easier hill to climb. Then the next piece is the technology adoption.


Will Bachman 19:04

Okay. And what’s the what’s the cost of air table?


Jen Rudd 19:11

So I always say to use the pro version that has the automations and the apps and all the fun stuff. That is $26 per person. I think if you pay monthly and it’s $20 a month, if you pay yearly, there isn’t an enterprise option that allows you to kind of have an admin base and have a little bit more control over who’s in and out. And for larger teams. It’s really more cost efficient, but I don’t know what those prices are. I would say that off the top. But also to I think airtable is doing a really good job in general of making you like not have to use Zapier and Integra mat automation tool because they have automations. And then they just announced interfaces. I just started building interfaces, which is nice. It’s like a little portal for your team to use so that you’re not overwhelmed with that grid.


Will Bachman 19:59

Okay, What is the typical size of businesses that tend to use air table? I mean, the example that you gave, for example, like the nanny staffing tool, I can imagine that, like, a large enough nanny staffing agency might go with off the shelf kind of recruiting firm software staffing firm software. So is there a certain kind of a range of sizes of firms that? You know, maybe it’s like 1 million to 10 million, or 100,000 to 1 million? Or that where that’s kind of a sweet spot? And if you’re much bigger than that, you know, there’s some other enterprise type solutions. Yeah, I think butthe 2 million before you get into the enterprise, I think that before that you get into the enterprise, you know, ERP solutions, the enterprise offer, I can’t know what it’s called. But what I find too, is that businesses that could be higher and go into more enterprise solution, find that the enterprise solutions don’t account for all the nuances of their business. And sometimes they’re doing things that are not within the box. So they end up using other software to handle it situations like Google Sheets, or something for keeping track of certain things, or they start to find that they’re like, trying to piece things together around, I worked in an accounting firm, and we used yardie. Oh, it was actually real estate accounting real estate firm, and I was an accountant, we used yardie, we, the IT department had to build in an accounts payable platform just for us to enter the accounts payable, which was really because they’re paying so much for yardie. So it’s like ERP is just don’t always answer every question. And I think as businesses change, and just like the structure of businesses change, you are going to find more disruption and that ERP platforms just because they didn’t anticipate the way that businesses run now, when they built. Okay, so this would be a is there, a plate is there sort of a size limitations on it, where, where airtable starts to break down and just can’t really handle the load is like in terms of number of records or number of users or going to transactions or something. So


Jen Rudd 22:17

it’s more of a record. So it’s 50,000 records per base. So this is not a big data processing. So you might start to partition your data and have like, each business sector might have their own base. And then you might have like a machine that you use to like do queries and things like that, which is what an ERP does, right? They partition their data in different places. So you you, you will get that 50,000 records. But if you’re just trying to like machine learn on all of the customer transactions over the last four years and figure out trends, put it in an Excel spreadsheet and load it into our and run the model, modeling software’s with modeling the day to day processing and understanding of information, or actually like auctioning on the on the data while it’s still in play. Usually that that’s usually not within the 50,000 records. It’s when you’re trying to just keep data for the sake of bigger, but you’ll start running into those problems.


Will Bachman 23:13

All right. If someone a listener wants to learn air table, what would you say is the best way to learn and get started?


Jen Rudd 23:24

I think justgetting into it, you know, air table has the universe, which they’re not as updated as before. But like there’s a lot of just basic bases that are already built that you can build off of usually it’s like, Okay, this one’s kind of close enough to start with. And then I can just reverse engineer, or you know, I like modeling a drawing out software, like where you draw out a picture of what you want, and how the information flows. And then just start going in there. I think getting in there. And actually, like trying to solve a problem with air table is the best way to get started. And usually it’s like, once you get to a point, you’re like, how do I do this? You can just usually google it, which is sad. But you can Google anything if you know, it’s question ask. And air table forum is great. It’s community dot air table COMM And then I am now starting up a group which is air tips, which is just people who like our table and learning more things, and just keeping updated on all the cool things because their releases are just getting crazy, like interfaces was a huge release. And it’s really awesome. And there’s just so much going on with air table. And it’s nice to be with working with a software that actually wants to keep updating because I always feel at some at some point in software, they stopped building and they just start kind of sitting back and enjoying the fruits of their labor. So they’re still on the building base. So it’s a really cool place to get started. We’re at the beginning of what the explosion of air table will be.


Will Bachman 24:45

Okay. All right. And tell us a little bit about if someone wants to work with your firm. Where should they go?


Jen Rudd 24:56

of growth gen.com It’s one But I that’s where my website is. And you can learn a little bit more about me and the use cases. I have two team members, but most of you will be working with me. So it’s really nice, but some clients really like having that ability to like, talk with the person actually building. It’s not an agency. It’s really a consultancy. So yeah, grow with jen.com.


Will Bachman 25:19

Fantastic. It will include that link in the show notes. Jen, thank you for joining today.


Jen Rudd 25:25

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. Well,

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