By Matt Kostan
A variety of small business surveys show that almost half of small business owners do not track inventory or use a manual process (that is, pen and paper). One in three uses a more sophisticated inventory software or inventory functions in an accounting package. Roughly one in five use a spreadsheet to manage inventory.
Inventory management is keeping track of all the goods or products you have on hand, in stock. It also helps you maintain healthy profit margins by ordering ahead of time, without rush orders. Without keeping track of stock, you run the risk of running out of products just when your customer is ready to buy.
While it is considered a stop-gap solution for many business owners, a spreadsheet can get the inventory job done for low or no cost. My company provides inventory management software, but we still get a fair number of inquiries about using a spreadsheet. We recognize that it serves a purpose and so we share a variety of free inventory management templates with prospective customers. Here are several of our favorites as well as some tips for creating your own.
Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets
There are many sites that offer “free templates” but often they are heavily ad-based and confusing, or they actually have a fee—which you do not find out about until you have clicked deep into the site. Why not just go to the source, to the people who built Microsoft Excel, for completely free templates. Most of them are rudimentary, but if your goal is to save a bit of setup time, the template page on the Microsoft Office site is ideal. Here is the overall page of Inventory templates as well as one specific example for “Inventory list with reorder highlighting.”
Given the mobile nature of life today, having online access to an inventory spreadsheet is helpful, so remember it is possible to convert a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into a Google Sheet and get access via the Sheet app on both Android and iOS.
One additional tip—you can simply create your own template. Open Excel and click “File”, then click “New”. In this section are built-in templates, just click the “Inventories” icon and you’ll find a few sample worksheets you can use directly or build from it.
Aside from building a basic inventory spreadsheet within Google Sheets, you could take a look at this terrific tutorial from Zapier: How do you Manage Inventory With Google Forms and Sheets? by Matthew Guay.
Free Templates from Indzara
On the Indzara website, they offer a wide range of free Excel templates. Here is the direct link to download the spreadsheets for Manufacturing Inventory Tracker as well as their Retail Inventory Tracker. Both of these could be adapted to multiple inventory uses. These links have been tested at press time and contained no viruses. The links will start the Excel spreadsheet download process. If you prefer to take a closer look at the site first, without downloading anything, you can go to the manufacturing inventory page here or retail inventory page here.
Smartsheet—Smart Online Spreadsheets
I like to say that Smartsheet is like an Excel spreadsheet on steroids. It is technically a cloud-based collaboration and work management application that has a spreadsheet-like user interface. It also integrates with many other services and apps. They have some of the best free, no-strings-attached, spreadsheet template downloads. They have an entire section devoted to inventory management, and it’s our favorite destination for small business owners not ready for a full inventory management software solution. The templates are free, but you can enhance them by buying a business subscription starting at $25 per month (however, that said, you are halfway to what many full inventory suites cost at that point).
These template links are part of the inventory template section and you can see the full list on the left side of the screen once you click one of the options below. You can then choose to download the Excel template or trial it in Smartsheet’s platform. We recommend giving the Excel file a try first.
This post was inspired from one we did on our blog a few years ago. We have tried to sift through all the ads and popups and make it easier to get to the spreadsheet and get that inventory work done!
Matt Kostan is a speaker, best-selling author, and active contributor to the small business community. He leads the marketing and business development for inFlow, a Cloud based inventory software that manages any inventory-based software. Join thousands of small businesses and start your free 14 day trial today.