How small businesses automate their workflows with Airtable

Photo by Javier Saint Jean

Automation-centricity does not mean heavy investments to Centers-of-Excellences or Data & AI teams. Small businesses do not need to write a line of computer code to get their operations automated.

I was writing earlier about SMB experiences of how they have started to use Airtable. Let me share a few more examples of use cases to think differently about spreadsheets and how to automate your workflows easily.

The pioneer users realise it produces value fast and wants to scale it up to a broader set of use cases. Users often emphasise the importance of the data, its consistency, accuracy, and quality. When users continue to use Airtable, they start to add automations and find efficiencies through their workflows. These champions have grown their businesses, and Airtable has grown with them.

Efficiency through automated workflows

After the Airtable champion(s) in the company realises the fast value they can tap in quickly, they start trying to scale it up to a broader set of use cases. They also begin to add more automations and find efficiencies through rethinking their workflows.

Pali Sandals, familiar with the first blog post, started by embedding an Airtable form into their website. New customers could use it to submit their required information. They also decided to automate the addition of the customer to the email list and streamline the invoicing procedure and order process. These automations were done with Airtable and Zapier.

Insomniac, the organiser of spectacular multi-day events, was able to cut lost and found wait times by more than half with their new, Airtable-based system. Camilo Barrero, Insomniac’s Customer Experience Specialist, says, "There would be shows where we'd have close to a thousand items, and finding a particular item in the spreadsheet was very difficult. Someone would stand in line outside lost and found—sometimes waiting over an hour, hoping to find their phone. They would come to the window, talk to a team member and even if their item was there, the item might have been missed because it was not properly catalogued or didn’t have enough details to ensure it was the correct item.".

A significant advantage of Airtable compared to other solutions they've tried is the ease of adjusting their workflows on the fly. The database was built to be easily adapted to the new process as part of the iterative process of learning and improving their lost and found process. Recently, they have incorporated Airtable forms to enhance the process for people to claim their items in-between show days and after the show ends.

James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organisation from the culinary world, uses Airtable’s customisable, personal views; different stakeholders can each focus on just the information that matters most to them. The information they collect from the chefs needs to be readily and easily available and customisable for the many different stakeholders. Sarah Drew, who works as an Impact Programs Manager, says, “it’s been integral to have a system that accommodates this complex information, and makes for streamlined communication between diverse stakeholders, from chefs to suppliers to scientists,” They’ve deployed automations, like the ability to send a scheduled text. Drew says, “the scheduled text made it much easier to glean information from chefs – something that has always been a challenge given the unconventional nature of their work.”.

Cred is a specialised agency focused entirely on events. They need to track all event and conference information, deadlines, and submission criteria and tag potential speakers for upcoming events—a handy feature for mapping out their year. Excel was useful for compiling data but ultimately too static to create the relationships she needed. Now all of their matchmaking, event-planning and more happens in Airtable, which acts as cred’s intuitive, flexible, and scalable central hub. “We each spend half our day in Airtable—no joke. Our business is entirely reliant on it—from a record-keeping perspective, a research perspective, and even from a financial planning and forecasting perspective,” states Caitlin Bartley, the CEO.

Confirmed engagements for clients are also displayed in a calendar view, which incorporates a Zapier integration that pulls event information into their Google Calendar, creating a visual representation of every client’s speaking schedule, available to the entire team. While Airtable is quite an epicentre of their operations, Bartley says, “Now we can really capture all useful information as our business scales, from the big picture all the way down to a granular level. I don’t know of another tool that would give us everything in one platform like Airtable does.”

Scaling up the use

A baseline for successful business growth is built with data accessibility and integrity, with a squeeze of efficiency gains by automations. It is also evident from the examples from For The Record -blog that the engagement of different stakeholders is also one obvious pattern when SMBs are expanding the use of Airtable.

I started by telling the Pali Sandals’ use case. They are also an excellent example of how they have been scaling up the use of Airtable. They have created Airtable Blocks, visuals to communicate with their employees. They literally have these blocks hanging on the ceilings, on their TVs.

Another one I was writing about earlier, Yext, with their competitor analyses use case, is using the data and automations to make informed decisions. With their Airtable bases, team members from throughout the company can quickly summon the context they need to make better decisions. Suppose a customer or prospect mentions a competitor. In that case, their salesperson can look up the customer’s previous mentions of that competitor, not to mention the places where its comparable features fall short. Similarly, the communications team can determine how competitors have been positioned with different press members, helping to make sure they can adequately differentiate themselves in subsequent conversations.

The marketing specialist and the managing editor of their blog Ron Dawson from’s, provider of a platform for frame-level video feedback, says, "Being able to summarise or take the average of how much we've paid for a group of articles, being able to see the amount we paid to writers over any period of time, and then being able to see the subtotals for each individual writer as well—that’s all possible with Airtable.". Dawson is now using the system he built to manage an even bigger project:’s Workflow Guide. This is a 100,000+ word microsite that is a comprehensive resource for all things related to film and video workflow.

The office phone booth company Zenbooth has been continuing to scale up the use of their two datasets of orders and inventory. Since they're linked, they have been able to use formulas to predict stock needs and minimum purchases that they have to make to maintain our inventory levels. On the logistics side, Airtable has helped them offer visual representations of the company's production and manufacturing processes–particularly calendar views. If they need to scale from making ten booths a day to 20, they can just adjust the baseline in Airtable, and it recalculates all of our inventory.

Lead the way

Even though in the above examples, I have focused on the use of Airtable, the mentioned people have sure been spending a reasonable amount of time thinking of their workflows and optimising them. The easy part you should not even speculate about joining or not joining is the no-code tools and technologies. Nor you should question the importance of accessible, good, quality data. The hard nut to crack is the cultural change, helping the people and their skills with your leadership. I hope these examples motivate you to start trying out yourself and take a vast (leadership) step on the no-code journey.

Here you can find all the original blog posts of the showcases. Get inspired!

Pali Sandals




James Beard Foundation


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