How small businesses start to use Airtable - and why data integrity counts

Photo by The New York Public Library

There is no need to write a line of computer code to get your operations automated. Heads up co-founders, business unit leads, and heads of operations! Our planet has moved to the era of automation-centric, where the need for data integrity is critical. Thanks to easy-to-use database tools like Airtable.

I feel inspired to read SMB experiences of how they have used Airtable. I am sharing a few examples of use cases to lubricate your engines to think differently about spreadsheets to get you to the highway of automated workflows.

Usually, one Airtable champion in the company will start to try out how the spreadsheet on steroids works. The pioneer realises it produces value fast and wants to scale it up to a broader set of use cases. These users often emphasise the importance of the data, its consistency, accuracy, and quality.

The pain of a Champion

The insightful stories of the For The Record -blog do not mention how many technologies and tools the champions are trying out before finding Airtable. Still, the journey has progressed fast after jumping on board. Here are a few use case examples of how it all started.

Let’s start comfortably with sandals from Hawaii. Ryan Meehan is the co-owner and CEO of D&T Distribution, the sole distributor of Pali Hawaii Sandals in the U.S. oversees all operations. Meehan embedded an Airtable form into their website that new customers could use to submit their required information. The form automatically fills in the correct fields of an Airtable base. Furthermore, he took it further and eliminated days’ worth of manual entry work by automating their process and inventory management system entries. He was able to do that because the column headings of each customer form field in the base were able to match the parameters of their order system.

Jonathan Kennell, originally Software Engineer in Yext, now VP of Product Management, capsules, “The value of Airtable is that it allows you to jumpstart the process of building software”. Yext is doing market landscape analyses through Airtable. They are tracking, for example, news, events and features of their competitors. They have one table that lists all the companies and another table with individual ‘incidents’ where that company came up.

Content marketing professional Ron Dawson is’s senior manager and the managing editor of their blog, Insider. Frame solves one particular problem in the industry: the need for a platform that provides precise, frame-level video feedback. Dawson describes the use case as “I like being able to connect articles to writers and then being able to easily see all the articles any particular writer is working on,”. He built two tables to address the essential pain of the company: one listing articles and another tracking writers, with all their contact info. Then, he created a link between these two data sets in a straightforward step. He was immediately able to do more than just track article costs.

Data integrity

Let’s look at a few examples of why I think we should take extra care of our data accessibility and quality. One use case or one automated decision never works just in isolation, and you will always find new opportunities to scale through workflows and create connections to other workflows.

On top of Pali Sandals' improvements on their order system described earlier, they can search relevant info and get meaningful customer insights by creating different views on Airtable. What could be more important than ensuring that the quality data is accessible to all the relevant stakeholders. Visually the right way. Meehan says, “Airtable enables us to have data integrity. Having a plan for storing and accessing data is so key to any company's success, and I imagine it's overlooked by a lot of companies”.

Zenbooth, the creator of office phone booths, was initially using Airtable to manage the fulfilment of every order that they received. Still, they soon started using it to monitor inventory and ensure that they had the right quantities to keep production moving smoothly. The real power of Airtable became evident when they were able to link the two datasets together. Connecting their production queue and inventory management system through Airtable meant they'd essentially built their own custom manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system.

Diamond Candles, fun and romantic burn-the-candle-to-get-a-ring company, started to use Airtable as a project management tool for prioritising and tracking different initiatives. They use customised bases to prioritise company-wide projects, make comparison spreadsheets for freelancers and partners, and brainstorm lifestyle photography needs. Next, they decided to use Airtable as a CRM tool for their wholesale account and slowly ramped up their usage. Now the company relies on Airtable for label-planning for their line of 40 to 50 fragrances and has created a database to organise their visual assets.

Players Tribune, a marketing content coach for pro athletes, deputy editor Dan Treadway says it’s not as much about quantity as it is quality. “That's another thing that makes us really special. We don't produce a ton of content here. What we do with everything we produce is make it meaningful and impactful and that is a lot of what I think that’s a lot of what keeps the engine moving.” Underlining the impact of the data quality spanning through different stakeholders, he says Airtable helps to give the team “a bird’s eye view of everything we’re working on, [allowing] immediate collaboration. If someone sees something that they can help out with, they can jump on a project.”

Just do it

I take my hat off to these brave champions who have been trying out a new approach to be even more data- and automation-centric. There are already many smooth and easy no-code tools and technologies available, with free trials and super easy ways to get your test data in. I hope these examples motivate you to start trying out yourself and take a brave step on the no-code journey.

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

Pali Sandals



Diamond Candles

The Players Tribune

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