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Welcome to the Air. I'm your host, Billy Richardson, I'm a partner at People and Company and a coauthor of Get Together How to Build a Community With Your People.


And I'm a College Fellow, Get Together, a correspondent and the VP of Content and Community, for matter, and start a new media and community platform for launching later this year.


We love the in each episode of this podcast, we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, maybe even thousands more members? Today, we're talking to David Lifford Smith, a UK based accountant with a special skill. He's a spreadsheet warrior. It's hard to see, but spreadsheets can rule the world. And when things go wrong, when even one cell is off, it can wreak terrible havoc.


David works for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and is a key member of an Excel spreadsheet community with several thousands of chartered accountants and others who seek to mitigate spreadsheet risk and create accessible materials so that the rest of us read me. Don't become spreadsheet dunce's with disastrous effects for our projects, our workplaces and even the world. Yeah. Tell me what stood out to you from your conversation with David?


First of all, I had no idea that spreadsheets or so important and could be so dangerous.


I know that you say it. I get it. So I learned about the importance of having a really solid content strategy when you're building, attracting and maintaining a community centered around knowledge sharing.


So unexpected insight, I must say. But please go on. Very important.


Very important to have good information out there. And David and his team use tips of the Week blog post to get people into the door. And from there they get higher level, but essential resources such as 20 principles for good spreadsheet practice and webinars and things like that. So that's related to another question I asked him about how he keeps his volunteers motivated. He said actually that motivation isn't the problem. This is an endearingly geeky community. It's more about how he can channel that enthusiasm in productive ways.


And again, that came back to content. So that list of 20 principles, it was when down from one hundred and twenty that came from the community, for example, or.


So it was a great example of not only creating content for a community, but with it as well. And then from there, David said most of the work is convincing people that they need to listen and then getting them to really listen to you so you don't mess up your spreadsheets.


I am a total spreadsheet dunce. And because of that intro and because of curiosity that you've piqued, I will listen and I will take my spreadsheets more seriously. So let's do it. Let's jump in. Fellow spreadsheet, dunce's of the World. I hope that you're tuning in. Let's go. Yeah, you're ready. I'm ready. Woohoo!


David, welcome to the Get Together podcast. Well, thank you very much for having me.


So for those of us who are blind to the power of spreadsheets, what are some examples that we may not be able to see on the surface of how they rule the world?


So the thing about spreadsheets is that you can do almost anything with them, and particularly that are very accessible for people who aren't programmers or coders or have a lot of expertize. So people might be used to using spreadsheets for organizing their shopping lists or doing little bits of personal finance. But actually, they get used for an awful lot of analysis behind the scenes in banking and finance, for example, there's a lot of information ends up getting stored in spreadsheets, in a lot of financial planning and actuarial work.


There's also a lot of it there. So really anywhere and people are needing to organize and analyze data. It tends to creep in. It's also a great piece of middleware. It's it's a really brilliant program for plugging the gaps when you've got data in one piece of software that's not quite the right shape and you want to have it look a different way for some reporting somewhere else. So while you slip it into Excel and you move things around a bit and you get it looking the way you want, and that's kind of how Excel has come to fill in loads of loads of gaps in the in the world.




Can you talk to me a little bit about the spreadsheet universe? Like it does seem like Excel is the key thing here. How do you think about all the different platforms and where is the most activity of Excel?


Excel is by far the largest. They did at one point have something like a ninety seven. Ninety eight. Percent market share of of the spreadsheet platform, they weren't the first. That was several other spreadsheet packages in the kind of 80s and 90s that were all kind of competing. But Excel really came to completely dominate. In more recent years, it has started to creep down a little bit. They probably still have 80, 90 percent, maybe higher.


But Google Sheets in particular has really made a big difference, partly by being free and easily accessible to lots of people. And then there are a couple of open source options as well that people use. Apple has their own version called numbers. There's a couple of different free versions of with very similar functionality out there as well. For most business users, I think Excel is still the standard, partly because of the prevalence of office and Microsoft site, more generally the whole office suite, but also because I think it's probably the most fully featured of the different spreadsheet packages.


If you're trying to do any sort of more complicated analysis, there's there's a lot more options there. So we learned about you from a wired UK article that called you one of several leaders of this movement of Excel Warriors'. What is it exactly that you guys do?


So I think what's really happened is that there's a lot of research that's been done over the years into spreadsheet errors and in particular because Excel and spreadsheets are so widely used in business that you very often go wrong. Part of that is because they are widely used and so there are a lot of use going out there that could go wrong. Partly it's because the people don't take them that seriously. Don't think of them as like a real engineering project or a real kind of software program.


And it's not kind of controlled or looked after. And part of it, because people don't necessarily have the right training and experience, people just kind of pick stuff up on the job and learn as they go along. And so I and many others kind of recognize that there is this very real aspect of spreadsheet risk. And spreadsheets do actually play a big part in a lot of business that a lot of how the world works and they do go wrong.


And if people continue to not take them seriously, they will keep on going wrong. And those those errors have caused some pretty significant errors in the past and pretty significant effects on people, too. So the was, for example, a spreadsheet error at the heart of one of the biggest collapses in the financial crisis, where one of the big companies really badly underestimated their exposure to risk because somewhere there was a spreadsheet that was averaging two numbers instead of adding them together, just one formula that was just a little bit different, but that completely changed the picture of what they thought their risk situation was and led to something being, you know, a very different world to what they thought they were.


And as there's lots and lots of examples of these kinds of things, and every time one of these comes up, what happens in the press is people deride them to say, oh, they shouldn't be doing this, something that's important to the spreadsheet. This was never the right thing to do in the first place, and you should never touch it. So if you're trying to do anything serious, that's the point, and laugh at them and then not learn any of the lessons and go back to using the same risky spreadsheets, we will we'll use it.


We will use ourselves anyway. And that's the problem, I think, is the people constantly say that the the mistake is using Excel rather than using Excel badly. And I think that's where where a difference comes in.


Yeah, I really enjoyed all that enjoyed. But I found it fascinating to read some of the horror stories on the European spreadsheet Risk Interest Group. It was everything from sixteen thousand covid cases going unreported to hospitals delayed opening to a payment of over half a million dollars. Are these errors human based or can we blame the spreadsheets?


It's a little bit of both. I think a lot of them are errors of either planning. So not having kind of thought about how process and how it's going to be done or they are kind of systematic errors.


So what are some of the most common errors that you see that caused things to break dates and sort of formatting?


Likewise, if you've got a phone number or something like that that begins with a zero, if you put that in a cell in Excel, it will think, oh, that's a no, no, I don't need to have there is on the MIT on the beginning and it will drop them off. But if it's phone number, it's got a zero on the front, then that's important. So just things like that where it's, you know, most most software cares about type.


If you say that this is a text type of data, it will keep it as text. If you say it's a number, it will treat it like a no excel will automatically guess what kind of data you have. And when it guesses that wrong, you get things like thinking that your geniza date, thinking that your phone number is a numeral and dropping information that's actually important or changing things that are actually matter. And that's where I think the the kind of errors come in.


What are some of the more surprising errors you've seen and how long did it take you to. When I saw my background, I used to be a pretty much full time spreadsheet support person and trainer for a large accounting firm, and so all of the time what I would be going to do is going out and helping people and showing them tools. And I would see things like what people if I had a big, long list of numbers, that they would be typing them into a calculator to add them up and then putting the total in at the bottom.


Not often, but like that's the sort of thing where you see, which is hugely error prone and impossible to review and of course, Excel, you will just you can write a formula that's 10, 20 characters long that will do that addition for you, or even if they knew how to write a formula they were doing equals this cell, plus that cell, plus that one. Plus that one, plus that one. Plus that one, you know, selecting the one at a time.


Whereas again, you can just make up some formula that will take a whole column of one hundred items and add it in one go. So it would be things like that that really stick out in my memory, but also things where. Somebody who was not familiar with Excel would probably not notice the problem, I had a case I talked about in that article where we were doing some payroll for a client. So the client had sent us a changelog with, you know, information about people if they got a pay rise or whatever.


And we sent this on to a bureau that was going to calculate the payroll taxes for France. And one of the things in this sheet was new employee is the name. Here's their tax information, here's their salary. And then here's this other number. And you just said like thirty eight thousand four hundred and fifty two or something like that. And it was just a number. And so the payroll bureau went, oh, we don't know what this is.


I guess it's a joining bonus and put it in like thirty, forty thousand euro, but joining bonus on the draft payslips. And then I reviewed it like I think that's a date and it was still status numbers. And if you don't formatted correctly, it doesn't come out looking like a nice date. It'll just come out as a number in the thirty forty thousand. And that's what it was. It was there joining dates, but just badly formatted.


That's so fascinating, it sounds really fun and it sounds like you're kind of like a detective. There's definitely an element of that. And I mean, the times I got saddest in my career would always been when somebody would come to me and say, oh, a former colleague of ours made this amazing wizzy spreadsheet that logs into the tax authority portal and automatically finds lots of information for us and then puts it all in a spreadsheet or does whatever clever thing.


But they left six months ago and now it's broken and we can't figure out why. And my problem, my job would be to trying to get in there and figure out what they done. And, you know, I want to say that bad spreadsheet use is definitely not contained to inexperience. Users, experienced users are terrible, doing really complicated things and not explaining how anything works. And then you've got this problem where as soon as that person is on holiday or moves onto another job, it all just falls over.


It doesn't work anymore. And sometimes I was able to patch it together and figure out what they've been doing and get it working again. And sometimes it was just not completely undocumented and way too complicated and I just wasn't able to fix it. And that's the stuff that I found really frustrating. And it's why I always try to do when I've been building templates or tools for other people is to document things, to explain things, to make sure that it will last beyond my involvement with it isn't just reliant on me being there to drive it and the other people will be able to use it even after I'm gone.


And maybe this is a good Segway to talk about the larger community that you've built around this this passion in this process. How big is this community of Excel warriors?


So the exile community of ICW has several thousand members who are primarily UK based because we're a UK accountancy body. But we do actually have pretty significant membership across Europe and South East Asia as well. We have then got a few dozen active members who actually come and come and take part in our committees and kind of directly involved in helping us steer the direction that we're taking the community and produce the publications that we make. And that's the kind of the two audiences that we work with.


And where does the community primarily congregate? Well, in a pretty 20, 20 wells, we would mostly be meeting and discussing with committee meetings in London. So chartered accountants whole is the building where I would normally be working, which is in the city of London. And these days, of course, we are primarily a remote based community. And actually because our members are based all over the world, you know, we do blogs, we do webinars, we do kind of a lot of remote work anyway.


And this year we've really done a lot more. So we've been doing more presentations and kind of hosting of our publications and trying to be digital first, of course, through necessity, but also just to make sure that we're reaching as many people as we can. So, yeah, when you first got this group going, how did you help the community gain traction?


So the group that I actually but we sit within is called the Tech Faculty at ICANN. So this was actually started in the nineteen nineties as a kind of internal expert group within the institute looking at matters of technology and automation and how they were affecting accountants. And then over the course of many years, it was very clear that the Excel content, the spreadsheet related content was the most popular. And so in 2013 it was kind of spun off into its own Excel community.


At that time, I wasn't actually working at ICW. I was working in practice at one of the accountancy firms. And when they first created it, my former colleague Richard Anning, who set up the whole thing up, put out a message to kind of any of any of the members just after it had been criticizing what was anyone interested in becoming a representative of a volunteer on one of these committees that we're setting up to stay in the work we're doing.


And I was interested. So I got in touch and I was myself only just qualified as an accountant at the time. I just finished my qualification, which is pretty similar to the US CPA. And so I wasn't sure if they would be interested in having somebody that was fairly early on in their career, kind of involved in that. So I got in touch and asked and he nearly bit my hand off and said, yes, absolutely. And what I've since learned, actually, is that getting attention to people who are very senior in their career is actually a little bit easier for the institute's professional bodies generally than people who are early on, because they tend to be really busy and have not very much control over their own diaries.


So I was then kind of involved in that for a few years as a volunteer. And I was always trying to bring the voice of the perspective of somebody who was early on in their career and who was recently qualified and had been a student very recently. We'll talk about what was most relevant to that audience and how we could make the most of it, and then when Paul Booth was the guy that was running it prior to me, then retired, Richard approached and asked if I would be interested in coming to work for the institute full time, which I did five years ago.


And so since that time, my role has been about building up these communities, all these active volunteers who help kind of stay on the committees, what we're doing, and then actually getting the message out there to all of the chartered accountants that we represent. As I say, we've got about a hundred and seventy five thousand chartered accountants who are a member of our institute. And pretty much all of them are spreadsheet users to some extent. And then for the four or five thousand who have specifically signed up for the exile community as a specific area of interest for them, making sure that we are helping them to think about the small questions of how they can write this formula that they want to do, but also the big questions of what part spreadsheets really have to play in their business, their organization, and how they can make sure that they're not opening themselves up.


Spreadsheet risk. How do you keep your volunteers motivated? I think actually almost the question is, how do I keep my volunteers on track because they're hugely motivated. I think it's because people who get really into Excel, it's one of those things that people get can get really into. It's a very geeky disease in many respects, and people are often very passionate about it. And particularly when you have volunteers, Excel spreadsheets, all their professional career, they are financial modeling experts or they are people who do training courses and spreadsheets for a living.


And I think that many of them have seen the same things that I see in terms of the same mistakes coming up time and time again, the same kind of errors causing problems for people time and again. And they want things to be better. They want people to be happier and having an easier time. And so actually, I find that there's a huge wellspring of enthusiasm for trying to spread the word and get to get good practice on people's minds and talk about these things.


And my job is, I think, been a lot more about trying to direct that into a useful directions and, you know, actually getting publications put together, because I think there's a huge amount of interest in doing that. And so trying to get all of that energy contained and directed in a useful direction, I think is much more the problem than the motivation.


What is the business model behind your community?


So we are part of a wider professional body that has, of course, subscription membership from people maintaining their professional qualification. But we are a sort of optional add on so people can choose to subscribe to the tech faculty and then they get the exile community with that. Or they can just subscribe to the exile community as a standalone unit. And then they get some online training modules and some webinars and blogs that we produce. But then we also we're not exactly a company and we're not exactly a nonprofit.


As I say, we were founded by Royal Charter in the late 19th century. So we have a sort of official document signed by Queen Victoria somewhere that says that we should exist, we should further the the practice and theory of accounting, and we should also look to the public interest. And so when I talk about things like the 20 principles we could try to practice or of these other things we've done, those are then freely available to the public because those are things that we think are in the public interest and things which should be disseminated not just by accountants, but for anybody that's interested in them.


And so we kind of match trying to serve the needs of our community subscribers and the people who actually foot the bill of us doing the work with the wider public interest aspects of our work in terms of providing some expert insight on how to make spreadsheets work.


Is there anyone in the community we call them hand raiser's on this podcast that really stands out to you in terms of their personal story and the ways they help push this purpose forward? Maybe, maybe even a young David, if you will?


Yeah, I mean, I guess I probably was one of those at some point. The person that's probably the most active at the moment is a guy called Simon Hurst. And he's very, very passionate, I think, about what makes spreadsheets tick. And I think also he's somebody that's probably closer to retirement than thinking about trying to make a difference for things. And he's hugely passionate about making sure that we do the best work that we can with the exile community, that we reach as many people as we can.


And from from his perspective, he's always somebody who feels that maybe the world doesn't take spreadsheets seriously enough and maybe even the whole community doesn't take them seriously enough. And he's always someone that's very willing to challenge me on, you know, are we doing enough? Are we getting enough traction? Have we gotten the message out to enough people? Could we be doing more?


And that's something that as a somebody that's sort of running the community professionally, I really appreciate having that that kind of passion to constantly be pushing me to try and make sure that I am thinking about how best I can do, the best I can do with it. Whilst juggling the exile community is a big part of my job, but I do have other responsibilities. So I'm always trying to make sure that I'm doing the best I can with the time I have for it.


Shout out to Simon. Simon, thank you for doing good work there. David, what were some of the things you learned the hard way when building this community?


I would say really that the hardest thing for me has been that you have to acknowledge that no matter how much thought and effort and passion you put into building something that doesn't that alone will not make people listen and make people read it and think about it. So but I'm doing my best to make sure that all of the tens of thousands of accounting students that go through our qualification are. Supposed to these ideas early on, while they're picking up their first kind of spreadsheets as they get into the working world and hoping that we can get to a point where we don't need to have a newsbreak anymore and we won't have to, we will you will find it difficult to fill that horror stories page.


That would be wonderful. Yeah, we don't want to see those anymore. Well, how has covered changed your work or the demand for it?


So the first thing that came for us, I think very quickly, obviously, there was the general point of move to a remote working, the fact that we were having to do our own committees and everything remotely. But the big change for our members was that if they wanted to get access to government support for their businesses or for additional funding support to cover shortfalls from our banks, there was a sudden, very sharp increase in the need for people to be producing cash flow forecasts, financial models, all these kind of formal forecasts of how they thought that their organizations were doing as part of applying for funding from various sources.


And so we had a real sudden spike in demand for those things. And therefore, we had to very quickly try to pivot to producing additional resources for supporting those things that we'd obviously been doing stuff on those topics before. The financial MODELING'S, one of the kind of perennial topics that we talk about in the community, that we had to really ramp it up. We got some extra resources and some bloggers to put some stuff together about the remote working features.


In Office 365, we had a couple other folks step in to do some stuff on cash flow forecasting and risk to do with that. So, you know, we had to really quickly get that demand met. And then since then, we've been trying to do more webinars because it's something that we've always done and something that I really enjoy doing. But seeing as we were no longer able to go out and deliver sessions in person, there was just this big demand for additional webinars.


And everybody, I think, was doing more webinars. You know, it's nothing revolutionary. But we also tried to change up what we were doing a little bit more. So usually our webinars would tend to be, you know, 40 minutes minute presentation from an Excel expert on some particular topic and then some Q&A at the end. But this year, we actually tried to do some which were more like surgery things where it would be just an hour, where I would be there and people could come along to the webinar and ask their questions and I would answer them.


So it was just all Q&A, no presentation, just open. I'm just experimenting with different ideas about how we can help people. How can people who want to educate themselves more on better spreadsheet use and hygiene, what other resources would you recommend?


So there's lots of good things out there. I will, of course, start with the ones that we've written. So there are some nice short form URLs for the three publications we've done. So it's I a W dot com forward slash Excel, twenty principles, spreadsheet competency, financial modeling, modeling with two L's. That is the kind of free pdf of the three big publications that we've done in terms of trying to get a grasp of good spreadsheet practice.


And like if you just want to see if somebody uses the spreadsheets in your job and you want to kind of try and upscale yourself a bit, there are some free webinars on the ICW website. We have some free blogs as well, but there's equally loads of great resources out there. The YouTube channel Excel is fun, is excellent, really well presented and very broad ranging. There's Mr. Excel and Chanda and other big websites dedicated to, you know, if you're looking to do is learn how to do more stuff in Excel, that those are great places to do that.


If you want to be thinking about the big pictures of how can you build a financial model that you can trust, how can you review a spreadsheet to make sure that it's doing what you think it is doing, then I would look to there are several different financial modeling standards and guidelines out there which are very much worth considering, and also actually looking at things like the Use BRIC website, which is EU Spig. They have all of the past papers from the past academic conferences.


They have horror stories, page if you want to read through that list of excellent stuff in there. And there's also some mention on things from regulators and other kind of industry bodies that have gotten involved in this stuff before. So there's loads of resources out there. I am also very active on the RSS Excel spreadsheet on Reddit, which is very much driven to the question and answer format. But if people want to get answers to their spreadsheet questions and those are very active and positive community, Ohlmeyer as well.


Do you know if you're on Microsoft's radar, I feel like you and this community would be a. A tremendous resource for them. Yeah, we've had a few conversations, actually, with Microsoft, both in the U.K. and I've been to their offices, but the thought of the specific office in or near Seattle where they are actually making where they make Excel, I was out there and for some vacation time and I actually took a little time out of my vacation to go home and speak to some of the like the development team there.


So they are aware of us. And I think that they are very conscious that accountants are one of their big user groups that's of particular interest to them. It's one of their biggest kind of drivers of of what they do. You know, they know that accountants are heavy users, have spreadsheet users and are very engaged with it. So they're always interested in hearing what our members are doing in spreadsheets. For them, the difficulty is always knowing what people want to be in the program, what people need to be added.


And it's very hard for them, I think, to get that information. But it's equally interesting for us hearing from them what they have found and what kind of the problems that they have, because they get the they see how widely spreadsheets are used and misused. You know, they've said I was talking to one of them. The staff was saying that, you know, they got cold at some point by somebody saying that they thought that their knitting pattern program was good, but missing some functionality.


And they like, what, knitting pattern programs like a Microsoft Excel unit and knitting that I like. But it it's it's super good for storing knitting patterns, except for you can't divide a cell trying to like two triangles, which would be really helpful for recording anything. But that's not what it's for. That's what it gets used for. This is the point. You know, people use it for all sorts of stuff. And it's it's a tool that can be turned to any purpose.


And that is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. People use it for things they shouldn't and it goes wrong. But people can use it for amazing stuff people have made in Excel. People have made games and excel. It's it's really just an amazing, amazingly versatile piece of software. But I think that does catch it up sometimes as well.


What didn't you know when you started this work that you now know about building a community? I think what I've had to condense it to a lesson, it's been about persistence, it's really easy to think when we started and people were suggesting ideas, they said, oh, yeah, we should do something about good practice. And then we were all like, yeah, that sounds good. We spent ages thinking about it and working on it. We made the document and that feels like it's the end when you've been working on a project like that.


But what I've learned is that that's the the end of the beginning. It's there's still a lot more work and getting the message out and is actually most of the work, most of the work is not about figuring out what good practice looks like, what you need to say. Most of the work is convincing people that they need to listen and then getting them to listen to you.


And how do you get people to listen? That seems like a really important skill to have.


All the horror stories are good because they're catchy and humorous a lot of the time. But they also, I think, open people up to the idea that most of these big disasters have tiny errors at the bottom. You know, it's not some subtle little thing. It's a formula that's not been included all the cells or it's something that's been formatted as text when it should be a number or it's, you know, these kinds of tiny errors. And so the point we're trying to get to people is you cannot stop making spreadsheet mistakes because you're human.


You can only get so far. What you have to do is try to design and plan what you're doing in a way that will make spreadsheet errors less common. And you have to pay tribute. You have to get someone else to look at your work because you this is something that's come out of use of some great research done on review. That said, no matter how careful you are, at best self review, you can catch maybe a third of the mistakes that you make.


But you made the mistakes, which means you're also the least qualified person to spot them. So two thirds of those mistakes will get past you and you need other people to be taking a look if you really want to catch them. So being careful, building in error checks, getting someone else to look at your spreadsheet, these are the things you need to do. And those are the lessons I think that we can get across by focusing on those horror stories and saying these things are hugely embarrassing.


Nobody wants to be in that position. And most of the time it's about a little bit of extra spreadsheet training for the people on the ground, a little bit of thought about how you're going to lay things out and how you're going to test thing and a little bit of more effort going into documentation and testing those kinds of little changes can make a huge difference to the outcome. And I think if we can convince people that spreadsheets are a big part of what they do, the risk is going to happen and that they don't have to spend a huge amount of effort fixing it, then hopefully that's enough to change the minds and get people to think about it.


That's great advice.


What has working with this community meant to you? You know, the I've been writing a weekly Excel blog for. About seven years now and where I'm up at nearly the full hundreds of blogs written, one of those that's the most successful, it's just about my spreadsheets. Formulas aren't calculating for some reason. Why not. And that's the one that has the most reads and the most hits. And I think about how a small twenty five minutes of blog writing from me can have saved a million people from some incredible, annoying problem that they're having.


It's that multiplication factor that I think is so compelling. But if you've got an audience, you only need to be able to make a tiny change to each of them to really make a fantastically large effect on the world. And that's what I think you've taken away from all of the work that we've done in the exile world. And that's what I'm most happy about, most proud of.


And it also sounds like content is really like the glue of this community. Do you have other members creating content as well? We do yet.


So thankfully, it's not all me. So we have a few of our volunteer members writes blogs for us on various topics. And we also pay some bloggers and webinar makers as well to help produce content for us. And that is very much to help support the part of the exile community. That is, as I mentioned, United paid for community, said the people who pay for that. We want to make sure they're getting their money's worth and that they are happy with the content that they're receiving that's helping them to improve and learn new formulas or how to automate things using power query or how to think about those things.


And the content is also is the way that we get people's attention for the bigger picture stuff as well. So, again, when we are getting out of the exile community, we can say, hey, come learn about the newest thing in Excel. And then while we're there, we can say, let's actually compare it with other things. I say, how is it easier to use? How is it more difficult? Where are you likely to go wrong with traditional formulas that these will say to you, where are you likely to go wrong with these new formulas that you would have been safe from before?


And that's the kind of stuff that I think is the most important stuff that we do for all that. I think what the audience most thinks they want is, is the sweets, but they also need the medicine and it's about making sure they get both. And you mentioned read it. But what are some other channels that have been the most effective for you in terms of, quote unquote, marketing and attracting new members?


So we also have a Twitter account, but actually a lot of our work is kind of actually more about community outreach through our connections. So we're very fortunate as a professional body to have members in a lot of high places and lots of interesting companies. They will have ins with the movers and shakers to help us to get out there and spread the word about what we're doing and to open the doors to kind of getting what we're doing involved. And where do you go from here?


What are you trying to figure out right now and what's the long term vision for what you guys are doing?


So we're actually working on a fourth publication to join the three that I've talked about previously, which is about spreadsheet review. So talking about, you know, if somebody emails you and there's an attached spreadsheet and they've said, oh, here's our business plan, or is the financial model or the cash flow forecast that I've prepared or whatever it might be, where do you start? How do you try to detect errors in it? How do you make use of your time most effectively so that there's been a community writing project and we're now workshopping on trying to build a draft and put that together?


So I'm hoping that next year we'll have another publication again. It'll be free to the public. But talking about spreadsheet review and how to go about doing that and how to make the best use of your time, and then beyond that, with the Excel community, I think it's just about keeping doing well, things like this, getting out there and letting people know that there are people out there who think about Excel a lot and who worry about spreadsheets going wrong and who are trying to improve matters and trying to make sure that people are thinking about things and steering clear of those those pitfalls and those those easy mistakes.


Yeah. So if people do want to get in touch, what can they do and how can they get involved?


So if you're interested in finding out more about us, then you can email excel at ICW dot com for some information that will also get passed along to me as well. And if you want to talk to us about anything that any of the work that we're doing with the Excel community, then you can find information about us, about it there. And that's probably the best way of getting in touch with with me as well to talk about everything that I'm doing and that we are doing with with spreadsheets and with Excel.


And do you have any last parting words of advice for our listeners on what they can do to avoid having to call people like you?


Well. The biggest thing that I always said when I was an in-house Excel specialist was, you're very welcome to contact me or someone like me for help, but I infinitely prefer being contacted with I've got this big spreadsheet task and I want your advice. Then I had this big spreadsheet task four weeks ago, and now I'm four weeks in and I'm struggling. Can you help me fix it? Ten minutes of sketching out how you want it to work at the beginning can save you hours of problems trying to fix bad choices later on.


David, it's safe to say you've totally revolutionized my thinking when it comes to how I'm thinking about my spreadsheets and how I approach them. So thank you so much for your time. This has been really interesting.


No problem. It's been an absolute pleasure. If you want to connect with David and learn more to excel at, I see a double dot com, that's the letter X, the letter L. that I see a W dot com and he'll get your message there.


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