Who we are
We're a six-person fully remote startup that graduated from Y Combinator W19. Especially as first-time founders, we've had to figure out every little thing, including company documentation. Documentation is vital for fully-remote companies. Finding that balance of trying every great new tool without wasting time and overwhelming our team is tough.
My major takeaway: Notion has unlocked a world of possibility and for companies, the rule of thumb is: wiki-fy ALL THE THINGS. We can finally organize our thoughts with wikis, and we now WANT to write more with Notion, instead of DREADING it with Google Docs.
What we were using
When we heard about a tool that would improve upon our Google Drive mess, we were very much willing to give it a shot.
Don't get me wrong, I love G Suite. We still use Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. It's just that when it comes to company documentation, I feel icky adding new GDocs to our Drive because it feels like more clutter and stuff I'll never look at again. Then we can never find what we're looking for and ultimately have to ask our teammates.
Why we were hesitant to change
New tools are hard to adopt at a company. Even when tools are as easy to figure out as Notion, it takes time to get used to them, make a habit of using them, and then decide if they're really making a positive impact in our workflow. We were one week away from onboarding our first employees, and we had started creating onboarding docs in Google Docs when it started to seem messy.
My co-founder Courtney recommended that we use Notion, a tool she'd been using for personal use for several months. But I was initially hesitant to start paying for a solution to our company documentation when we had free tools like Google Docs, GitHub Wikis, and Trello. It was a big decision; we had to go all-in on one of the tools and needed to set the stage for all future employees. Courtney ultimately convinced us after giving us a light tutorial on what it could do.
Boy, am I happy we went with Notion.
What sold us on Notion
In the 6 months we've now been using Notion, I've found we genuinely seek topics to write a Notion page about, which is great when documentation is so vitally important for us as a remote company. Here's why Notion is so great (the Notion home page illustrates these the best):
- Organization. The wikis (Notion templates) provide a great framework to get started.
- Navigation. It's simple and convenient to move around your knowledge base.
- Consistency. Styling is uniform and limited to paragraph text and three headings, which is all you need.
- Experience. Everything you need from keyboard shortcuts to countless features to crazy flexibility (Think: Squarespace).
- All-in-one. For us, it replaced Mac Notes, Trello, GitHubWiki, and most Google Docs.
- Pricing. It's reasonably priced, especially considering the credits they dole out.
Other awesome Notion things
- Quick search. Use "Cmd + P" to jump around pages.
- Smart linking. Link all pages within Notion without URLs.
- Notion app. Both desktop and mobile have impressive apps with fewer bugs than I'm used to seeing in new software.
While I love Notion's template gallery (where I was first introduced to their concept of a business wiki), those wiki templates are currently rather limited and obviously not customized to our business. It didn't hit me that we should use a wiki for every business category until a few weeks into using Notion.
So, getting to the meat of it: here's our Notion setup at Faros. Let's break it down by the categories (sections) you can see on the left sidebar in the below screenshots:
This is where wiki-fying all the things comes into play. Notion's template gallery includes a few wiki templates you can check out by heading to "Templates" at the bottom of the left sidebar. However, they currently only have wiki templates for Engineering and Sales. It wasn't immediately obvious that wikis for all business categories are a great way to organize our entire knowledge base.
Diving into each of our wikis, you'll see our patterns consisting of:
- A cover photo for each wiki
- Icons for root-level pages (sometimes the hardest thing to decide on)
- Main categories
- "How to" prefix for guides
Faros Home is essentially our HR wiki, with the added bonus of miscellaneous pages inside (e.g. Notion Getting Started). This acts as a general company handbook, especially helpful for new hires.
Product & Business Wiki
This replaced Trello as our project management tool and includes our kanban boards (which we've called Product Roadmap).
This replaces GitHubWiki for us, including processes other teams can contribute to, like assets and QA.
This section is a mix of branding guidelines, design principles, and documention from user research and feedback.
Customer Success Wiki
We connect with our customers through multiple channels, so we outline the various processes for each tool.
Here, we added our constantly-evolving pitches, assets and value props for different customers, reports, learnings, and competitive analysis.
B2B Sales Wiki
Most young companies probably won't have two sales wikis, but we have both consumer-facing and business-facing sales that deserve entirely separate workspaces.
Growth & Marketing Wiki
This frequently visited wiki contains strategies, blog schedules and articles, SEO strategies and research, PR tactics, social media guidelines, and more.
Our Operations Wiki acts as a catchall for team and company pages for managers (e.g. hiring plans, company retreats, and management meeting notes). Since this wiki should only be viewed by managers, we keep it in the Shared section, where you can share documents with specific people.
We promote note-taking for all meetings, and they're all kept here.
At our current team size of six, the eight wikis above are all we need, but for larger teams, you could also have wikis for:
It took me a while to start using Favorites, but I am so happy I did. By adding your most-visited pages, you'll save yourself from searching for them every time. These pages can change from month to month depending on what pages you're visiting more than others.
I tend to keep Favorites for my current focus (blogs right now), Weekly Goal Tracking, Product Roadmap, and Weekly 1-on-1s.
These wikis and pages aren't shared with the entire team. In our case, our only shared wiki is the Operations Wiki.
I've started using Notion for my personal wiki including my reading list, bullet journal, and more. I'll also sometimes keep drafts private until I'm ready to share them with my team.
We do still use Google Drive for some things
We now limit Google Drive to:
- Large and complex tables. Keyword research, generated landing page data, etc.
- Presentations. Slides for monthly team meetings, decks for new users, etc.
- Surveys. Google Forms for user feedback
- Assets. Static images, Sketch files, and SVGs used on Faros
Notion and these wikis have enabled me to control the chaos of starting a company, especially as a CEO. When an idea for something that should be written down comes to mind, I no longer have to think "Oh geez, what Google Drive folder should this be in? Do I really want another Google Doc that no one's will ever find or look at?" With a wiki for each business category, it's pretty easy to decide which of the wikis the thought falls under and what page it should nest inside. Combine that with Notion's snappy navigation, and all of our company docs are a keystroke away. I, for one, am excited to see the Notion community grow.
I hope this guide can convince you to use Notion if you aren't already, help you organize Notion for your company, or inspire you to try Notion for a different use case (e.g. habit tracker, productivity app, to-do list, life wiki, etc.). We'll be updating this article as our wikis evolve and writing new articles about our own templates we've created, so stay tuned!
Non-disclaimer: I have no affiliations with Notion, I'm just a fan that is genuinely rooting for them.