Small Business Wiki: How a Fully Remote Startup Built the Brains of their Company

Andy Cook
June 19, 2020

As a remote marketing agency with 20 employees, Animalz needed a place to communicate asynchronously. But when they realized that relying on the document platform Quip to create, store, and share company knowledge wasn’t sustainable anymore, they decided to invest in a small business wiki.

However, that meant building it entirely from scratch, as well as getting company-wide adoption for it. So, how did Animalz manage to do it? Read on to learn how Julia Melymbrose, Animalz’s former Director of People and Operations, built the brains of their company.

Why Animalz Decided to Get a Small Business Wiki

Animalz wasn’t just using Quip as an internal knowledge base. They also used it to draft and edit their clients’ articles. And this made it difficult for their employees to find the exact knowledge they were looking for, especially since Quip’s search function wasn’t as powerful at the time.

“There were a lot of things going on in Quip,” says Melymbrose. “And it got to the point where it was hard to find knowledge. Every time you’d search for something, a bunch of related documents might pop up, but none of them were what you were actually looking for.”

Animalz’s employees also couldn’t tell whether knowledge in Quip was complete or not. In Quip, every document was littered with comments from their CEO. And things would get even more jumbled when Melymbrose would leave comments in the side panel.

“We needed a space where we could finalize documents,” says Melymbrose. “People should be able to go in there and search for knowledge without the clutter of all the articles. We needed to separate the two. So, we went with Tettra.”

Julia Melymbrose

After Animalz tapped Tettra as their internal knowledge base, Melymbrose gathered all of the knowledge docs Animalz had stored in Quip and Soapbox. She then created a big bulleted list of the main categories she needed, added in anything relevant that she could find, and slotted in sub-bullets of the documents that they already had.

Next, she had to transfer all of this knowledge to Tettra. Fortunately, Tettra did a mass upload for them. All Melymbrose had to do was send them the documents. From there, all that was left was to edit the documents as needed.

Organizing the Wiki

After editing the documents, Melymbrose started organizing their new internal knowledge base. Her first move was laying the foundation and creating the categories that Animalz needed the most. And with only five categories and no sub-categories, she was able to stay nimble and reorganize their internal knowledge base as the agency grew.

“When building a wiki, I think that it’s important to start with the fundamental categories that capture the current state of your company. But you also need to be flexible,” says Melymbrose. “You’re never going to have the perfect wiki, especially as your company grows. It’s a constant work in progress. And I think that’s an important mindset to adopt when you build it. If you’re trying to create every document under the sun and have this fear of ‘do we have all the information people need to know?’ you’re never going to ship it.”

Today, Animalz has more than 10 categories in their internal knowledge base, four of which have multiple subcategories. And Melymbrose attributes her ability to build onto their internal knowledge base by treating it like a living, breathing entity that will never stop growing.

Animalz' small business wiki

“We started building our wiki when we had probably 15 to 20 employees, and now there’s more than 50. The company is completely different now. And so is the wiki,” says Melymbrose. “Don’t think you’re going to create this master wiki that will always have the same categories and subcategories or think that you have to finish it. Your wiki is never really finished.“

Creating the Content

Now it was time to fill in the categories that Melymbrose had just created. To do this, she decided to cultivate a culture where people could document whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, except for Animalz’s policies, which naturally required a lot of collaboration with the management team.

“The idea was to get everyone involved. Any document like, ‘how to submit an article for research,’ didn’t need approval to get created,” says Melymbrose. “Really, anyone could come in, create a page, edit a page, and add any useful information. There was no approval process.”

Later on, as Animalz grew, Melymbrose realized that they could use their internal knowledge base to refine their onboarding process. And as a remote company that only interacted with new employees through video chat and Slack, creating a one-stop-shop for all the documents that people needed was the missing piece of the onboarding puzzle.

“When we started scheduling onboarding and understanding what material new hires should read during their first and second weeks, our wiki was a great place for them to easily find things,” says Melymbrose. “We also created this onboarding handbook in our wiki, which is basically a list with links of all the onboarding articles, which was a great way to guide them through the process.”

Animalz' onboarding documents stored on Tettra

 To build out your own wiki, Melymbrose recommends tapping a project manager to oversee the wiki and then giving your employees the freedom to create documentation on their own, like they did at Animalz.

“It’s good to appoint a project manager who makes sure the wiki is updated and maintained, but I don’t think there’s ever a situation where one person can do it all,” says Melymbrose. “It’s more about doing the things that you can do and then just reminding people to contribute. If you see an important message in Slack or, if someone asks a question, ask them to create a page about it in Tettra.”

Leveraging Tettra’s Slack Integration

While Melymbrose was building out Animalz’s internal knowledge base, one of her favorite Tettra features was its Slack integration. Not only did it allow Animalz to sign their employees into Tettra through their Slack account, but it also allowed them to search for knowledge right in the Slack app.

Tettra - Slack Integration

“When people would ask if there’s a document in Tettra, I would always tell them that you can search for it in Slack through the slash command,” says Melymbrose. “It’s so easy to search through Slack with Tettra. What you’re looking for is usually there. I always thought it was very useful.”

Building Your Small Business Wiki

Building an internal knowledge base, especially from scratch, as a small company, can seem like a daunting task. But by following these tips from someone who built one for a small, fully remote marketing agency, you can turn it into a doable task. So, start documenting your company’s knowledge today. And if you need an internal knowledge base to rely on, check out Tettra today.