Decimal is a venture-backed financial operations company providing a full suite of financial operations and bookkeeping services for startups, professional services firms, nonprofits, and technology companies. Decimal's unique technology platform, paired with dedicated accounting specialists, helps their customers simplify their back office and unlock real-time insights.
When Decimal launched in January 2020, CEO Matt Tait quickly realized that building an effective fully-remote team required a very different way of working than he had used in his prior experience as a startup founder and CEO.
"Managing a remote-only company requires you to rethink every aspect of how you run things. You need to be very intentional about it, and be very transparent about what is different from in-office work."
Matt believes the foundation of successful remote work starts with a single source of truth for company-wide information, from handbooks and onboarding materials to pre-meeting memos that facilitate creative and productive discussions.
Matt and the Decimal team initially began documenting their company policies, onboarding materials, and meeting notes in Google Docs, and creating folders in Google Drive to organize both internal information and customer-facing communications. The team quickly encountered three serious issues:
Matt lamented that in Google Drive, there was no way to control how folders were created, organized, or maintained. The team had difficulties locating important information, which led to wasted time not only on looking for what they needed but also on messages sent between colleagues asking for links.
Because Decimal was also using Google Drive to store and share documents with their customers, they ran into issues with the lack of separation between their internal and external files. Matt noted that it was time-consuming to grant and maintain access to customers at the individual document level, and it was confusing to create folder permissions that allowed the appropriate access for both the customer and the internal team.
Decimal's onboarding process was spread across a series of unorganized emails and multiple Google docs. It was difficult for new employees to reference important information during their first weeks and months at the company, which led to longer ramp up periods and lower employee satisfaction.
Perhaps the most significant consequence of Decimal's reliance on Google docs was that they reverted to the in-office paradigm of meetings as a one-way presentation of information.
A significant chunk of most meetings were spent on simply briefing attendees on the basics of the project and/or decision to be made. As a result, Matt noticed that the team's discussions rarely went beyond the surface layer of initial questions and clarifications — necessitating even more meetings to actually resolve the topic at hand.
"As Decimal grew beyond a handful of people, we knew that we had to create a single source of truth. Slack channels became too much and too little at the same time. We also had multiple people creating the same doc for specific purposes. We needed centralization."
Without the ability to walk around an office and talk to people, Matt realized Decimal needed a hub to create a company-wide culture of documentation. He sought a new solution, with three primary objectives:
1. Establish a single source of truth for company information, including handbooks & policies, how-to documentation, FAQs, and employee yearbooks.
2. Build robust, trackable new-hire resources that allow employees to feel set up for success from day 1 with a structured onboarding program.
3. Run more creative and productive meetings by instituting pre-reads before important discussions.
Decimal needed a hub, some place where you could always find the information you need. Almanac became that platform. Decimal transitioned all of their company handbooks (benefits, policies, how-tos, and team yearbooks), onboarding materials, and meeting notes to Almanac.
Decimal now has a clear organizational hierarchy for all folders in their Almanac workspace, ensuring that information remains easy to find:
Every document is easily searchable (including the body content), allowing team members to find what they need quickly (and without distracting Slack messages).
"Now that Decimal has a single source of truth, we have a hub for information and culture. Almanac fills a specific need within our tech stack for internal knowledge and comms. It's been a great organizational and collaborative tool."
Matt and the Decimal leadership team rebuilt the employee onboarding experience from the ground-up to optimize for success in a remote environment, prepare for rapid growth, and ensure high employee satisfaction.
Every new employee receives an Almanac doc before their start date, which includes relevant pre-reads, log-in information, and certifications to complete. During their first three weeks at Decimal, new employees partner with the rest of the team in a very high-touch, structured manner. They work through a list of Almanac documents in a specific order between scheduled meetings with their colleagues, allowing them to learn the critical components of their role without information overload.
Decimal has used Almanac for onboarding over 100 new employees in the last year, allowing their operations to grow without any disruption to client deliverables.
"Almanac allowed us to create a smooth and structured experience for everyone joining Decimal. Our employee satisfaction scores around onboarding are consistently high — I have no doubt we wouldn't have been able to grow at such a fast pace without Almanac as a central component of onboarding."
Implementing a strict pre-read policy led to a significant shift in the quality of meetings at Decimal. Before product launches or other major project-related meetings in which decisions need to be reached, the meeting owner creates and distributes a document sharing all relevant information. Collaborators and stakeholders then have the opportunity to digest the basics of the topic at hand — before the live meeting — and pose questions to the rest of the group for discussion.
Using Almanac's rich text, threaded comments, the Decimal team can resolve surface-level questions (that would have previously taken up live meeting time) in the document ahead of time, and prioritize outstanding issues to be addressed during a real-time conversation.
Instead of a one-way presentation where a project owner would share information with others, meetings became more productive and creative because the team is able to immediately have deep discussions on the most important topics and quickly reach decisions together.
"When people are better informed and more mentally prepared to talk about a topic, the discussions go beyond the first or second layer of information and really dig into the core decisions that need to be addressed."
With Almanac's Doc Analytics, project owners and Decimal leadership can ensure that the team is abiding by the pre-read deadlines.
Matt credits Almanac with allowing him to create "a structured, universal way of operating company-wide." Decimal's culture of documentation begins at the employee onboarding experience and extends through every meeting held and project completed.
"Running a remote company requires you to have a single source of truth. Tools like Almanac give you a framework to build that in an extremely scalable way."
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