Monday, December 4, 2023

“Oh, it’s a total Slack attack”: Chris Schermer’s Post-Covid Tech Reality

Chris Schermer was recently elected the 2021 chair of MAGNET and runs Minnesota’s SCHERMER. This is the third in our post pandemic tech questionnaire series; read April Dunford’s and Kal Irani’s.


Chris Schermer

Website: (not .com)

What you did before the pandemic:

Founder + President, SCHERMER, a Minnesota-based, globally-focused B2B Marketing agency.

What you do now:

Fortunately, more of the same! Plus, I’ve recently been elected the 2021-2022 Chairman of the Board of MAGNET, the Marketing and Advertising Global Network

What habit has changed most for you since the start of the pandemic?

I used to enjoy travelling every few weeks, visiting clients, pitching new business, attending conferences, or just having fun with friends and family. But I haven’t been on a plane since February 2020! So now to get my fix, I’ve turned into a travel show junkie. From Anthony Bourdain, who I still mourn, to boring old Rick Steves, to the endless rabbit holes of Google Maps and Earth, I’ve scouted a lifetime of future travel destinations that start as soon as I get vaccinated!

Laptop, tablet phone or other: which do you use most?

Definitely my MacBook Pro. But close behind is my iPhone. A very distant third is my LED desk lamp / zoom light.

What other device that you currently use do you love?

I feel plenty connected to and through my laptop and iPhone, so an Apple watch would just feel like a handcuff on me. Although my wife would certainly appreciate its ability to shock me into being on time.

Biggest productivity change since the pandemic:

I’m more fortunate than most because I have been able to work safe and solitary in the SCHERMER office, which is just ten minutes from where I live. That division between home and work has kept me motivated, while utilizing apps has helped me and my team stay highly connected and productive.

Top 3 most used apps:

On my iPhone: Outlook, Facebook, Spotify

Top 5 emojis:

👍 👏  😊 ☹️ 🤯

Top 3 most used business apps:

On my laptop: Outlook, Chrome, Slack

Biggest change in digital behavior since the start of the pandemic (besides more Zoom):

We’ve fully embraced Slack as a primary communications platform. Email still gets used a lot, but Slack is more about instant and face-to-face contact, two things email just can’t do and being out of the office requires.

What’s your zoom background:

I have fun changing it up a lot. Sometimes it’s a shot of Marvel’s Avengers with me in the middle, sometimes Batman and Robin in their old 60’s Batmobile. I also use some of my favorite travel photos, and for client presentations, a nice shot our office lobby to remind people that we are still a real business, not just a virtual team.

Zoom background anxiety out of 10:

Zero. I do most of my Zoom calls at my office, where I’m alone and uninterrupted by yelling kids, barking dogs or naked roommates.

Favorite new WFH app:

Oh, it’s a total Slack attack. The ability to chat, call, do video or share files is both uniquely simple and utterly significant.

An app you have stopped using:

Evernote. As much as I want to love it, I have a hard time consistently using it. it’s just harder to remember and find notes buried in a software system than it is to write them in a notebook or email them to myself and arrange in folders. Call me old fashioned, just please, don’t call me a luddite.

% increase in work related pandemic emotional labor:

Between February and April, my emotional labor pains were turned up to 11, but we had prepared and practiced for our transition to work at home early. Very quickly into the March shut down, we saw that our team wasn’t going to miss a beat or drop a ball. And once we saw that our clients weren’t shutting their efforts off, we knew we would be able to sustain ourselves and support their business through the first worst of it. Currently, I still have a few worries and fears, but it’s now mostly about keeping our people happy and healthy, and our clients satisfied and successful.

Best virtual event session you’ve attended and why:

SCHERMER is part of MAGNET, a global network of 38 independent marketing agencies around the world. Since March, we’ve held weekly Zoom calls for agency principals, which have been the most valuable ‘virtual events’ I’ve taken part in. Plus we recently hosted our first Virtual Agency Summit, which featured multiple business and social events spaced out over the course of 3 weeks. Every session was via Zoom, and it went off without a hitch. I find that as long as the tech works and presenters / attendees have bandwidth, it always comes down to the quality of content and presenters – which was, as always, terrific for our agencies.

What does running an agency look like during a global pandemic and civil unrest?

Honestly, there have been some fairly stressful times, especially last spring when we were first wondering about our unpredictable future and worrying about an uncontrollable pandemic. We’re very fortunate, however, to be a B2B agency with clients who have a long-term vision and commitment to delivering relevance and driving revenue. As a result, we’re grateful to have maintained ample work and avid support.

On top of the pandemic and its effect on our business, political and social issues have caused massive disillusionment and disenchantment across the country. We’re based in Minneapolis, which felt like the epicenter of this recent BLM movement, and admittedly struck both chords and nerves. But we welcomed the efforts of others to challenge the way things are, and we hope to be part of the way things should be. We do our best here to have fair and open discussions about those issues, and I think as a result, we’ve grown stronger as a culture because these issues and challenges have reaffirmed our organizational and individual values.

Our employees and clients all have different experiences, expectations, backgrounds and beliefs. So trying to make a statement that makes everyone feel good is difficult. Instead, we’ve focused on trying to be and do good for everyone. Our clients and staff trust and shape who we are and honor what we stand for, and that’s made a huge impact on our ability to continue delivering exceptional work in a virtual environment and keeps people feeling connected to our cause.



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Jennifer Evans
Jennifer Evans
principal, @patternpulseai. author, THE CEO GUIDE TO INDUSTRY AI. former chair @technationCA, founder @b2bnewsnetwork #basicincome activist. Machine learning since 2009.