Tobias Häckermann, CEO of Sherpany and his team are focusing on creating meeting solutions that help their customers cure the disease of meeting madness during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tobias Häckermann: We are doing well, thank you! During the COVID-19 pandemic, my wife and I welcomed our first child, a daughter, and also moved from Zurich to Lisbon. Needless to say, it’s been a busy time for us, but thankfully we are all safe and well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Sherpany.
Tobias Häckermann: I founded Sherpany ten years ago with two friends while studying abroad in Italy. We have been committed to creating a world where every meeting counts ever since. We’ve now grown to more than 130 Sherpanees, based in six offices across Europe and with many working remotely, globally. Every day I am proud to work with such talented, intelligent, and passionate people, and I love seeing them outgrow me.
How does Sherpany innovate?
Tobias Häckermann: At Sherpany, we are committed to continuously improving our product and our services. We have a strong focus on finding new and improved ways of helping leaders to achieve more by reaching swifter decisions and fostering employee engagement and accountability through their meetings. In order to do this, we place the customer at the center of everything we do, focusing on creating meeting solutions that help our customers cure the disease of meeting madness, which erodes productivity, employee wellbeing, and overall company performance. Having a strong customer focus enables us to explore new ideas and guarantees that we collaborate with customers and tailor our innovations to the real-world challenges of leadership.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tobias Häckermann: We are fortunate to work in an industry that has allowed us to cope with the pandemic relatively well and to continue growing our business. We are very thankful for this and even offered businesses who were in need the opportunity to leverage our solution to ease the transition to remote work while allowing them to pay as much as they could afford, which in many cases was nothing.
For us as a company, the pandemic actually had a lot of positive impacts, too. We have always adopted an agile way of working at Sherpany, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced us, like many, to switch to a completely remote set-up. For us, the remote shift was an adjustment at first, but somewhere along the way, we realized the benefits of working remotely and have even changed our global working policy to remote-first. It turns out that empowering our people to choose when and where they work actually increased their satisfaction and ultimately made us a more effective and resilient team. Another interesting challenge brought by the pandemic was developing and strengthening the bond with our customers while physically distanced from them. Sherpany has been able to secure incredible growth in the face of this challenge, which demonstrates the power of our creative and versatile team.
On this journey, tools such as Slack have been invaluable in helping us adapt and ensure that our strong bonds with one another and company’s culture translated into a virtual set-up. Good meetings have been even more crucial during this time, as they become the sole place that human-to-human connection happens and where company culture lives, grows or dies.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tobias Häckermann: I am grateful that we have been far less impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic than many businesses. Compared to organizations that have had to reduce staff and make severe cut-backs, I am proud that Sherpany has, in fact, been able to secure impressive growth and actually expand headcount during this difficult time. There have been challenges, but these are more minor, relatively speaking – such as deciding how and when to let our people visit the office. We have always had the wellbeing of our people and our customers at the forefront of our decision-making on this subject, but it has been difficult to force our people, many of whom love to be co-located with their colleagues, to remain separated for more than a year.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Tobias Häckermann: At Sherpany, we love using collaboration tools such as Miro and Slack to develop ideas and drive initiatives forward asynchronously. We also use Sherpany for all of our formal meetings. It has been a great opportunity for our people to experience using the meeting management Framework Azend® as well as our software in a completely different context – in their virtual and hybrid meetings. In terms of management skills, we have found that leading with empathy and being outcome-oriented, as opposed to time/task-oriented, has been very effective in a remote setting.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tobias Häckermann: In earnest, we don’t have any direct competitors. There are tools that support meetings, such as video conferencing providers, collaboration tools such as MS Teams, and plenty of software providers who cater specifically to board meetings, but there aren’t any direct competitors in the enterprise meeting management space who cover the meeting process from end-to-end. We are proud to be trailblazers in this regard, helping large-scale organizations to improve their most vital management tool: meetings.
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