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Andy Abramson of Comunicano: “Keeping people up to date is another challenge”

Keeping people up to date is another challenge. Using call recording is a good way to let people catch up “on their time” and “in their time” helps avoid burnout by asking people to be on calls at odd hours. This is where choosing the right tools for meetings, keeping and sharing meeting notes and […]

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Keeping people up to date is another challenge. Using call recording is a good way to let people catch up “on their time” and “in their time” helps avoid burnout by asking people to be on calls at odd hours. This is where choosing the right tools for meetings, keeping and sharing meeting notes and providing a way to make documents available without lots of effort.


As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Abramson.

Throughout his career, Andy Abramson has been involved in all facets of marketing communications and the digital world through his marketing services agency, Comunicano, which operates globally as an all virtual agency.

Since 2000, Andy and his company have propelled 53 company exits in the fintech, web, Internet, mobile, telecom, media, financial services, and IT infrastructure sectors, generating more than 5 billion dollars for the investors, founders, and employees via M&A or IPO. Some companies that have been acquired or went public include StubHub, GrandCentral, Telesphere, Boingo, CounterPath, GIPS, SimpleSignal, SightSpeed, Dynamicsoft, WebDialogs, HiDef Conferencing, Arcot Systems, BridgePort Networks, and Comgates. He has previously served as Senior Advisor to Counterpath, Dialpad, AT&T, Nokia, AOL, and many other companies on a global basis on matters related to the telecom industry, marketing, and communications.

More impressive than the numbers are who has done the acquiring. Google and Vonage each have acquired two, while IBM, Cisco, Nokia, Yahoo, Symantec, Logitech, Citrix, RIM and Computer Associates are some of the more recognizable names.

A pioneer in remote work and virtual team leadership, Andy Abramson also serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for Fonative, the Lowell, MA-based CPaaS company focused on compliant communications for regulated industries including healthcare, government, and financial institutions. He joined the company in May 2019. Andy guides the company in strategy and implementation of marketing, demand generation, special events, corporate communications, public relations, influencer development, social media, and reputation management. Additionally, he has held a similar role with SkySwitch, the leading white-label and channel only UCaaS provider in North America, redefining their marketing and brand initiatives and serving as Executive Producer of their annual conference, Vectors. In addition to his CMO role with Fonative, he duplicates that responsibility with Flyt Aviation. This Atlanta area startup is making it easier and less expensive to learn to fly and rent airplanes.

He rejoined the agency world after guiding sports marketing and public relations for The Upper Deck Company that followed serving within Account Management for Los Angeles based FCB/Impact. There he supervised sports marketing and sponsorship and client account management for leading brands, including Spalding and Dr. Scholls’. In addition to his work with clients, Andy has spent over 25 years in sports marketing and management in a series of executive and managerial positions with The Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Wings, and Denver Nuggets and serving as General Manager of The Celebrity All-Star Hockey Team. He is credited with establishing the Flyers youth hockey and fan development program and over 25 other programs that established a future fan base for the National Hockey League team. He began his sports industry career at age 14 in the Public Relations Department of The Philadelphia Wings Pro Lacrosse Club.

An avid wine collector, accidental winemaker, and global traveler, Andy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Temple University. He is a member of the board of directors of More Too Life, a leading anti-human trafficking organization, and is a Director Emeritus of The Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association, where he is also an honored first-ballot inductee in their Hall of Fame.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

My “backstory” for remote work comes from having my first job at age 14 with a professional sports team. You really learn what remote work is all about when “work” is at the practice facility, on airplanes, on the team bus, or at the game in an arena. Working in a press box, dealing with reporters, having to phone in the scores of the games at the end of every period, you learn what remote work is all about. Back then we had fax machines, so learning how to send a fax, then call to verify that the newspaper received the fax so they had the stats was my first “remote work” experience.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I think the most interesting thing that has happened to me since I started my career is the lessons I learned surrounding remote work when really young, still apply today. Those lessons include being able to work from anywhere, as I’ve never given a second thought to being able to work when traveling, and always took time to make sure that connectivity was there for me. The best example of knowing how to stay connected was when now Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern and I proved that you could make a Voice over IP call over GoGo on a plane after GoGo said it was impossible. It made the Marine Corp creed that my dad taught me when young, applied to me. “The impossible we do right away. Miracles take a little longer.” I always like doing the impossible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I ever made was forgetting to deliver a story to a local paper for a colleague. I was asked to play messenger, for something I could have written. I got chewed out, and never forgot to help others again.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Change yourself up every 5–7 years. Never stop learning. Always look to the young for what will be ordinary in the future.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve been managing and working remotely since 1974. But it was in 1993 when I started my own agency, that I made the conscious decision to never be in a formal office again.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

When it comes to managing remote teams the major challenges are managing time management, time zones, keeping people up to date, choosing the right tools or services to use, and not overmanaging.

The book, “One Minute Manager” talked about “managing by walking around.” Obviously that doesn’t work with remote teams, so early on, I used the approach of “Skyping” to my staff where I would “check in” with them a few times a day. Today, workers call those types of calls or chats, “stand ups” and I still find that regular standups are an essential part of managing a remote team.

Time management is a major issue. People can be easily distracted when working away from the office. Family members, children, pets, access to entertainment tv, neighbors all take a worker’s attention away.

A second issue is working across time zones. Managers need to work the clock. For example, I start my day with calls and conference calls with people in Europe. I save my scheduled west coast calls for the afternoon, when it’s more convenient. By working the clock managers can be available to their remote team members when it’s more convenient.

Keeping people up to date is another challenge. Using call recording is a good way to let people catch up “on their time” and “in their time” helps avoid burnout by asking people to be on calls at odd hours. This is where choosing the right tools for meetings, keeping and sharing meeting notes and providing a way to make documents available without lots of effort.

Last is to not over manage. If you over manage then your staff thinks you don’t have confidence in them, then you’ll find they become insecure. You have to give your team the space to get their work done. To avoid this have regular check ins, but if things are going the right way, don’t over manage them.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Choose the right tools. Use the clock to your staff’s advantage. Learn your power curve part of the day and be a very good communicator.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

When giving feedback always end with a positive. Start with some points of praise, but then go into your areas of concern or critique. Never make it about the person, but always about what was done right or wrong, and then present a better way to have handled it.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Email and text are both not really good modes for providing feedback. Take the time to have a phone call or a video chat about things. It’s more personal and impactful. It also shows you took the time to “meet” with the person about your concerns and critique.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Working remotely offers challenges and opportunities. For example, becoming self aware of your surroundings is one. If you have a family around you, setting boundaries is very important. For example, work hours are not the time for your school age child to be expecting you to help them with their homework nor the time for “honey-do’s” to be done. Your colleagues, co-workers and employers may be tolerant of a child walking in to ask a quickly answered question, but not if you take five to ten minutes of their time to solve a problem. Second is poor connectivity. The number of people who don’t invest in business grade networking and broadband, and make everyone else suffer with a bad connection or slowly uploading files impacts the team. Buying business grade gear, having the best broadband available, buying higher quality speakerphones, cameras and headsets helps overcome many hurdles of poor communication and collaboration.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Encourage the team members to have “social time” as a group. Send out gifts that are the same that can be shared, discussed, and appreciated. Have an after work happy hour every so many weeks to build the bonds, and help avoid the feeling of being isolated. Organize regular group meetings at convenient times. If someone has to take part always late at night, try to arrange calls that are earlier in the morning for others vs. 9–5 hours all the time for the core group and others when it’s time to be sleeping. Recognize that by respecting people time and time zones they will feel appreciated.

Allow them to make decisions on their own, and then recognize that mistakes happen and are a learning experience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The ideal example of a remote work team is to have workations together. Pick a place they all would enjoy being for a few weeks or more and have them get together there to bond, work together and also enjoy time “playing” together like they were on a vacation. Plan the hours of work and play and give them the ability to make work and play more fun.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I always like to copy the SAS motto, of “He who dares, wins.” For me it’s about taking risks that you can be in control of the outcome, and that in turn decides your level of success. If you don’t make decisions, you won’t make mistakes, and in turn you will never learn from them.

Thank you for these great insights!

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