44 Team 2023

We caught up with 44’s Managing Partner Tom Abbott. And as our Q&A reveals, he loves getting together with clients to find solutions to their biggest challenges – especially if there’s a whiteboard and marker pen involved…

Tell us about your career and how you became Managing Partner at 44.

I joined 44 back in 2019 after many years working in-house for HS2, National Grid, Warwick University and Marconi.

I’ve specialised in internal comms – and employee engagement – for many years. I’ve worked across digital, marketing communications, corporate communications, brand, ESG – environmental, social and governance – and more.

As Managing Partner at 44, I’m always looking to bring my experience and insight to the table to create value for both the team and our clients.

What does a typical day look like?

It’s a cliché to say no day in an agency is the same, but it’s a cliché because it’s true!

Most days will find me focused on working to bring new clients into our portfolio, supporting existing clients with engagement and strategy challenges, or developing our own business strategy for the short, medium and long term.

What’s fun about the job and what are the main challenges?

I love getting stuck into client challenges and working with them to respond to these. I enjoy the process of interrogating problems and opportunities, finding the threads to pull, and then co-creating solutions that make a meaningful difference to all involved.

Everyone who works with me knows I love a pen and whiteboard! For me, it’s easier to problem solve when on your feet, knocking ideas around and playing with the world.

The biggest challenge for me is keeping on top of the admin. It’s easy to be distracted by the creative stuff and forget to do the as important admin to give you a solid foundation.

Was there someone or something that inspired you to follow a career path in IC? 

I’ve worked across many communications roles, but I think the person that helped me understand most clearly what a career in internal communications could offer was Liam Fitzpatrick. We worked together in several places and in some very different circumstances.

He also got me to cycle very long distances and reconnected me with the pleasure of riding a bike.

I know how many people he has supported over the years, so his time and conversation are always a privilege and welcomed.

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, what advice would you offer to the IC professional for successful employee engagement?

Like many roles, it’s time to get comfortable with data. We are potentially awash with data in a way the discipline has previously lacked, but managing this and drawing robust, actionable insight is a specific skill which we all need to cultivate.

I would also say that we need to keep ourselves honest about what makes a real difference. There are a lot of promises made about internal communications, especially around digitisation. We must never forget the human touch and perspective and never lose sight of our fundamental principles. People talking to people about stuff that matters.

If we’re looking for a conversation starter, what should we ask you about?

I used to be a properly accredited wine merchant with certificates to prove it. I would love to get back to collecting, exploring, and drinking more wine from around the world. I am sure it has changed a lot in 30 years, and it would be fun to find out how.

Which three people − real or imagined, alive or from the past − would you invite to join you for a drink and a bite to eat at your favourite haunt?

I’d love to speak to my grandfather on my mother’s side. He died when I was one, and I’ve always been told he and I would have been very close. I would love the opportunity to discover more about him and find out how close we could have been.

I’d also like to invite Douglas Adams, the creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, among other things. He was such an inspired writer, humourist and commentator that it would be fascinating to hear what he thought of our current time.

Finally maybe Irish singer Shane McGowan. He’d bring the house down in a riotous manner and a fun time would be had by all.

Is there anything special you’re looking forward to this year? Any big plans, goals or ambitions?

Professionally, we are looking at how we continue to develop the business and what we deliver for clients. I’m really excited to see where this goes and how we help clients benefit from our creativity and ideas.

Finally – is there a mantra or piece of advice that you carry with you in your professional journey?

So much advice over the years, but there are a few that stand out for me:

  • Keep it simple
  • You can only influence the things you control
  • Strategy is great until you cross the start line, then all hell can break loose, so be ready to adapt
  • Progress is messy
  • A loss of courage is necessary for a brave life.