Georgette Pascale: Fine-Tuning the Virtual Workplace – Managing a Business From Afar

Georgette Pascale, CEO of Pascale Communications LLC.,(PC) launched her virtual company with a focus on the healthcare field, assembling a community of experienced, self-starting colleagues who embraced the virtual model. Currently, PC has a staff of 16 (15 women and one man), aged from 21 to 59. In 2013, Pascale also launched Pascale Communications Consulting (PCc) a division that serves a range of industries outside of the healthcare field. Unlike other virtual offices, primarily made up of a loosely knit, interchangeable group of temporary freelancers, Pascale Communications’ business model is much closer to that of a traditional office, with a permanent staff and long term clients.

Golden Bridge: Why did you decide to launch a virtual company rather than a traditional one?

Georgette Pascale:
Eight years ago, for reasons both professional and personal, I made the decision to start my own public relations firm. As I developed my business model, I knew that I wanted to focus on the healthcare industry. I also knew that I wanted to avoid commuting, the high overhead of office space and the office politics I’d encountered in the companies where I’d worked previously. So, after much consideration, I opted to go forgo the brick and mortar route and go 100% virtual. It’s a decision that has worked well for me and for the staff I’ve carefully assembled. But even now, years after making a success of the business, I’m often faced with the same question from friends and business colleagues: “How can you possibly manage a whole company virtually?” It’s a logical question with a virtual battery of answers. And while it’s true that a virtual business requires of its CEO a unique set of communication and organizational skills to lead a staff that’s located all over the map, it’s a challenge I’ve met time and time again. From my headquarters in Connecticut, I oversee a geographically diverse staff of 16 who hail from every time zone in the continental US as well as clients situated around the globe.

Georgette Pascale launched Pascale Communications LLC. eight years ago, opting for a virtual business model. She offers her expertise to several non-profits including Prevent Blindness America and Ophthalmic Women Leaders and lends her PR support to the national non-profit Pajama Program. For her efforts, Pascale has received many industry awards including: a Golden Bridge Award – Women Helping Women (2012), Vision Monday – Most Inspiring Women (2012), Bulldog Media Award (2012), and Fairfield County’s 40 Under 40 (2012), Georgette is a member of the Women’s Small Business Association and the National Association of Female Executives. She’s married and is the mother of three young children.

Golden Bridge: Tell us more about fine-tuning the virtual workplace and creating a business community from afar? How do you manage a group of 16 people from afar? What are the major challenges unique to the virtual model?

Georgette Pascale:
When leading a virtual firm, first and foremost, you have to hire the right staff, people who understand and embrace the business model you’ve envisioned and are self-motivated and comfortable working on their own. You’ll often be hiring these people over the phone, sight unseen, so it’s up to you to develop a well thought-out list of interview questions and a superior set of listening skills. Whenever possible, even if it costs you a bit more, hire senior level adults. While young freelancers may cost less and may be enthusiastic about the prospect of working from home in their pajamas, they most probably have not yet developed the skills that allow them to focus on work and prioritize without face-to-face interaction and supervision. If you hire smart, responsible self-starters, you’re well on your way to creating an integrated, well-oiled machine from a group of formerly unrelated parts. I manage closely– but try not to micromanage from afar. (This is not always easy – but is achievable when you’ve assembled the right team). It’s essential to find a happy medium between leaving your staff entirely to their own devices and demanding minute-by-minute updates. I’m very clear from the start about exactly what’s expected of my staff at all times – even when I’m not around, from how to represent the company on client calls to regular weekly updates, both to the client and to me.

Golden Bridge: How do you make medical jargon and complex concepts understandable to reporters and the general public?

Georgette Pascale:
We make sure that the doctors who serve as our spokespeople speak in lay-terms, keeping the medical jargon to a minimum. They have to think in terms of communicating to potential patients, people who have no medical background and really want to understand the procedures or drugs that might be an option for them. In addition, all the press materials that come out of our office are written with that same goal in mind. While there are certainly health reporters out there who are well versed in medical lingo – in this day and age of reduced newsroom staffs, you can’t take for granted that outlets still have dedicated health correspondents.

Golden Bridge: How do you manage to hold on to your staff for the long term – since freelancers are often temporary?

Georgette Pascale:
My goal was always to create a hybrid, a true virtual business with the soul of a traditional company, complete with regularly scheduled staff conference calls during which all our projects are discussed in depth. I’m available (day and night, within reason) to discuss strategy, handle difficult client issues and deal with unforeseen challenges. Without the everyday, face-to-face contact, characteristic of a traditional office, it’s essential that the virtual business owner develop a set of tools that will keep them regularly posted on all the business doings of their employees. We email and IM throughout the day. I periodically fly my staff members to one locale so we can all meet and brainstorm in person. I also give holiday bonuses, an unusual perk in the freelance community. By doing this, I find that I’ve been able to maintain a solid, committed, permanent staff, unlike many other virtual companies which are primarily made up of a loosely knit, interchangeable group of temporary freelancers. Another key to success is to find dependable, permanent office support for the whole team. So many of our freelancers are accustomed to doing every task by themselves so this kind of support enables them to hand off much of the minutia. By putting all these pieces in place, I’ve been able to manage and retain a sizable virtual staff for the long term, offering clients consistent service, unlike many firms where freelancers come and go with great frequency.

Company: Pascale Communications | Greater New York Area USA

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