Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Meet our leaders: Shawn Abbatessa, Chief of Staff | Brown & Brown Absence Services Group

At Brown & Brown Absence Services Group, we are committed to delivering innovative solutions and creating a positive impact for our customers, clients, and teammates. To support this commitment, we have proudly assembled a leadership team rich in expertise and creativity to cast the vision for the future of the organization while also developing and executing against our strategies for success.

This month, we are pleased to introduce Shawn Abbatessa, Chief of Staff. Shawn has been a part of the organization for three and a half years and is responsible for organizing and prioritizing critical initiatives as well as providing guidance on key projects, communicating with leaders and teammates, and providing decision-making support to members of the Senior Leadership Team.

Shawn joined Brown & Brown with more than 20 years of experience in leadership, sales, marketing, operations, and the hospitality industry. Prior to joining Brown & Brown, he served in a leadership position for a nonprofit, The Arc of Volusia, an organization serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the greater Daytona Beach area.

Early in his career, Shawn spent a number of years in the United States Air Force. When reflecting on his military service and how it has shaped him as a leader, Shawn notes: 

“When I enlisted, I was seventeen years old, and my parents had to sign the paperwork for me because I was not of legal age yet. Throughout my six years of service, I was continuously placed in leadership positions, including overseeing our Security Forces Teams in Doha, Qatar, during Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990 – 1991). I was twenty years old at the time, in the middle of a war, and I had many lives I was responsible for – you learn quickly to become the best leader you possibly can. 


This experience taught me the fundamentals of what I believe make up a great leader: integrity, honesty, perseverance, the ability to listen intently before making the most logical decisions, service above self, and an inner code that constantly says to yourself “failure and mediocracy are not an option.” These are my personal core values, and I’ve strived throughout my career to be true to myself and those I am ultimately responsible for and to.”

We asked Shawn to further reflect on his career at Brown & Brown Absence Services Group as well as what his goals are for the future, both personally and for the broader organization. Here’s what he had to say:

You joined Brown & Brown right before the WHO declared a global pandemic. How did the first few months on the job differ from what you were expecting?
“My first day with Brown & Brown was January 30, 2020. I was hired as Chief of Staff, reporting to our CEO at the time, Julie Turpin, with a dotted line to Michael Shunney, who was President at the time. There was regular travel in the plans for me during the first half of the year from Florida to both our Wakefield, MA and Portland, ME, locations so I could meet all of our teammates in person and really get to know the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).

After my initial few weeks of onboarding and training on our business lines, I had only managed to get one trip in before the pandemic hit, and we sent all teammates to work from home on March 17, 2020. At the time, we only thought this might be a few weeks before we were all back in the office – well, we know the rest of this story. I found myself, like many others, having to build relationships virtually, which was not something I regularly had to do throughout my career.

Frankly, this is not what I was expecting, but then again, none of us were. So, the challenge of building a trusting relationship virtually with the very teammates I was going to serve as their Chief of Staff began. Candidly, I’m a “people person” who enjoys getting to know someone by their body language, tone of voice, and overall demeanor. Looking back, I was able to build those relationships and feel confident in my efforts, but being new to an organization during a global pandemic was not how I saw it all playing out in my mind when I started my career with Brown & Brown.”

What would you consider to be the biggest highlight(s) of your career with Brown & Brown?
“There’s so many! Ultimately for me, the environment that Brown & Brown has developed across the enterprise far exceeds any other company I have worked for or with. The teammates across all sectors are diverse, compassionate, driven, VERY smart, willing to help, and truly care about the mission of the business. These attributes are not as common as one would think in today’s business world, and for that, I am honored to be a part of the team!”

What excites you most about the future of Brown & Brown Absence Services Group?
“Great question – EVERYTHING! We have the best teammates who are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve and exceed our goals. As a business, we set the bar high, and our teammates consistently reach up, grab that bar, and go even higher! If you couple all of this with the new services we’re developing, the expansion and growth of various business lines, and the consistent high quality we deliver – there is no limit to what we can achieve as an organization!”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? And what is one piece of advice you would give to young professionals looking to grow their careers?
“A long time ago, my grandfather said to me, “Champ (that was his nickname for me), as you get older, you will have many responsibilities, and you will accomplish great things in your life. Here’s a little piece of advice from your gramps: 

You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason – make sure you always listen intently first before speaking. Doing this will let the speaker(s) know you care about what they are saying, and, ultimately, it will help inform any decisions or choices you have to make.” 

Sure enough, it’s the best piece of advice I’ve been given to this day! The art of listening isn’t easy because our human nature is to interject our ideas and opinions right from the get-go. 

My advice to young professionals would be the same, don’t always be so quick to speak. Hear what others have to say, process it, decide if what you heard has changed your thoughts or perspective, formulate your words, and then say what you have to say. It’s never let me down!”