Abbi Hoxleigh is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Vice President of Public Relations (VPPR) for her Toastmasters International Club and Area J10. She had a ten-year career as a Media Officer at a charity before turning her attention to her personal development in 2018 and emerging as an inspirational and educational public speaker and a published co-author of several books about her turbulent life journey. Abbi is a regular contributor to magazines and journals.
At her core, she is a conceptual graphic designer with a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Art and Design who leads by example using her strategy called the 5 Key ROI Marketing Principles – Respect, Recognition, Resilience, Reputation & Reinforcement on Investment – to drive solid business results. Abbi provides communication strategies to help businesses and professionals get noticed, build a reputation, expand their customer base, and earn more sales by coaching her clients to master their message, creating complementary visuals, and pitching them as subject-matter experts and potential thought leaders to the media.
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Table of Contents
Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Abbi Hoxleigh: I’m an introverted extrovert and spend most of my time studying. My PR and design work crosses disciplines, allowing me to interact with individuals of differing expertise. My experience and knowledge have become my unique brand message as a PR and Design Consultant. I intend to develop an agency and eventually become a CEO. I work mainly with consultants, coaches, public speakers, and authors to help them establish their public persona in the media. I feel blessed to have clients that have rejoiced in seeing themselves from the outside through my lens. One asked, “Is that me?” and I said, “Indeed,” as it was factual. Another printed off an interview I had helped her write as she has dyslexia and showed her father. I value that beyond measure. Not everything in business is in financial profits.
I enjoy working with clients to create visual representations of their message, like my 5 Key ROI Marketing Principles. I can create easy-to-understand graphics that support the information presented in slide decks. These visuals help ensure the message is delivered each time consistently. I have a Japanese sense of negative space. This ability enables me to take an abstract idea and visualise it as a graphic for marketing material, articles and slide decks for my clients. My 5-Week ROI Marketing Strategy program leads people to master their marketing and media coverage.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Abbi Hoxleigh: I had no aspirations to work for myself until 2018 when I found a course for creative entrepreneurs looking to start their businesses. To attend this four-day event, I needed a Unique Taxpayers Reference (UTR), and as I was keen to learn about business, I immediately contacted HMRC to register as self-employed. My training led to developing a jewellery business as a hobby as I continued working as a Media Officer. After several months, I realised that I was equally scared of success and failure. I learned that I had an employee mindset and needed to change from the inside out. That was the game-changer. I began to realise that the difficulties holding me back were, in fact, internal, learned behaviour, so I began to unlock my potential and make changes in my life. I crammed relevant knowledge every day, bouncing from weekly deep-dive sessions with my coach to public business-related events held by Nat West Bank, soaking up every morsel of wisdom.
I began my public speaking career talking about Kickstarter crowdfunding until the 2020 lockdown changed my life. I worked from home and had access to countless Zoom meetings. As a Media Officer who was unable to go into the office, I had complete autonomy as the voice of the charity and nearly endless networking connections anywhere in the world. Within weeks, I jumped at the chance to join Toastmasters International and got involved with the Woman Who Achieves Academy and developed my brand. I was hooked when a friend asked me to design her branding in July 2020, and I agreed.
I grew The Visuals Adviser, created my website and had my first customers in no time. After struggling with business planning in the early days, I now relish in the strategy of developing my course on Mastermind.com called “Business Planning For Creative Thinkers—Fast-Track Your Success To Becoming An Entrepreneur”, which is coming soon. Now that my business is expanding, I am considering outsourcing my various tasks to freelancers. Although not yet a CEO, I have worked with many in my 27 years of employment. I have experienced several leadership styles and learned from them, which has inspired me to become self-employed. Business owners like me need similar traits to succeed, such as critical thinking abilities and interpersonal communication skills. As a result of their positions, they share specific crucial responsibilities, such as hiring people for high-level roles within their businesses. My aspirational goal is an entrepreneurial CEO mindset, and I can see it developing.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Abbi Hoxleigh: One of my CEOs visited me when I was in hospital and miles from home, struggling with my emotional health. She never judged me; she believed in me, and when I recovered, she treated me as if nothing had happened. The CEO recognised my potential and chose to work directly alongside me to drive the charity forward. We worked together on projects, including a royal visit. As a CEO, she demonstrates resilience, is a true trailblazer, and is ready to shake things up when necessary. Now that I see my personal growth, I know that I have her to thank for making me the Media Officer I became.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Abbi Hoxleigh: From my understanding, the best advice is to start early. I am not there yet. However, CEOs are not born; they emerge. In the beginning, I was advised to fast-track my way up the ladder by doing those jobs that others avoid. Remember to stay focused on your personal growth and development and learn from others. Always be open to new things coming your way but make sure they align with the plans you have for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The best thing CEOs have that most people don’t have is creating their own luck.
They were successful because of hard work, dedication, and persistence instead of being lucky. If you want to become a CEO, then put in all that hard work now, so later in life, you will be ready when the opportunity comes knocking. One thing to focus on is resilience. I discovered my own through a series of traumas, which I have learned to incorporate into my life as natural highs and lows are part of what goes into making us who we are. I got my determination to never give up from my father, who was in the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment.
He had a strong appreciation of the effects of trauma, having seen military friends suffer emotionally after their service. It’s hard to imagine what war must have been like for those soldiers. Being a CEO is like jumping out of a plane and knowing how to land without breaking your toes.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Abbi Hoxleigh: As a graphic designer and media expert, I have been able to apply my acquired knowledge, skills, experience, and contacts to build a solid local reputation as a public relations professional. As a business owner myself, I set an example for others by leading by example. Utilising PR handles almost all situations where communication between an organisation and the public is concerned. I adapted my design skills into branded media kits for my clients and created bespoke PR services that may prevent overexposure.
I possess an impressive arsenal of copywriting abilities that I use to pitch ideas to the media, resulting in valuable connections between my company and other agencies in the communications industry. As the founder of my business, I handle every aspect of day-to-day activities; however, I am mentally preparing myself for CEO status one day or so that I can recruit some talented employees who will help expand our available services and increase my earning potential.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Abbi Hoxleigh: A great CEO is a visionary, a manager and a leader. They are the ones to take the company to new heights of success. For me, these are the 5 Traits Every Great CEO Has in Common.
- Responsibility – As a CEO, you are the leader of your company and its vision. You are the protector of your employees’ livelihoods. And you are the public face of your brand.
- Persistence – The best CEO’s are tenacious. They carry on when the going gets tough; they are not easily discouraged and willing to take risks. They can keep the big picture in mind over the short term.
- Listening – To genuinely listen to your employees is one of the most crucial qualities of a great CEO. Great leaders take into consideration what others have to say.
- Integrity – Honesty and strong morals are vital because they ensure that the CEO will follow company standards, even if they go against their personal beliefs.
- Approachability – A CEO needs to be willing to answer employee questions and listen to their input on improving the company. When CEOs are approachable, it also helps their employees to build trust.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Abbi Hoxleigh: Now that I am self-employed, I reflect on my 27 years working with various CEOs. A CEO is not immune from the same stresses and insecurities as any other person. I was surprised to find that CEOs can be highly vulnerable to the people around them. A CEO’s position is often the most lonely in a company. If a CEO is not good at reading people, one can be pushed away or isolated by their peers. The security of an executive position can foster feelings of detachment, and it can be challenging to find a confidante in a position of power.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Abbi Hoxleigh: In my 27 years of experience working within the charity sector, a CEO gets their boots on the ground when necessary and manages the team as a true leader. In my opinion, doing this is one of the essential parts of being in an office environment and demonstrating good management skills.
A CEO represents the company to shareholders, partners, and other stakeholders: I produced strategic information and creative marketing material such as impact reports, and visual assets giving a CEO an extra dimension in explaining the position and direction of the charity, its needs, and vision.
Run the day-to-day operations of the business: The CEO of a company overseeing multiple services must be aware of all critical aspects, coordinate with and manage the projects, contractors, and suppliers.
Set long term strategy for the company – generally working with other stakeholders in determining that strategy: A CEO will brainstorm ideas with the Trustees and management team to evaluate each statement on a scale of difficulty and desirability, determine the essential things people seek, choose one thing to move forward with, and set goals for the year.
Oversee operational risk: Ensuring there is adequate insurance or other safeguards to guarantee that if something were to go wrong, the company would be covered from a legal standpoint and to ensure it covers the cost of any potential liabilities that could arise is the responsibility of a CEO.
Ensuring financial viability of the business: A CEO needs to understand cash flow and how money moves in and out of business—running both the company and all critical aspects of managing the industry relies on funds.
Overseeing customer service: If you’re in charge of overseeing customer service as a CEO, you are responsible for making your customers happy. Customer satisfaction can mean anything from answering questions to responding politely to negative feedback, so accomplish this job well.
Supervising sales, marketing, and operations teams: A CEO helps oversee established company sales, marketing, and operations teams, driving growth through strategic partnership and innovation.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Abbi Hoxleigh: My customers benefitted when I streamlined my services, focusing on public relations rather than a comprehensive service. It was a difficult decision: I had to let go of a customer base that was comfortable with more mainstream services, but it helped me focus on what I do best — public relations for small companies and visuals for media use and slide decks. Niching down my design services has improved the attention to detail for my customers and opened up new opportunities for me.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Abbi Hoxleigh: The definition of success is a moving target. My definition of success has always been ambitious. I want to live a happy and healthy life, work hard on my business, enjoy what I do, and earn enough money to make it worthwhile. In other words, success isn’t about working for the sake of working or having more money in your bank account. It’s about finding a sense of balance in your life, so you get to enjoy both your personal and professional life. I’m happy with the decision I made for personal development for all these reasons – and my business is in better shape because of it.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Abbi Hoxleigh Leadership skills help you build strong relationships with your team and ultimately help your business grow. These are some of the leadership skills I possess that will be invaluable when I become a CEO.
- Lead with intention
- How to take initiative
- How to make a great first impression
- How a leader can gain loyalty
- Being open to feedback
- Talk with confidence
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Abbi Hoxleigh: My mother died from Covid in October 2020, and I needed to focus my attention on my business to combat the emotional turmoil. I wanted to take on structure and make more accomplishments to lift myself out of self-doubt during that time. Being my boss gave me that power. I passed on that energy to those around me as they began to recognise their credibility. I became a marketing and PR coach for other people in a similar situation. I had experience working as a Community Mental Health Worker, so I knew how to support others through their doubt and lead by example.
In the chaos that unfolded as the pandemic took hold of the world, business owners increasingly needed to help each other. We became a team of virtual HR managers, directors and CEOs in each other’s companies in the darkness surrounding us. Trust was the reputation I gained with sincerity, and I think it is an essential quality in a CEO. Many of the people I worked with within the early days are still clients today. Years ago, I worked as a graphic designer for a Rethink Mental Illness’ social firm.
The CEO then was the voice of calm and reason. The pandemic has been a time when strong leaders have emerged from the shadows. That is the strength of the CEO mindset. Now, I am involved in pitching to the media for clients and holding a mirror to their achievements as I learned leadership skills at Toastmasters International. My Vice President of PR role gave me insights into communicating and actively listening. As a CEO, that would be my goal when I achieve the role. I envisage creating a team around me with people who believe in each other. With a strong voice that I learned how to use over time, I feel confident enough to stand up for something personally meaningful in my life – Mastering the Art of Communication.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting out on their journey?
Abbi Hoxleigh: CEOs need to adopt a growth mindset – to embrace that intelligence and ability can be grown over time through effort and experience, unlike other qualities. They need to master inner talk—to identify productive thoughts instead of destructive ones. They need to find solutions first – to evaluate a problem from multiple angles, not just the one that seems obvious. They need to take action- to stop procrastinating about issues or tasks and tackle them. And they need not fear failure – to recognize that mistakes are a necessary part of any learning process.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Abbi Hoxleigh: I want to balance life by developing a working schedule that allows my creative endeavors and relationships. I find myself often dedicated to my work and sacrificing my free time to accomplish it. I have neglected many of my responsibilities, such as taking care of my health and spending time with family members. I need to increase the balance in my life by doing things that I enjoy as much as my work, such as pursuing a hobby or taking part in an adventure.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Abbi Hoxleigh: I would call my book “How To Make People Believe In You And Get Them To Share Your Vision.”
George Wright III, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Abbi Hoxleigh for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Abbi Hoxleigh or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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