Alexis Farley : GM of Hypoxi AU/NZ
Alexis Farley: GM of Hypoxi AU/NZ
Alexis Farley holds a special place in my heart, for a very special reason- her family was my last nanny family, before I made the decision to devote myself to my business. She is a mother, a leader, and an incredibly intelligent businesswoman, with both law and journalism degrees under her belt. Her drive, her passion, and her calm nature combined to bring her to where she is today- at the head of a female-led company bringing change to small businesses, and everyday women alike. It was a true joy to bring her story to you.
In your own words, what is it that you do?
“I am the General Manager of Hypoxi Australia New Zealand, and I also help with the US. I guess that’s what I do from a title perspective. I think what I do is help people grow their business, and that’s both internal businesses and studios (we have studio managers and regional managers) and I see my job as to help them do what they do and build a business, and give them enough freedom and power to try things, to make decisions, and collaborate with me and my team on their businesses. Then we also have a franchise network which are true independent business owners, and it’s about helping them have the structure and the skills to run their own business.”
Biggest pet peeve?
“People that walk slowly in front of me (laughs). I walk with purpose everywhere- I’m always in a hurry, and I walk with purpose!”
Would you rather be able to fly, become invisible, or walk through walls?
Dream holiday destination?
“Probably a great beach holiday- I love the beach, I love warm weather. That or something with some action/adventure stuff in it.”
Favourite clothing brand?
"Ooh, that's a hard one- but I do like Ginger & Smart."
The nitty gritty.
What did you dream of being when you were little, and how has it stuck, or strayed, from where you are today?
“A few things- I originally wanted to be an actress or a performer. Unfortunately, I realised that I didn’t have the skill for it (laughs), but I still, I love things where you can get up in front of people and have that sort of performance element, you know, I’m happy to get up in front of a team and speak, and I enjoy that aspect of it. I then wanted to be a journalist- which was the other degree I studied at university- and for me, I think once I got into studying journalism, I realised that you need to be incredibly passionate about it. It’s a very tough industry and I actually found it to be quite confronting- probably doing what you’re doing-, asking questions of people. Particularly, you know, anything news-related, where it’s not always people wanting to give you their time, it felt sometimes more of an intrusion on their time in certain circumstances, so you know, I found that to be very interesting, and I think, the idea of perhaps being a TV reporter or something like that, also tying in to that acting/performance component, but for me, that passion for what the actual job was, probably wasn’t there. But, in my job now, so much of what I’ve done throughout my career has been about words and writing- that translated into law and helped a lot there, and yeah, I think there’s certainly still elements of what I studied in that degree and you know, what I enjoyed about that, that I use today, but definitely not the right career for me!”
What's the most exciting/heart-warming thing about what you do?
“Helping people! It’s really great to see someone build something. And even within my team, to build this business of our studios- you know, we’ve done rebranding, we’ve delivered a product. I get to see my team members- whether they’re in head office or actually out in the studios- really grow and build a business. On the franchise side of things, we have people who come in to us, who are probably a bit sick of working for someone else, their dream has always been to run their own business, control their own destiny, and I guess, have that creative side, that you get to put into your own business. So we get to see that dream through- we provide them with just enough support and infrastructure so that they’re not having to do all of the legwork themselves, but then they can focus on dealing with clients- whom they usually love, they’re usually passionate about helping people. They may have undergone a health transformation themselves- they may have lost a lot of weight, and that’s helped with health issues, and things like that. So they’re very passionate about it, and then watching them turn that passion into a reality, and then ultimately succeed in that, is wonderful. and I think the other thing, for me, that I’ve always loved about Hypoxi is that it is such a female-focused brand and business. So, all of my team is female- but having said that, I’d love to get some guys in there to get a bit of gender diversity! (laughs)- but you know, we really do cater to that flexible working (environment). We’ve got women who have kids, women who don’t, we are actively promoting women both through our studios and through our management positions, into head office level, and the majority of our studio owners and franchisees are also female. It can create a very interesting environment at times, and particularly with female small-business owners, I think, what we tend to find is that if something happens in their life, you know, if there is a divorce, or a child is sick, or maybe their husband needs to move interstate, then that can impact on their business and you know, we probably see the spectrum of emotional and momentous things that might happen in someone’s life, through the business that we deal in. so, all of that, when you get a great result at the end, is, I think, that heart-warming thing. We’re promoting women, we’re helping them build something, and for a lot of them, that might be helping them get their financial independence. For some of them, this is the first time that they’ve actually dedicated time to themselves- you know, they’ve spent the last 15 years raising children, or being that support person for their husband- we get a lot of that and it’s probably the stories behind our studio owners that really make you feel like that’s a worthwhile business, and then they flow that back into their clients in their studio, so that’s always nice.”
Do you have a role model, or someone that you see as a reference point for how you grow yourself/the business?
“There’s probably two elements to it. On a more personal level- and you hear this time and time again in interviews, people say their mother- and for me, absolutely. My Mum is someone who has always just had an interest and curiosity and zest for life, she’s always had lots of different little jobs, she’s always starting up a new business, and working on that, and for her it’s never been about whether that business is going to be the biggest and best thing in the world, but that’s what’s sort of taken her interest at the time, she throws her passion into doing that. She’s always worked- so I grew up with both parents working, my Mum was a school teacher during those years, so I think she’s definitely been a role model for me, in seeing that you can do both. Admittedly, her hours were a bit more flexible and reduced than mine are, but for her it was important that you still earn your own money and you keep your skills going, and you try different things and evolve. When she had my brother, who was her third child, she went out and got another degree while he was in those early school years. So she has always been trying to learn and grow, and I think that’s where I get a lot of that from. In a professional sense, interestingly, I’ve never had a female boss, or a female mentor- I would say I have high-profile women that you look up to, and would love to meet them one day- but the bosses that I’ve had have been fantastic. They’ve all been men, but particularly the last two- our CEO when I was in my legal role, (he is) a fantastic person, incredibly commercial, taught me a lot on what to look for in businesses, how to look at something commercially, rather than getting locked up in- for me at the time- the legal stuff. And then my boss who I have now, he was the one who put me forward for this role, and has always been such a champion for me, even when he wasn’t my direct boss, and I think from him, absolutely teaches me so much about the business, about the industry, but (also) about how to deal with people, how to navigate work and life a bit, and has always been such a support. You know, he said to me the other day “no one gets to a top level alone”, so he has been that for me, whenever I’ve needed an advocate, or needed someone in my corner, if I’ve been feeling that I’ve been doing a terrible job, or that something hasn’t gone off as I’d planned, or haven’t seen the result that I wanted, he has definitely helped me to get through that, and to understand how that still fits into the bigger picture, and I guess that resilience as well.”
What are the qualities you feel are needed, or what have you learnt from, being a leader?
“Resilience is a big one. (Things are) never ever going to go your way every time, and I see it in my team at varying levels as well. Some people very much take every little knock very personally, and it’s about understanding exactly that- it doesn’t always go your way, and look at that bigger picture, it’s usually not personal and we keep going- and I think it’s that resilience and not giving up or letting it get you too far down, riding out those tougher times, or those lower energy times, because you know you will actually get through it. And I think it’s important for leaders to do that, and be an example of doing that, but also to recognise that in a team, you know if someone needs to develop that resilience more, and help them through that, because it can be hard to do that on your own. I think also as well, for anyone coming up in their career, actually being hungry for it- and even as a leader, always wanting to do better, to learn more. In all the jobs that I’ve had, I have always taken on as much as I could, I’ve wanted to learn as much, I’ve never been someone that thinks ‘no, that’s not my job, I don’t want to touch that, I don’t want to know about that’ and I think that hunger to just sink your teeth in and get as much experience as you can- one day, even if it’s not directly related to your job at the moment, if you can get exposure to it, or experience in it, get it, because one day when you are ideally leading a team, you’ve got so much more to draw on, more perspectives, and you’re able to drive your team. As a leader, you also need to be empathetic, you need to understand when people are having a tough time, and that people are different. Not everybody will go about things the same way, not everyone can be ‘dealt’ with in the same way, they always say ‘treat people as you would want to be treated’, but sometimes I think it’s actually ‘treat people the way THEY want to be treated’, so trying to find that match there, or that alignment. And being open. Any boss or leader that I’ve ever had, or been exposed to that has been open- and I think with that (being open) comes a certain level of humility in understanding that ‘I don’t know everything’, and regardless of what your position, or what your background is, there are things that you know, or opinions that you might have that are worthwhile- so some of the best leaders I’ve had are those ones who will get different opinions, they will listen to people, they’re approachable, because they ARE open to other ideas. And ultimately, they’ll process all of that and make a decision out of it, but I think it’s a dangerous position to be in to think that you know it all, and everyone gets pigeon-holed in their place.”
If you went back to the beginning (say, when you left school), what would you tell yourself?
"I would definitely say, always have a go. And that’s something that I’ve tried to do, you know, have the confidence to have a go, because I think your skills won’t always easily match up with the job that’s on offer, or you won’t be quite ready for it, or there’ll be always elements of being uncomfortable in any (situation).Any time that you are going to grow or develop, it will be uncomfortable, and I think it’s making sure you do have that confidence to give it a go-you’ve got the general intelligence, common sense, drive and passion to pretty much do whatever you want, so have a go! Which, as I said, I’ve always tried to do, but I think sometimes I am quite hard on myself, so that would be the other thing- don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself a break- I always like to do everything ‘well’, I want to get results, and do the best for my team, or my boss, or my family, and the reality is that’s not going to happen all the time, so I’ll get disappointed in myself if I haven’t done as well as I would have liked, so yeah, go easy on yourself!"
What’s next for you?
“For Hypoxi, continuing to grow our business, improve on what we’re doing. I feel we’ve built really great foundations and now we’re in a position where we can really refine that, so it’s quite a nice time to be in, and we’ve had a couple of years of focusing on that foundation work, and now I think we can really leverage that and see the results we’ve been really wanting to see, both for everyone who works in the business personally and what they’ve been hoping for, and then for the business itself. For me personally, the ongoing juggle of trying to coordinate kids and jobs and all that, I think that changes regularly, and so it’s always resetting, and rebalancing or refocusing things to get the right balance- as much as I don’t like that word! So, we’ll wait and see.”
Alexis and I had a traditional high tea at The Tearoom, QVB.
Alexis' tea of choice: 'Jewel of Nuwara Eliya'
Follow Hypoxi on socials: @hypoxiaus