Sabrina Horn is the CEO of Horn Strategy, LLC, a consulting firm focused on helping entrepreneurs, founders and CEOs navigate the early stages of their start-up companies. The firm offers leadership coaching, connections, insights, and critical thinking on overall business and go-to-market strategy, investment approach, marketing and team building. She is an award-winning CEO, advisor, speaker and tech communications expert. Sabrina founded the Horn Group, a public relations firm at the age of 29 with $500, and for more than two decades, grew and led the firm into an iconic PR agency with offices across the US and global reach. In 2015, she sold her firm to Finn Partners, a global marketing agency.
Sabrina has also authored the bestselling book, ‘Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success’ (Berrett-Koehler, 2021). She holds board and/or advisory seats for: 4CRisk.Ai, Boston University Alumni Council, Dieu Donné, Dogly.com, Illuminate Ventures, KloudGin, and JEGI-Clarity. She has a B.A. in American Studies from Hobart/William Smith Colleges, and a M.S. in Public Relations from Boston University. She has two outstanding daughters, Grace and Christina.
After founding the Horn Group, Sabrina learned about leadership on the job through two lenses: one as CEO growing her own firm, the other as a strategic advisor guiding her clients through their business challenges. Through successes, missteps and failures, she came to understand that leadership is about making the right decisions at the right times based on reality. Sabrina realized that there are no shortcuts when it comes to achieving long-term success. In her first book ‘Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success’ she shares her mistakes and learnings to help others better navigate their own path.
Over a quarter century, Sabrina and her team counselled thousands of executives and their companies, ranging from new start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Laser-like focus and the commitment to a set of core values infused Horn Group’s culture and business processes, all of which helped to build its reputation and brand. A successful brand is, in many aspects, reflected in a consistent customer experience. As a PR firm in the fast-paced tech industry, being in constant alignment with its core values helped Horn Group maintain a superior level of service and deliver results that made a difference to its clients.
As a leader, Sabrina is brave enough to say, “We were not always perfect and did make mistakes, but each time was a new opportunity to realign with our values, win, and support our clients over the long-term.”
Fighting the War of Talent
As a boutique service firm, Horn Group’s product was its people. Finding and retaining the best people in the industry and fighting the “war for talent” was a constant challenge for both Sabrina and her organization. Having a reputable brand, culture, top-notch clients, and offering great benefits were sometimes not enough to compete with tech companies that offered rich stock option packages and the promises of a “unicorn” IPO. Matching the right resources to support the constant ebb and flow of business was also an ongoing challenge. To run an efficient organization, Horn Group adopted a variable workforce model of freelancers and consultants in addition to its full-time staff. Of course, navigating crises such as 9/11 in 2001, the Recession of 2008-9, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and other events were massive challenges that impacted Horn Group’s business and revenue.
Reaching the Top
Over the years, Sabrina maintained a safety net of mentors and advisors who told her what she needed to hear, not what she wanted to hear.
Sabrina was fortunate enough to have incredibly dedicated and talented executives in her leadership teams throughout the years. She believes, without a doubt, that there would not have been a Horn Group without them. Developing resilience and that certain “toughness” as a leader was due in large part to their team spirit and commitment to carry out the endless number of contingency plans and pivots they concocted together.
She also says, “There were many, many people who influenced and shaped my career. They helped me become a leader and build the resilience to withstand several enormously difficult periods.”
Suggestions for Entrepreneurs
Sabrina believes diversity, equity, and inclusion are finally starting to get the attention they deserve in business. There are many new resources (software programs, databases, organizations) that can help employers tap into various populations to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. But ultimately, it is the leaders of all companies who must commit to more balance and equality through their values, management style, hiring practices, and rewards and recognition for performance, regardless of gender or race, or age.
According to Sabrina, this is a commitment for the long haul and it must be genuine and authentic. It cannot be a fad that goes out of style. Leaders who manage and communicate with empathy and humility stand a much better chance of succeeding in this area as well.
Company Name: Horn Strategy, LLC.
Management: Sabrina Horn