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On attending an event at GIBS recently, although more about marketing than start-up strategies, I believe the main point of the discussion applies here too. That is, every brand needs a higher purpose, every plan requires a raison d’etre, every start-up an audacious goal. A Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal allows for planning to practically bridge the gap between that massive, globe-conquering dream you started off with, and the here-and-now daily tasks that, if made the sole focus, seem to dilute ones’ creative juices. A BHAG is a great way to align those tasks to your companies’ higher purpose. – CH
You. Yeah, you. The young entrepreneur with the dream – and the business plan – to jumpstart your start-up. While the current business climate offers a wealth of opportunities to the young and fearless entrepreneurs who are diving headfirst into the startup pool, it’s not enough to just have a plan. You’ve got to have a goal to work towards: A big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG, for brevity’s sake).
Quaint acronyms aside, developing a BHAG is a solid strategy to help maintain business focus. All businesses have a goal – and it’s usually to make a profit. However, a BHAG is a bigger, more targeted goal that speaks to a long-range plan, rather than short-term goals.
Beyond that, a BHAG can say something about you and your start-up on a larger, more defining level within your industry – giving you that extra something that sets you apart from others in your space. According to Stanford University’s Jim Collins, a BHAG isn’t a short-term goal. This bigger goal can span 10 to 30 years in time and give entrepreneurs a loftier goal to work towards.
By setting a larger BHAG, not only can you help to set up a plan for your business for this year, you can set goals for the years to come to strive toward the larger, overarching BHAG. Here are a few tips for setting your own BHAG and making a long-range plan for your business.
One of the oldest philosophies in the Business 101 Handbook, keeping it simple is far easier said than done. Simplicity not only removes the clutter from your business plan, but it allows a business to be employee- and customer-friendly. The same principle should apply to a BHAG: make it a basic benchmark to reach, free from complexities. Think of it as a clear, concise mission statement that everyone in your organization can easily understand.
If they can understand it, they can help you work to attain that BHAG as part of the team.You’ve got to start somewhere. For instance, if your BHAG is to help tens of thousands of entrepreneurs achieve their dream by incorporating their own business over the next 5 years, set a realistic benchmark goal based on how many businesses you were able to help incorporate in Year 1. If, during Year 1, you were able to reach only 1,000 entrepreneurs, use that figure as a benchmark for future years. Your BHAG can be built around projected incremental growth based on Year 1 numbers.
Goals should always maintain an elasticity component, as it applies to attainment. Your BHAG should have sufficient flexibility to be amended as necessary. Depending on a given startup’s goods and services, a BHAG might need to stretch from one fiscal quarter to the next.
For example, the Year 2 projections for growth you made based on your Year 1 benchmark may not be attainable due to a number of outside factors. From internal turnover within your start-up to a changing economic climate, you may need to pivot your BHAG and adjust it accordingly. There is no shame in adjusting your BHAG. Your business goals may change over time.
Don’t lose sight of your perspective by becoming too entrenched in the here and now. Think like a chess master and carefully consider what moves you need to make beyond today. The bigger picture BHAG will allow you to visualise where you’re going, where you need to be and when you want to arrive.Sometimes, you need to take your mind off of the day to day of running your business and think more strategically. Take a deeper look at your industry and determine where your BHAG fits within the landscape. See who is innovating and who is following the lead of others.
By looking at the bigger picture, you can more effectively overcome any obstacles that stand in the path of attaining your BHAG.In addition to looking at the present and the future, look to the past at other innovators with BHAGs – such as Henry Ford and his mission to make the automobile accessible to nearly everyone or John F. Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon. Seeking inspiration from successful, outside sources can help you see the larger picture or rebound from a setback on your path to attaining your BHAG.
There’s no “I” in “team.” And there’s no “I” in “BHAG,” either. In order to achieve your BHAG, you’ll need to rally others around your cause, as well. While many BHAGs are personal in nature, when they are tied to a company, it becomes a common goal that your team and employees can work together to achieve. For instance, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, his BHAG of putting a man on the moon did not die with him. He had rallied others to his cause to help achieve a much loftier goal that would benefit humanity and science. Channel that enthusiasm and foresight to apply to your own BHAG and get others within your company on-board to make that goal their own.
Achieving your BHAG will not happen overnight. It probably won’t even happen within 5 years. However, when you have successfully fulfilled your BHAG? Step back and recognize the achievement, then reward yourself and your team. Whether you opt for popping champagne bottles or simply having a pizza day, acknowledge the winning effort and keep the positive energy flowing. And once you’ve achieved one BHAG, don’t stop there! Keep striving, keep innovating, and keep pushing the goal posts to achieve something bigger, hairier, and even more audacious than your initial BHAG.
*John Meyer (@johnameyer) is Head of Strategic Partnerships/Marketing at The Company Corporation. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and connecting them to resources that help them thrive. In 2014, John was named a Top 100 Champion in Small Business Influencer Awards. He is also a political strategist and art collector in his free time.