Every Good Startup Goal Has These 6 Ingredients

You don’t need to hang a carrot from a stick in order to motivate your employees. You just need a good BHAG. This goal-setting concept was introduced in “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” a book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. They explain a BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, as one of the most effective ways to get everyone on your team aligned and motivated.

But creating a BHAG isn’t as easy as adapting one of your company’s existing goals and calling it a day. It takes a lot of thought to design the perfect BHAG. Once you’ve introduced this BHAG to your company, you’re committed; it’s all or nothing. Your BHAG will guide every decision you make going forward.

It’s similar to trying out for the Olympics: You’ll do everything in your power to train harder and longer than anyone else to qualify. You’ll put it all on the line because you believe so passionately in the end result. That’s the feeling of going after a BHAG.

Here are six factors that will help you determine if you’ve chosen a quality BHAG for your organization.

It’s in line with your startup’s mission

Every company has a purpose reflected in its mission statement. It’s the reason they do business, or the “why” behind their product or service. It’s a story combined with personal values, experiences and an overwhelming desire to deliver something unique. Your BHAG should embrace these factors, as well. It will guide your company’s every decision moving forward, so it should be in-line with what your company believes in.

For example: We have always placed an emphasis on eco-friendly services. Our mission statement is “to enhance lives, our communities, and the environment by donating, recycling, upcycling and supporting local charities.” This messaging and our core values led us to our BHAG: zero waste in landfills by 2025. Our BHAG also ended up supplementing our company story and helped us spread our message.

When your business has a mission-driven BHAG, then customers, potential employees and franchisees with similar mindsets are naturally attracted to your brand. The right BHAG affords you the opportunity to talk about your story, your purpose and your impact on the industry. It directly supports your company’s why, how and what — the key elements of Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” concept. All successful people and companies put their “why,” or the purpose behind why they do what they do, front and center. And with a mission-driven BHAG, you can clearly define this purpose.

Related: 4 Steps to Creating Your Company’s Strategic Business Statement (or BHAG)

It’s specific

You want to know when you’ve achieved your goal, so your BHAG can’t be something abstract. There’s a big difference between “read a book” and “read ‘Good to Great’ in two weeks.” The latter is more specific, so you know exactly what you’re aiming for. There’s a timeline and an end result, so there’s no room for your interpretation of what success looks like.

BHAGs need a time constraint to be effective, usually between five and 30 years. This will force you to think big-picture instead of setting short-term goals. It will also align your business over time and help you to focus on the future.

It’s measurable

KPIs fundamentally have numbers attached to them. The same should go for your BHAG. Tie your BHAG directly to metrics. This will allow you to easily track your progress and make it clear when you’ve accomplished your goal.

Setting a BHAG with lofty numbers attached to it will lead your team to think creatively and try new methods in order to find unique solutions. And even if you fall short of attaining your BHAG, you’ll still walk away with some incredible achievements. Setting the bar high pushes your team to clear it.

It creates excitement

The best BHAGs stir up the pot. A seemingly absurd goal gets your team talking about how to move through liminal spaces in order to achieve success. You want everyone to know that their individual contributions will be a part of the final product. This not only creates excitement, but also pride.

A BHAG also creates excitement on an industry level. You position yourself as a fierce competitor in the space by trying to take down Goliath on your own. It will create buzz when the competition sees you’re tackling a huge problem. At the end of the day, you’re making noise with your goal. You’re opening eyes and minds by presenting them with a BHAG that can’t be ignored.

It scares you

There’s nothing like checking off your goals as you complete them, but this one won’t be easy. It’s called a BHAG for a reason. If you came across a big, hairy, and audacious creature, wouldn’t you be afraid?

Good BHAGs instill fear. You don’t know where to run, how to equip yourself or even what your next step is going to be. Fear can freeze you, but that forces you to take a leap of faith to get unstuck. It’s these experiences that often lead to amazing ideas.

I’ve experienced this fear firsthand when running into roadblocks. For example, China’s recent ban on importing most recyclables is creating chaos for the recycling industry. Not only do we lack recycling facilities, but now it costs more to recycle. Our fears grow as the recycling piles grow higher. While the ban impacts our business, we’re not going to give up on our BHAG.

Sign Up: Receive the StartupNation newsletter!

It’s tied to a social purpose

Today’s consumers are different in how they respond to companies. Social media and storytelling are taking brands to the next level, and customers are responding to this through brand loyalty. To be effective in reaching their audiences, companies now need to add one more element to their BHAG toolkit: a social purpose.

Traditional advertising methods and sales pitches alone don’t resonate. Instead, consumers are looking for the mission and social good behind companies they support. They’re looking for the outlier companies that are doing things differently than all the rest. That’s where your BHAG can play an active role in getting customer attention.

When your BHAG is tied to a bigger social good, it adds a human element to your brand. Customers won’t see you as simply a product or service — their support for you means they’re also contributing to a bigger goal. It instills a feel-good sense in a customer when their contributions also support a social purpose.

This emotional appeal is an added way that customers justify their purchases. Customers often buy off of instinct, and when it comes time for them to make a decision, they’ll default to emotion. That’s where your social purpose keeps them from abandoning their shopping carts.

Point everything at your BHAG

When you establish a BHAG for your company, you can put away the carrot and stick. Motivation is created when everyone on your team gets to think, act and be part of something bigger. There’s nothing like a healthy combination of fear and excitement to get your team moving in the same direction.

Leave a Reply
Related Posts