I don’t like small goals because they lead to small results.
The goals I encourage my clients to set lead to exponential results: more zeroes, more sales, more profit, more market share. The kind of goal I like is Big. It’s Hairy. It’s Audacious. It’s a BHAG!
Sounds a bit like a monster, and yes, that big sucker should scare you a little. That’s how you know you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and thinking BIG.
But if you’ve set your sights on too big a monster, too audacious a goal, your business might find itself stuck in a hairy situation.
To check if your BHAG is too unrealistic, run it through these four tests:
1. Go back to your Crystal Ball.
First, back to basics. If you haven’t run through the Crystal Ball exercise in more than a year, do it. There’s no better way to make sure that your company’s goals and activities are all pointed in the right direction.
So imagine it’s five years into the future. You’re enjoying the biggest party your company’s ever thrown, a real blow-out celebrating … What? What has your company achieved that’s put you over the moon?
The vision of success you see when you look into your crystal ball should be, well, crystal clear. And if your BHAG isn’t part of that picture, then why not?
Maybe, after going through the Crystal Ball exercise, you’ll realize that your BHAG isn’t a goal at all – it’s a distraction, a shiny object you’re chasing that’s actually leading you away from what you really want to achieve. Or maybe you’ll realize that this BHAG is too big to fit into your ultimate vision.
2. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, developed “The Five Whys” technique to keep his company from settling for superficial answers. And you shouldn’t settle either. Whether you’re trying to root out a problem that just won’t go away or contemplating a new BHAG, asking questions — repeatedly — is the best way to reach the heart of the issue and address it head on.
For example, let’s say your BHAG is, I want to increase my sales by 75% next quarter. That’s an awfully big target. Too big? Let’s find out.
- Why do you want to increase your sales by 75%?
Because we missed our sales goal last quarter by 5%.
- Why did you miss your sales goal?
Because we made fewer sales calls than we did the quarter before.
- Why did you make fewer calls?
Because we had fewer leads.
- Why did you have fewer leads?
Because we didn’t send out enough mailers.
- Why didn’t you send out enough mailers?
Because we didn’t plan ahead for two key employees taking vacations.
So it turns out your BHAG isn’t really about revenue, it’s about a staffing and scheduling issue that’s going to keep dinging your numbers if you don’t fix it.
Sometimes I only have to ask “Why” once or twice to find out that a coaching client is set on a BHAG for the wrong reasons:
- Because my competitor is doing it.
- Because that’s what’s trendy right now.
- Because nothing is working and I have to try something new.
All bad Whys. All examples of things you’d never want to see in your Crystal Ball.
3. Make a top 3 list … then another … then ….
Break your BHAG down into actionable steps like you would any other activity at your business. Here, the question shifts from “Why?” to “How?”
How are you going to hit that gigantic sales goal? What are the three activities that will be most critical? You might settle on customer acquisition, a new digital marketing strategy, and increasing your monthly sales calls.
Great. What are the three activities that are the most important drivers of THOSE three activities?
Hopefully you’re starting to understand that having BIG goals, while important, isn’t enough. When I’m working with a client, I don’t stop pushing and prodding and challenging that CEO until we reach specific, measurable actions that we can put into place on the ground floor tomorrow. Then we put those actions up on a scoreboard big enough for everyone in the office to see. More often than not, drilling down like this will lead you to goals that are more realistic, easier to track, more motivating to your team, and more beneficial in your journey towards your Crystal Ball vision.
4. Check your cash.
OK, so your BHAG, your motivations, and your action steps all make sense. Now for the big reality check: What’s your cash situation?
If your BHAG is really worth having, then it’s going cause an increase in scale: more customers, more sales, more orders to fill, more staff to manage, more raw output from your operations. Do you have enough cash in the bank to finance this growth? When is the last time you checked your cash operating cycle? Have you optimized your billing and payment processes? Are there any tweaks you can make to get paid quicker, such as billing for products or services in advance? Is your supply chain firing on all cylinders?
It’s very possible that after adding up the costs of your BHAG, the total is bigger, hairier, and more audacious than your checkbook can handle. And that’s OK! Maybe this BHAG is unrealistic today. But by breaking down your BIG goal and confronting your real motivations for setting it, I bet you’ve found measurable actions you can start taking now that will get you ready to pursue that BHAG in the very near future.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 150 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s from 17 countries on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, becoming better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.