Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)

by Foti Panagiotakopoulos Founder at GrowthMentor

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Most entrepreneurs understand the importance of goals to succeed. They keep the business stay on track, effectively measure progress, and provide a sense of accomplishment once they’re achieved.

But not all goals are created equal. Here, we’ll be introducing you to a concept called Big Hairy Audacious Goals—or BHAGs. These are the types of goals that have the power to completely transform your business, so let’s dive in!

What Is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal?

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is a long-term ambition or target that characterizes an organization and aligns the focuses of the people who make it up.

BHAGs are characterized by being:

  • Big: BHAGs should be large enough in scope that it takes you years (even decades) to accomplish—we’re not talking about short-term goals, here!
  • Hairy: BHAGs should be new—possibly even uncomfortable or risky. They should be something that you haven’t accomplished before.
  • Audacious: BHAGs should be bold and ambitious—a true stretch for your organization.

Obviously, BHAGs are also goals—hence the “G”! That means that on top of the characteristics covered above, they’re also:

  • Measurable: You should be able to track your progress towards a BHAG and know when you’ve reached it.
  • Time-Bound: BHAGs should have a deadline attached to them so that you can stay on track.
  • Specific: BHAGs should be as specific as possible so that everyone knows what needs to be done.

The Four BHAG Archetypes

According to the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, there are four BHAG archetypes:

  1. The Role Model: Aiming to recreate the success of another company from your industry or another one entirely (e.g., “Become the Nike of the cycling industry”—Giro Sport Design, 1986).
  2. The Common Enemy: Aiming to overtake a competing company in your industry (e.g., “Crush Adidas”—Nike, 1960).
  3. The Target: Aiming to achieve some internal metric or milestone (e.g., “Become a $125 billion company by the year 2000”—Walmart, 1990).
  4. The Internal Transformation: Aiming to completely change the way your company does business (e.g., “Transform this company from a defense contractor into the best diversified high-technology company in the world”—Rockwell, 1995).

Why Are BHAGs Important?

BHAGs are important because they have the power to transform your business. Unlike smaller goals, which can be easily accomplished and then forgotten, BHAGs loom large on the horizon and require significant effort—and buy-in—from everyone in your organization.

This means that when you set a BHAG, you’re not just setting a goal for yourself or your team—you’re setting a goal for your entire company.

This can help your company:

  • Increase Morale: BHAGs are inspiring, and achieving one can give your employees a real sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • Focus Your Team: BHAGs provide focus by giving everyone in your organization a common goal to work towards.
  • Build a Brand: BHAGs can also help to build your brand by giving you something big and inspiring to talk about with your customers.

How to Set a BHAG

Now that we’ve covered what BHAGs are and why they’re important, it’s time to learn how to set one for your business.

The first step is to brainstorm a list of potential goals with your team. These can be anything that you think would be a good fit for your company—the sky’s the limit! Once you have a list of potential BHAGs, it’s time to start narrowing them down.

To do this, ask yourself the following questions about each goal:

  • Is this something that we’ve never done before?
  • Is this a true stretch for our company?
  • Is this something that we can reasonably achieve in the next 5-10 years?
  • Does this align with our company’s values?
  • Does this goal fit one of the BHAG archetypes?

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to choose the BHAG that you’re going to set. This can be a difficult decision, but it’s important to choose something that you’re truly passionate about—something that will inspire you and your team to push yourselves to achieve it.

Need Help Defining your BHAG’s?

Setting the right BHAG’s can be difficult, especially if you are a first-time founder who has never done any sort of long-term planning. 

If you’re looking for advice about how to set the right long-term goals, Growth Mentor can help. Get help from someone who’s already been where you are.

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