Entrepreneurs

Why Having ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ is Key to Inspiring People and Nurturing a Growth Mentality


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It’s great people that power truly great businesses. This is because businesses are like living, breathing ecosystems: their very essence is a synthesis of the thoughts, experiences, and motivations of people, all coming together to create ground-breaking things. This is true of even the most technologically advanced products and services we know and love. The more complex and transformative something is, the more confident you can be that brilliant individuals — enabled by a positive organisational culture — were behind it.

Underlying many of the success stories of our so-called digital age has been the ability of global organisations to harness the power of talented individuals while ensuring that the company not only grows, but also evolves in-line with the challenges and opportunities of a given moment. The last year alone has seen some truly transformations from businesses of all sizes and sectors in the face of unprecedented uncertainty.

But how can businesses ensure they are nurturing the individual talents and ideas of their workforce while still retaining focus and core purpose? The answer is in the setting of clear, simple, and inspiring goals.

Purpose is everything.

At present, the opportunities are ripe for tech companies in the UK. Its sector outpaces Europe, growing tenfold in the last decade. Although the pandemic has caused great economic uncertainty, it’s also inspired enormous digital growth — introducing almost four years of change in just a few months, according to one McKinsey report. Put simply, there are huge opportunities on the table for budding entrepreneurs.

However, before embarking on a business venture, it’s important to think about what your purpose is. What is it about your initial idea that you’re passionate about? Why does it get you out of bed in the morning? What purpose is going to drive you and your workforce beyond the making of money?

Without purpose — or as Simon Sinek famously observed, a sense of “why” — your business may never be able to fulfil its true potential. Asking the question of why right at the beginning of your journey can help you create a sense of purpose across the whole lifecycle of your business and support you in not only recruiting the right people, but also keeping them inspired, motivated, and laser-focussed on the mission in hand. Apple is a great example of a company that started out with a strong sense of why.

Keep it simple.

All human beings like simplicity. It’s an inherent trait each one of us shares. Having discovered what your company’s purpose is, you’ll want to communicate this to your workforce with absolute clarity.

But what do we mean by keeping things simple in the context of company goal setting?

Goals need to be achieved by all but must be made accessible to all in the first instance. For example, there’s no point using business jargon, buzzwords, and technical terms to create a goal or mission statement if they can’t be understood by each member of your workforce.

Keeping goals simple to understand sets individuals and teams up for success from the very start. For instance, new joiners to your business should be able to understand your business’ goals and targets from day one.

It’s this philosophy of keeping things simple that has led and to create its Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). These BHAGs set out our company’s goals in bitesize, easy to understand statements. No complexity, and no jargon. They’ve been the backbone of our success to date.

Embrace conflict and start thinking big.

Entrepreneurs must be brave. If they have a great idea and a genuine reason for pursuing it, they can build almost anything with the right focus and team. As a result, company-wide goals should feel challenging, daunting, and even scary.

Thinking big helps you to inspire ingenuity, commitment, and cooperation among your workers. By setting goals that seem out of reach, all employees are given the freedom to use their initiative, gut instinct and creativity to think beyond the everyday and purely transactional.  

What’s more, when setting those stretch goals, you should be thinking about how to embrace conflict positively. For instance, very often we are told that we can only do one or the other thing. However, this very binary way of thinking is limiting and obscures other possibilities — particularly in a business situation.

As the name of my company suggests (AND Digital), we always focus on the additional: what’s next? What else? We’re always questioning why we’re not allowed to do this and that at the same time. It’s not an easy path to tread, but when we collectively stretch ourselves and embrace the power of “and,” we always believe we’ll figure out new solutions to old problems, while carving out an exciting path to achieving our purpose. Just doing the same things as others does not make it an exciting or inspiring place for talent.

You don’t know it all.

It probably comes as no surprise that no one individual can know everything about a given subject or topic. That’s why the very best business leaders employ the very best talent. As Steve Jobs is very often quoted as saying: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” 

When creating your company’s vision and plan for the future, look deep inside to determine what you know and what you don’t know. This drives self-confidence and allows you to reach into your network for specific insights on the challenges and problems you’re facing.

Having the combined power of a solid network of people can help you create goals that resonate and influence a much wider audience of people both internally and externally.

As stated previously, businesses are living organisms that need nurturing, and no one person can enact progressive change alone. To set and meet those BHAGs, you’ll need the collective superpowers of your teams and wider networks.

By starting to set out your BHAGs today, you’ll be providing your people with the purpose, intent, and inspiration they’ll need to build your business’ very own growth engine for years to come.   

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