How introducing a ‘laughable goals’ policy saw Balfour Homes’ sales grow 2000% in three months


Balfour Homes co-founder Jimmy Mullany.

There’s a very specific reaction one must become accustomed to when letting people in on their audacious goals. I used to find it quite polarising, but have begun to use it as a guide for whether or not my goals are big enough.

Generally speaking, if people don’t laugh at me, or look at me like I’m bonkers, when I tell them my aspirations, I know I haven’t set the bar high enough.

Goal-setting isn’t a new thing (especially in business), but after experiencing the increased productivity and witnessing the grimacing of a number of people’s faces when I told them what we’ve set out to do, my curiosity around the implications of setting outlandish goals was piqued.

Most of what I read said that the setting of big goals equates to higher confidence, and improved productivity, so we formalised our internal process for setting laughable goals and the implications have been tremendous.

Here’s what we’ve found.

Reasons to set goals people will laugh at

There is actually psychology around setting big goals.

As an example, think back to your school days. If someone told you that you wouldn’t come first in the school track 200m race, it’s likely all you would want to do is come first in the race. So you would put the hours of practice in, you’d out-do your own records and end up either winning, or knowing you did absolutely everything you could to win that race and prove your peers wrong.

We’ve found that the same goes with work targets.

Getting our highest performing sales staff to set goals that their team will undoubtedly laugh at has had a profound impact on sales results.

Since introducing our laughable goal-setting huddle three months ago, we’ve seen a huge shift in morale, and sales have increased by 2000%.

A byproduct of the huddle has been that we’ve built a results-driven culture, and productivity has increased exponentially.

Even in the midst of a pandemic our team is striving for greatness and surpassing pre-COVID targets.

Dreaming big, working harder

My co-founder and I began to talk about our laughing goal huddle at business meetings to get a gauge for what other business owners do and think.

For a lot of them, dreaming big hasn’t been a priority during COVID-19, with so many in survival mode.

However for us, now that we have formalised the process, this way of thinking is counterintuitive.

At the end of the day, the goals are driving us forward and are something to lean on during this time.

The confidence we’ve seen in our staff has also been fantastic. We’re essentially giving people permission to dream big, and ensuring we’re giving them the support and tools they need to get there.

The huddle can really be used in any workplace.

For example, a finance team of a large enterprise could set out to automate their whole payroll process for their 5,000 employees and contractors within a quarter, an HR team might aim to improve a company’s employee net promoter score (ENPS) in six months, or an artist could set a goal to open their own gallery in a year.

Whatever the business, whoever the individual, setting and sharing the ‘laughable goal’ and putting timeframes around it forces you to test and learn quickly and strive to achieve it.

Share your company’s laughable goal with your team

Setting company-wide goals can seem pretty obvious, but in speaking to many business owners, we’ve found that there are a lot of leaders that don’t take this approach for their own reasons.

For us it’s imperative.

For one, it ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands we’re all hustling to achieve the same goal.

It also enables people to readjust their individual goals at work to ensure they are laddering up.

We liken it to steering a ship. If everyone is making small adjustments, over time we’ll get to our laughable goal.

Turning goals into results

Our laughable goal huddle is ever-evolving. We wanted to solidify the process to ensure we give our team members the best chance possible of reaching and surpassing their goals.

Empowering your staff is key, so each individual is responsible for their own journey and action plans.

Based on what we have implemented, and found works, here is what I suggest:

  • Create macro goals with a plan of action to achieve desired results;
  • Be clear on daily actions that will get you to those results;
  • Report on results to move goalposts of the action plan;
  • Set timeframes for achievements;
  • Don’t just celebrate the big wins;
  • Show your team how the results ladder up to the big picture you’re chipping away at (we do this each Friday over a beer);
  • Once individuals have achieved their macro goals, get them to set more goals prior to the next huddle; and
  • Discuss and normalise your failures, as these are learning opportunities. Each huddle, get every individual to share something that has failed and how they will change this moving forward.

NOW READ: What a successful leader looks like during a global pandemic, and beyond

NOW READ: “Starting up and scaling are two different things”: 20 commercial lessons from 20 years in business


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