leadership

It’s in the BHAG! Setting big goals keeps you motivated – but make them realistic too

Naomi Simson /

This week, on October 16 at exactly 10.41am, was the moment in time I have looked forward to for more than a decade.

I thought this day would come somewhere in 2015. October 16, 2013 was BHAG day – it feels even more special than a birthday. And it is a day of reflection, laughter, joy and celebration.

When Kirsten, Jemma and I sat around wondering “how could we change gifting in Australia forever” so that experiences became a top of mind when Australians considered a gift – we began to muse, “How will we know when we get there? And what does ‘there’ look like?”

BHAG stands for ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’. A BHAG needs to be far enough in the distance that it is not a plan; it is an idea, a dream, and a notion of what could be possible.

We believe that ‘good times’ create moments of joy – that when shared they’re amplified. We wanted RedBalloon to be ‘statistically significant’ – 10% of the Australian population sounded like a good idea.

And why 2015? Way back in 2004 when we came up with it, it seemed forever away. It is the year that my youngest child will finish school.

The point being there was no real logic to the creation of the BHAG – there was no actuary involved helping calculate it to ascertain if it was achievable. We simply dreamed. And we stuck a massive scoreboard in the middle of the office (as well as an iPhone app) for the world to see – where we are up to.

Today is a humbling day for me. It took 10 years to ship the first million RedBalloon vouchers – and it took just over two years to ship the second million.

I reflect on the 214 RedBallooners who have contributed to and shared the passion for our purpose over the last 12 years. One experience at a time, day in day out, relentlessly we have focused on building our brand by how people talk about us.

I was the custodian of the RedBalloon BHAG for more than a decade. As I moved to a non-executive director role some time ago, the leadership and RedBalloon legacy have been passed to the next generation, with CEO Kristie Buchanan clearly at the helm.

Businesses create BHAGs to unite the team and those around them, and on a personal level you can do the same.

My sister is a speech pathologist in rural Victoria and she has a personal BHAG . Her goal is to bring communication skills to 5000 families by the time she retires (and she has that date in her mind).

As you consider creating your own BHAG, ask yourself, what do you want to be remembered for? How do you want to have made the world a better place? What is your legacy going to be?

Remember ‘big’ means ‘way out there’ both in terms of time and scale. All the reading I have done about BHAGs says that a decade is great or even longer. And that the number needs to be almost unimaginable, but possible.

If you are twenty and reading this, a decade is half your lifetime and that seems forever.  Changing the world takes time.

I spoke to a fellow business owner yesterday and he was lamenting that he did not achieve his BHAG of $1 million in a year. He got to $70,000. This is not failure – perhaps he would not have even got that amount without a BHAG. But his time frame was way too short and he needed to really understand the market size and potential too.

I’ve heard people declare their BHAG is something like “All Australians by a certain time will have had a XX service”.

Remember when you are creating a BHAG to respect and consider the customer dynamics. ‘All’ means 100% and by nature that is not possible. To have an ‘impossible’ BHAG is not inspiring to those around.

A BHAG, when achieved, has solved a problem and made the world slightly better.

What about creating a personal BHAG? What are you committed to in your life to support humanity and our planet? You might choose to keep it private – or share it with the world. Focus on it, and celebrate your milestones.

So thank you to all those people who believed in the RedBalloon BHAG, who saw possibility, who trust us to do what we said we would do.

Thank you to past, future and present RedBallooners – who create our vision, moment by moment, customer by customer, experience by experience.

It is a day of excitement, and wonder, and whilst you might think we would be revelling, it is also a day of deep reflection.

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Naomi Simson

Naomi Simson is the founder of RedBalloon, co-founder of the Big Red Group, author of two books and blogger at NaomiSimson.com. She also appears on Channel Ten as one of the investors in Shark Tank Australia.

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