Next week, I'll be on the beach in Kauai, sipping a mai-tai in the sun, as the waves lap the shore.
...and 500 of my employees, franchise partners, and their families, will be there with me.
Going on a vacation with everyone I work with might sound crazy -- but it's an over-the-top reward for achieving an over-the-top goal. Back in 2012, we were still in recovery mode from the financial crisis, and I challenged my team to do something unprecedented: double our revenue in just five years. I knew we could do it ... and if we did, I promised everyone a trip to Hawaii.
Setting goals -- especially big, hairy, audacious ones -- isn't just about going through the motions. It's what separates good companies from great ones. Not only does goal setting make you 10 times more likely to be successful, committing to goals in writing increases your chances of doing great things.
Of course, dreaming big is easy. It's pulling it off that's the tricky part. Incentivizing employees -- and keeping the flame burning over time -- is critical to success. Here are some tips from the front lines on how to set and achieve a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) in your business or your life.
Go Big (and Specific), or Go Home
Effective goals are clear and easy to understand. It's hard to rally everyone around something vague, like "build a stronger company." Ninety percent of the time, specific goals -- even if they're challenging -- lead to higher performance than simply asking someone to "do your best." It's much easier (and much more effective) to focus on a discrete target, like doubling revenue.
To really get people excited, the goal needs to be big ... and a little crazy. Otherwise, it can get lost in the sea of ordinary business objectives andKPIs. You have to throw down the gauntlet to inspire. Just look at Elon Musk's idea for a new supersonic method of transportation, the Hyperloop. Its sounds impossible, but his dream (getting from L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes) has captivated Silicon Valley. Now, there's a wave of tech workers racing each other to make it happen -- and one company is even predicting it will be done by 2020.
Give People a Real Stake in the Outcome
This is a no-brainer, but too often overlooked. Earning $200 million in revenue is an abstract concept and the average employee might not see the personal benefit. But sharing a goal and a clear vision of the outcome, like standing on a beach in Hawaii, is something real that impacts everyone. Studies show that rewards change an employee's perspective, motivating them to adopt the company's mission as their own.
The point is to make sure your employees have some skin in the game. If you're asking them to go above and beyond, reward them accordingly. It doesn't need to be a trip -- there are plenty of simpler ways to say "thank you" for a job well done, from profit-sharing, awarding bonus vacation days, or throwing a great party. Some of the braver CEOs have made elaborate promises in exchange for hitting targets -- like when the CEO of Red Robin restaurants got a burger tattoo when her team improved their performance metrics.
Make Sure Your Reward Makes Sense (and Cents)
Yes: it's expensive to bring 500 people to Hawaii, but we've been planning for four years. In fact, when you've designed your business goals right, the achievement can help pay for the prize.
Beyond just relishing our success as a company, the time everyone will spend together in Hawaii will be priceless. We'll attend a luau and get to know each other by the pool. It's going to be an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime bonding experience that will build loyalty and foster an amazing work culture.
Our goal of doubling our revenue seemed improbable. But with hard work and laser focus, we made it happen -- and later this spring, everyone at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? will board a WestJet flight to celebrate.
The ultimate lesson: give your people a stake in the outcome, and your company's bound to go far ... and I don't just mean to Hawaii.