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Plan to stay small forever? We didn't think so. One way to shoot for the big leagues is to think big--Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, that is.

Right now, Don Speer runs a company that provides gaming-operations consulting to American Indian casinos and runs a handful of budding online gaming sites. In five years, however, he hopes to be somewhere very different. "Our goal," says the chairman, president and CEO of Inland Entertainment Corporation in San Diego, "is to be the most successful casino in the world."

That's a grand objective, but what might sound like braggadocio to some, is clearly recognizable to others as a BHAG. The acronym stands for "Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal" and is pronounced "bee-hag." It's a concept popularized in the 1995 business bestseller Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business) by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.

In their book, Collins and Porras examined a group of large, successful companies and found one of the things that distinguished them from similar but less successful competitors was that the more successful companies had one or more very ambitious, clear and inspiring long-term objectives. They dubbed these goals "BHAGs" and claimed that having a good BHAG was one of the best ways a company could improve its chances for long-term prosperity.

Boeing, which bet its future on the 747 jetliner in the 1960s, and IBM, which made a similarly sizable gamble on the 360 mainframe computer around the same time, based their long-term success on BHAGs. Similar BHAGs propelled the likes of Citicorp, General Electric and Wal-Mart, says Collins, a business researcher and writer in Boulder, Colorado. "We're reading about those companies today," he says, "because they achieved their BHAGs."

Mark Henricks is an Austin, Texas, writer who specializes in business topics and has written for Entrepreneur for nine years.

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This article was originally published in the August 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In The BHAG.

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