1: It was happening.  

Sarah Dusek and her husband, Jacob, had started Under Canvas, a “glamping” business on ten acres of land six miles outside Yellowstone National Park. It was their first season, and excitement was in the mountain air.  

“The camp was filled with eager glampers clamoring for a slice of Mother Nature, and Sarah was ecstatic that the business was up and running after immeasurable hard work,” write Mark Moses and his co-authors in Making Big Happen

Suddenly, a menacing storm appeared on the horizon. “Before long, wind, rain, lightning, and thunder came whipping through and flattened everything Sarah had built,” the authors write. “As she watched in horror, she thought, ‘This is crazy. It’s over. There is no more Under Canvas for us.'” 

What now? Would she give up? Or find a path forward?  

2: In 2018, Sarah attended the CEO Coaching International Summit, an annual gathering of top entrepreneurs and CEOs from around the world, where every participant was given a glass plaque with the words “What do you want?” etched on it. 

“I looked at that thing for three days,” Sarah recalls. “We’d now been in business almost ten years, and I started to ask, where are we going? What is our trajectory? Yes, I’m building this company to grow it, but what is it I really want? What does success look like for my company? What does it look like for me, personally?” 

Working with her husband, she set objectives just out of reach of what seemed possible. “Setting goals that stretch the limits of what’s possible forces leaders to use constraints as a source of creative innovation,” write Mark and his co-authors.

Yesterday, we looked at the four “Make Big Happen” questions. Question #1 is “What do I want?” This question is all about vision. We look five to ten years into the future. We decide upon a specified future date and then articulate what we will have achieved as of that date.  

Here are a few examples of solid vision statements:

Tesla: “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.” 

Southwest Airlines: “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.” 

Grasshopper: “Serve 1 million entrepreneurs within 10 years.” 

A clear vision is critical because it builds alignment with our leadership team, inspires our associates, and creates a framework to select annual goals aligned with our long-term vision.

3: The Making Big Happen authors also suggest we put forward a HOT or huge, outrageous target. The HOT supports our vision.  

The vision is the picture of where we will be five to ten years from now. “In contrast, a HOT is a specific and measurable goal that ensures we are on our way to achieving our vision,” the authors write. So, we want to “pick a shorter time frame for our HOT compared to our vision.” 

So, what is a HOT? It is “a goal so big and so outrageous that it sparks a fire in a team and gives them a way forward to new growth,” they note. It is the one goal “that matters most. It gives direction to the firm, and failure to achieve it will make every other accomplishment pale by comparison.”

We are looking for leverage, a keystone goal that, when achieved, will have the greatest impact on our business.  

The process of choosing our HOT is to strike a balance between being “inspirational and ambitious” and not being “too far out to be unrealistic and demotivating.”

Identifying our HOT provides direction on the path to achieving our vision. It inspires big thinking. It helps us identify the key levers and the specific and measurable key indicators that must happen. Finally, it provides clarity. Our team, associates, and investors want to know where we are headed. “A specific and measurable HOT provides clarity to everyone and makes the longer-term vision more tangible,” the authors write.

Once Sarah got clear on what she wanted, Under Canvas started growing. In time, “Sarah and Jake sold their company for a nine-figure sum at a 32x multiple of EBITDA,” write Mark and his co-authors. “That is the power of knowing the answer to the question “What do you want?” 

More tomorrow.


Reflection: What do I want? Look five to ten years into the future. Select a specified future date. Where am I headed? Where is my organization headed?  

Action: Journal the answers to the questions above.

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