Rand Fishkin Interview - Talking BHAG

BHAG 101 – An Introduction


The acronym BHAG stands for setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The concept is explained by Jim Collin’s in his book Good To Great (Which I think is a must read!) In this video by Jim Collins about BHAG’s he explains the equation of a  “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” is  one that includes your hedgehog concept & flywheel.


Hedgehog Concept + Fly Wheel = BHAG

For those of you not familiar with the book Good To Great I’ll briefly try to explain the hedgehog & fly wheel concepts.

Hedgehog Concept- The intersection of the 3 vital areas of your business.

Hedgehog Concept for BHAG by Jim Collins


Flywheel Concept – Cumulative momentum effect of many small initiatives; they act on each other like compound interest.


ly Wheel Effect

(Image Source)


Why Talk To Rand Fishkin?

I was first introduced to this concept back in college when I read Good To Great for a class, but I never really heard companies talk about it until Rand did in his vision based framework post.


Their! In the middle of the MOZ Vision Framework was a BHAG! I had totally forgotten about what it was and I didn’t know how a Big Hairy Audacious Goal was suppose to fit in with the rest of a companies vision. It is a great presentation and I highly recommend you give it a read.

Aside from the great presentation there is a short list of people in the industry that I hold in high regard and Rand is certainly one of them. If you want to learn more about or just stalk Rand online you can get everything here.


BHAG Interview With Rand Fishkin


Why should a businesses have a BHAG?

Goals that are big, hairy, and audacious can do a lot to drive innovation and inspire a team. Not every business needs to do this, but certainly those in the startup field, where high growth is expected from investors and employees, should be aiming for goals that are, specifically big (meaning they will produce significant returns), hairy (hard to accomplish, which serves as a barrier to entry against those who’d compete), and audacious (surprising in scope and marketable internally and externally as a huge accomplishment).

Can A BHAG be too big?

Yes, absolutely. BHAG’s can’t be demoralizingly impossible to achieve. The best description I’ve heard for size is “out of reach, but not out of sight,” and I love that phrase. It means we should aim for something that we couldn’t reach soon and certainly couldn’t without amazing accomplishments, but not so large that it’s impossible to imagine how we might get there.

Moz itself actually recently redefined its own BHAG as it became clear that the one we’d originally settled on was truly out of both reach and sight. That revision comes at a cost of consistency, but it’s far more transparent and authentic to be honest about what we might be able to accomplish, even if we do truly remarkable work.

How has having a BHAG impacted MOZ?

It’s helped us to focus our strategy and our initiatives to accomplish goals, and kept us from going way off course. For example, our BHAG is about the number of customers we want to serve, which helps us focus on gaining more traction and better retention with our current SMB size customers rather than pursuing a few big enterprises who might pay multiples of what that audience does.

How do you get a company to buy into your BHAG vision?

There’s a lot of parts to the process. It starts with creating a BHAG that everyone can believe in and cares about. That means matching it up to your mission, vision, and values. From there, you need to make sure the messaging is repeated regularly, ingrained in new folks, and becomes something that’s discussed and measured on a regular basis, even if it can be demoralizing at first.

Do you an example of  a BHAG being reached?

My favorite example is NASA’s 1960’s moon mission. Their BHAG was to put a man on the surface of the Moon and return him safely to the Earth. That is every aspect of a BHAG – Big, Hairy, and Audacious – but NASA did it.

Other BHAG Resources:

Other Questions For Rand


What is your favorite business quote?

I think a lot of business quotes are kinda corporate, competitive, and inauthentic, none of which get me excited. One of my favorite quotes comes from Roger Ebert:

“Empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” –  I couldn’t agree more.

Book you think everyone should read:

The Billionaire Who Wasn’t  – is one of my favorites.

Tool / Resource you can’t live without

Fresh Web Explorer – I realize it’s one of our tools, but I don’t know how I’d do without it. It’s like Google Alerts, but way, way better (more comprehensive, consistent, and with some metrics about how important each mention is).

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