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Law Practice Management

Break-out Strategic Planning: The BHAG

By Fred Miller

When it’s time to get serious about creating a strategic plan for your law practice, you can easily become mired in budget details, PowerPoints and politics. To get where you want to go, though, you need to set aside the noise and minutiae and get clear about the one thing you really want. Be bold, says Fred Miller, and let that one goal drive your planning.

What’s your BHAG, or “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”? You probably dream about it. We all do. But how many attorneys, practice groups or entire law firms actually sit down and think about what it would take to accomplish their BHAG? In my experience, not too many!

The term BHAG (pronounced bee-hag) first appeared in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras. A BHAG is a strategic business statement — one that encourages organizations to define visionary goals that are both strategic and emotionally compelling.

Why not be bold and create your firm’s BHAG? Here are three things to keep in mind.

Dream Big

The exercise of picking a BHAG alone can engage you in healthy strategic thinking and create a dialogue that might transform your practice. For example, a BHAG statement might be:

  • Double the size of our firm in five years.
  • Increase our bottom line profit 50 percent in the next three years.
  • Be the number one or number two law firm in every market we serve by 20xx.

You know what you aspire to achieve, so be bold enough to define a BHAG, commit to it and talk about the strategies and tactics necessary to achieve it. Once you have a real direction, everything you do needs to support achieving that goal. This focus also helps limit “knee-jerk” responses to marketplace changes or competitors, which can derail plans and budgets.

Get Creative

Let’s say your BHAG is to double the practice in five years. Start to ask questions and begin to break down the goal. How much of this will come from organic growth? How much from lateral hires or possibly mergers? What are you really good at today? Can you build on that? Maybe you have practice areas where you have the attorneys and the resume, but are you getting an “unfair share” of the market? Why, and what can you do to change that? Remember, there are no bad ideas here — put everything up on the whiteboard or flip chart. Don’t start evaluating until you have exhausted the creative thinking. Then you can move on to prioritizing strategies and tactics.

Stay the Course

Commitment and consistency are critical. Most likely, it will take a couple of years before you see the full results of your efforts. For example, if your goal is doubling the practice in five years, you probably won’t see a steady 20 percent increase per year. The first year might see a great investment of dollars and attorney energy with just 8 or 10 percent growth, while subsequent years yield different (hopefully better) results. Every situation is different, of course, but staying the course can make your BHAG a reality.

The good news is that having a clear strategic direction will make it easier for you to make thoughtful adjustments over time. It will also help you avoid becoming distracted by things that won’t help achieve your goal. So, go ahead and take the BHAG challenge. And remember: Define the goal, commit to the goal and be consistent in your work to achieve your BHAG.

Fred B. Miller II is Managing Principal and Founder of Bright Light Consulting LLC, a Columbus, Ohio-based consultancy that works with small and midsize professional services firms principally in law and accounting to develop and implement strategies and tactics to accomplish a firm’s business objectives. 

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Categories: Daily Dispatch, Managing a Law Firm
Originally published January 28, 2014
Last updated December 17, 2019
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