#20: Let Your Staff Stretch

From The 30 Best Business Practices of All Time, published by PROFITguide.com: Canada's trusted resource for entrepreneurs and innovative executives

Written by PROFIT staff

Open the cupboard at any workplace kitchen and you are likely to find a coffee cup or two sporting a motivational slogan such as “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Most of the time, this kind of platitude goes unnoticed, but entrepreneurs know that when you put these thoughts into action, amazing things can occur. And that is just the thinking behind Employee Stretch Goals.

Putting Employee Stretch Goals to work for your business involves asking each one of your employees to envision a goal for themselves within the company that is over and above what they might usually be expected to achieve. They should be encouraged to dream big and be specific, and the goals should be posted where everyone can see them. Unlike with broader organizational goals, employees feel a real sense of ownership with their Stretch Goal, and that often gives them the motivation they need to achieve it.

One of the best examples of Employee Stretch Goals in action occurred at Vancouver- based 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and involved, of all things, coffee cups. Every year, CEO Brian Scudamore and his staff post individual goals for themselves on the company’s “Can You Imagine?” wall. These have included concepts such as selling a franchise in a third foreign country, having the company included in a Harvard Business School case study and getting the company mentioned on The Oprah Winfrey Show—all of which were ultimately achieved. In 2005, marketing manager Andrea Baxter pledged to get 1-800-GOT-JUNK? featured on the side of Starbucks coffee cups.

“Most people didn’t think that was a goal that was remotely doable,” recalls Scudamore. “But Andrea did, and she was committed to making it happen.”

Starbucks was skeptical about the plan at first, too. But after several months of persistent effort, Baxter eventually talked the coffee giant into adding a quotation from Scudamore about what he has learned from the junk business to the inspirational messages that Starbucks prints on its cups. With a little extra cajolling, Baxter even got the chain to include 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s name. Ultimately, the message ended up on some 10 million Starbucks cups across North America.

“It definitely had an impact on our brand awareness,” says Scudamore. “And we’ve learned that people feel great pride when they achieve something that makes a mark on the brand forever.”

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com