// Increase your profits with team BHAGS

by Di Westaway

Would you like to earn more money, have more fun, and spend less time looking for new clients?

By developing teams and cultivating team goals, you can grow your business exponentially, and create a health and fitness network which is both powerful and lucrative.

It has long been recognised by sport psychologists that the social cohesion created by teams is great for motivation, fitness and performance. Chad Timmermans, a provisional psychologist from Melbourne, confirms this with his research saying, ‘the majority of people who continue exercising, do so by exercising in groups or social situations’.

In addition to this, it is well known that with good leadership, individuals achieve much more in teams, which is also great for your bottom line, because groups are more profitable than individuals.


In his legendary book Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). He shows that by combining what you are deeply passionate about (fitness), what you have the desire to be the best in the world at (fitness coaching) and what drives your economic engine (groups or teams) with Big Hairy Audacious Goals, you get a powerful, almost magical mix.


As personal trainers, we need to understand that one of the main drivers of our economic engine is groups or teams. We need to focus very clearly on ways of encouraging our clients into meaningful groups who share the same passions.

My own induction into the TEAMs and BHAGs school of thought was something of a baptism of fire – or more accurately, ice. In 2000, as a fit and strong jogger, I attempted to scale Mt Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere at 7,000m. I saw the challenge as a great training goal, and a reason to get super fit. I had accidentally stumbled across a BHAG, but I did not know anything about TEAMs.

I was part of a group whose members had all met each other for the first time on the side of the mountain, in the Andes. I got my first altitude headache on day one, 1,000 metres below base camp and our group of seven proceeded to disintegrate from that point.

By day three we had split into three separate groups, two with guides and me on my own heading for base camp. I was consumed by fear, thinking I was going to die on the side of the mountain, lost with no map, no compass, no navigation skills, little food and water and no communication.

After spending two weeks completely out of my comfort zone for every minute of every day and night, I failed to summit. I ended up rescuing two sick team members, but still felt like a complete failure.

I had learnt a serious lesson about TEAM; that with the wrong team you cannot take on BHAGs. This lesson can apply both to your teams of clients, and to your work colleagues or staff (see Good to Great by Jim Collins to learn more about building the right team). Although initially disheartened by my perceived failure, the experience made me determined to try again with the right team.


Fast forward eight years, to January 2008. With a team of seven women, I headed out from high camp on Mt Aconcagua, in the dark, 6,000 vertical metres above sea level. Ten hours later I stood in the thin air on the summit of the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, with a team of clients – who are also great friends – of my company, Wild Women on Top.

This was an incredible moment. Eight years after a failed BHAG, I finally had my reward. Our team of women had trained together, fundraised together, and juggled businesses and families, and now we had achieved our TEAM BHAG.
The women in our team were not previously athletes, and the average age was 49. But they had successfully taken on a BHAG with the right TEAM and, consequently, they will be our clients forever. They will also inspire other members, friends and family to achieve TEAM BHAGs, thereby providing a priceless marketing opportunity for our business.


The goals you create for your teams must be huge and daunting, like running the Great Wall of China Marathon, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, walking 100 kilometres in the Oxfam Trailwalker, paddling the Murray River Marathon, or cycling the Great Tasmanian bike ride.

As a personal trainer you need to listen to your clients and find out what they are passionate about. Then start linking up like-minded clients and training them towards a common goal in small groups. Don’t be afraid to provide contact numbers (with their permission) and encourage them to catch up and train together without you, because this strengthens the social cohesion which hooks them in for the long term.

TEAM fitness training sessions, which lead up to TEAM BHAGs, will result in much higher session attendance, better results, a lower drop-out rate and palpably heightened enjoyment among your clients. Remember, your job is to serve, to empower your clients and to push them to new heights. When they are excited about a team goal, they will train hard, not wanting to be perceived as being a weak link in the chain.

Your TEAM BHAGs don’t need to be expensive overseas treks. We have had great success training our clients for the Oxfam Trailwalker, a 100 kilometre wild walk for teams of four which requires three to six months preparation. Two years ago, four of our clients participated; this year we’ve got 30! And they’re paying us to prepare them for a TEAM BHAG which will get them incredibly fit, and provide a social cohesion to really engage them long term.


The other advantage of TEAM BHAGs is that they provide a great marketing opportunity. Your local newspaper will love the stories of local community members engaging in great events. Our Seven Summits Team, which will climb Mt Everest in 2011, is the ultimate marketing event, and our local paper is following every step with great interest. This editorial is priceless PR for us.

Widmeyer and Du Charme (1997) outlined six principles of effective team goal setting which will assist you in effectively setting and achieving goals for your groups;

1. Establish long term goals (BHAGs) first
2. Establish clear paths of short term goals en route to long term goals
3. Involve all members of the team in establishing team goals
4. Monitor progress towards team goals
5. Reward progress made towards team goals
6. Foster collective team confidence or efficacy concerning team goals.

By using adventure-based team goals you empower the team in a non-competitive way. Trekking to Machu Picchu, rafting the Franklin or climbing Mt Kilimanjaro are TEAM BHAGs, but the team is pitted against the elements, not against other teams. This makes adventure-based team goals appealing to everybody, regardless of traditional sporting ability.  

Good to Great Jim Collins, 2001, Random House Foundations of Sport & Exercise Psychology Robert Weinberg, 2003
‘How to Motivate and Retain Your Clients’ I.D.E.A Research papers by: Widmeyer, Carron & Brawley 1993, Annesi 1996, Widmeyer & Du Charme 1997
‘Two fundamental factors for client adherence’ Chad Timmermans, Network magazine, Winter 2008, p29

Di Westaway
Di is an adventure fitness expert and managing director of Wild Women on Top. She is also a mountaineer in the process of climbing the Seven Summits. In 2005, Di accomplished a world first by coaching a team of 15 Wild Women to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, during a blizzard. This was a 100 per cent success rate, not achieved before or since. For more information visit www.WildWomenOnTop.com

NETWORK • SPRING 2008 • PP17-19