We cannot predict the future. But we can create it.

As we begin a new year, of course it’s important to capitalize on external opportunities for enhancing bottomline results and profitability for our businesses in today’s improving economy. However, another equally important opportunity is an internal one: focus on setting your firm long-term performance goals; create the internal disciplines to achieve them over time and stick to your goals through thick and thin. That’s how you become a great company.

Why is this so important? As bestselling author Jim Collins put it, it is your company’s 20-mile march. It is the benchmark, growth strategy or goal that you should determine to attain in good times and in bad. It is your true north objective to guide your organization over the long haul. A great company does not just attribute their success to periods of economic expansion. That’s too easy. They pin their company’s long-term success on the internal discipline of achieving their 20-mile watermark. In fact, they begin to rely less and less on external market forces those ebbs and flows of our economic cycles and blame themselves due to internal reasons when missing their target in economic declines.

3 Steps to Establishing a 20-Mile March

1. Set Performance Targets This points out the acceptable minimum to be achieved, i.e., a 10% increase in sales, two new innovations a year, and so on. By doing so, it requires you to set your pace to reach your target, which is the minimum effort required to get to where you want to be. Set the target so it is tough enough to stretch your staff’s performance, but still achievable through good or bad market conditions.

2. Stay Focused on The Plan In business, too much of a good thing could lead to expanding into things that are not a part of your vision. This weakens the core business and can lead to overall failure. By creating strategic guardrails and a disciplined focus on the plan, you keep such “short-term temptations in check and in the end create more value than you will from distractions.

3. Set Targets You Can Achieve With a Specific Completion Time Set goals that your firm is completely in control of the outcome. You are seeking consistent target-hitting results over a long period. To accomplish this, your firm needs to be able to control the outcome. Next you need to assign a timeframe for hitting your target. Take unforeseen setbacks into consideration and set a completion date that is not too short or long. You need to be able to measure performance in a given period.

Remember the Tortious Always Wins the Race

Why the importance of the 20-mile march Disciplined, steady progress towards your company goals year-in and year-out is the hallmark of great companies. Don’t get side-tracked by short-term opportunities, misguided by fears, or changes in the economy. The tortious always wins the race in life and in business! This year is a great time to focus on an opportunity that’s literally right under your nose. Determine to move your company’s performance to one consistently profitable year after year, regardless of economic expansion, instability or decline.

Don’t hold back. Be Great!

Author Terry Trayvick is the CEO and Founder of Level Five LLC. Level Five is committed to bringing clients the best approaches to business management across all disciplines from strategy to execution for the expressed purpose of driving breakthrough results. The company’s mission is to partner with clients to supplement their industry experience and knowledge with world class management systems to help deliver the results deserved. Simply stated, the company brings world class management to world class ideas.