"I always knew I'd be a millionaire by age thirty-two. In fact, I am going to be the richest black woman in America."
Oprah Winfrey said this in 1987.
And then it took her 19 years to accomplish this goal.
So, how did Oprah achieve this incredible feat and become one of the richest and most successful people in the world.
Well, the first thing she did is set her goal. Seems simple enough, but the vast majority of entrepreneurs don't have concise goals that they physically write down (or type and print out).
Do you have a written goal for your company? If not, create one now using these two guidelines:
1. Be specific. Of course you would like your company to be successful. But how successful? Do you want it to generate $5 million? $100 million? Do you want to eventually sell it? If so, for how much? And when?
The more specific you are with your goals, the more likely you will be to achieve them. And, because they are specific, you will be able to measure your progress towards achieving them.
2. Make your goals realistic. This does not mean you can't set a goal of taking your company public with a billion-dollar market capitalization. But such a goal would be unrealistic if you're running a single restaurant with no plans to develop new locations.
So, make sure your goals are realistic with respect to your business. And go ahead, be aggressive. As Donald Trump said, "As long as your going to be thinking anyway, think big."
Once you've set your long-term goals, the key is to break them into smaller pieces that you can attain in shorter periods of time. For example, over the past year, one of my key goals was to publish my book, Start At The End . In doing so, I created a series of smaller goals including:
Completing all of these tasks took hundreds of hours over many months. But it got done, because I laid out the steps and methodically completed each one.
To do this in your business, figure out what you'd like to accomplish in the next year that will progress you towards your long-term goal (that you developed above). The key question being: what portion of your long-term goal can you accomplish in just one year?
For example, if you ultimate goal is to get to $20 million in annual revenues, what must your revenues be 12 months from now? And if you envision ultimately having 200 employees, how many must you hire and train within the next year?
Once you do this, you'll know what your ultimate goals are, and your goals for the next year. From here, you must continue to work backwards. What are your goals for the next quarter, next month, next week?
By creating your big goal and then breaking it down into smaller goals, you can ultimately figure out what you need to accomplish each and every day to move closer to achieving it. Because that's all you can control right now -- what you do today. And then tomorrow, you can control and do what needs to be done tomorrow. And so on.
As the New Year approaches, make sure you determine the ultimate goal for your business and your goals for next year. Then figure out your goal for next month. And then do whatever you can to accomplish that goal next month.
After doing that, you might adjust your ultimate and/or annual goals. That's fine. You will have made real progress, and whatever your goals, you will have moved closer to achieving them. Just like Oprah Winfrey did every day, week, month, quarter and year for 19 years.
If you'd like additional guidance on setting your ultimate goals and working backwards to create shorter term goals and an action plan for achieving them, pick up a free copy of my book, Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan .