Happy new work week, month, year, and decade. Are you glad to let 2010 go? Me, too. As we look at our businesses for this coming year, maybe we can do some things better, which may mean doing fewer things — or just the right things. Some ideas are better opportunities than others, and some ideas aren’t opportunities at all.  Here’s a quick list to help you jump-start the year:

  1. Beware of lists like this one; business doesn’t generalize very well. You aren’t typical. Use this and others as thought generators, something like the occasional whack on the head, but take nothing for granted.
  2. Look for contiguous growth first. Not all growth is created equal. Selling an existing product to existing customers is way easier than selling a new product to new customers.
  3. Strategy is focus. Find the sweet spot of your business. What really drives it forward and makes it grow? Some customers are better for you than others, and you get them because some of what you do is better than the rest of what you do. Can you concentrate and do something really important a lot better?
  4. Remember the displacement principle: everything you do rules out something else you don’t do. Sure, we’re entrepreneurs, so we want to do everything well; but this is the real world.
  5. Know what knobs you can turn. Close your eyes. Imagine you and your business as you are sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle. Now think about what knobs you can actually turn. What’s realistic? What can you actually do that will help?

Think about some of this for awhile, and you’re heading towards strategy. Develop it and put the specifics around it, with some concrete steps and ways to measure progress, and you’re a long way towards business planning.

(Image: snail_race/Flickr cc)

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.