Like the artist squinting to view the landscape better, or differently, as you build your sense of business identity, try to focus on keys to success. Keep it to just two or three key priorities that make the difference.

Some of this will depend on your industry, but there’s a lot more to it than that. For food services, for example, you might think good food would be an obvious one, but what about a good location, easy drive-through, good parking, or even a proper match between price and reputation. Or marketing? Or the personality of the maitre d’?

In a retail business, for example, the classic joke is that the keys to success are location, location, and location. In truth, that might be, location, convenient parking, and low prices. It’s different depending on your real identity, who you are as a business, and what your strategy is. A computer store’s keys to success might be knowledgeable salespeople, major brands, and newspaper advertising.

This idea is related to core competence, but it isn’t exactly the same thing. You hope you have core competencies that match your keys to success, but making that happen is a matter of working over time to build the business.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

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