You often see aspiring entrepreneurs reading books by Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, etc. I can see how their advice might be valuable if you’re steering a business that’s got tons of cash and thousands of employees, but how much does what they write really apply to small businessmen and entrepreneurs?

When you’re coming out of the gate, megamanagers and celeb CEOs aren’t the best guides. How much do they really remember about starting out anyway? Is it really valuable to learn about Six Sigma techniques or when to layoff 10% of your workforce if you don’t even have a running business yet?

At this stage, what you really need to figure out is how to make it out of year one alive. Everything else is cart in front of horse.

Find stars in your own galaxy
A better idea: Find a star in your own galaxy to emulate. Seek out a company that has some valuable similarities to what you do and watch. The ideal candidate is a person or company that’s 1) done great things and 2) actually resembles you in some way.

So if you’re starting a t-shirt business, follow people like Threadless. If you want to open a kick-ass food store, pay attention to Zingerman’s. If you’re a design firm looking to sell products on the side, watch Coudal. Compare and contrast yourself to pioneers in your own niche rather than the world at large.