Rich Sloan

Rich Sloan is chief startupologist and co-founder of StartupNation and host of StartupNation podcasts. He is also co-author of the acclaimed how-to book, StartupNation: America's Leading Entrepreneurial Experts Reveal the Secrets to Building a Blockbuster Business. Rich encourages you to make a comment under his blog posts or send him a personal message at member nickname, "Rich," here at StartupNation.

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It happens every January. A huge surge of traffic inundates our website, fueled by would-be entrepreneurs scouring our 200,000+ pages of content for advice on how to start a business. By March, though, traffic drops back to normal as the New Year resolutions lose their shine. One-by-one, millions of startup dreams give way to life as usual.

With the right tactics and tenacity, though, you can go beyond life as usual and enjoy the passionate, creative and fulfilling life of an entrepreneur. To make sure you succeed in starting up in the year ahead, follow these 5 recommendations:

Know what you’re after.

For a dream to be realized, it has to be built on reality – your reality. Define what you love doing, what you’re good at doing and where you have experience. Also, get clear on what resources are available to you, what you’re willing to risk and what you ultimately want to gain from starting a business. Put your answers in writing to use as a compass for all decision-making going forward. This should help you avoid a situation where you end up working for your business instead of your business working for you.

Research quickly but extensively.

Search the internet, conduct a brief survey, read industry studies, attend trade shows – do everything you can to become smart about your business niche. Apply that learning to your specific concept to make sure all of your operational, financial and customer assumptions are on target.

Test drive your assumptions.

As quickly as possible, test out your idea on customers. This means actually selling what you offer. Your first handful of customers will teach you more about your business opportunity than anything else. Just be prepared to go back to the drawing board – initial feedback may require you to change key assumptions in your plan.

Monitor progress through milestones.

Tracking your progress against a timeline is crucial. Create a chart that shows dates by which you plan to achieve major milestones. Include things like “launch website,” “win tenth customer,” “break even,” etc. Hitting the milestones is important, but even more critical is adjusting your course when you don’t.

Use the buddy system.

Personally, I’ve always been more focused and effective when I’ve had someone to talk to about my business. For some people this can be a mentor, for others, a paid coach. For me, though, simply having a buddy who is smart and supportive and who holds me accountable to my wide-eyed entrepreneurial ambitions has done the trick. Knowing I have to report in adds a level of discipline to my work and may be just what you need to help you realize your startup dreams.