A software project's success depends on the experience and skill of the staff developing it. Your second SQL Server development project will be better than your first, no matter how smart you are, so don't make your first project one that will have thousands of concurrent users, manage tens of gigabytes of data, and replicate data to 10 other servers. If you tackle such an extensive project your first time out, you'll probably fail (or at least finish late and over budget). And although it's useful to have experience working with other systems and environments, you can't expect successful SQL Server development on the first try.
The smartest companies start with a small, less-than -mission-critical system before moving many applications over to SQL Server. If management will not allow you the luxury of working on a "practice" system, you should at least try to augment your team with an experienced consultant or two. Look for someone who, at a minimum, is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) who has taken both SQL Server exams for electives. In 1999, Microsoft is introducing a Microsoft Certified DBA (MCDBA) certification, which would indicate a similar level of qualification. This book, while it provides much useful information, can't replace other training. And skills such as database design, which transcend SQL Server specifically , are essential for a project's success.
The Microsoft course called "Performance Tuning and Optimization of Microsoft SQL Server" is worthwhile. Microsoft develops this course with input from the SQL Server development group . The course is available at Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs). For more information, go to http://www.microsoft.com/ctec.