Small Business
Business books reviewed
February 9, 2001: 3:08 p.m. ET

Fulfill your New Year's resolutions -- curl up with a good self-help book
By Jane Applegate
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - If your New Year's resolutions included making more money, making valuable contacts, getting better organized and eliminating people problems, here are my recommendations. (I know it's time to do a book review column when the piles of new books on the floor of my office make walking dangerous.)

"Let Go of Clutter," by Harriet Schechter, a.k.a "The Miracle Worker," (McGraw-Hill, $16.95), arrived just in time to inspire a major office cleanup. Schechter's no-nonsense approach helps even the most disorganized soul make some headway. One of her tips says to "make a conscious effort to let go of at least one unit of clutter" every day -- it makes good sense. It can be a container full of stuff or one item, but toss something out on a daily basis.

Schechter, who is based in San Diego, Calif., is considered a pioneer in the professional organizing industry. One of my favorite suggestions in the book is to create an "un-to-do" list of projects and obligations that aren't really that important to your life or your business.

"Masters of Networking: Building Relationships for Your Pocketbook and Soul," by Ivan R. Misner and Don Morgan (Bard Press, $16.95), features short contributions and suggestions by master networkers, including Tom Peters, Jay Conrad Levinson and Jack Canfield. If you thought networking meant bringing a pocketful of business cards to a chamber mixer, think again. These folks take networking very, very seriously. You'll learn about the DISC system, which stands for: dauntless, indefatigable, supportive and careful -- and how to project a powerful aura when entering a room. Buy this book, then buy a new suit, get your hair cut and get out there!

While you are feeling dauntless and indefatigable, devote some attention to keeping your customers and clients happy. "Seven Power Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty," by Paul R. Timm (Amacom, $24.95), reminds every business owner that without loyal customers, you have no business. Timm, a professor at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, manages to impart fairly complex ideas in a very readable way. The book has lots of anecdotes, charts, worksheets and quizzes, but it doesn't read like a textbook. "Successful companies view recovery as an opportunity," he writes in a chapter about placating upset customers.

If this is the year you are foolish enough to open a restaurant, don't do it without buying a copy of "The Restaurant Start-Up Guide," by Peter Rainsford and David Bangs Jr. (Dearborn Trade, $22.95). Here are some sobering statistics: About one-third of all restaurants will fail in the first year, and another one-third will fail in the second year, according to research by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. But, if you make it to the third year, 65 percent will be around for their 10th anniversary.

This interactive guidebook is packed with charts, graphs and critical insider information. You'll learn about portion control and consistency, which is the No. 1 thing customers want in a restaurant. If they like your pasta primavera, they want it to taste the same way every time they stop in for dinner.

If better branding is on your to-do list this year, check out "The Revenge of Brand X" by marketing consultant Rob Frankel ( The book is written in a chatty manner and is very self-promotional, but it has some good advice on creating a powerful brand. I couldn't find the price anywhere on the book, order form or his Web site, so I have no idea how much it costs.

Since tax season is upon us, here are three good books for business owners. Bernard B. Kamoroff, my favorite CPA/author, released a newly revised edition of "422 Tax Deductions for Businesses and Self-Employed Individuals." (Bell Springs Publishing, $17.95). This self-published paperback may sound like a snore, but the book, which is set up in an easy-to-read, alphabetical format, is filled with lively quotes, photos and cartoons to take the sting out of doing your taxes. You'll learn all kinds of cool things, like the fact that clothing with your company logo on it is tax deductible, so forget casual Friday -- make your employees wear uniforms every day!

He also points out that if you pay any kind of kickback to obtain business, and the kickback is "legal," it's also deductible.

  When your worst day at work is better than your best day with your partner, it's time to work at getting the fun back.  
  Dr. Mark Goulston
The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship
Another CPA, Martin Kaplan, has revised and updated his popular book, "What the IRS Doesn't Want You to Know," (Villard, $16.95). You'll learn that while most retirees flock to Florida or Nevada to live in a state with no income tax, if you prefer cold weather, you can also move to Alaska, South Dakota, Washington or Wyoming. Criminal enforcement of the tax laws also varies from region to region. If you live in New England, Ohio and Michigan, you'll have a smaller chance of being audited. The IRS district offices in California are consistently aggressive in auditing individual returns, according to Kaplan. So if earthquakes aren't enough to send you packing, Uncle Sam might be.

The "CCH Business Owner's Toolkit Tax Guide 2001," by Susan M. Jacksack (CCH, $17.95), is an excellent basic book for all small-business owners. It has charts, graphs, worksheets and detailed information about new tax breaks, penalties and ready-to-use IRS forms. It also has an Internet component that lets you file your taxes online. And, while you are online, consider doing all your banking. But, because online banking can be confusing, check out "Teach Yourself Today: e-Banking," by Brian Nixon and Mary Dixon (Sams Publishing, $17.99). This easy-to-understand guide explains all the ins, outs, pros and cons of banking in cyberspace. The book has great screen shots and easy-to-follow instructions.

"International Business: A Basic Guide for Women," by Tracey Wilen (Xlibris Corp.), is a well-written, to-the-point guidebook for anyone planning to do business abroad. Wilen, a marketing manager at Cisco Systems, has written several practical books aimed at keeping you from creating an international incident. Her best advice for first-timers going overseas to make a deal: "Be patient. People in foreign countries are not usually as direct or in as much of a rush as people in the U.S. When you feel yourself getting uptight, take a few deep breaths and visualize a calming scene. Remember that people won't behave the way you expect or want them to, and getting upset won't make you or them feel any better."

"How Digital is Your Business?" by Adrian Slywotzky and David Morrison (Crown Publishing, $25), is packed with case studies and practical strategies for evaluating your business after the collapse. The authors explain how computers and the Internet can increase productivity and improve your relationship with customers, no matter how old-fashioned your business may be. One of the best examples is how Cemex, a Mexican cement company, cut costs and delivery times by using global-positioning satellite technology in its delivery trucks.

Finally, if your business is destroying your marriage or personal life, check out "The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship," by Dr. Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $23.95). Goulston, a respected Los Angeles psychiatrist who counsels many upset entrepreneurs, has written a very smart, no-frills handbook designed to help you save your marriage or a close relationship. While it's easy to look for companionship outside your marriage, it usually leads to disaster.

"When your worst day at work is better than your best day with your partner, it's time to work at getting the fun back," Goulston writes. He contends that the loss of enjoyment in a relationship seldom occurs overnight, but gradually fades away. "While it's naive to expect the spontaneous delight of early love to last forever, it's tragic to let enjoyment slip so far away, it can't be retrieved." graphic