For entrepreneurs who lack a financial background, here's an invaluable guide: Financial Essentials for Small Business Success, by Joseph Tabet and Jeffrey Slater (Upstart Publishing, 800-235-8866, $19.95). Its approach is exhaustive yet comprehensible, with almost every page containing valuable nuggets (one highlight: a checklist for increasing gross margins).

This isn't a book that most CEOs will have the stamina (or even, perhaps, the motivation) to read from cover to cover. Instead, it belongs on a bookshelf, accessible for quick consultations on issues such as the whys and hows of performing break-even analyses, how to prepare and -- tougher still -- evaluate financial statements, and even how to understand the jargon that corporate accountants often rely on.

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