From the December 1999 issue of Startups

If you want information on how to conduct basic market research, polish your marketing skills and target new markets--all in plain English--we've got just the book for you.

The Los Angeles Times Business Make-Over: Experts Solve the Challenges of Real Companies Like Yours (The Los Angeles Times) is a compilation of previously published business makeover columns that originally appeared in The Los Angeles Times.

"What makes this book more valuable than other business books is that it's not written like an academic lecture," says editor Cyndia Zwahlen. "These are discussions of real companies and real people who've used business consultants to come up with strategies that take into account their real world limitations."

The Los Angeles Times Business Make-Over highlights case studies of businesses ranging from a homebased karate school with $1,200 in annual gross sales to a glass manufacturer with sales of $5 million, as well as a homebased novelty-product manufacturer, a computer consultant, an interior design firm and the owner of a gift-basket business.

In fact, Zwahlen says the gift-basket entrepreneur has grown her business using many of the book's low-cost marketing tips, such as using direct-mail pieces in the form of monthly picture postcards, upgrading the company's customer list, and using a bartering system to help pay for things like printing, copywriting and art direction.