It's not easy to keep blowhards from dominating staff meetings, and it can be difficult to muster the diplomacy tomuzzle those people. Even without loudmouths in attendance, meetings can run for hours if everyone wants to make a comment.

So when it comes tomoderating staff gatherings, being cut-and-dry can work out best. When the weekly staff meetings at Reflexite, a $40-million-plus manufacturer of reflectiveplastic products, in Avon, Conn., first blossomed from 6 to 14 people, that's what president Cecil Ursprung had to do.

"We realized that if everybody contributed at the same rate as when six people attended, the meeting would last half a day," says Ursprung. His two goalswere to allow everyone time to talk and to keep the meeting to an hour and a half. So he invested in a $6 alarm clock.

Each staffer gets to stump for six minutes before the alarm rings. "The return on investment is incalculable," quips Ursprung. Meetings keep to their targeted90 minutes, and Ursprung doesn't have to play the heavy.