If you're going to have a company board--formal or informal, with liability or not--you must committo spending time regularly on board-related matters. Without at least a 10% time commitment, says Ray McCormick Jr., CEO of AmericanSweeteners, a $9 million company in Frazer, Pa., "you won't get the right people, and you won't get them involved in running your business."

McCormick, who has had several different boards during his company's lengthy history, set up an advisory council to help make decisions on issues such asacquisitions. Council members were identified through third-party introductions and then interviewed twice by McCormick. They attend four meetings a yearat company headquarters and meet with McCormick individually between sessions.

Perhaps the most time-consuming part of the process, says McCormick, is deciding which issues should be placed on the council's quarterly agendas andthen compiling backup reports on those items for the board. But it's all necessary--and useful. "What we're really talking about is running the company," saysMcCormick, adding that the responsibilities don't take time away from managing so much as hone his own options.