Let's face it: despite the advantages of having a formal or an informal board, some entrepreneurs don't wantto spend time recruiting members, planning agendas, and luring advisers to meetings. An alternative: busyentrepreneurs are turning to peer advisory groups, in which local businesspeople meet regularly with afacilitator and help one another solve problems.

For the past several years Ed Bunzol, president of Metron Electrical Rebuilders, an automotive remanufacturer in Addison, Ill., has been a member of one such group: PRO, or President Resource Organization, in Chicago. Bunzol pays $500 a quarter to meet monthly with 11 noncompeting fellow business owners.

"It's my board of directors," says Bunzol. Once when a member told the group about his experience with a visiting Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector, Bunzol went back and reexamined his own workplace. "You never know when you're going to deal with the same issue," he says. "If OSHA walks in here tomorrow, I'm not so ignorant."