Make your first pick a local business veteran who is willing to tap other executives. That approach allowed Computer Free America Inc., in $5 million company located in Springfield, Ohio, to assemble a more seasoned group of advisers than the computer company's founders otherwise could have found. CEO Tony Cooper began by asking his accounting firm for names--a tack that led him to Eddie Leventhal, a director of a local small-business development center who also had extensive management experience with a manufacturing business. "Eddie was respected in the area and well connected," says Cooper. Once on board, Leventhal recruited two other advisers to offer the company guidance on financial and strategic issues. One was a controller with 20 years' experience. Another was an accountant who'd experienced both success and failure while running a local chain of ice cream shops. The board helped analyze Computer Free America's business units and encouraged Cooper in his negotiations with a potential buyer for one unit.