Tim Litle's business processed mail-order companies' credit card orders. Each day, Litle & Co., in Salem, N.H., faxed its customers information on the previous day's credit card transactions. Business really took off, and the company got so busy that Litle had two people who spent all their time manually feeding a fax machine. It was clear to him that it was time to automate.

Litle arranged for a custom solution, which took three person-months of in-house programming and $30,000 in new equipment. But, because the custom-made system was unacceptably slow, Litle soon began looking for its replacement. A project team, under the direction of operations vice president George White, was able to swap the proprietary slowpoke for a $20,000 turnkey fax server, which has delivered great savings.

The company has since been acquired and is now called Paymentech, but the moral of the story, according to White, still holds true: "If you can buy it, don't build it."