In a tight labor market, it pays to act quickly. In April 1997, a programmer sent her curriculum vitae to Statprobe, an $11-million drug-trial research company based in Ann Arbor, Mich. She explained that she was looking for ajob because her current employer, one of Statprobe's competitors, was closing its office in Lexington, Ky., at the end of June.By July 1, Statprobe had opened an office in Lexington &@151; and staffed it with 50 of the competitor's former employees.

In Statprobe's industry, competition for talent has been fierce. "If we can find the right people, we'll set up an office forthem," notes Statprobe president Lora Schwab. Schwab's 10-year-old company, which projects 1999 revenues of $23million, has six offices nationwide and has made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing privately held U.S. companies.

Some entrepreneurs target competitors' employees even more aggressively. When Barry Brodersen, cofounder andvice president of Domino Equipment Co., in Clinton, Okla., hears about a particularly good service or constructionspecialist, he tries to get as much information about that person as he can and looks for opportunities to become acquainted.

Once, Brodersen literally pursued a service specialist he had heard about by tailgating him for 30 miles. When the twovehicles finally stopped, Brodersen introduced himself and said, "Why don't you come work for me?" Now the man is aservice manager for Brodersen, whose company installs and services petroleum equipment.