Many company owners would sooner sell the business than set up an outside board, but what about one composed almost entirely of your heirs? At Battery & Tire Warehouse Inc., in St. Paul, Minn., Charles Bodenstab's board consists of his four children, aged 25 to 31, as well as his attorney.

The board is actually part of Bodenstab's succession plan. "When I kick off, my kids are the ones who'll inherit the business," he says. The children all live in distant cities, where they pursue their own business careers. One has his own firm; another has a degree from Harvard Business School. By having them on his board, Bodenstab makes sure that they stay informed about the company and have regular contact with employees.

Moreover, the children have no inhibitions about criticizing Bodenstab's plans for the company. "They're very candid," he says. "There's even some competition to see who can be more straightforward." Most important, they force him to deal with tough business problems. "It's awkward to talk about something and then go back and admit you haven't done a damn thing about it." Which may be the best reason for having a board at all.