If you're running low on production capacity, now may be a good time to think about farming out some of your work to a good subcontractor. U.S. manufacturers are currently operating at less than 80% of capacity, which should mean there are plenty of vendors to choose from. You can occasionally spot prospects in the classified ads of trade magazines or The Wall Street Journal. But you will probably have more success with your own business network, asking contacts (even competitors) about qualified subcontractors in your area.

However you locate them, be sure to investigate prospects well. "A bad vendor can really hurt you," warns Gerry Letendre, president of Diamond Casting & Machine Co., in Hollis, N.H. He himself has dealt with numerous subcontractors, several of which he was forced to drop. Unless your vendors are committed to meeting your quality and delivery standards, Letendre advises, supervising them is more bother than it's worth. "You're better off turning business away or trying to do it yourself."