If your board of directors is strictly a family affair, you run the risk of a grisly boardroom scene by nominating a stranger to the board. To avert such battles, J. W. Kisling, chairman and CEO of Multiplex Inc., a beverage-dispensing equipment manufacturer in St. Louis, went about his boardroom appointments very patiently.

Over a five-year period, Kisling rotated 12 candidates through an informal board of three advisers. This not only gave Kisling a chance to check out the board candidates, but it also gave the three family directors time to warm up to the idea of outside input into their company. Because Kisling had invited the candidates to family social gatherings, the relatives on the board weren't put off when Kisling motioned to vote 3 of the candidates to the board. The family members voted for all 3.

The long-term strategy paid off. Kisling reports the outsiders have provided counsel that's helped Multiplex grow from $10 million to $25 million in seven years. "There are no fights, good exchanges, and very few tie votes," he says.