CEO Yvonne Cucci had grown Cucci International to a $3-million operation, but she no longer had the expertise to handle the finances herself. And nobody at the Torrance, Calif., sportswear maker could fully use Cucci's financial software.

Rather than budget for a chief financial officer's salary, Cucci temporarily hired a consultant to upgrade the company's systems and her financial skills. But she stayed involved: "If I'd just told the consultant to deal with it, we'd have gotten only a short-term fix," she says. Cucci did most of the number crunching herself.

She also assigned staffers to learn from the consultant -- how to use the computer to do financial reports, or how to collect bills more aggressively. (Staffers eventually cut the age of receivables from 60 to 42 days.) And the expert had to document all bills.

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