When he started his company, nine years ago, Hank Brink did not want to be isolated from others' ideas. "You get so there's no one looking over your shoulder, saying, 'That's going to get you into trouble,' muses Brink, CEO of Brink Process Systems, an Atlanta engineering and systems-integration company. So he assembled a group of four peer advisers -- friends and business contacts from noncompeting industries -- whose wisdom has helped grow the company to $15 million in sales. They've helped Brink --
· Take on a new partner. In 1990 the group helped Brink and prospective partner Dave Bryant work out the nuts and bolts of their relationship before Bryant bought into the business. "They gave us a list of issues to work through together so that we could see how similar our thinking was," recalls Brink.
· Make hiring decisions. "They've helped interview key personnel," says Brink. Most recently, the group evaluated a senior engineer whom Brink wanted to hire away from a much larger company. "I was concerned about his making the transition," says Brink. "But the group gave him the thumbs up."
· Handle problems with employees. "In tense situations, a member of the group has come in and met with Dave and me and the employee who's having a problem," says Brink. The peer adviser offers the valuable perspective of someone who knows the company but isn't directly involved in day-to-day office politics.* * *