Hiring a celebrity for your board of directors has its well-documented perils, but the relationship between Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.) and Finalco Group Inc. may be one of the exceptions.

Initially, it was Schirra's knowledge of technology and business planning that drew Finalco's attention. But because of his seat on the 1965 Gemini 6 space flight, Schirra has become the company's most visible spokesperson, and the namesake of Gemini Equipment Partners Income Fund, Finalco's newest equipment leasing fund.

Schirra is now featured in all company advertisements for the fund, and he is part of the prize that is awarded to top-selling traders. "We usually give brokers a trip to Bermuda," says Jon J. Prager, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. "But this time, we decided to send them to Cape Canaveral. They'll get to see a rocket launch and meet Schirra."

Schirra receives $20,000 annually as a member of Finalco's board, and an undisclosed amount for his promotional work. The company has done no cost-benefit analysis, but is convinced that the relationship pays off. "In this business," says Prager, "you've got to go for every possible competitive edge you can just to survive. Schirra is our competitive edge."