We know many companies that have tried to gain an edge by seeking out psychics, handwriting experts, and management gurus. But a few companies are turning to a higher authority: God. They are hiring former priests and ministers and -- in so doing -- getting managers whose people skills are, well, heavenly. As for the ex-preachers, they say their religious training is often exactly what's needed.

Paul Pieschel, now vice-president of franchise development for Dayton-based Moto Photo Inc., is typical. "When franchises get into trouble, you can often trace it to a personal problem," says the former priest. "The marriage isn't going well, or there's an alcohol problem, or whatever. Given what it takes to train a franchisee, it makes a lot of sense to try to solve the problem than to terminate the relationship."

Garry Ritzky, personnel and risk manager for Turner Bros. Trucking Co., in Oklahoma City, agrees that his clerical background has helped. He is often the one who appears in court when Turner Bros. is involved in litigation. He says lawyers tend to go easier on former United Methodist ministers. "They're a little less eager to tear me limb from limb."