Forget cold calling. Forget direct-mail blitzes. When looking for midsize company owners in need of his investment banking services, Steven Haupt believes in hanging out poolside.

"Small companies can't be reached through traditional sales tactics," insists the CEO of S. J. Haupt & Co. "Often these CEOs don't know what an investment banker is." So Haupt created his own tailor-made sales force of retired execs, who, while golfing or lounging at the club, agree to listen for hot prospects. For their services the referral agents receive 20% of all fees from any prospect-turned-client. Haupt adds: "CEOs of public companies have to share numbers with the public, but a lot of private-company owners tell more to their friend at the beach club than they do to their own management."

-- Elizabeth Conlin