If you don't have an outside board of directors, you might want to take better advantage of the advisers you do have -- your banker, accountant, and lawyer. Once a year Pat Bruner, based in Green Bay, Wis., and president of TLC Childcare Centers Inc. and The Chocolate Chicken, gathers her advisers at the bank or in her accountant's office for a day of thrashing out issues of expansion, acquisition, and capital expenditures. "It's a way to explain my vision," says Bruner, "and it keeps me from playing telephone tag and having someone -- like the banker -- veto my plans later."

The sessions cost about $1,200 in accountant and attorney fees. "I can't stress how cheap that is to get so much worked out," says Bruner, who plans to open two more day-care centers and start a day-care magazine.