Business-management books may be too remote from your own company's situation to be helpful. That's why Teresa McBride, while on the road for her $25-million computer-service business, McBride & Associates, in Albuquerque, reserves time to visit CEOs she hears about and admires. McBride comes away from those meetings with ideas for her own company.

From personnel-service firms McBride learned how to set up a detailed filing system and calculate billing time. She's also visited a CPA firm, law firms, an office-supply company, and even a fast-food restaurant.

"I'm rarely turned down," she says. "People are flattered to share what they've learned."