CREATIVE STAFF SEARCHING: Over the course of this year, with the labor market getting tighter and tighter, employers have been resorting to all kinds of innovative means to find qualified staffers. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment firm, says desperation is forcing companies to become even more creative _ Southwest Airlines, for example, is turning flight attendants and frequent fliers into headhunters. The attendants are asking passengers to submit to the airline the resumes of qualified high-tech workers. Challenger Gray says many companies are also thinking about previously untapped sources, such as teen-agers with computer skills.

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HOME-GROWN BUSINESSES: If you live in Plano, Texas; Orlando, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz.; Naperville, Ill.; or Chesapeake, Va., and are thinking of starting a home-based business, you're in the right places, according to Home Office Computing magazine. Home Office says those locales, because of their population and economic growth, demographics, infrastructure, zoning flexibility and other attributes, are the best places in the country for starting and nurturing a company out of your home. Many of the top places have active chambers of commerce or other resources to help small businesses.

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GLOBAL GIFT ETIQUETTE: Business people shopping for holiday gifts for customers or clients from other cultures should be careful about what they choose, says Sandra Morisset, a consultant who calls herself an etiquette trainer. For instance, she suggests, buy gifts with internationally-known names, such at Tiffany's or Cartier. Try to find out your customers' interests or hobbies, and find a gift that would match them. And don't overspend _ buy gifts that are in line with the position and prestige of the recipient.

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EXPANSION THROUGH ACQUISITION: Many fast-growing companies are achieving their goals through expansion, reports the management consultants Coopers & Lybrand. Twenty-four percent of fast-growth companies have already bought at least one other business, and 48 percent are planning an acquisition during the next three years, Coopers & Lybrands says. Buying an already existing firm means a company doesn't have to start from scratch _ it already has a customer base and doesn't have to incur research and development costs.

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