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This story appears in the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Rita Alvy-Teeter came into work one bright spring day last year to find a third of the revenue pulled out from under her Irvine, California, design firm.

The loss of just one large client hit the paychecks of the president and her partners immediately, and put Drive Industries Design Group, which projects $800,000 in 2005 sales, in survival mode. Purchases got postponed, paper clips got counted, and some of the seven-person boutique's outside contractors didn't get contracts. Summer 2004 was spent rustling up approximately 30 new clients to replace that one big revenue-generator. Alvy-Teeter herself had to spend more time CEO-ing than sketching.

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