By Matthew Power. Alan Hill, like a lot of smart people, used to work for a big corporation--in this case BellSouth. When the company handed him his walking papers last year (at a time when BellSouth CEO Duane Ackerman raked in about $28 million in pay and stock options), Hill decided not to serve as anybody's financial footstool again.

So he spoke to friends and businesses near his East Tennessee home and created an alliance among six local high-tech service companies. He called it ClearPath. The idea is simple, but effective. When one company gets a job it can't handle, it passes the work along to a partner.

Hill coordinates the partnership for the six companies, which include security, audio/visual, software development, and IT technologies. They jointly pay his salary.

"Already, it's working," notes Hill. "We're only six months old, but recently, a client came in and asked a partner to do something it couldn't. It referred him to Sword and Shield (Hill's security partner), and two days later we had a contract. If that alliance hadn't been there, he would have simply gone to the big, one-stop company."

"We're interested in residential markets," Hill says. "For instance, I could bring a couple of folks to the table to talk about security and link them with the A/V side. You could put in a video distribution system in a common room, and then rent it out as a meeting place, a mini theater, or presentation room to bring in ongoing revenue."