We asked four growing companies to tell us about their human-resources strategies. The answers reflected each business's culture and goals.

I outsource the human-resources function. Katie Corbett, head of Hammond Property Management, based in Cambridge, Mass., doesn't handle human resources at all -- she pays Genesis Consolidated Services, an employee-leasing company, to do it for her. By outsourcing human resources, Corbett gets better benefits for her 10 employees, plus legal expertise, a payroll service, criminal checks, workers' compensation expertise, and more. Genesis also includes Hammond in a group safety-incentive program that recently awarded one of Corbett's employees $100. The entire service costs Corbett 2% to 3% of total payroll.

I've had a human-resources director from the beginning. From the start, Rick Born, president of $21-million Born Information Services Group, in Wayzata, Minn., felt that a sophisticated approach to human resources was critical to his computer-services company's success. So when he founded his new venture, he hired a human-resources director who also had five years of recruiting experience -- a serious investment for a start-up. "We're in a competitive industry, and it's important to attract and retain the very best people," he says. The payoff? His company was #18 on the 1995 Inc. 500 list.

I do it myself. At $2.9-million American Leak Detection, a Palm Springs, Calif., franchiser of leak-detection services, managing a home-office crew of 16 employees "has been a fairly informal process," says president Paul Carter. He and his operations director, Nancy Bigley, handle benefits and insurance, and to help lighten the load, Carter uses a payroll company and tracks employee attendance with over-the-counter software called Absentee Calendar.

I groomed employees for the job. "I felt there was something unique about how people are treated here, and I didn't want human resources to be ruled by legal issues," says Eileen Fisher, president of $50-million Eileen Fisher, a women's clothing company in Irvington, N.Y. Fisher has promoted two employees from the ranks to deal with hiring, recruiting, and personnel issues -- people chosen more for their understanding of the corporate culture than their technical expertise. For that, Fisher relies on her chief operating officer, who keeps abreast of legal, regulatory, and benefits issues.

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Need a quick course of Human Resources 101? Managing Human Resources in Small & Mid-Sized Companies, by Diane Arthur (AMACOM, 800-262-9699, 1995, $59.95), is a good primer that includes chapters on basic benefits administration. There's also an appendix of employment forms, such as a sample job application, designed to keep you out of legal trouble.