Steal This Manual?
The consultants we spoke to charge $1,000 to $5,000 and up. No surprise that many entrepreneurs undertake the effort on their own. But be warned: Many start with the employee handbook of another company and substitute their own name--and end up adhering to laws that, say, wouldn't ordinarily apply to small businesses.
You can find software or downloadable forms to create your own employee manual, often for $100 to $200 (see "Resources," below). If you go this route, be prepared to rewrite. A good manual "reflects the intent and spirit of the owner," says Casey Willson, a Maryland-based retail and restaurant consultant. "When you get into boilerplate, it becomes a protective device rather than an enabling device."
And though you will definitely want an employment lawyer to review your handiwork, don't hire one to write the handbook for you. "It's like having an electrical engineer change a light switch for you," says Galbreath. "This is a practical document, not a legal document."
The Society for Human Resource Management has a directory of HR consultants at shrm.org.
Smallbusinessnotes.com offers a free model handbook. The Alexander Hamilton Institute's Complete Policy Handbook ($100) is a CD-ROM with editable policies with state-by-state guidelines. And Policies Now is a deluxe program (hrtools.com; $199) that uses a Q&A wizard to help you customize a manual.