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One of my best friends from college is a prominent employment and labor law attorney in Wisconsin. He’s the opposite of everything you’d envision in an attorney. He prefers hugs over handshakes, loves to play video games, and lives by the mantra not to take life too seriously—except when it comes to the law. 

I had the chance to visit with him recently, and when I mentioned to him that this issue included a story on employee handbooks, he paused for a moment, narrowed his eyes and with a stern voice uttered, “Too many handshake agreements out there, Steve. Way too many.” 

I asked him what he meant, and was quickly schooled about the unnecessary risks employers take by sidestepping one of their biggest weapons available in shielding against liability.

 Simply put, an employee handbook can be your best friend. A well-written one should leave no wiggle room or gray areas that can be exploited by an employee if their relationship with you sours. From the day an employee reviews and signs off on it, the expectations for the employee and business are laid out in black and white. 

I bring up the topic because it’s the subject of this month’s SOP (Pg. XX), and based on conversations I’ve had with shop owners, handbooks are typically the exception to the rule in the collision repair industry. 

If you don’t have a handbook, or the one you do have has been collecting dust on a back office shelf for the past decade, I encourage you to take the time to create something—or anything—that lays out the basic operations of your shop. 

And no, your handbook doesn’t need to be a 40-page novella covering every nook and cranny you can think of. Even a simple handout that addresses the golden rules specific to your business will put you in a stronger position to defend yourself if one of those boundaries are crossed.

And you don’t need to hire an attorney to create an effective handbook. There are plenty of free samples available online that you can modify for your needs. The key is to make sure employees know and understand there is a standard on paper they signed off on and are expected to follow, and you can rest easier knowing that the pen is mightier than the handshake.

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