Keith Negley|Munro Campagna

Steve Barkhouse and Kirk Haw, owners of Amsted, a remodeling company in Ottawa, Ontario, started a separate fire and water restoration business called Restore-All about 15 years ago during an economic slowdown. Although the two businesses are separate, they share staff — back office and field — when necessary, during a major catastrophe, for example, or just to supplement crew on a large job.

Amsted, run by Barkhouse, has 26 employees, and Restore-All, run by Haw, has 24. When employees work for one or the other company, they invoice for payment. Each company has a separate marketing person; externally they use the same firm. Each has its own bookkeeper but they share a controller. Production managers of both companies work closely together for scheduling. This kind of symbiotic relationship offers benefits for both businesses.

“Separation helps us track that each individual company is profitable,” Barkhouse says. Amsted alone couldn’t afford a full-time controller; this way it is able to have the controller’s services part time. Amsted can also offer storage services to clients who need them during a long remodel. In-house, Amsted’s employees can find career mobility in Restore-All. And, having the two businesses offers a larger client referral base.

Higher-Level Sharing

Even more interesting than this relationship between two “related” businesses is the relationship that has developed among Haw’s and Barkhouse’s local Home Builders Association members, which at times also will “share” employees.

Recently, a key employee at another remodeling company got sick, and the company fell behind. “They tried to muddle through, too proud to ask for help,” Barkhouse says. “We found out through the HBA and sent over two guys. Someone else sent guys in unmarked vehicles to help get the company back up to speed and maintain relationships with clients until the employee got better.”

Although the HBA members sometimes compete for the same business, Barkhouse says, “We don’t consider [legitimate remodelers] our competition. We share because competition creates a healthy industry. There can’t be a renovation industry that only has Amsted. There has to be choice. I want these [other HBA] guys to be the choice. The professionals and not those who [ruin] a job and [anger] a client and then make the front page.”

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.