Thousands of holiday tales told this time of year follow the same theme: Family members come together, clash, and ultimately reach a happy ending—or at least a level of accommodation everyone can live with. Now comes a tale of a conflict that hasn’t been settled yet, one where the parties involved asked me for your advice on what to do.
Here’s the situation: Two brothers—let’s call them Joe and Frank—run a single remodeling company that consists of two related but distinctly separate businesses. Joe and Frank each control one of the two subfirms, and each claims the title of president of the combined firm. Joe’s the type of fellow who responds to financial incentives, while Frank tends to get his thrills from non-monetary achievements.
Historically, the company has combined revenues from the two sides and then split the profits equally between the brothers. That made sense in part because both divisions tended to contribute roughly equal shares of the total revenue.
That changed this year, when Joe’s division recorded spectacular increases while Frank’s section grew much more modestly. Now Joe—who, you’ll remember, has always focused more on the numbers than Frank—is questioning why he should split the profits 50-50 with Frank when his side did so much better. Joe doesn’t want to claim 100% of his side’s profits, but shouldn’t he get an outsized reward for an outsized contribution?
Frank points out that mingling the subfirms’ financial results have kept the company on an even keel because several times in the past one business was up when the other was down. He fears that moving to more of a what’s-mine-is-mine attitude ultimately will divide the company. This could get tricky, given that some employees in accounting, collections, and marketing work for both sides.
I’m betting Joe and Frank aren’t the only brothers who have ever faced this dilemma. Has it happened to you or to someone you know? How did the disagreement end? Over time, did you stick with the new arrangement or return to the old one? What other factors need to be considered to come up with the best solution for Joe, Frank, and their business?
It’s the Holiday Season—a time for giving. Please give Joe and Frank the help they need to start 2014 on a happy note. —Craig Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. Find him on Twitter at @RemodelingMag.