It's not always easy for brothers to agree, nor is it for co-owners of a remodeling company. Tom and Phil Callen are both, and they're well aware of the challenges their situation engenders. That's not to say they don't get along. The two, separated in age by 10 years, have agreed often enough on the right decisions to shape Callen Construction (Big50 2000) into a thriving $5.4 million company.

Nonetheless, Phil, the younger of the two, thought they should take steps to ensure that differences of opinion don't hinder their company's growth. To do that, the brothers created a board of advisors consisting of themselves and the company's controller, sales manager, top salesman, and top lead carpenter.

"With two owners, it's always difficult to reach an agreement," Phil says. "This way, [decision making] becomes more of a forum."

The board, which Phil describes as "a sounding board of trusted employees,"meets once a month, out of the office, and discusses each segment of the company. Board members, Phil says, can "bring up their burning issues in a forum [where it's] easier than in the day-today workings of a business."

Decisions the board makes are meant to be binding, even if one of the owners disagrees.

Before the creation of the board, Tom notes, a new initiative might founder if one of the brothers lost faith in it, or never supported it from the start. Involving other stakeholders in the decision making process, the brothers say, ensures buy-in and increases the likelihood of follow through. Even when everyone isn't entirely convinced, Tom says, the group produces a compromise for the overall good of the company.

On any particular issue, he says, board members acknowledge that "if we're going to grow, someone has to bend, and this is what has to happen." "

It puts the interest of the company ahead of our own agendas," Phil adds.

At the same time, the brothers say, they're providing their key employees with a sense of ownership.