I have a problem.

In the state of Ohio, not anyone can become a contractor. Because if anyone becomes a contractor, some would-be builders either won't know what they're doing, or won't care. The result is crappy work. Leaky plumbing. Faulty wiring. Roof fall down. That sort of thing can kill or ruin people. Oh, anyone can still do electrical work. But in order to pull a building permit, and to be bonded, you must first get a contractor's license. To get a licence you must pass a test administered by the state Board of Industrial Standards in the trade you wish to practice.

I have a brother who is also an electrician. He's a very good electrician, a natural, which I am not. He is a fast, efficient worker and takes pride in what he does. He's also an ex-con. Convicted felons in the State of Ohio are disqualified from holding a Contractor's License, on the not entirely unreasonable grounds that the state would like to avoid fraud. He has the opportunity to take over the business of an older electrician, but he needs someone to get the license. It would be good for him. He's self-motivated, and frankly has the sort of personality that he's better off working for himself. I love my brother dearly, but he can be an asshole.

But I can get the needed license. All I have to do is study hard and pass the test. I'm really good at taking tests. And so I've ordered the books and will take the examination in April. But I had no reason to before now. Understand that I don't want to start my own business. I could earn a lot more, at the cost of stress and risk. I work to live, not live to work. But if I get the license, I can use it in a company with my brother, allowing him to pull the permits and get things done. If the business outgrows him, then I might pull up stakes and move to Cleveland, which is closer to my family. But if that didn't happen I would just continue to work where I am. I've been there a while, they like me and I'm not unhappy.

Today I learned that two of the old-hands in the shop quit. They bid residential work and ran projects. The reason is a bit complicated, but they too have their contractor's licence, and a requirement of maintaining the license is continuous training that takes a few days a year. At one of those sessions they ran into the owner of my company.

The next day my owner had his lawyer put the license of everyone in the company in escrow. Which means they can't use it for a year. His reasons made sense: turns out the two had their own side business, and they were using his resources to bid against him on jobs. A simple conflict of interest. He doesn't want his employees working against him.

On the other hand, I have no intention of going into business against my employer. My brother works out of Northern Ohio, and my company does next to nothing there. But if I get my license, and my boss escrows it, then I can't help my brother.

If my boss and I can't work something out, then I will have to choose between my job and my brother. I will have to quit, which I really don't want to do.

Family comes first. It seems like getting that license isn't simply a potentially profitable act of consideration, it's a leap over the cliff.

(Contractor's License has other names in other states, and presumably countries, such as a master's licence).