Married to the job: More couples go into business

Sometime in April, Skip and Nancy Plesnarski will open 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon in the Towne Brookhaven shopping center.

The upscale grooming salon will be the Buckhead couple’s first foray into copreneurship — the term coined for partnering in love and work.

While there is little data on copreneurship, more couples are making the leap, said Alisa Harrison, senior vice president of communications and marketing at International Franchise Association.

“We give a franchisee of the year award and often up on stage it’s a husband and wife team,” Harrison said.

What’s driving the trend?

Some want more flexibility in their schedule. Some see it as a way to control their own destiny. Some hope to create a financial haven for their children. And some want all of the above.

When Skip Plesnarski, 62, and his wife, Nancy, 61, made the leap last year, they were looking to do four things: stabilize and build their retirement assets, have flexibility, recoup their investment in three years and remain mentally and physically active in a business venture.

Skip Plesnarski retired in 2012 from his job as director of global planning and logistics at Kimberly Clark. He started looking into franchise opportunities a year ago.

“18/8 satisfied each of those personal objectives,” he said. “It was a very new opportunity. There wasn’t a lot of competition in this particular industry so we got excited about it.”

Last Month, Ken and Kristine Jones, of Sandy Springs, launched CMIT Solutions of North Fulton, an IT service provider for small to mid-sized businesses, after Ken got a pink slip on his 50th birthday from First Data Corp., where he’d worked for 19 years.

“I searched for a job for quite a while but it felt like every position that came up was two or three steps back,” he said.

Last August, he said, he went to a franchise class.

“Surprisingly, it wasn’t all McDonald’s and Subway sandwiches,” he said. “One of them was actually IT management services which was something that appealed to me.”

He shared the notion with his wife Kristine.

“I thought he was cuckoo for cocoa puffs,” she said.

But after weighing the risk of Ken trying to get another corporate job and starting a business, and after learning more about CMIT, Kristine came around. She especially like having the chance to spend more time with Ken and being able to control their own destiny. Also, she could envision passing on the business to their three children.

While the benefits of husband-wife businesses can be numerous, mixing love and work can also magnify differences — in the worst cases leading to the end of the marriage, the business, or both.

Misunderstandings at home can lead to trouble at work or vice versa, said Cornelia Shipley, CEO of 3C Consulting, an Atlanta-based executive coaching firm.

“I have seen issues arise when both partners are not equally committed to the business or one spouse losses interest in the work,” Shipley said. “It is important, if you the business and your marriage are going to be successful, that you and your spouse are committed to making the marriage work first and foremost and then the business.

Shipley, who also owns a real estate business with her husband, said it can be hard to turn work off if, for instance, the couple has not set clear boundaries for when and when not to engage in work activities.

On the other hand, she said, spouses can fully use each others’ strengths for the good of the business.

“Sometimes we know our spouses better than they know themselves and we see things they don’t,” she said.

Early on, both the Plesnarskis and Joneses could see how that would work for them.

Kristine Jones, for instance, is really good at networking, Ken Jones said.

“I was going to be the one always in front,” he said. “But because of her social nature, she’s really good at generating leads.”

The couple said 21 years of marriage has prepared them.

“We’ve developed a good communication style,” Kristine said. “I think we’re going to be great together and I’m trying my best not to sexually harass him.”

After 40 years of marriage, Nancy Plesnarki said they’d never give up on each other.

“We’ve had a lifetime of joy and we’re not about to let business interfere,” she said. “When you move with corporate America all your lives, you have to deal with a lot tougher issues. Now we get to do something we want together.”

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