HUMAN RESOURCES

The Very-Long-Distance Recruit

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It's tough to find good talent in the Bay Area's chaotic labor market. Job seekers often won't consider joining a company unless it either promises to offer a piece of the next great E-commerce pie or has an easy-bake IPO on the horizon. Consider the plight of Galaxy Desserts, an upmarket fancy-dessert bakery based in San Rafael, Calif. CEO Paul A. Levitan, a Stanford M.B.A., has a tough time finding brainy managers to help sell chocolate ribbon and lemon tarts. But he and his partner have plumbed a surprising source of managerial talent: Europe.

Nine years ago, Levitan's French-born partner, chef Jean-Yves Charon, was asked to give a summer job to a Parisian friend's young sister. He arranged it through the nonprofit Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), based in New York City.

But that lit a mental lightbulb. As the labor shortage has worsened, Levitan and Charon have increasingly turned to that same channel. Galaxy has arranged internships for numerous transatlantic business students (at least four at a time) who are eager to come to the United States for hands-on entrepreneurial training. Galaxy's needs are advertised internationally at www.ciee.org, and the council helps Galaxy to arrange the necessary J-1 educational visas.

Galaxy has employed a dozen intern-managers--undergrads and M.B.A.'s--from France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Russia. Their interests range from sales to market research to operations. One intern created the company's Web site. Another prepared the launch of a new product. "These people are very smart, and they come from the best business schools in Europe," Charon explains. "They don't want to photocopy. They want challenging stuff."

The icing on Galaxy's cake: unlike spoiled Bay Area prospects, the Continental crowd is enthusiastic about working for Levitan. Last year Luc Bellet, a 21-year-old from France, started at Galaxy as an intern in the marketing department while completing a joint B.A. at schools in Barcelona and London. "There's an aura to the American way of business," Bellet says of his choice to travel 6,000 miles for a temporary job. "I thought a small company would be more interesting because it would be less bureaucratic."

Bellet has taken to Galaxy so well that Levitan and Charon have arranged a coveted H-1B work visa for him. He now has a full-time job helping to manage the production department. Levitan is thrilled with Bellet--and with the good rep Galaxy now has overseas. "We get 20 to 30 resumes a month," the CEO says.

Last updated: Oct 1, 1999




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