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Copyright 2003

The Tribune Company, Chicago Tribune

September 1, 2003

SECTION: Business (Special to the Tribune) Abstract

BYLINE: Elana Centor


Spousal careers continue via Web

Expatriates can keep jobs, start over after move


At noon Central European Summer Time, Carolyn Moncel walks into her Parisian home office, turns on her computer and begins her workday, seven hours ahead of and 4,147 miles away from her clients in Chicago.


Moncel is part of a small number of expatriates who have found ways to run their businesses, virtually, while following their spouses or loved ones on international assignments.


In this cross-cultural community, Moncel is known as a "trailing spouse"-- the spouse who doesn't have the job abroad.


Most are forced to choose between a sabbatical from work or a job teaching English as a second language. Others volunteer at expatriate schools or study language full-time because it is difficult to find work. Occasionally, a few land jobs in their profession.


But technology has given Moncel another choice.


She opted to continue operating her Chicago-based business, Motion Temps, a firm that manages administrative tasks for other companies. When she started the firm in 2001, she intended to operate it from Chicago, but her husband landed a career opportunity he could not pass up.


"My husband is French, and we had talked about living here sometime in the future--I just didn't think it would happen until 2004 or 2005," Moncel said, adding that her husband's offer to work at CAST Software in France came after he finished his master's degree and began to worry about the job market in Chicago. "It was perfect for him. But my business had just celebrated its first-year anniversary and I was 7 1/2 months pregnant. I wasn't sure it was a good idea."


The nature of her existing business made it easier for Moncel to transfer operations to Paris. With her computer, Moncel handles her clients' invoicing, correspondence and desktop publishing. Since the move, she has managed to retain about half of her clients.


While some clients were skeptical that Moncel would be able to continue providing the kind of support they needed, some have found the time difference to be an asset.


"I can leave things for Carolyn to do in the afternoon, and they will be ready first thing in the morning," said Kelly [Kalmes], principal of Project Knowledge, a Chicago-based consulting and coaching firm specializing in project management. "Having Carolyn as my executive assistant is giving me a company that runs 24/7." Moncel and [Kalmes] have networking software that gives each of them access to the other's computer, making it easy to share files.


Moncel continues to handle much of [Kalmes]' correspondence, including e-mail and voice mail. Moncel uses an Internet phone service that charges about 3 cents a minute--a cost she does not charge back to the client.


"People are truly shocked when they learn my executive assistant is in Paris. It's completely seamless," [Kalmes] said. ...





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