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Gene Marks

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How Occupy Wall Street Can Help My Small Business

Posted: 10/18/11 10:05 AM ET

To all of you who are spending your weekends and valuable time protesting as part of the "occupy movement," I want to thank you.

I'm not in agreement with everything that you're fighting for. But I do believe in the right to free speech. I get it that you're feeling frustrated with the economy, the lack of jobs, the perception of greed and wealth held by so few. I appreciate that you're not only letting your thoughts be known in cities throughout the country, but you're doing it in a peaceable manner. I'm impressed at the dedication of some of you who are sleeping in the streets and in parks overnight just to make your point. I love how you call your virtual newspaper the "Occupy Wall Street Journal"! Although I'm too young to remember, it all seems very reminiscent of the protests during the Vietnam War and those movements did affect the political direction in Washington. So again, good for you.

I'm sorry that I'm too busy to join you. First of all, I never liked camping very much. And also I'm trying, in this very slow economy, to hustle up enough work to keep my people chargeable and employed. I'm trying to navigate my way through regulations, taxes and my competition. I'm chasing down much less work than was available a few years ago. And I'm trying to do it all while keeping my overhead low. I believe that I can weather the storm and still be standing once the economy (inevitably) picks up again.

But you guys can help me. You're out there protesting. If you wouldn't mind, can I ask you for a few favors? As a small business owner?

For starters, I know you guys are spending a lot of time sitting and waiting. Protesting can be a long and tedious process. You chant and yell and wave your signs when there are people around to hear you. But a lot of the time you're hanging out, waiting for the next opportunity to do your protests. So while you have that down time can you maybe study up on a couple of programming languages like C Sharp or Visual Basic? Or maybe learn some advanced SQL server techniques?

The reason why I ask this is that my company does a lot of work with technology and we can't seem to find skilled people to do the work that we have. And when we do find experienced people they tend to be too expensive and our clients refuse to pay for them. So we're forced to farm out work to India or Eastern Europe. Ever since I saw the first "Hostel" I feel creepy doing this. I want to give that work to you.

I know I'm not the only company in this situation. For example, just last week, the Monster Employment Index, which is a measurement of online job demand from employers looking for skilled employees reported a 7% year-over-year growth. And Freelancer.com this week listed fifty jobs that are in big demand. It seems like there are a lot of jobs out there for people who have the right skills. I figure you can use all that down time on your hands while occupying different places to get some of those skills. And that in turn could really help my business. And you'll have some work too when you're done with all of that occupying.

Which brings me to my next favor. While you're spending all that time on Wall Street and getting the attention of those investment bankers, can you ask them to invest in more startup companies like Care Cloud and HelioVolt? Can you also ask them to visit some of those Startup Weekend events around the country and invest in some of those companies too?

I understand if they want to avoid Indianapolis. I would too. But those guys are listening to you. And they can make lots of money doing this. And then those companies could get the financing they need from those greedy Wall Street guys so they can grow and hire lots of people. And then if those companies grow because of Wall Street's greedy investors, my small business can benefit too -- from the technologies they're developing to make life better and maybe from their potential need for my firm's services too.

Hey, if you can convince those greedy Wall Street guys to invest in as many companies as possible that could be a huge benefit to the stock market too. I know you don't like the stock market, but trust me: at some point in your life, a rising stock portfolio becomes better than sex. And if those investors could get the market back on track that would mean more wealth for everyone. So that way, if my customers are feeling more financially secure they'll feel more comfortable buying the products I sell. That way I can get busier, grow and hire more people.

Also when you're on Wall Street, can you do my small business another favor? I know you're angry with those big financial institutions that took the government's handouts and put it in their coffers. But can you also take a moment to give a hug or shake a hand of one of the 260,000 people that work at Citibank when they come out for lunch. Or one of the 61,000 people that work at American Express when they're trudging home from work?

My company really relies on those people. They provide the backbone of the financial institutions I do business with. They do customer service and support the information technology infrastructure that processes my data. They recommend investments for me to make when saving for my kids' education. They're there at 5:30 when an important bank transfer didn't go through and I need to pay a supplier. I'm fine if you want to skewer those .1% of the executives who are over-paid. But maybe, while you're there, you can just take a minute out and let the other 99.9% of those workers know how important they are and that when you're attacking their companies, you really don't mean it personally. My small business needs those people to be happy and continue to work hard.

I mentioned my kids' education above and it just occurred to me that Wall Street isn't so far away from New York University. What a great opportunity! I have an idea that would also help my small business. Would you mind dropping in on John Sexton, the President of NYU, who earns $1.3 million a year? I mean, if you're going to protest greed, you might as well protest the higher education industry's greed too.

Because of the bloated administrations and tenured professors that have created this system, it's going to cost me upwards of $55,000 per year to send each of my three kids to college. That's kind of tough to afford running a small business. I don't see those costs coming down. And it seems like those guys are pretty greedy too, don't you think If you could occupy a few college campuses over the next few weeks it may help these guys realize how devastating their cost structure is to the future of this country. And how difficult it is to reinvest in a business and hire more people when every available penny is going to college tuition. I'm sure you'll agree that asking the government for loans on this is a little much, given their dire state of affairs. I would really appreciate your help on that. By the way - Sexton works right near Washington Square so you can pick up a few other "goodies" there too if you want (psst....I'm winking).

I know that you guys are against corporate greed and that makes sense. So besides the banks can I put in a request for you to rail against some other greedy companies? Like Apple and Google? Last year Apple earned $14 billion and Google earned $8.5 billion. That's a lot. You should bring them down!

OK, full disclosure: my company sells Microsoft products. I know, they're just as guilty of corporate greed. But those guys at Apple and Google have become huge competitors and if you could get the world focused on how greedy they are then maybe Microsoft can stand a chance against them. And I can sell more Microsoft products. I hope I'm not asking too much. Sorry? You say that you use your iPhones, Droids, iMacs and gmail services to coordinate your protests and that everyone loves and relies on this stuff? Darn. Guess we have to give Apple and Google a pass. I understand now why you're just focusing on big companies that don't make the stuff you use every day.

I had a few other favors to ask, but I don't want to overstep your generosity. For example, I thought maybe, while you're at Wall Street, you could take a break, jump on the Number 1 train uptown and protest outside of President Clinton's Harlem offices. Wasn't he (and President Bush) the ones who pushed those low interest loans to sketchy borrowers that ultimately caused the bubble that crashed the banks and resulted in government bailouts and high unemployment. Well, it's all water under the bridge. Protesting against Mr. Clinton really isn't going to help my business like some of the other favors I asked.

Anyway, thanks so much for listening and I hope you'll consider these favors as it will really help my small business. I know you're out to stomp out corporate greed and bring about better equality for all of us. I just want to turn a profit in 2012. Keep up the great work.

 

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