99 to 1


I am sick of hearing about the “99%.” I am in the 99%, but you won't see me marching on Wall Street and making signs about my worthless college education. That’s because I’m working my ass off trying to get into the 1%.

My husband and I have a small business. We do software testing. We have some employees, and we use a lot of temps. We've probably created or saved as many jobs as President Obama has. Probably more.

Nevertheless, almost all the people we hire are in their early twenties, just out of college, with a useless "Game Design degree." Just the kind of people you see marching on Wall Street.

I just heard that one of our workers was complaining about some other company "being cheap" because they didn't want to pay for someone's health insurance.


Why can't companies not be "cheap"? Why can't they just pay you more?

First of all, why can't you pay more? Well, why don't you pay $300 for a videogame? Because it’s not worth it to you. But if you paid that much, then maybe videogame testers would make more money. But you won't pay $300 for a game, and neither will anyone else. So companies who make games need to control their costs.

Testers do not make a ton of money. It's true. But the companies that employ you don't make much off of you. We charge our clients your hourly rate plus $X. And X ain't a big number. Believe me, we would like to charge more per hour for your services, but we can't. If we charged a reasonable markup on your rate, then the companies that hire us might just decide to take their business elsewhere, like Bangalore or Hyderabad. We need to keep our profit margin mighty slim, or we'll be paying you zero — because you won't have a job.

So, yes. We are all "cheap.” But you have a job.

By the way, the competition has testers in foreign lands. Their daily take-home pay is a little bit more than what you make for one hour. And they aren't complaining.

But even so, you think, we must charge our clients some kind of markup on your hourly rate, don't you? Where does all of that money go?

Well, it goes all over the place. We have to pay the rent for the offices you are sitting in. We have to buy power strips, chairs, desks, lamps, cabinets, tape dispensers, paper, pens, pencils, notebooks, toner for the printer, and paper for the toner to go on. It adds up.

We also have to pay for the people who clean up after you when you spill coffee on the carpet or you use the bathroom and leave a mess.

Believe it or not, we have to pay the electric bill. We have to pay for the water, the coffee, the cream and sugar, the Red Vines, the occasional well-deserved doughnut feast.

We have to pay for the very fast internet connection that we need to do business. We have to pay for the phones. We have to buy computers and the hardware that you are testing on. Even if we only use it for three weeks, we have to buy every Microsoft test kit, every Sony test kit, every Nintendo test kit, etc., etc. They aren't cheap. And we have to buy a lot of them.

We have to buy software so you can do your work — bug tracking software, operating systems, secure instant messaging systems, general office software. We have to pay to have the network installed at the office, so that we can do our jobs.

But to return to you yourself. We have to buy workers' comp insurance, because one day, you may get a hangnail and sue us. Who cares, you think, it's the insurance company that’s going to pay for it. Yes. And we pay for the insurance. And if there’s a hangnail lawsuit, we’ll have to pay more and more for that insurance.

Lawsuits have made it more expensive to do business. If we have a client with deep pockets, and you’re trying to be crafty and so sneaky, you'll sue the client for that hangnail, too. But our clients are crafty and sneaky, too, so they require that we have certain supplementary insurance as well. Meanwhile, we need lawyers to read, write, and review our contracts so we don't get sued by you or by our clients. Lawyers are not cheap.

In addition, we have to pay for alarm systems, just in case you've told your ne'er-do-well brother-in-law who just got out of jail that you work at this cool company that has a bunch of computers.

We have to pay for those silly little taxes that cities decide to place on businesses, just for the pleasure of existing in them, and employing their citizens.

Naturally, we need to pay interest on the large amount of money we borrowed to pay for all of the above.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. We need to eat, too.

One day, we will finally pay off our debt — if we manage to stay in business, despite the lackadaisical, whining employees who do poor work because they are lazy, or maybe no work at all because they really couldn’t care less about their low-paying jobs.

At the end of it all, after years of stress and lack of sleep and no vacations and strained family life, we just might end up wealthy.

On that day, I will happily tell the rest of you 99%-ers to screw off.

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Dear Augusta,

I hear you! It is really a challenge to have and run a business, especially in the current environment.

You have got a great chance to rise to the challenge you describe. How can you inspire and motivate these whinny spoiled kids? Recognize that however they get to you, you have limited time to make an impact and set them on the right course for their whole life!

Get the "good energy" going with your good employees, and have your business so humming with that marvelous energy, that the slackers get caught up in it. Look past flaws and weakness and reach for the potential and best lying deep inside every whinny soul. Raise the bar; seize that best part buried in someone's heart and don't let it go!

You can lead --- you are an ENTREPRENEUR! Learn, grow, lead, love --- it's Life! Make it fantastic, because we get very little time here and those young people need your industry and vision.

Give them Liberty and guide them to their innate human excellence --- go for Gal, go for it!

Walks the talk ...

Rodney Choate

At the risk of seeming hyperbolic, I'd say Augusta's piece is as good at making its point as "I Pencil", and a great companion to it.


TL;DR version: Much like everyone else in the world, I like to complain and make egotistical assumptions about my worth to the national economy.

Now let's try to write something that has a point. Here's a suggestion: Tell us how much money you lost by wasting your time here blathering on about hangnails.


You speak of whining employees....Sounds alot like you're a whining employer.

From your discription, it seems no one would ever have even the most remote possibility of earning a wealthy living in such an endeavor.

So why do you do it? Out of the goodness of your heart? To give jobs to employees you obviously dislike intensely? To provide a medium income for the owners of the property your working in, the workers of the power company that supply you power?

I would hazard a guess that you do not really think the odds against you are that remote. Otherwise, you'd be involved in another endeavor. I would also hazard a guess that you're not doing too bad. Comparitively. You obviously have decent enough credit and income to pay the rent, pay the low salaries, pay the insurance, etc.

All of this is a way of saying...instead of whining about whining employees, how about taking some responsibility for the choices you've taken?

Augusta Frost

Brian, you make a good point about my whining. I should point out: some of our employees are just terrific, and I apologize for not singing their
praises. As you might expect, we pay those employees more, we buy them health insurance, and give them cash bonuses, do whatever we can to hang onto them, because they are rare finds, and without them, we'd be nothing.

My beef is with many of the other people we hire, who end up behaving like the OWS kids. Once they are hired, they don't apply themselves. They share a sense of entitlement that is baffling. They complain that no one is making them rich, paying off their debt, or buying them health insurance, etc. They have very little understanding of how expensive it is to run a business.

In my essay, I wanted to shed some light on where the money goes.

Rodney Choate

Of course I hear your point Brian, but consider this: maybe hard working entrepreneurs in our society have EARNED some right to complain about the way things seem to be headed. Maybe we can cut them a little slack during these frightening times.

Of course, we need more "gaming" software like we need more holes in our heads, but hey, it's their business what software they want to test.

Oh, by the way, what company do you run?


I own and run a very modest apple farm in western NC. It will certainly never make me wealthy. But it will provide me enough income to stay on my land, and live in the home area of my family for 10 plus generations.

This article reminded me so much of customers you see at wal-mart, lowe's, etc. They expect the highest quality, for cheapest price. That's understandable. But, if you purchase the labor of a $9/hr. employee, you really shouldn't expect to get the labor of a $30/hr. employee. There is a very good reason why one costs $9 and one costs $30.

Kant feel Pietzsche

I wonder if Brian's tone would change if the price of apples fell 50%?

Fred Mora

Most companies outsource their QA to India or even cheaper places. You are very courageous to run a US business against this kind of competition.

And thank you for that informative description of a US business overhead. Most employees don't realize where the money is going.

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