You Don’t Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

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Corporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.

At the same time, only 15% said that their company’s culture was where it needed to be.

It Begins at the Top

At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another – but they really aren’t. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don’t trust their leaders, they ultimately don’t trust the direction of the business that they’re devoting so much of their lives to.

Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It’s something that you have to earn – all day, every day. It’s also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right

Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you’re in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you’re doing by default, right?

There’s an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, “show, don’t tell.” That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It’s why in “Star Wars,” instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.

This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame – accept responsibility. Don’t ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what – you need to work them, too.

Show You Care

Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you’re all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career – it needs to positively impact them, too. They’re not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.

The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you’re someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.


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Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

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Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It’s the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn’t your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) – it’s this idea of the larger brand itself.

Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it’s naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind.

One Brand, One Voice – No Exceptions

Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.

In a single word, your goal is “synchronicity.” Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.

A Great Persona Makes All the Difference

Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your “ideal” customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a “bigger picture” look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.

The impact of negative brand continuity isn’t limited to a customer getting their wire’s crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome – a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.


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Send Me All the Shoes You’ve Got!

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A growing shoe company sought to stretch their global influence, sending their first salesman to Asia to set up shop. After several days, he sent this dire message: “Bring me back immediately, you’ve made a terrible mistake. People in this village never wear shoes.” Months later, an enthusiastic associate asked for the opportunity to lead an international sales effort, offering to move anywhere. He packed his things and moved to the Asian outpost. After no immediate feedback, the boss began to wonder if they’d made another costly mistake. Soon, an overseas message rang through with joy: “Send me all the shoes you’ve got. I’ve never seen so many prospects!”

They say delayed hope can make the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Wouldn’t you like to experience more of the latter? New dreams can enliven enthusiasm and bring fresh joy for the days to come. But often the drudgery of life keeps our backs bent and our steps heavy. We are slaves to the checklist, struggling to lift our eyes above the tyranny of the urgent to see strategic breaks that might be right before us. Do you notice opportunities that others don’t? Do you have a vision for something that is bigger than the status quo? Would you like to?

Opportunity Isn’t Knocking; It’s Passing

Often opportunity isn’t knocking; it is passing. Many days opportunity doesn’t come looking for us; instead, we need to aggressively seek new ideas and perspectives, banging on the door until we finally crash through. Creativity may come in bursts, but often it is something that happens through our ironclad commitment to grow and evolve. How can you grow in resourcefulness or notice opportunities you are currently overlooking?

Team perspective can motivate enormous momentum. Surround yourself with good people, especially those with gifts and experience different than yours. What may seem daunting to you may be an exhilarating challenge for others! If you work alone, consider contracting a consultant to grow your skill set. Or network with a private coach for problem-solving, brainstorming, and peer advising. Often when you are pigeon-holed in one industry, it is harder to see broad-level solutions.

Extreme Differentiation Turns Obstacles into Opportunity

In stretching perspective, don’t just think outside the box, think contrary to the box itself. This strategy, called extreme differentiation, helps you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight as you note the current gaps in your industry and brainstorm options that are dramatically different than your competitors.  Extreme differentiation pushes you to address problems that your competitors aren’t even considering.

Commit yourself to being someone who tries to see potential in every person and every situation. When it seems you have reached a dead end, take a hope-filled breath and view it as an opportunity to build something better. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, gave this example:

Thomas Edison knew a thing or two about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. When he was in his late sixties, his huge West Orange New Jersey laboratory burnt to the ground. Rather than cursing his luck and panicking, he gathered family and friends to marvel at the fire and immediately began planning for the future. Edison started plans for a much-improved lab, seeing the potential for improvement the disaster had presented. He said: “You can always make capital out of disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We’ll build bigger and better on these ruins.”

Find the good in whatever situation you’re presented with and you’ll be on your way to finding those hidden opportunities.

 

 


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Understanding Intent versus Impact in the World of Marketing

ThinkstockPhotos-667556640It is essential to understand as much about your audience as possible, especially the differences between “intent” and “impact” in the world of marketing. Intent is something that you have total control over – it’s what every font selection, every color choice, every turn of phrase and every piece of collateral is ultimately building towards. Impact, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Making an effort to understand the difference between these two concepts is the key to maximum success moving forward.

It All Comes Down to Perspective

The major difference between intent and impact ultimately comes down to a matter of perspective, or an acknowledgment that sometimes a statement (or in this case, a marketing message) isn’t necessarily as “black and white” as you may have thought it was. In addition to knowing who the people you’re marketing to actually are, it’s important to understand as much as you can about the way they think.

Before you send any marketing message out into the world, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How will this message play in different regions of the country? Are there certain terms that are used one way on the coasts and another way in middle America? What difference does that make, if any, in terms of how that message would be received?
  • How do pain points differ based on audience? Is a very specific problem that one portion of your audience has not an issue at all to others? How does something like economic status play into how a particular message might be received?
  • How will the culture change the way the impact of a message varies when compared to the original intent? Even if you’re not a global company, think about things from that perspective. You would probably have to make some adjustments to your messaging when marketing to customers in Europe versus those in the United States as you’re talking about two totally different cultures with different norms and taboos. Are there any cultural implications that might adjust the impact of your message in a way you’re unprepared for?

This approach will help give you as much insight as possible into the various perspectives of the people you’re trying to reach, which can not only make campaigns resonate more but it can also help avoid sticky issues like this one at the same time.

At the end of the day, the difference between intent and impact in the world of marketing can be summarized like this. “Intent” is the thing that you were trying to do – the message you were trying to convey or the goal you were trying to accomplish. “Impact” is what you actually did, which itself is influenced by a wide array of different factors. Sometimes a message that you had complete confidence in is received in a way that you could never have predicted and these are the types of moments you need to be ready for.

 

 


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Family Support is Key for Succession in a Family Business

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Running a successful family business inevitably comes to a critical decision – how to continue the business when the current business owner decides it is time to retire and step away? Some decide to shut the business down

Others sell it to an outsider. Still, others decide to groom a family member to take over, but this can be fraught with risk if the young person turns out to not be interested, prepared, or the right fit.

Ready for a Change

Virenda Gupta found himself in a critical decision place when he was ready to enjoy the rewards of his own hard work building his property tax consultancy. Founded in 1986, RETC was a well-run operation that had taken years and years of dedication, especially in the highly technical accounting world of tax advising. But it was time for Virenda to travel, see family, go back to his historical home in India for visits, and reap some rewards for a change. However, RETC needed to still be managed and directed.

Positioning for Success

Virenda’s son, Amish, had initially brought up the hard topic, but both men were engaged and ready to really address the matter on all the key topics of compensation, authority, and ownership. Because they were willing to take it seriously, Virenda and Amish were able to craft a functional and working succession plan, ensuring RETC was positioned to continue for decades to come. And this was a key shift that is essential for family transition; if the current owner cannot envision handing over the reins, the succession discussion with a family member almost always ends in frustration.

Virenda’s willingness to work towards succession is not common. In fact, only one out of three family businesses make it to a second owner generation, and only a little more than one out of ten make it to a third family generation. Beyond that, the figure gets down to a single percentage digit below 5 percent. However, some of the greatest resistance is manageable; owners have to get past their role of making all the decisions leading to success and let someone else step forward. And that includes making mistakes. Planning is a key aspect, and smart owners start well ahead of a succession date, grooming potential family replacements years before. There is no 24-hour decision-making in this approach.

Proof Beyond Just Being Family

Virenda is lucky; his son wants the leadership role and is qualified. In almost one out of two cases a non-family member is more qualified to take the leadership role instead. Virenda made a key step to ensure his family was prepared. He chose his son as a potential successor after Amish had proven himself capable doing the work. He then let Amish work elsewhere and earn his stripes versus being protected internally due to just being family. Virenda then had to convince Amish to come back and take the role versus staying on the lucrative path he was already on with big corporations. That meant providing a real path and share for Amish instead of just a figurehead position.

How to Do it Right

Experts are in agreement on the key points of family success:

  • Don’t pressure kids to take on a role they are not prepared for.
  • Take on the tough conversation of succession and embrace it honestly with every detail.
  • Get children involved early, foster their interest and love for the business, and then make sure they have all the training needed.
  • Work as a team with everyone having a vested interested in the business’ success. Ownership is personal and drives people to commit.

Virenda is now enjoying travel and time to relax in his retirement, and Amish is fully-engaged in his role as RETC’s leader. Their story is both a case study of what’s done right in a family business succession as well what it takes to prepare for that moment.

 

 


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Brochures: An Incredibly Effective Marketing Tool

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Sometimes things become trends for a reason. Case in point: brochures. Brochures are still incredibly effective marketing tools. Why?

Because Brochures Have Versatility to Spare

Brochures are the perfect supplementary tool to give to someone to clue them into more information about your product or service WITHOUT having to rely on the internet. Did you just come across someone at a trade show or other event? Give them a brochure. Did you just have a walk-in that you weren’t expecting but don’t have time to dive into the deep details you need to make a sale? Give them a brochure.

Any good salesperson can tell you that the number one rule of marketing is “always be prepared,” and a brochure allows you to do precisely that.

Because It’s A Marketing Tool in More Ways Than One

Another one of the most important reasons why brochures are still incredibly effective comes down to the many ways in which they can be used beyond straight selling. Yes, this is a great way to give someone a big portion of information about your products or services… but a brochure also makes your contact information readily available. It works a lot like a business card that way, only going above and beyond what a business card can do on its own.

Because of The Power of the Hard Copy

Finally and perhaps most importantly, brochures are effective marketing tools for one reason above all others: they exist in the real world. They’re physical. People can hold them in their hands, or give them to friends and family members.

Customers prefer having something that they can hold rather than reading information from a company website. Some people even so far as to print the information they want from your website so that they can digest it at their own pace (at the cost of their printer ink).

Nobody is saying that gorgeously designed websites aren’t exactly that – but a brochure is a perfect way to take all that information you already have and bring it into the realm of the physical. Not only that, but brochures and other types of print marketing will immediately allow you to stand out from competitors who have switched to primarily digital materials – another benefit that is too powerful to overlook.

These are just a few of the many reasons why brochures aren’t going away anytime soon. If you didn’t get to create as many brochures as you wanted to during the last year, 2018 would be an excellent time to start.

 

 


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Branded Promotional Products Make a HUGE Marketing Impact

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People love free stuff; they always have, they always will. This is why branded promotional products are so effective. It doesn’t even necessarily matter what “it” is. So long as it’s free, people are going to come running.

Choosing the right type of promotional products can have a huge marketing impact because of their longevity and because they’re functional in a way that people truly appreciate. If you’re thinking about experimenting with branded promotional products but aren’t sure if it’s something that will be worth your time and effort, here are a few key reasons why now would be an excellent time to start.

Branded Promotional Products Earn You the Right Kind of Attention

According to a recent study, 53% of people used some type of promotional product at least once per week. More than that, six out of every 10 of them said that they tend to keep promotional products for up to two years.

This means that when you invest money in creating that attractive and helpful branded tote bag, you’re essentially putting a piece of marketing collateral out into the world that someone will carry with them for around two years. That is 24 months worth of opportunities for them to use that bag in public, acting essentially as a walking billboard. That’s a long period of time to effortlessly keep your brand at the forefront of someone’s mind.

Integrating Branded Promotional Products Into Your Larger Campaigns

Branded promotional products compliment your other marketing efforts and earn a place among all the other techniques you’re using. You also need to know when and where to roll them out. If you’re the type of company that will be appearing at a trade show, for example, branded promotional products like USB chargers or even fidget spinners are terrific because they can attract attention to your booth and help guarantee that every personal interaction gets off on the right foot.

Think about it like this – the first known use of branded products as a form of marketing dates all the way back to 1789when a guy you may have heard of named George Washington was trying to get elected president. The commemorative buttons he used at the time undeniably made an impact on the message he was trying to spread. If it worked for George Washington, you could bet that it will work pretty well for you, too.

When you also consider the fact that adding a promotional product into your larger marketing strategy can increase the effectiveness of your other types of collateral by up to 44%, you begin to get a better understanding of why the “all of the above” strategy is one that is more than worth exploring.

 


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The No Tears Guide to Letting Someone Go

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Having to terminate an employee is never fun. Even if you’ve had to execute this task hundreds of times over the course of your career, it never gets easier. Everyone understands how devastating and humiliating it can be to lose a job and, as a leader, you must find a way to handle the dismissal in the best way possible.

Come Prepared

Nothing is worse than a manager who is wishy-washy. Go over the employee’s track record ahead of time to confirm the employee’s performance merits dismissal. Ideally, you would have met with the employee previously and given them the proper warnings and a chance to rise to your expectations (think: three-strike policy). Regardless, the employee is going to want a clear answer to why he or she is being let go, and you need to provide a compelling reason.

Before the meeting, get all your ducks in a row regarding termination policies. Be prepared to settle the questions whirling in your employee’s mind: When will he get his last paycheck? Is she entitled to a severance package? What’s the timeframe for clearing out his desk? Before you draw up a termination contract, double check policies to ensure accuracy.

Set the Scene

It should go without saying, but terminating someone in a public setting is the ultimate faux pas. You’re not making an example of someone; you’re making the rest of your team dislike you. Find a private room in the office and shut the door. Silence the phones and computers. The time of day you call the meeting doesn’t matter. Honestly, there’s no “best” time to dismiss an employee. Ideally, get it done as soon as possible since delaying the inevitable makes an already hard situation worse. Once you start the meeting, cut to the chase. Small talk isn’t going to soften the blow. Aim for a considerate tone, but avoid sounding emotional during the conversation.

The Right Way Versus the Wrong Way

There are two ways most termination conversations can go. If a manager does it the wrong way, you’re likely to have the employee react in one of two ways: tears or yelling. Take the following two scenarios:

Wrong Way

Sylvia is called into a meeting where she has to sit and wait for fifteen minutes while you finish a personal phone call. You try the direct approach and tell her she’s dismissed effective immediately. You don’t give her much feedback on her performance and direct her to HR about her final paycheck and insurance benefits. You usher her out of your office in less than ten minutes.

What went wrong here? Sylvia is likely to feel humiliated over the abrupt dismissal. She is confused over what went wrong and will have no idea how to plan out her next move.

Right Way

You have had consistent contact with Sylvia prior to the meeting about her performance. You’ve offered guidance on how to help her succeed in her role. After multiple attempts at trying to resolve the situation, you and Sylvia both realize the position and company isn’t the right fit for her. When you call her into a meeting to let her go, she’s not surprised. You give her all of the details about her termination and ask for her to sign a termination contract after she takes the time to look it over.

In this scenario, you have let Sylvia go compassionately and professionally. She can use this experience to excel in her future endeavors. Your reputation as a fair and considerate manager stays well intact.

Inform the Masses

Avoid causing a workplace-wide panic by being transparent with the rest of your staff. You don’t have to give your team all the details about the dismissal but offer reassurance that the termination wasn’t the first in a string of firings.

Firing an employee is hands down the hardest part of being in a leadership position. At the end of the day, reassure yourself that the termination is necessary to avoid ultimately hurting the company.

 


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Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business’ Success

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Regardless of the type of business you’re running or even the industry that you find yourself operating in, everyone knows that quality leadership is essential. It’s equally essential for you to realize that leadership doesn’t begin and end with whoever’s name is on the door. Experience goes a long way, but the type of raw, natural talent necessary to become a good leader isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. It’s something you’re born with.

That’s why when you do recognize that you’ve got the makings of an excellent leader working with you, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to help cultivate and develop that talent whenever possible.

Identifying Good Leaders

First thing’s first: not everyone working for your company has the makings of a good leader, regardless of how you currently feel about them. According to one recent study, only about one out of every ten people have the talent necessary to rise to this status. That means that spotting a candidate isn’t something that is just going to happen every day.

When you do see someone with the qualities of an excellent leader, you’ll know it. They’re usually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They’re the people who keep a consistently cool head under pressure and who naturally seem to help elevate the rest of their teams to the level where everyone involved is doing their best work. They work incredibly hard for seemingly no reward at all because they just don’t know any other way to go about their day.

When you see someone who fits that description, make a note of it. They’re probably going to be running your business one day.

The Development Process

Once you have identified one of these fabled “good leaders,” the first thing you have to do is support them in any and all ways that you can. Never be shy about feedback, even when it’s critical in nature. The chances are high that they’re the type of person who welcomes constructive criticism anyway. Don’t just tell them what they’re doing correctly; make sure they know what they can do to improve and, more importantly, how they can do it.

Next, challenge them whenever possible. Don’t throw your growing leaders into the proverbial deep end of the pool to fend for themselves, but don’t allow them to simply spin their wheels either. Challenge and adversity are two important qualities that make all of us stronger. Little by little, this person will start to grow and evolve in front of your eyes and your business will become all the better for it.

Looking Towards the Horizon

Finally, remember that good leaders are an investment in the future of your company. Good leaders don’t just help in terms of collaboration and more substantial productivity.  They’re also innovation creation engines at the same time. By taking the time to develop the good leaders in your midsts today, you’re going a long way towards guaranteeing future success for your business.


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Millennials Hate your Marketing — Here’s Why (and what you can do about it)


You’ve done it! You researched the young adult market, identified their buying power, and now that “just for millennials” campaign has launched and you’re waiting for the leads to roll in. But instead, nothing happens.

What’s behind the lack of attention and response from this coveted age group? Adults under the age of 30 make up about 1.4% of the U.S. population and pack about 1.3 trillion in buying power domestically. This massive market is made up of savvy consumers who are digital natives and who are very aware of marketing and advertising.

So, why aren’t they paying attention to your marketing? It could be one of these three reasons.

You Treat Them as an Afterthought

It’s a common misconception that millennials, particularly young ones, don’t have the money to buy things or that they waste their money on the wrong things, like avocado toast and pumpkin spice lattes. The problem with this approach is that brands who see these young adults in this way tend to promote the most heavily discounted or bottom of the line products using cost-conscious gimmicks.

Both entry-level products and marketing gimmicks drive millennials away. These savvy users what the newest, the latest and the best, and they can pay for it. Don’t assume your youngest targets can’t afford your best or most recent models. If they are truly captivated with your brand, they’ll find a way. Offer your best products and your most innovative lineup to this group and if they like what you have to share, they’ll keep coming back for more.

You Roll out a “Millennial” Product

You may call it that internally, but labeling your product as a millennial offering is a sure way to drive young adults away from it. Promote it that way on social media and you could get a lot of attention – in a negative way. That innate disapproval of marketing means that millennials are going to be suspicious of any product that announces itself as aimed at them (and could even mock it relentlessly online). You can target millennials with a campaign, approach, or product, but don’t overtly mention it in your materials to avoid a backlash.

You’re Not Social

If you’re dabbling in social media because you are supposed to, but not truly interacting, you’re likely driving away the very consumers you want to attract. Millennials are social media savvy and use channels regularly for entertainment, engagement, and social chatter. A steady stream of promotion is going to drive these coveted young adults away. Instead, pull back on the promotions and truly engage.

If you have an employee who already loves social media, this might be the right person to have monitor and post, even if they are not officially on your marketing team. Social media channels that speak to and “get” millennials can lead to huge brand success, while a mismatch in your messaging can cause millennials to see your brand as out of touch or irrelevant.

Harnessing the power of this massive demographic is well worth the effort, but the first step is ensuring that your current messaging isn’t driving your young adult targets away from your brand. Taking the time to learn how millennials spend money, what matters to them, and even why they love engagement so much can help you tailor your efforts to resonate with this coveted group.


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