7 Keys to Employee Commitment

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor
7 Keys to Employee CommitmentWhy do some employees do what is expected and others don’t see what has to be done? Why do some employees accept responsibility for their mistakes and others blame others? Why do some employees appreciate the job opportunity and others feel entitled? Why do some employees work to improve things and others accept the status quo?

The answer is that really good employees, have ideas, do more than their “job” requires, take responsibility for what goes right and what goes wrong, and are motivated to do their best. These committed employees  respond positively to the following 7 keys to employee commitment:

  1. A clear vision on where the company is heading. They need to buy into the vision that is clearly and often discussed by owners and managers.
  2. Well defined values that communicate what the company stands for and that the company “lives” by these values.
  3. Positions, no matter at what level, in which the employees know that they make a difference. They need to know that their actions impact the success of the enterprise because they have “ownership” of their jobs. They need to know the importance of their jobs to the success of the business.
  4. Positions that are clearly defined in which specific goals are spelled out. Equally important is that everyone will know when the goals are achieved because they are measurable, and not simply “pie in the sky”. The most committed employees have a major hand in setting these goals and measurements of success.
  5. Supervisors and managers who receive appropriate training in management and people skills. Most employees who leave a company due so because of a poor relationship with their boss, not because of the company. The bosses who are promoted to management because of their technical skill sets, need to develop management skill sets in order to be effective leaders of employees.
  6. An environment that creates learning opportunities. Employees want to create more value by growing in their jobs. They need to have personal development goals, along with the well – defined goals for their position.
  7. Supervisors and managers who are serious about “listening” to their employees. There is a real hunger for employees to be listened to and this very activity will result in much more committed employees. The sad thing is that bosses are much more busy giving orders and direction and spend too little time seeking and listening to employee thoughts and ideas.

The bottom line is that if bosses implement effectively, the seven keys stated here, they will have employees who have more pride, confidence, and the ability to make a difference.  They will have truly committed employees.

Greater Phoenix SCORE, through their certified mentors can provide your business with the tools necessary to gain committed employees. Call 602 745- 7250, or click here to make your appointment with a SCORE mentor today. There is no cost, except your time commitment to work on your “improvement program”.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.

 

 

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No Pain No Gain!

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

No Pain, No Gain - in Business, too!No matter what our age and experience, no matter whether we are in business for ourselves, or working for someone else, our pattern of beliefs and behaviors are echoed every day and every week. Call it our routine, our repetitive behaviors are the backbone of our actions. We hope these behaviors give us the results we are seeking, and help us achieve our dreams and goals. However, all too often, we don’t examine these behaviors in the cold light of day, and determine the effectiveness of our behavioral patterns. Usually, these very repetitive patterns of behavior are roadblocks to constructive change. We get “stuck” in our old familiar ways, and over time, we diminish both our effectiveness in our personal relationships and business dealings. Gradually, and over time, we fall into what I call developmental retardation.

What are our roadblocks to change? I can think of three:

  • We don’t have time. We are so busy in our business and personal lives that we don’t take the time to think about how we could do things better.
  • We are so comfortable with our patterns of behavior and communication that we just don’t want to change – i.e. we are in a rut.
  • “Thinking” is hard work. It’s just plain easier to rationalize why changes won’t work, rather than thinking about how changes might improve results.

Successful entrepreneurs travel on a road of continuous improvement, recognizing that as the world changes, they too must change. They examine the activities and results achieved, and accept the premise that personal growth is the key to successful businesses and people relationships. Past successes do not ensure tomorrow’s success.

Successful entrepreneurs are in a continuous state of examining their actions and learning new skill sets to enhance their performance. They know they will not be “comfortable” with new behaviors, but are confident that this road of continuous improvement is essential to “living the dream” and optimizing results. They live by the adage,

 “NO PAIN NO GAIN”

Successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with folks who are honest in their communications, not sugar coating their comments because they think that’s what the boss wants to hear. They create a climate that encourages constructive dialogue including ideas that are different from the boss.

SCORE, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration, has certified mentors who will not sugar coat their comments, and will provide guidance to entrepreneurs starting businesses or to existing businesses who want to be on a road of continuous improvement.  Call 602 745- 7250,  or click here to make your appointment with a SCORE mentor todayThere is no cost, except your time commitment to work on your “improvement program”.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.

 

 

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The 7 Sleep Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

By Giselle Aguiar

English: A Sleeping moon in a cap.

Can’t sleep at night? We entrepreneurs are in the same boat. Especially “solopreneurs” – we folks that do it all ourselves. Getting 7-8 hours sleep is a challenge. This video from Entrepreneur Magazine caught my eye and it has some great sleep tips that we can all use to get our ZZZZs.

Which one to do find the hardest to do?

  1. Avoid alcohol 3 hours before bedtime
  2. Turning off electronics before bedtime
  3. Right down your to-do list or thoughts
  4. Create a sleep environment
  5. Exercise
  6. No sugar before bed, high protein and fat snacks instead
  7. Wake up to the light
  8. This one’s on me – avoid caffeine after 3 pm. Oh, but that’s when I need coffee to get me through the rest of the day! Try caffeine-free herbal teas like lemon-ginger, acai berry or peppermint. They’ll give you a boost without the caffeine.

For me, it’s turning off the phone and tablet. I guess I’ll take that stack of magazines from the living room and put them on my nightstand. Read those instead of the news on the tablet. What about you? Please comment below.

About the Author:

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media WizGiselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is the official Social Media, Newsletter and Blog Manager for Greater Phoenix SCORE and Adjunct Faculty at Phoenix College. She’s a “solopreneur” who offers social media training – 1-on-1 or for groups, social media setups, WordPress sites and blogs. You can connect with Giselle online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

 

 

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Why Your Web Browser Matters

By By Erik Wong, GoDaddy

When I was on the phones here at GoDaddy, one of the most common troubleshooting questions I asked my customers was, “What browser are you using?” While plenty of people knew what I meant, I’ve had my fair share of customers who responded with, “The Internet.”

Web broswer usage statistics

Internet Explorer is still the most popular, but Google Chrome passed Mozilla Firefox to take 2nd place. Apple’s Safari has a distant 4th place. Source: Netmarketshare.com

Of course, most of you know “the Internet” isn’t a browser. A browser is the program you use to access the internet. Statistically speaking, most of you use Internet Explorer® or Safari®, as they are the built-in browsers on commercial computers. The more adventurous of you have probably downloaded Google Chrome™, Mozilla Firefox®, or even Opera™ (you rebel, you).

That’s nice, but what difference does it make?

Your web browser impacts your online experience.

If you’re using an outdated browser, here are some unfortunate situations you might encounter:

  • You’ll be vulnerable to viruses, spyware, malware and other bad things.
  • It will take longer for Web pages to load.
  • Your browser might freeze or crash (usually when you’re almost done paying for plane tickets).
  • You won’t be able to see all or part of websites programmed with newer languages like HTML5 and CSS3. If you do, the site will probably look wonky.

The good news is, many times after asking this one question — “What browser are you using?” — we can make a quick recommendation that fixes your issue. So how about it? Is your browser out of date?

To find out, open up your browser, go to the Help menu, and select the About option. If you are using Chrome, you won’t have a help menu, but you will see a wrench icon. Click that and then select About Google Chrome. Then compare your browser version to the latest available version found here. If your browser is out of date, upgrade to the latest software. This will not only ensure the smoothest operation, but will also make your computer more secure by plugging known security holes.

So let’s say you do upgrade to the latest browser version and you are still having issues. What else can you do? The next great troubleshooting step is to clear your cache and cookies. Your browser will regularly store little pieces of information about the sites you visit to help them load faster down the road. But occasionally, the browser will cache some old or inaccurate data, and when it tries to match it up against what is actually on the site, it can cause errors. In my experience, clearing your cache and cookies resolves well over 50 percent of all browsing-related issues.

What if not even that works? You might still have a relatively minor problem on your hands. Narrow down your issue by using a different browser entirely. You might find that sites that load flawlessly on Firefox don’t work at all on Safari, or vice versa. Even though browsers were built to read the same kinds of data, they can sometimes do it in different ways. Much like how different kinds of car engines require different grades of oil despite the fact that they are all the same sort of machine, the same kinds of program can do very different things with your data.

It might be time for a browser tuneup.

About the Author

Erik Wong with GoDaddyErik Wong is a small business/tech consultant for GoDaddy and a freelance pop-culture writer. He has written a regular column for a current events blog, and his commentary has been featured on realclearpolitics.com. Connect with Erik on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.

 

 

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Start Planning for Christmas NOW!

Start planning now for a nice social ChristmasBy Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media Wiz

The kids are back in school and now is the time to start planning for Christmas if you want to promote your products to gift givers. If you wait till October or November to start thinking about Christmas, it will be too late.

A couple of years ago a jewelry designer contact me to help her get set up in the social media networks the first week in December. By the time everything was done, it was mid-December. At that point she said to me, “I hope to get some sales for Christmas!”

I replied, “You do realize that we’re starting this 2 weeks before the holiday.” Needless to say, she was disappointed when she didn’t sell anything.

It takes time to build a following.

If you’re starting from scratch on social media, it takes time to build a following – and no, you cannot “buy” followers or likes. Cheating doesn’t work in social media. You must build a following organically by

  1. Searching for and following them.
  2. Posting links to content that your target market wants to see – and not all about you!
  3. Responding to them – thanking them for liking your page on Facebook. On Twitter, thanking them for following, mentioning you, and retweeting your tweets
  4. Engaging them with questions and answering theirs in a timely manner.
  5. Getting exposure by showing your expertise.
  6. Spending time – at least 90 minutes a day – on the networks themselves, not just automating content.

90 minutes seems like a long time, but the less time you spend daily growing your following, the longer it will take for you to see results. The 90 minutes can be broken up in to 3, 30 minute time slots. Block off the time in your calendar. Use scheduling tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck. (Related Article: When’s the Best Time to Tweet?)

Put together strategic and tactical plans

You need to start with a strategic plan:

  1. Define your gift-giving target market. Take the jewelry designer for instance. Her regular target market is women 40 and up. But her gift-giving target market is the husbands and boyfriends. Men obviously think differently and you have plan accordingly.
  2. Which networks are you going to focus on? Which networks drive the most traffic to your site? Your site analytics should tell you that. But again, remember, that your gift-giving target market is different. They may not use the networks like your regular target does. This takes some research.
  3. What strategies are you going to use to make your gift ideas stand out from the crowd?
  4. Write out the strategies for each network. Each network “drives” differently. This video explains the difference in the major networks.
  5. Consider paid advertising on the networks and how much you want to spend. The more you spend, the more exposure you’ll get to your target audience. Each network has different advertising plans. At this date, Pinterest is not yet offering promoted posts, that may change in the coming months.

Then comes the tactical plan:

  1. Create a spreadsheet and split your social media time between the networks, focusing more time on the ones that drive traffic to your site or the ones where you deem that your gift-giving targets are using the most. You have to touch all of them regularly. These are free billboards!
  2. Check insights and analytics daily and adjust your plan accordingly. If you see that people are engaging (liking, sharing, commenting) on certain types of posts, then share more of those.
  3. Consider hiring a part-timer to help you manage your social media campaigns.
  4. Use marketing automation like Infusionsoft to manage your campaigns. Infusionsoft is a SCORE partner.

If you need help putting this together, a SCORE mentor can advise you for free! Click here to schedule a mentoring session or call the Greater Phoenix SCORE office: (602) 745-7250. A mentor can meet with you near where you’re located!

About the Author:

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media WizGiselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, inbound and content marketing strategist & trainer helping small to mid-sized business owners learn how to leverage the power of social media marketing, increase traffic to their websites, generate leads, increase brand awareness and establish themselves as experts in their fields. As with anything in business, using the right tools in the right way and at the right time are critical parts to your success. Learn from someone who’s known the Internet since it’s infancy. Official Social Media, Newsletter and Blog Manager for Greater Phoenix SCORE and Adjunct Faculty at Phoenix College. Social media training – 1-on-1 or for groups. WordPress sites and blogs. http://azsocialmediawiz.com 602-738-1700. You can connect with Giselle online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

 

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7 Key Plots for Small Business Brand Storytelling

By Tracie Rollins, Infusionsoft

7 Key Plots for Small Business Brand StorytellingBrand storytelling is the process of sharing information about your company, product or service in a way that puts the story first in order to create relevance in the mind of the consumer. Stories help consumers visualize their life with your brand interwoven into it. They build trust, engagement and are a desired deviation from the pitches that are widely ignored today. If you want to build a successful, sustainable business, you need stories positioned towards your target consumer on your website and across your social channels.

It can be very challenging to write a story, especially if the last time you wrote one was for your eighth grade English teacher. However, you don’t need a journalism degree or a passion for fictional writing. Narrowing down the plot should help you get started.

7 Key Plots

Brainstorm ideas by using your purpose and begin with the end in mind. The plot helps to explain the situation and the conflict that exists.  Know what you want to the plot to be. Do you want a hero’s journey or do you plan to hit at the heart of a tragedy? Depending on your purpose, there are seven basic story plots for you to consider:

  • Overcoming the Monster: your character sets out to defeat evil
  • Rags to Riches: your character acquires fame and fortune before losing it all and growing as a person
  • The Quest: your character sets out on an adventure to acquire an important object but faces many obstacles in the way
  • Voyage and Return: your character sets out to an unknown land, sees new sights and overcomes threats
  • Comedy: your character is destined to fall in love, but something keeps getting in the way
  • Tragedy: your character is a villain who’s death aids in creating the happy ending
  • Rebirth: your character starts out as a villain but through a series of events becomes the hero

You can use each of these plots in brand storytelling if you consider how your product or service serves as a useful instrument in the positive aspect of the story. For example, if you have a chiropractic care practice with the purpose of providing relief to your patients, then your story might include how your service:

  • Overcame the monster by helping Mary eliminate her pain
  • Completed the quest by giving John the courage to get to the gym
  • Turned rags to riches by helping Jane get back to work

The plot is the most important component of brand storytelling because it draws the reader into the story. The reader can envision living the life of the main character and begin to devise action plans to beat the villain by using your product or service. Give your target consumer multiple opportunities to enjoy your brand story. Eventually they’ll wonder why they aren’t the main character in your story, and they’ll engage with you to help them fight their battles.

Tracie Rollins of InfusionsoftTracie Rollins has focused her professional efforts on bridging the gap between knowledge and performance. She applies over 18 years of experience to marketing strategy, research, and development of content that educates, influences and improves the lives of others. She believes that education provides knowledge, knowledge drives actions, and actions change the world.

As the Content Strategy Manager at Infusionsoft, Tracie Rollins helps small businesses succeed by developing e-learning and authoring content for small business consumption and application.

As an entrepreneur, Tracie has appeared on KTVK’s Good Morning Arizona show, and has been featured in the Institute for Industrial Engineering magazine, Woman’s World, Arizona Republic and multiple local publications. She and her husband, Lonny help small business stand out amongst the competition with The Rollins Advantage, LLC. You can connect with Tracie online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

 

 

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Who’s the Boss?

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

Who’s the boss? Your true boss is your customer.

English: A business ideally is continually see...

A business ideally is continually seeking feedback from customers: are the products helpful? Are their needs being met? Constructive criticism helps marketers adjust offerings to meet customer needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A customer-driven organization is constantly improving because the ownership and management is trained to hear the customer’s voice. The two questions consistently asked of customers are; “how are we doing, and how can we do better.”

This spirit of continuous listening to customers occurs with all managers and employees who have customer contact. Each person is trained to listen and hear the voice of the customer.
We may think we hear the customers through their verbalization of complaints. But the fact is most customers just don’t complain when they have an issue. The reasons are simple:

  1. Customers think complaining won’t do any good.
  2. Complaining is difficult. It takes time and has to be done with planning and thought.
  3. Customers feel awkward or pushy. Many customers are introverted and are not comfortable complaining.
  4. It’s just easier for some customers to switch their purchasing to a different supplier rather than to complain.

Recognizing that customers may not complain and just go away should lead the organization to implement a formal and informal customer communications and listening program.

In an existing company, transition to a customer driven organization is a process by which people unplug from the old ways of doing things and plug into a new world of customer communications and listening skills.

If an entrepreneur is starting a business, it means setting up both formal and informal customer communications and listening programs from the outset of the enterprise.

In either case the organization needs to “walk in the customers’ shoes”.

The many ways to romance the customer include:

  1. Create customer focus groups who are interviewed about your services and the competitors.
  2. Physically making periodic visits to new and old customers where possible, or at the very least visit customers through e mail communications.
  3. Mean what you say to customers. Don’t mislead customers by promising more than you can deliver.
  4. Teach every employee to visualize the customers’ experiences so that they see your products and services through the eyes of your customers.

Owners and leaders who spend quality time creating this customer environment will lose fewer customers and do more business with existing customers. The result will be greater sales and profit growth.

SCORE, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration, can help you develop a customer driven organization. SCORE has more than 70 certified mentors skilled in most business applications, who will meet with you, at no cost, as often as you feel it is beneficial. Call 602 745-7250 or click here to make your appointment with a SCORE mentor today.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.

 

 

 

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You don’t need a Magic Wand to Hire an Amazing Webmaster

Cinderella and Prince Charming

Cinderella and Prince Charming at Disneyland Hotel’s Founder’s Club

By Nancy King, Godaddy

Do you ever wonder what happens in fairy tales AFTER the unlikely hero sweeps the awkward heroine off her feet? How do they make their lives together actually work when one of them is a mermaid and the other makes his living as a fisherman? Do they go into the family business, or do they start a brand-new business of their own? In my sequel, they branch out on their own and start an online business. I’d recommend they hire a webmaster. Why? Maybe it’s because:

  • Even their fairy godmother can’t find them online
  • They think CSS stands for Cinderella Sells Shoes
  • When their website went down, they called 9-1-1

But what can an amazing webmaster do for you? You’re definitely more on the ball than our fairy tale heroes, but working with someone who specializes in websites can make an enormous difference to your site, and therefore your business. A webmaster can:

  • Keep your site looking current – nobody likes navigating a site built in 1997.
  • Promote your site and your business – by using the correct tools to get you on the Internet’s Main Street.
  • Drive traffic – by knowing how to create the right “maps,” and by finding and identifying roadblocks along the way.
  • Protect you – they can keep on eye on your site and alert you if they see any unsavory characters hanging around.

Finding the right webmaster is an important decision to make, and one that is not to be made lightly. It is far too easy to hire someone without asking the right questions and to end up having them disappear in a puff of smoke like a fairy tale villain. In “Hiring a Website Designer? Consider these basics,” GoDaddy’s Andrea Rowland recommends that small business owners ask a series of starter questions that address site-related issues ranging from billing to naming rights. She says:

“It’s important for you to have the legal rights to your domain name, so if you decide to change designers down the road, you won’t have to worry about who’s got control of your online name.”

It is very easy to see the reasoning behind a webmaster’s proposal that they take care of everything – it’s one less thing to worry about. But your domain is your intellectual property and you need to treat it the same as your registered business name. Nobody else owns your business name, and they shouldn’t own your domain name.

You’ve purchased your website address, you know what questions to ask, but where do you go to find a reliable webmaster? Most of don’t us have a magic wand, but we do have the Internet. There are a handful of great marketplaces for creative types like website designers. In addition to asking people you know for referrals, start there. You’ll have an opportunity to not only contact serious designers, but you’ll also get to see their portfolios online before you make a final decision.

Every story needs a happy ending, and nothing is better than a beautiful site with a great Web presence!

About the Author:

Nancy King, GodaddyAs a member of GoDaddy’s Professional Development team, Nancy King trains people to help other people become successful small business owners. She works with computers every day and is never more than inches from an electronic device capable of accessing the Internet. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.  Connect with Nancy on Google+.

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Turning Conflict into Agreement

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

Turning Conflict into AgreementIn any organization that has two or more individuals there is likely to be conflict from time to time.  In any successful environment there is bound to be conflict, disagreement, and promotion of disparate ideas.  Where there is creativity, there exists the chance of conflict.

There are some guiding principles that, if applied effectively will result in positive outcomes.

  1. Conflict should be resolved through openness. Conflict is natural and should not be suppressed.  If allowed to fester, it surfaces in unproductive ways and can negatively impact relationships.  Conflicts should be discussed and used to sharpen the differences between issues. Through discussion, the best options will become visible.
  2. Issues should be the source of the conflict, not personalities. Although individuals may be parties to conflict, they should not be the issue. Another individual should not be the target of innuendo, put-downs, or embarrassment.  What counts are the issues and the perceptions of those issues, and not the personalities involved.
  3. Conflict should involve a search for alternatives. Don’t play the “blame game” and pin the blame on someone for a problem.  The driving motivation should be to solve the problem.  Look for alternative actions, that, if executed well, will resolve the problem and eliminate the conflict.
  4. Conflict resolution should focus on the here and now, not on prior disagreements or previous behaviors. Working through a situation should be in a present-oriented setting.  Focusing on history and prior disagreements, in general, won’t be productive in resolving today’s conflict.  The present and the future is often a more constructive base for discussion than the past.  Rather than dwell on what or who caused the conflict, emphasize what actions can be done now to provide a solution to the issue.

One of the common impediments to communicating freely is the defensiveness of people whose ideas and suggestions are being evaluated and perhaps disagreed with, in whole, or in part.  You’ve probably experienced it in yourself on occasion.  The pulse quickens, heat and color flood the face, palms sweat, the voice rises in pitch and perhaps in volume.  These are natural reactions when one feels attacked or discounted in any way.  To minimize these potential negative consequences, keep the following in mind:

  1. The person on the other side of the conflict has a point of view that is just as legitimate and reasonable to him/her as yours is to you.
  2. The other person may be uncomfortable about the conflict or disagreement, just as you may feel discomfort.
  3. It is safer and wiser to keep to the issues, and to avoid arguments, for the sake of arguing.
  4. Keep in mind that most people are reasonable, and when presented with attractive alternatives, will work toward a resolution of the conflict.

SCORE can help you develop the best solutions to your business conflicts and issues.  SCORE has more than 70 certified mentors skilled in most business applications, who will meet with you, at no cost, as often as you feel necessary.  SCORE is a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration and provides mentoring services at no cost to you.  Call 602 745-7250 or click here to make your appointment with a SCORE mentor today.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.

 

 

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