A-Head for Success

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A-Z of Business: Y – YOU – Are you the Problem or the Solution?

You and your business

 

Whether you are in business for yourself or working for others, it is natural in times of success to take credit for it.  But it’s tempting to blame external factors (other people, customers, the economy, market forces, etc) when things go wrong.

However, to do so is no help at all except that it massages a fragile ego.  You are still stuck.  The mark of a successful business-person is one who looks to themselves in times of challenge.  In this way, they retain control rather give away their power to outside forces.  To avoid looking to what you could do differently is to be a victim, powerless to make changes.  In this competitive world, it is unsustainable.  The power is in the ability to evolve.

All it takes is a different perspective.  Look to yourself for the solution and ask yourself the right questions:

  1. What factors have contributed to this problem?
  2. In what way(s) have I contributed to this problem?
  3. Where did I take my eye off the ball?
  4. What didn’t I do which I should have done?
  5. What did I do which I shouldn’t have done?
  6. What didn’t I do which I could have done?
  7. What steps can I take now which can remedy the situation?
  8. What steps can I take to avoid this happening in the future?
  9. Is this part of a bigger pattern?
  10. What else can I learn from this?

By putting yourself “at cause”, you take control, you evolve and you build a more robust business.  It takes courage, insight and humility.  Do you have what it takes?

It can be difficult doing this for yourself and this is where a good coach/mentor can really help.  Why not book a session now?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to find out more.  You’ll be glad you did!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: X- X-Ray Vision – Know your Business Inside Out

Business performance

Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone.  Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout.  This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing.  This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success.  Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference.  Productivity, not activity.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.

Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support?  Like building a house without it’s foundations.

Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?

Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices?  This is where success leads to ruin.

So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically – making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward.  The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators.  These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:

  • Turnover
  • Profit
  • Product revenues
  • Sales growth
  • Cost of sales
  • Costs
  • Performance against budget
  • Sales conversion ratio
  • New sales by marketing method
  • ROI (see individual blog about this)
  • Revenue by customer
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee performance
  • Revenue by employee
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • Customer complaints resolved
  • There are also various KPIs for:
    • Social media
    • Site engine optimisation
    • Call centre performance

Lies and statistics

A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number.  However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward.  It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else.  This is both an art and a science.  Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.

Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:

  1. Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
  2. Regularly review performance against these
  3. Look at the relationship between them
  4. Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
  5. Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action.  Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.

Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.

If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: W: Weaknesses – You are only as strong as your weakest link

Weakness

We are all made up of strengths and weaknesses, undiscovered potential and blind spots.  Your best strategy for success is to exploit your strengths, uncover hidden skills (we all have them), open your eyes to your blind spots (we all have those too) and start working on these – and your weaknesses – to make sure they do not become your derailers. 

Your biggest enemy in addressing any limitations is denial.  If you want to have success, your best friend is your willingness to be open to discovering weaknesses and to work on them.

As the title of this article suggests – you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Doing whatever it takes to mitigate against these is good insurance for the future and it will give you a sense of progress and achievement too.  It may mean working on yourself (it’s much easier with the support of a good coach) or hiring in talent to make up for any shortfall.  All the best teams, according to the principles of Belbin Team Roles require a variety of attributes to achieve success.

Belbin has nine team roles from Shaper (takes the business forward, creating strategy) to Completer Finisher (who puts the strategy into action).  One cannot exist fruitfully without the others, otherwise the team is out of balance.  Whether you are working on your own or with a team, the same principle applies.

In the 5 Pillars of Success, I look at the dimensions which help to make you successful:

1.    Clarity
Do you have a clarity of purpose, of mission and of values?  Do you have a clear strategy with clear steps to take you there?  Can you see clearly enough to prioritise well and delegate effectively to your team or brief your suppliers effectively?

2.    Skills
Do you have the skills you need to make you successful?  InfluencingTime management?  Leadership?  Delegating?  Presenting?  Emotional intelligence?  Business skills?  Conflict management?  What skill do you wish you had more of?  What skill do you overplay so that it becomes a problem?  Perfectionism?  Drive?  It’s just as important to see when a strength becomes a weakness as it is to recognise your blind spots.

3.    Mindset
Are you positive, motivated and solution oriented?  Do you possess the personality factors for success?  Have you been on my Personality for Success seminar yet?  This gives you a great self-assessment tool, or you can book yourself a psychometric profile.

4.    Stress Resilience
Are you calm and resourceful under pressure?  Do you respond thoughtfully to situations rather than react impulsively, building up more problems for yourself down the line?  Do you allow the small things to become big things?  Do you take the stresses at work home with you and the stress at home to work with you?

5.    Energy
Do you have too much work at the end of your energy?  Does your lifestyle or pace impact your health?  Do you have adrenal energy or core energy?  It is only core energy which is sustainable but few people have this.  Are you firing on all cylinders?  If you aren’t, nor is your business.

And what weaknesses are there in your business?  Do you have the skills, processes and systems in place to run the business effectively and profitably?  Do you have a good quality team, performing well and working well together?  Are you able to acquire and retain customers who pay well and are happy with your service or product?  And are you able to meet your financial targets and obligations?

Remember that no one person can know it all, do it all and be it all.  Perfection is not a human condition but it is a destination, one you can travel on your journey of self-development and business improvement.   

What one area could you improve which would have the biggest impact for you?  If you focus on one thing at a time then you will not risk dropping any of the many balls you are juggling and it is easier to integrate the change.

Why not book an assessment to see where you can best focus your efforts to create the best value?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to discuss your options.

 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: V – Values – Your Guiding Principles

You may think of value as being the value you provide to your clients.  This, of course, is important.  After all, if you are not providing value to your clients (or customers), why should they work with you?  The value of your product and service needs to be clear and tangible to them if you are to have a sustainable business.

However, just as important are the values which drive you in your business.  Values are what you consider to be important.  They link into your vision, your mission and your strategy.  They are your guiding principles.

Values are also part of your brand – the personality of your organisation.

As well as guide you, they can be a barometer in decision making.  Let me take an example.  Let’s say your values are:

  • Quality
  • Teamwork
  • Integrity
  • Customer delight
  • Innovation

If there is an opportunity to buy into a joint venture which stacks up financially with a quick and generous return on investment, but the quality of the offering is lower than your current product or service offering, this will undermine your values of quality, customer delight and possibly integrity.  So, while on paper the deal may appear lucrative, the net effect is likely to be negative as people stop trusting your brand and you lose customer loyalty.  If you lose customer loyalty, this will, in turn, impact your revenues.  Remember it is more cost effective to keep an existing customer than it is to attract a new one.

But more important than that is your reputation.  Working counter to your values undermines your brand and your brand values become different to your espoused values.  They become your reputation – what people are saying about your company when you are not in the room.  It is important to really understand the values which underpin your business.  So, here are some questions for you:

  1. What is important to your business?  Truly?  (This is no time for self-deception)
  2. What do you want your clients and customers to be saying?
  3. How is this different to what you imagine them to be saying now?
  4. Are your values supported in your decision-making processes?
  5. Your marketing?
  6. Your logo?
  7. Your website?
  8. Your communications?

Remember that everybody in your organisation is an ambassador for your business (for good or ill), so it is important that they buy into your values with their own behaviours and attitudes.  To what degree are your values reflected in the following:

  1. Your hiring processes?
  2. Your hiring decisions?
  3. Your inductions?
  4. Your training?
  5. In your leadership style (and that of your other managers)?
  6. In how you the performance of your staff is managed?

Perhaps your lived values are different from the values you would like to be known by?  If so, it is possible to change them.  However, it requires a structured and integrative approach.  They need to weave into everything and to underpin everything with buy-in from each and every member of your staff – otherwise it is just a PR exercise which will backfire.  Getting this right can create more customer loyalty, more employee satisfaction and attract new business to you.
© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: U – USP – Why You Need One

Unique Selling Point

Do you really need a Unique Selling Point?  What happens if you don’t have one?  Well, unless you are in an industry with no competitors then your USP is what will set you apart.  It will give your prospects a reason to go with you instead of someone else.

In a struggling economy, you need all the competitive advantage you can get.  And if you are looking for a job, you need that competitive edge too. 

So, why should someone buy your product?  It is no longer enough to say “we are the best”, you need to say how.  And it needs to be based on reality rather than an aspiration that you are working towards. 

There was a wonderful sign displayed which went like this:

“We offer three kinds of service – Good, Cheap or Fast.  You can pick any two.  Good and cheap won’t be fast.  Good and fast won’t be cheap.  Cheap and fast won’t be good.  ”

At the gym yesterday, my personal trainer said the best advice he was given is to always think of yourself as number two so that you would still strive to do better.  This reminded me of the Avis USP which is “We are number two – we try harder.”  What a great USP which succeeds in turning a negative into a massive positive.

Apple’s USP is to think differently – they are the company best known for their innovation, having broken many technological boundaries.  They can be relied upon to be innovative, fun and customer-focused.

If you are finding it difficult to identify your USP, go back to testimonials you have been given by your customers.  It is easy to forget these but hopefully you have kept a log of them.  Also, consider what your competitors are doing and what they are promising.  How are you different to them?  What are the problems you are solving for your customers?

Let’s take an example.  For an IT support company, their customers may suffer from not being terribly IT literate, having to wait a long time before an engineer can fix their problem, or their technology is stopping them from getting on with their work

Let’s look at the customers’problem, potential USPs and their corresponding straplines:

  1. Waiting a long time for an engineer
    • USP – getting their IT problems solved quickly
    • Strapline – Your IT Support within 24 hours or quicker
  2. Not very IT literate
    • USP – use jargon free communication so that the problem is easier to understand
    • Strapline – Taking the Jargon out of IT Support
  3. Technology stopping them from working
    • USP – getting you up and running quickly
    • Strapline –Helping you to work when your computer doesn’t
  4. Frustrated that every problem seems to mean a new computer
    • USP – providing the simplest, most cost effective solutions
    • Strapline – Simple Solutions to Complicated Problems

Whatever your USP, do make sure that you live and breathe it.  You don’t want your USP to be “tried and failed” – it should enhance your reputation, not undermine it. 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: T – Time – Achieving More in Less

Time Management

How do you relate to time?  Do you just see the future ahead of you, cluttered with actions and goals which threaten to suffocate you?  Are you in the present moment, having fun but not getting much done?  Are you stuck in the past with no idea how to develop the insight, motivation or courage to move forward?  Or are you able to see time as a continuum with the past, present and future laid out in front of you?

If it is the latter, it means you are more able to learn from life experiences, get things done in the present and plan for the future.

“Not all hours and minutes are the same length” as Roger Black says.  It can speed by when you are enjoying yourself, or slow down when you’re not.  While we all have the same 1440 minutes every day but how is it that some people get more done than others?

It is all down to your relationship with time, how clear you are about your priorities and how everything fits in together.  It is important to prioritise those things which move you towards your goals in an economical manner.  This combines both effectiveness and efficiency so that your productivity improves.

A productive person is calm, focused, disciplined, flexible, balanced, has perspective and, generally, does what they say they will do.  This increases your reputation with yourself and so your self-esteem enjoys a good boost too.

There are four main time enablers:

  1. Perspective:      Purpose, goals, priorities and values
  2. Self:                   Self insight, self-motivation and self-management
  3. Others:              Understanding and managing others
  4. Balance:            A balance between downtime and uptime

When you have a clear perspective, with an ability to understand and manage yourself (and those others on whom you depend to get things done – or to whom you should be delegating) and balance this with self-care, you are in a much better position to improve your time management.  You will also feel more resourceful, your productivity enemies slain.

Here are my top tips:

  1. Focus on just two important items each day – this frees up your mind-clutter and gives you a sense of achievement
  2. Fill in the spaces with smaller jobs
  3. Have a power-hour once a week where you do all those little things you don’t have time for but which make you feel really good when they are done.
  4. Whatever you are doing, apply your 100% attention to as you can only do one thing at once, contrary to popular belief.  In addition, the stop start involved in not doing this can increase the time needed for each task by as much as 5 times!
  5. Limit distractions – be ruthless but respectful about it
  6. Delegate well
  7. Manage your information overload – be super-ruthless on this one
  8. Procrastinate discriminately – some things should be procrastinated but a lot of people procrastinate the important in favour of the trivial
  9. Make your to do list a reality list and keep your fantasy (wish) list separate.  Work your list with passion and fervour
  10. Keep your workspace free from clutter to give yourself mindspace to think clearly and get things done

Getting things done should be a joy, not a chore, giving you a sense of empowerment, achievement and progress.  By following these simple steps (which I cover in detail as part of my Achieving More in Less Time workshop), you will find that your productivity soars.

If you could use some help overcoming your time-management demons, why not book a session?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: S – Selling: Your 6 Steps to Success

Sales

Sales are the lifeblood of any business and the ability to sell is an art-form.  That’s why sales people get paid so well.

It’s also inextricably linked to reputation.  So, whatever commitments you make in the sales process, it’s important to be sure that you can meet them.  It can be tempting, especially if you are chasing targets, to make a sale at any cost.  Promising impossible delivery terms, or unworkable modifications, just to get them to sign the order, can be an expensive mistake.

Conversely, being honest with a prospect if you feel your product isn’t right for them, increases your credibility, your reputation and the potential for future sales and ongoing referrals.  Your prospect understands that you have their best interests at heart so they will trust you should their needs change in the future.

Selling requires a variety of skills, from the ability to build rapport, to excellent listening and communication skills.  The ability to handle objections is possibly the most difficult component and was the subject of a previous article (view).  It requires the ability to influence effectively (view) and to negotiate well (view).

Following is a simple sales process.  To illustrate it in action, let’s suppose you are selling a printer:

  1. Build rapport
  2. Background information
    • How long have you had your existing printer?  What features are you looking for?  What kind of volume do you need it to produce?
  3. What problem are you trying to solve?
    • “We’d like to save money on ink; We’d like to improve reliability and print quality and we’d like to increase the number of functions – ie print on A3, collate reports and staple”
  4. What effect is the problem having on you?  This helps the prospect to identify with the pain of the problem.
    • “The current printer is slow, unreliable and often breaks down – last time it meant that the reports weren’t ready for the board meeting.”
  5. Suggest a positive outcome to their problem.  This will move them from the pain of the problem to the pleasure of the solution, making them more open to saying “yes”.
    • “Our model XYZ123 will produce high quality print, 50% faster than your current printer at a 20% saving on your current cartridges.  Not only that, it will collate and staple your reports for you.”
  6. Ask for the sale – the most important part!
    • There are various closing techniques, the simplest of which are:
      • Direct – “This seems to address all your needs whilst making savings for you.  Would you like to buy this model?”
      • Assumptive – “When would you like it delivered?”

It is easy to blame the product or the price for lack of sales, but often the issue is more about not having aligned your solution to the client’s needs.  Remember that selling is an art-form.  Do read the objection-handling and negotiating articles mentioned above for more information.  Also, why not call for some 1:1 coaching so that you can have a personalised input on how to improve your sales success?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: R – Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on Investment (ROI)

You’re in business to make money, so understanding the return of your investment is critical.  You can do this in advance of your decision to invest and also to see how your investment is performing over time.  A related measure is the timing of your break-even point.  Can your business bear that delay as you wait for the returns to roll in?

A simple ROI calculation is the amount of financial gain divided by the amount invested multiplied by 100.  So, if you invested £10,000 to develop, manufacture and sell a new product, and the sales of that product achieved a revenue of £11,000 in year one, that would give you an ROI of £11,000 ÷ £10,000 = 10%.  That return is quite modest and, with related costs could signify a loss for your business.  What would it take to increase that to, say, 25%?  Or 50%?  And what about the potential sales year-on-year?

Sometimes the returns are less tangible, or less direct.  Instead of focusing on increased revenues, the return may involve a reduction in cost, an improvement in quality, an increase in customer satisfaction levels, enhanced employee morale, etc.  These should all have a consequent effect on your bottom line in time, though it is difficult to determine whether this improvement is as a direct result of the investment, or some other measure such as improved hiring decisions or the introduction of sales incentives.

These days a lot of marketing decisions have a longer term view.  For example, free applications being built as a loss leader to attract users to upgrade to more profitable versions of a product.

When planning the return on your investment, do be aware of the hidden costs which can erode your profits.  Costs such as legal fees, administration costs, equipment, maintenance, staffing, training, office space, design, manufacture, packaging, advertising, warehousing, distribution and also the cost of delays.  When budgeting and contracting services, do think about having project-based quotes with penalties for delays to preserve your investment.

Those of you that know me well will also know that I couldn’t write about ROI without mentioning the importance of thinking about the return of investment of your time and energy into a particular activity.  I wonder how much time and energy you spend on things which have little or no impact on the success of your business?  Just busy-ness getting in the way of business?  This impacts your bottom line too.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: EQ – The Difference Which Makes the Difference

Emotional Intelligence

In this A-Z of Business series, we have reached the letter Q.  Now, I could have talked about quotas, quoting or questions if I was being a purist.  But, if I look at the balance of what’s been written and what’s missing, I think that EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is far more important.  Anything which omits this key area of business success is lacking.  So I decided to break my own rule and hope that’s OK with you?

In case you haven’t come across this before you may be wondering why it’s called EQ when it refers to Emotional Intelligence (EI)?  The Q refers to “quotient” which is the amount of a specific quality or characteristic, in this case, emotional intelligence.  But, what does it mean?  It is the capacity for self-insight, for understanding and managing your emotions and having empathy for others’.  In this way you can better manage your relationships and your stress levels.

It is such an important skill that it is thought to be more important than IQ in helping to get you promoted, in creating sales and in building collaborative effort.  Research suggests that it accounts for around 90% of managerial success as opposed to IQ which only accounts for 20%.  Not that IQ is not important.  Of course, it is.  But you need both.  The ability to put your knowledge, your expertise, your skills into effect in the most  constructive way possible is said to be the difference which creates the successful business person whether you work for yourself of for an organisation.

So, ask yourself:

  • How well do you respond to setbacks?
  • How well do you understand people’s different motivations and behaviours?
  • Do you have a balanced view of your own strengths and weaknesses?
  • To what extent are you able to control your responses in situations which challenge you?
  • Are you good at building collaborative relationships?
  • Could you be described as someone who is level-headed, positive and flexible?
  • Do you inspire trust?
  • Do you manage conflict well (rather than avoid it)?
  • Are you self-motivated?
  • How good are you at bouncing back when things go wrong?

You can learn more HERE on our website.

Emotional intelligence is one of those concepts where you need a lot of it to know you have it.  So if your EQ isn’t as high as you think it is, it will almost certainly be inhibiting your progress.  To be sure what your level of EQ is, why not book an assessment?  It’s well worth it and can put you on track for success like nothing else.  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: P – Product: Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

Products and Services

If you don’t have a product or service which delivers value to your customers and prospects, it makes building a profitable business almost impossible.  Having an inferior product isn’t something you want to risk your business or reputation.  In this day and age, competition is very tough, consumers are fickle and markets are constantly changing, so it’s important to make sure you are delivering what your customers want.

Having the best product or service isn’t enough in itself if you don’t have everything else right.  However, it is an essential component.  When looking at your products, consider what are you offering and how does it benefit your customers?  What need is it fulfilling?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the product or service?  This is where you really need to listen to your customers.  It’s easy to acknowledge compliments – they make you feel good.  It takes a lot of strength to be open to negative feedback.  However unreasonable it may seem, there is always at least a grain of truth in in it.  Be gracious in receiving negative feedback because you can really turn around a negative situation and create a raving fan out of a disenchanted customer if you handle it right.

Customers can fulfil a need in a number of ways.  For example, if your business sells washing machine repairs, then your customer has the option of either repairing their washing machine, getting someone else to do their laundry, buying a new washing machine or resort to hand-washing.  So it’s important that you get your product right so that you become the obvious choice.

If you want your product to be a best-seller, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What need is your product (or service) designed to fulfil?
  2. What are the strengths of your product (or service)?
  3. What are the weaknesses?  If your customers were being really picky, what would they be saying?
  4. What are you doing to address those weaknesses?
  5. Who are your top 5 competitors?
  6. What do they offer that you don’t and how can you address this?
  7. What is another way your prospects might fulfil the need?
  8. How can you make your product a better option?
  9. What feedback about your product (or service) have you been ignoring and what are you going to do to address it?
  10. What processes do you have in place to make sure your product (or service) is the best?

Steve Jobs, one of the greatest innovators of our time, talked about surprising and delighting the customer by looking at how to excel, not just meet the competition.  He thought in terms of simplicity, elegance and sexiness (of the product, of course!).  By contrast, I know of a man whose business failed because he insisted on providing his service using old, outdated technology and old, outdated principles.  You have to constantly re-invent and improve if you want to thrive.

 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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