Ahhh… you can feel it now, basking in the warm sunshine, sitting by a beautiful pool or the ocean – your mind drifts off and you are so there… so ready for a holiday!!! Time to shed the suit, let your hair down and chill out!!!! Then, your phone rings. You snap back to reality… Whoa!!!  Looking at your computer, you see 35 new emails have appeared in your In-box and you think to yourself, “How will I ever get away?”  

Yes, this is the reality we all face when we want to take some time off. May I add, some well-deserved time off? We know it’s in our best interest to do so and we know how great we’ll feel when we ride off into the sunset, but I have always found that it’s the preparing to leave which is most daunting! I really believe it’s the unknown variables that hangs us up, “What if I lose a client because I’m not around?” “What if they go to my competition?” What if, what if, what if!  Before we know it, we’re so stressed out thinking about the “what ifs” that we lose sight of the importance and benefits of downtime. The truth is that most people actually expect you to take a holiday! Now, as an entrepreneur, I have found that preparing effectively for a vacation has increased in importance! It used to be that when I left for vacation, working in the corporate world, I’d put an “Out of Office” message on and state very nicely, “and in my absence, please contact Susie Smith at email@susiesmith or I will respond to you upon my return.”

Now, as a business owner, there’s just our small team. So what does the message look like these days? Well, we have learned to be creative and how to better manage the number of emails and phone calls coming in, so that people aren’t waiting for a response. My Out of Office message directs them to our website, where they can check out our upcoming workshops and events, look at some of the work we have done and submit a contact form if they do wish to meet with us for a consultation. This process helps to manage the volume and type of email inquiries, and by providing the inquirer with some high-level information, their questions are usually more specific and they have also spent some time finding out more about our business… it’s a win-win! 

These are 7 best practices for managing stress levels as you set out on vacation:
  1. Prepare for your vacation, starting two weeks before! Yes, it’s critical that you take inventory of what absolutely needs to be complete before you take off for vacation, assess their level of priority, and then book all of those tasks into your schedule. You will be much more relaxed getting through the tasks and more likely to complete them. Examples: file your HST, month-end invoicing/payroll, schedule social media posts or advertising, to name a few. Think about hiring a temp admin person to cover the basics.
  1. Use your calendar as your to-do list. As stated in step 1, book everything into your schedule, make sure to set automatic reminders and it’ll get done. Give yourself some breathing room; prioritize tasks, schedule meetings according to importance and what makes the most sense for your business. Give each task the stress-test, “Can this wait?” If it cannot, then that task goes to the top. If it can wait –schedule it into your calendar at a later date.
  1. Drink lots of water, reduce caffeine and eat well. We’ve all heard this before, and it’s absolutely true. Quite often headaches or fatigue are due to being dehydrated and not eating properly. This may lead to anxiety, which contributes to feeling distracted. Be sure to eat 3 meals a day with healthy snacks in between (usually every 2-3 hours). Include fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water and reduce your caffeine in-take. You will have more energy and should be able to stay more focused. Feeling satiated and hydrated, you may find yourself getting into a rhythm, as you begin to work through your list of to-dos. Oh, and remember to take bathroom breaks. It may sound funny to remind yourself to do this but how can anyone concentrate if they need to go?
  1. Let that call go to voicemail! This is key. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. If you pick up that phone, you might be in for a lengthy phone call – just let it go. Also, it’s a good idea to have a service level agreement built into your voice mail message that states when you’ll get back to them, for example: I’ll return your call within 24 hours OR I’ll get back to you within two business days.
  1. Don’t book any unnecessary meetings or networking the week before your vacation. You can network and book meetings during the other 51 weeks of the year. If you try and attend networking and other meetings, all you’ll be thinking about is how much you have to do. You’ll feel and appear distracted and edgy. Schedule meetings and networking events when you can actually be in the moment and enjoy the people you’re with. Think about it, you represent your business every time you’re out, so give yourself a break –don’t cram!
  1. Set your “out of office” on the morning of the last day you’re at work and change your voice message. You won’t believe the relief you feel when you take yourself off the grid the day before your holiday. You’ll be way more productive and anyone calling or emailing you, will know that you’re not available. You will have that entire day to take care all those last minute tasks before you leave the office!
  1. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth; repeat often. Everything will still be there when you get back – feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to rock! 

The best way to give your all, is to look after yourself and remain healthy and well. You, your family and your clients will all benefit when you take time to relax and get away. So go ahead, book that time off, follow these seven steps, stress much less and enjoy your holiday. You are worth it!

Heather Wilson, ATC

Co-Founder & Director Business Development

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency 

 

What makes a great first impression? They say that we have just 7 – 10 seconds to make that first impression. Over the last few decades, working in the corporate world, we learned a great deal about business etiquette, business writing and communication. Today, we work with businesses and organizations, and know how much our experience has supported us in effective communication with our customers, so we thought we would share a few tips on business etiquette or practical “rules of engagement” for businesses and professionals.

Networking

Let’s start with networking. It is very customary to extend your hand to shake hands with another individual, introduce yourself and share your business name or the organization you work for, then allow the other person to do the same. After the introductions are finished, it’s also a good idea to finish off with, “It’s so nice to meet you Joan!”  This accomplishes a couple of things; it helps you to remember their name, it shows that you care, you are professional and it helps to build rapport and potentially a relationship with them.

Being in business or working for an organization, it’s likely that you attend regular networking events, conferences or workshops. You are usually given a name tag at these events, so something to note is that name tags should be worn on your right side. Why? Because when you shake hands with someone, they are facing your right side, as it is also customary to shake hands with your right hand. So, not only will you both introduce yourselves and hear the other person say their name, you will see each other’s name tags as well. This is all part of the rapport building and anchoring that occurs in our neuro linguistic programming (a little bit of brain science for you), where our emotional connection to others is created. We do this through visual –seeing their name, auditory –hearing their name, and kinesthetic –physical connection through your hand-shake. All of these elements coincidentally create the beginning of a bond. We can also get a sense of whether or not we will continue to grow that business relationship based on this initial connection.

Give a Little Space

You would think that its common sense to give people space, but it blows my mind how often I see people walk right up and interrupt two people who are talking at a networking event. Here are a couple of quick tips to note when you are navigating a room, and wondering when it’s a good time to go up to talk with someone. If you wish to go up and talk to someone, take a look at the two people’s body position. For instance, if they are standing face to face, toes and shoulders aligned, that is considered a closed conversation –and therefore, it is not appropriate to approach. However, if the pair are facing outwards, shoulder to shoulder and their toes are outwards (so more in a “V” stance), then that is considered open conversation and it is appropriate to approach the pair and strike up conversation.

Either way, always approach professionally, say “hi”, introduce yourself, extend your hand to shake hands and ask them their name. Most people are welcoming and may be feeling a bit uneasy as well, so they are likely going to be warm and inviting to you. Joining conversations can be a bit intimidating at first, but as you move through the room, smile, say “hi” to those you pass by, and when you see someone standing alone, strike up a conversation with them. It does get easier with time and practice!

Be Responsive

One of the most common complaints we hear, is “I emailed or called them, and nobody got back to me!” This means checking your voice mail, emails, Facebook messages, LinkedIn regularly. It’s human nature to want a response when we ask a question. We also speak to this in social media, knowing that the social media feeds are always buzzing with posts, comments and questions. It’s imperative that we answer our phones, check messages and emails and respond to social media as soon as possible. One of the ways to manage this, is by setting an auto-responder on your social media and having an automatic response to acknowledge emails and messages as they come in. You want to be managing expectations, particularly if you’re an entrepreneur who spends very little time in the office or at a desk. I’m thinking of contractors, electricians, massage therapists or hair stylists, who are away from their desks, attending to clients or working offsite and may not have access to your email throughout the day. Regardless, your clients are expecting you to be responsive and there are a variety of tools and resources that can help you stay on top of your emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, Instagram messages, LinkedIn messages… you get the point –lots coming at you daily! The key is to find a system and a process that works best for you.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure that you are responding to your client’s requests, questions or concerns in a timing fashion. Again, one of the most common complaints from customers, is that nobody got back to them. A great solution is to hire a receptionist or a virtual assistant, and they can often take care of many of your administrative needs as well; booking appointments, invoicing and more. Another suggestion, depending on the nature of your business, is to have an online booking system so that people can book with you, without you having to answer the phone or an email. A great tip to leverage this online service, is to make sure that your voice mail message states your website address and that clients can book online. Can you imagine the amount of business that is lost, when a business does not respond? Customers will simply phone the next company, if they don’t get a response. So, remember that when weighing the cost of hiring someone or paying for any of the services we mentioned. The costs will be covered ten times over with the amount of business you retain!

Email is the New Letter

We all know that our customers are most important. In fact, they are the backbone of our businesses. Without customers, we wouldn’t have a business. We need to be on the ball with our customers and clients, serving them the best we can at all times. A big part of good customer service and business etiquette, is to use your customers’ name when you’re interacting with them.

It’s true, everyone loves to hear their own name. So, why is it that we still see people emailing informally and not addressing the person they’re emailing appropriately? Has this happened to you? How does it make you feel when you receive an email that is not addressed to you personally? If someone cannot take the time to write Hi or Good afternoon (along with my name), I am not likely going to do business with that person. Be sure to address your customer with a Hi, Hello, Good Morning or Good Afternoon, followed by their name –it’s courteous and it doesn’t take more than a second or two.

As for the email itself, if you’re in business, treat email like it’s a letter to your customer. This means, in addition to addressing your customer, make sure that you write in a professional way, similar to a letter, outline the purpose of your email, state what you are going to do, and have a call to action so that your reader has some direction as to why you wrote the email and what to do next, or what you will do next. That last point I will make here is, make sure that you clearly display all the ways that a customer can contact you -name, title, email address, telephone number, website address, and your business location. For one, it’s the law and two, if you don’t respond to their email, they will try and call you. Be accessible. 

In summary, we only covered a few business etiquette best practices here, although there is so much we could share. That said, we often share tips and best practices here to support businesses and their teams. In a previous blog post, we shared more tips on just networking specifically, if you’re interested.

Thank you for taking the time to check out our blog! Follow us on social media as well, as we love connecting with other like-minded business people. Remember, good business etiquette -it’s the little things, that leave a big impression… and help you stand out from the crowd!

Cheers!

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency
meow@cheetahfusion.com | www.cheetahfusion.com
@CheetahFusion | Instagram – Cheetah Fusion | LinkedIn

 

Have you been thinking of starting your own business? How is that going? It can be a bit daunting, but if you are passionate about what you do and you have the basics down pat, you are in a good place to move forward.

That said, there is a lot to consider, so we thought we would share a few things you should know, and that we wish we had known before we both opened our first business years ago.

Find out who is buying what you are selling. If you don’t know this vital piece of information, it can take much longer to get your business off the ground. In the beginning, we were working with entrepreneurs and things were going well. The challenge was that as we got our name out there, we suddenly had two very different audiences – small business and corporate. Why was this a challenge? It was a challenge because our marketing message became skewed as we worked tirelessly on marketing to the two different audiences. What did we do about this? We decided that we needed to figure out what audience to focus on, develop a solid message for them and then evolve as required.

That did work well for us and we got very clear and crisp with our messaging. In fact, we stopped having a split-personality with our blog posts and social media, and started gaining a captive audience. We felt like this would help our audience better understand how we could serve them best and guess what –it not only felt right, but business improved as well!

Are you finding that your business has a split-personality? You will know instantly, if you are struggling with what to write about or what to post on social media. It can be challenging to make that transition from wanting to serve everyone and anyone, but you need to do this. If you don’t, your business will suffer and get lost in the sea of businesses. The key is to focus, be clear as to who you want to work with and who you can serve best. If you don’t know, reflect, and ask yourself the following questions;

  • Who do I love to work with most?
  • What am I most passionate about?
  • What happens when I work with this client?
  • How do I know when I’m working with the ‘right’ clients?

You might be surprised to find out who these people are, and that it may take you in a different direction, or you may need to change where and who you network with. With that though, you will feel more fulfilled and best of all, you will be more successful!

Alright, so we have spoken about clientele and drilling down your target market when you are starting your own business. Now it’s time to talk about the plan! Do you have one? Do you have a unique brand that stands out and represents you well?  You’ve heard about the “know-like-trust” rule in marketing. If people don’t feel an emotional connection to you, meaning, if they cannot see you as the business owner or someone who they can trust, they’re unlikely to want to work with you. We have broken this down into what we believe are four pillars of growing and sustaining a business. Here goes…

Do a business plan. That’s right, even if you do not need to get a bank loan, or apply for a grant, doing a business plan is a brilliant exercise to get your head in the game of business ownership and what it really entails. Ask your banker, accountant and other businesses lots of questions, to ensure that you’re on the right track. Usually, there is no rush to start your own business, so I highly recommend that you spend some time, do your research, talk to other businesses and create a really solid plan before you launch. 

Develop a solid unique brand. When you are ready, be sure to think carefully about your brand. Your brand is part of you and should reflect who you are, it should be unique, speak to what you stand for and to your ideal client too. Hire someone to work with you to develop your brand -it’s truly worthwhile to nail this from the beginning, as your brand will be with you for years to come. You want to get it right!

Have a clear vision and goals. ​Remember, when you talk to everyone, you talk to no one. Not everyone is your client, so be sure to thoroughly assess and get clear on your own values, your skills and your goals. Doing so will help you align with the clients you really want to work with. We spend the better part of a day each month, assessing the previous month, looking forward and planning for the next month. ​What worked? What didn’t go well? What should we stop doing? Start doing? Keep doing?  This is a huge key to success!  

Be social and develop a plan. Yes, being on social media and networking face-to-face, are key to connecting with others, when starting and growing your business. The beauty of social media, is that it’s one of the least expensive ways to advertise your business, all it costs is your time. Yes, there is a benefit to doing Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Facebook Boosts of your posts. However, you don’t have to start there. The key is really to develop a great strategy for marketing your business, be unique, allow people to see your expertise, your sense of humour and be inspiring. Before long, you will start to build a following on social media and you will begin attracting the people who you want to work with. Why? Because when you post about things you care about and value, people are naturally drawn to you and want to get to know you, learn from you, and that’s how you build trust.

You have likely heard a few of the above points before. That said, these tips have been very beneficial in our business and that of our clients. We hope you find them helpful for your business and we wish you the very best as you start your own business, or build some of these tips into your existing business.

Follow us on social media for more tips and inspiration!

If you’re in the beginning stages of your business and you’re feeling overwhelmed, we would love to help and share our expertise with you so that you develop and launch a successful, thriving business! Give us a call at 705-302-3386 or email us at meow@cheetahfusion.com.

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

 

How does it work? What are the best practices to engage others over social mediums, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram?

What if we were to tell you that it’s all about sharing information, education, and making an emotional connection with your audience?  It’s truly that simple. Gone are the days of hard-selling, pushing out as many advertisements as you can each day in order to get more sales. Yes, we need to get in front of our audience. Yes, there are times when we need to promote our events, products and services. That said it’s how this is done that really has an impact.

Here are five best practices for boosting your social media engagement:

  • Be authentic and show who you are. There are so many of people pumping out posts that everyone can begin to sound the same. That said, if you are real and demonstrate to others that you are someone who believes in what you’re doing, you are more likely to gain a strong following. Be comfortable being yourself, particularly those of you in the self-help or wellness realm. The more you can share of your own story, how you overcame challenges using certain modalities, what effects those challenges had on your life and how you have come back from them, the more likely others will watch, learn and connect with you.  We are emotional beings, and we want to know that you have been through something, overcame it and now want to help. Your stories build trust with your audience and demonstrate to them that you can actually help them.
  • Strike up conversation and be responsive. This is a great way to connect with others. It may feel like you put yourself out there with a question and get ‘crickets’ at first but people are watching and paying attention. Be patient and responsive when the comments come. If your post gets a like, that’s a good thing but it isn’t the only thing to measure. Our social media feeds are fast and furious so sometimes people see your posts but don’t react or engage. Keep putting it out there and the engagement will come for you to respond to. If you’re comfortable, or let’s face it, even if you’re not comfortable doing a Facebook Live, do it anyway!  Start with something short and sweet. You may get little to no engagement at first, but keep doing it. Little by little, and with consistency, you will gather your flock and that is key –and when you do, be responsive and keep that conversation going!
  • Share information, educate and add value. We just mentioned Facebook Live. This is a great venue for sharing information, educating others about various elements of your industry that may need clarifying. Invite people to ask questions in your Facebook Live, as this is a great way to give back, offer basic consultation for free and reach a larger audience.  For example, we just started with Wonder Wednesdays where we go LIVE on Facebook every Wednesday at 3:00pm for 10-15 minutes and talk about some of the questions people often ask us. It also provides great video content for your Facebook page as well, that people can watch at a later date.  The key is to add value, share good information and answer some of those ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ for people, who may or may not reach out to you otherwise.
  • Use your creativity to draw in your audience. We only have so much time to read each day, so if you’re like most people, you are pretty selective in whose content you choose to consume. While there is a formula for this, the gather, draw in and retain, everyone is quite different in what they are seeking. For me, as a writer, I enjoy reading other people blog posts. However, not everyone loves to read –unless it’s a juicy novel that you cannot put down. Some people prefer to watch a video, or listen to podcasts. So to that, we suggest that you mix it up!
    • Give your audience a variety of options; write blog posts, do some videos or Facebook Lives or IG-TV. You may want to create a series, and have your audience waiting for your next video.
    • Turn some of your old blog posts into educational videos or mini courses. This can create some energy around your business and gather an audience, who want to learn from you.
    • Offer a freebie in there as well, as incentive for watching –this can create good traction and help build a stronger online presence.
    • Check in with your audience to find out what is working well, so that you’re not throwing time and energy at something that isn’t being well received.
    • The key here is to be creative and keep trying new ideas to see what works best –then stick with it!
  • Develop a marketing strategy. The very definition of a marketing strategy is: “An organization’s strategy that combines all of its marketing goals into one comprehensive plan. A good marketing strategy should be drawn from market research and focus on the right product mix in order to achieve the maximum profit potential and sustain the business.” (*Source: Business Dictionary).  If you haven’t done so, identify your ideal client, as this is a crucial step to success in your business. Once you have identified your ideal client, you will want to review your marketing message –does it speak to your client specifically? Does it solve a common problem that they have, and this is key, that they are willing to pay to have solved?  Your marketing strategy is simply figuring out the best, most impactful way to engage your audience, convert them to clients, keep them satisfied, and then ask them to share their experience with their friends.

There you have it!  This isn’t rocket science and it works. There is no limit to what you can do –it’s there for you, right on social media within your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter following –an audience just waiting for your incredible value. All you have to do is open your mind to the possibilities. Start mapping out your plan, then set the intention to do those action steps each day.  Follow the five best practices, develop your own individual marketing strategy and watch your business grow and your dreams unfold!  Honestly, it is really that simple.  Cheers and see you on social media!

Need help or want to ask some questions?  Follow us on Facebook and join us each Wednesday at 3:00pm EST, for Wonder Wednesday –and get answers!

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency –Catapult your brand… fast!

705.302.3386 | www.cheetahfusion.com | meow@cheetahfusion.com

 

 

We work with a lot of business owners and professionals and we often get asked questions about networking such as; how often should I be out networking? Where should I be networking? What are some dos and don’ts of networking? It’s interesting that as business owners, we know we need to network, but there are many unknowns with networking –probably the biggest unknown is, how do we measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking?

Well, we know that there is a huge return on investment with networking that surpasses any other marketing tactic on the planet. Yes, marketing your business online, through your website, email marketing and social media are all important and work very well. However, marketing online along with meeting face-to-face with people, can be a winning combination for success! Networking is also a very cost effective and natural way to attract new business. So, here are a few quick tips and best practices for networking:

  1. Walk into the networking space with a smile. This can be difficult if you feel nervous walking into a room full of people you don’t know. That said, if you can manage a smile and keep your head up, as you walk in, that’s a great start! As human beings, we are naturally attracted to, and want to work with people who are approachable, look confident, but most importantly, those who have a smile on their face. You will likely feel more drawn to go and say “hello” to the people who are smiling, who have their head up and are looking at who they will talk to first. They tend to exude a certain trustworthiness and are more likely to be conversational with you when you meet them as well.  So next time you enter a room, take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back and smile…notice what happens!
  2. Interact with tact and be sensitive to others. Have you ever been at a networking event and had someone come up, say “hi” and before you can respond, they jam a business card into your hand? They may have even interrupted your conversation with someone else. This can leave a very negative impression and if you’re like us, it’s very unlikely you will ever reach out to that person to do business with them. Before walking up to someone to start a conversation, be tactful. If two people are talking shoulder to shoulder, that is an indication that they are open to others joining their conversation. If two people are face-to-face, and seem to be in deep conversation, that is not an invitation for you to join their conversation or interrupt them. Find another friend to have a chat with in the meantime.
  3. Be intentional when you are out networking. The best way to connect with someone, is to smile, say hello and say your name. Hold out your hand to shake theirs. Avoid the “So, what do you do?” question. This is a cop-out and can be off-putting. Instead, warm up the conversation and ask a few questions; how are you? How did you get started in your business? I’m always curious about this. Who or what inspired you to start your own business? These are all great conversation starters, as they can prompt other questions and a much deeper conversation. It also lets the other person know you are interested in them and their business. Usually when you make a strong connection, that person will ask for your business card and possibly a meeting. Finally, set the intention to meet with just 2 – 3 people and have a meaningful conversation with each of them.
  4. Make sure you are responsive. After attending a networking event, you have likely collected a couple of business cards, and quite likely you exchanged business cards with other people. So, the next step and the key to building relationships, is to reach out to them and thank them for a great conversation. You may want to invite them to continue your conversation over coffee. Also, if someone reaches out to you, make sure you respond in a timely manner. This is part of building rapport and trust with that other individual, and it starts with being responsive –so email them back within a day whenever possible! Oh, and a quick note about business cards, be very careful about adding someone to your mailing list. It may not serve you to do so. It’s always best to invite them to join your newsletter, or better yet, allow them to peruse your website, and have them join your newsletter by choice!

We have found that in most cases, when you are out networking with like-minded people, it’s likely that you will make a connection with at least 1-2 people, and they will become a client or refer someone to you, if you have followed the steps above. Be relatable, friendly, listen carefully, be curious and for goodness sake, unless they ask, do not start selling to them!  They will become agitated and will look for a way to leave the conversation. You haven’t earned their trust yet, let alone their business! Networking is not for making the sale. It’s intended to connect with others and build rapport.

How often should you network? Well, especially in the beginning when you are just starting out with your business, we suggest getting out to at least three networking events each week. This will give you an opportunity to check out a few different groups, see how you feel, and whether they are a fit or not.

How does the ROI work? Once you find a couple of groups that feel right for you and your business, choose two to three networking groups that you can attend regularly and stick with them. Be patient, as it takes time to build the know-like-and-trust factor and the more consistently you attend, the better you become at sharing stories, examples of how you can help which showcases you and your business brilliantly, helping you get good traction. If you stick with a group and show up to each meeting, you should start to get the return on your investment of time, money and energy with clients, either directly from those groups or referrals from them. It is about giving, as much as it is receiving though, so be sure to meet with other businesses within those groups to learn about them and their business, and look for ways that you can support and refer each other!

Where should you network?  There are a lot of great networking groups around, including Professionals in Partnership, a local group of which we have been members for a few years now. There are BNI Chapters all over the world, and we highly recommend that you check out your local Chamber of Commerce as well. For female entrepreneurs and professionals, there is also FemCity, another well organized networking group. We have found that there is a great variety of business owners and professionals who attend these meetings and events. Also, your Chamber of Commerce will likely offer a variety of times in which you can network from breakfast meetings, to Lunch n’ Learns, to Business After 5 networking in order to suit all types of businesses. If you are a great speaker, they even offer speaking opportunities to do a presentation on a topic of interest. This is great for visibility and helping others get to know more about what you do and how you can help them!

We hope you found this post helpful, and that you have more insight on how to measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking. Remember to smile when you enter the room. Be curious. Ask questions. Show up consistently. Connect. Build relationships and refer other businesses –repeat. The business will come.

Please comment or reach out to us anytime. We love hearing from you!

Penni & Heather

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

Tel: 705.302.3386 | meow@cheetahfusion.com | www.cheetahfusion.com

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