In today’s episode, Allan welcomes Rick Elmore. Rick is an entrepreneur, sales and marketing expert, and the Founder, and CEO of Simply Noted, which is a company that streamlines the creation and distribution of genuine handwritten notes. Allan and Rick discuss how entrepreneurs and athletes have very similar traits. They have the ability to stay motivated and make sacrifices because they are committed to getting to the next level. Rick took an idea and built his company from the ground up. In a digital world, creating a genuine, handwritten personal note is a great solution for reaching clients.
Hey, everyone, Welcome to The Business Growth Pod. I’m your host, Allan Draper. Glad you’re with us today. I’m excited for this recording. I’d like to welcome Rick Elmore. Rick’s an entrepreneur sales and marketing expert. And check this out. He’s the founder and CEO of Simply Noted, which this is interesting. It’s a company that streamlines the creation and distribution of genuine handwritten notes. Rick developed a proprietary technology that puts an actual pen, like an ink to a to paper to skill, handwritten communication, helping businesses of all industries skill, this unique marketing platform and stand out from their competition and build meaningful relationships, which I think is the most important part with clients, customers, employees. Welcome to the show. Rick, glad to have you.
Thanks so much for having I’d say, it’s great to be here.
Yeah, so that’s cool. So I think we’ll get into that. Like, I want to hear a little bit about your background. You played professional football, which I think is really interesting. I think there’s I’m a big sports enthusiast. I think there are so many life lessons that can be learned from sports. My oldest is 10. And starting to really get into sports big into baseball right now. And tell me a little bit about your path in football. I know you play it was at the University of Arizona if I’m not mistaken. Yep. And I went to ASU, I got my law degree from ASU. So we’ll figure out how to make room. Yeah. So tell me a little bit about like your path in athletics, and how that’s helped you.
That’s great. You know, first off, I 100% of everything, my success, my life to athletics, it helped me in developing as a person, it gave me a vehicle to go further than I ever could without it. The transferable skills you develop in sports are like nothing else, you know, working with the team working through the bumps, the bruises, the grind, you know, the dedication, the commitment, you know, perseverance, again, it’s just all these things that are just in grained and do for the decades that you play as a young kid, are everything that you can take to or take to anything else that you do in this world. And you’re just so much better prepared as an adult, in my opinion, going through all that as a kid. So I was very fortunate, I was lucky to have a really good career in high school, I was recruited to play at University of Arizona, and then was lucky enough to have a really good career there, as well as in the NFL for three years, thought I was gonna play a lot longer, you know, like every athlete’s career comes to an end sooner or later, but then got into corporate medical device sales. So what I’m doing today has nothing to do with I’ve done in the past, I’ve started a robotics software industrial automation company with an athletic sales and marketing background. But I could not have done what I’ve done today without that background, because at the end of the day, you know, business is all about relationships, sales and marketing, and developing your company, you got to have those skills in order for it to be successful.
Yeah, for sure. I’ve been talking to my wife recently, I played football up until high school. And I’ve been talking to her about, you know, allowing our boys to play tackle right here in Arizona, they have flag leads, leagues, they didn’t have those where I grew up. And she’s opposed to it because of the injuries which I get it to some extent. I just love this concept. One of my favorite things about football for especially for youth is you literally get knocked on your butt. You know, and you have no other option except for to get up and play than it hurts.
It hurts for your little kid, you know?
Yeah. And so I think that that’s being an entrepreneur in a nutshell. It’s, you get knocked on your butt, metaphorically speaking, and you have no other options, except to just get up again. The problem is a lot of entrepreneurs don’t do that. They say you know what? I’ve been knocked down 10 times today. That was my last time you And the real key to entrepreneurship that I have found is that the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that they’re like, Hey, I’m going to, I’m going to stand up again, I’m going to get off my butt. And I’m maybe not going to take that angle, or maybe, like, I’m going to have my head on a swivel a little more, or I’m going to position myself differently. And it sounds like that’s what you’ve done. You know, through your career. You’ve you’ve, you know, you’ve pivoted, you’ve found kind of this unique niche. Tell me about a little bit of the why behind. Simply noted, yeah, you guys are trying to accomplish?
Yeah, well, first of all, I 1,000% agree with you on what it takes to be an entrepreneur. What is really remarkable that I felt that it’s interesting that a lot of people don’t understand, like, you don’t lose until you quit. If you can just, you know, take those bumps and bruises and figure out a way to just take that next step. You know, regardless, if you’re gonna take two steps back a week from today, you really truly generally only fails when you give up. And that’s something I’ve never been is a quitter, I will go to the grave before I quit something. And that’s really why I’ve been successful at everything I’ve done. Football, you know, it took me like three years like I did it because my older brother played it. And I was an angry kid I needed like an outlet. And that first couple years, I was a big kid too. So I had to play up. So I was playing with kids that were older than me. I really did get knocked down a lot. But yeah, just not giving up. That’s something that I think a lot of people could, you know, it’s a skill you can develop. But being an athlete, that’s something that’s just ingrained into you. But simply known it was an idea that formulated when I was at business school, I was doing my MBA back in 2017. You know, pretty successful corporate medical device. Rep. My first year I was at striker was Rookie of the Year or branch MVP. And then for five years straight, I was either top 1% or top five rep in the entire company. Again, it was just a lot of the same stuff that you know I use from being that made me successful athletics just really hard work, perseverance, not giving up, don’t take no for an answer. Do better within, you know, improve on what you did yesterday and learn from your mistakes, right. And I just incorporated that into that medical world. But I just I had like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I felt like there was something bigger for me. So when I went back and demand BA, I was in a marketing class. And I had a professor that said that handwritten notes had a 99% open rate after going through a marketing lecture saying everything else is super nominal, like email marketing was like single digits and direct mail was low and then cold calling and all this stuff was super marginal. But then when he ended it with that statement, I was like, Man, that’s a no brainer. No brainer. Like number one. They’re rare. Like I grew up in a generation I’m sure you did to where you wrote notes to your friends in school, right? Text messaging was still pretty early on, like when I was 16. I’m 34. That was still somewhat new, right? So handwritten notes still had like a thing to it. When I got recruited to play college football, if a coach sent me a handwritten note, it meant way more, right? When’s the last time you screenshotted a text message and printed it out and hung it up on your refrigerator? Never or an email, right? So, you know, being in sales and marketing, I was like, Man, if I can figure out a way to do this, and you know, if I can get in front of my client 99 out of 100 times, it’s gonna make me more successful. So long story short, I had a cohort classmate of mine and myself, we kind of worked with the mailing house here locally in Phoenix, flew some technology in from South America, China, basically a pen plotter. I don’t have one in here anymore. But I ended up sending out some handwritten notes to some like prospective clients that never worked with me and had a massive response rate sent down almost 500 The doctors were like, Hey, Rick, like I’ve never talked to never no meet with like, Hey, Rick, thanks for that note, that’s really cool. Like, no one has ever like done that. That’s like cool view. But like, hey, this sounds cool. Let’s have a lunch and go over, you know, your guys’s product in one month, or just about six weeks, I got $280,000 in sales. It was $20,000 in commission. And my monthly quota was like 50 grand. My whole company was going nuts. Like Rick, what are you doing? My VP of sales is like, tell everybody how to do it teach us. I told him when I was doing it. It’s like, I wish he wouldn’t tell me. That’s how you’re doing it. Because like I told him like, this is like my side hustle. If I did anyways, from that, that moment on, I had that entrepreneurial seizure moment. I was like, it worked for me, it can work for everybody else. Like this is, you know, a thing and really just started working on building the business.
That’s cool. So I invested in a company called Contatto Marketing (https://contattomarketing.com/)
And it has kind of this similar, like philosophy, where with Contatto it’s gift giving. So my partner, he runs the show, but he basically creates like, very creative and proprietary gifts. So it’s like We had somebody that was a huge University of Michigan fan. And so he framed like this article with, like this headline of a really big Michigan when he knew that this guy was actually at he was at that game. And, and but it’s the same ideas is open rate and response. And it’s very, very expensive. It’s for people that are looking for sea level contacts. Yeah, he requires a signature. And so he can tell certified mail. Yeah, yeah, it’s usually it’s usually within 15 seconds after the signature, so just basically 15 seconds to a minute, just long enough for them to actually open the box, before, you know, the business or whatever that sent the box gets a call. So it’s, it’s very similar. And I think, you know, going back to simply know that it’s, you know, there’s so much noise, I get bombarded my, I don’t even know how many emails, text messages on like, the different social platforms I get a day, I just get solicited to, like an incredible amount. extent. So it’s cool to have this platform where you can just separate yourself a little bit.
Yeah, what you just saying, like, you know, this is a digital world, right? There’s tons of noise, the average person, like the average person with a cell phone receives over 4000 notifications a month, right? That’s text, email, phone calls, social push, you know, push notifications, the average person receives less than five handwritten notes a year. So the mailbox is completely empty. What was old is new again, you know, in the 90s, you know, that’s where people competed, you know, before email was in the mailbox, right? They needed to get inside your mailbox to get, you know, get to you. So, yeah, I just, I feel like this is a product that people are craving, it’s just, they’re so inundated and overwhelmed with digital products nowadays. So when they get something like this, it’s so impactful, and it’s memorable. And the shelf life is, you know, weeks instead of a half a second, right. So I think there’s going to be a resurgence for this type of product, I’ve been sending it resurgence with vengeance, because people are going to come back in droves and want to do something like this. And we’re just trying to make it as easy as possible. Regardless if it’s a cent one, right, or send, you know, 10s of 1000s. It’s, it’s just like, you know, scaling an email, like you type in, you put in your mailing list, you type in your message, you put in a little mail, merge tags, first name, company, product, whatever. And it’s completely customizable and scale. So that’s what we’re trying to do. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job of over the last four years and the technology that we’re releasing. Now. It’s really exciting.
That’s awesome. I founded a digital marketing agency called lizard SEM. And we just completed our first birthday, right, our first year anniversary. And my partner there, Matt, who has he been on the show before Hunter, he sent like this care package to like everybody, and he sent one to me, but at a handwritten card, and my wife open, like, the gift box or whatever. And the only thing she said about it was, hey, I read the card that he review. And I can tell he really likes you. And I hadn’t even read it yet. And so then I came to my office and right, and this is right before I hit the record button. This is like, you know, 45 minutes ago that this is happening. But I read the Thank You card that he wrote, and it like hit differently, right? It’s heartfelt, like it feels super personable. And I was thinking like, of all the ways to get my attention. Like you can send me an ad I do I get sent, like, lots of different stuff just through from my vendors a lot of times or banks or whatever. And it’s different when it’s something that I can’t go by. I can’t go by that. There’s no amount of money that, you know, I can pay for somebody to write me. A No. So I think I really think that you’re on to something. So you guys have been doing this for four years. Yep. Where are you now? Where are you going to be in a decade? Like what’s the plan? What’s really noted? What’s the future hold?
Yeah, so we started back in January 2018. Fast forward until now, we have triple digit revenue growth each year with no loans, no investors, we’ve been profitable since month one. What that means is if we didn’t have the money, we didn’t spend it. We’ve reinvested basically all the profits back into the business to scale the business. My mindset there was to if we ever needed to get equity at some day, I’d rather put all the sweat equity and all their hurt in the early years and try to get it as big as possible before I just, you know, early on, here’s my idea. Take half my business, right. So loving, full time employees now Devin are in office every day, everybody else are kind of like contractors are in there full time, but they’re just out of office. Yeah, we our capacity is about 10 to 15,000 handwritten notes a day, when I first started this business, it was really with the idea of Built to Sell, which is why we ended up building our own handwriting robot, it was extremely important to have our own handwriting robot, number one with, you know, cost, the scale quality control the technology, having IP patents, you know, all those things that makes your business more valuable. But really, our handwriting technology, just because I’ve tried everything else out there. It really is a step above anything else that’s on the market today. So I’m really excited about it. But yeah, I don’t know what will be in 10 years, you know, it’s really hard to envision that far out. But I did build this to sell it, I would like to see somebody come in and share the passion and the vision to grow it and see how far we can either take it together or have them by us and retain us and help it grow it. But I don’t know, I see simply noted being an engagement platform helping people automate and scale a physical, tangible personal touch. You know, in a digital world, there’s, there’s really isn’t anything else out there like this. If you think in terms of automation, everything can be automated. Now, people don’t think a genuine, authentic, handwritten note can be automated, like it’s just so I feel like we’re still ahead of the curve. And the genuineness of the product is still there, you know, so, you know, just like anything, you know, I think there’s a timeline a time horizon for this. But I think there’s still a good healthy five to 10 years before this becomes super mainstream, and people are burnt out with mail again.
Yeah, it’s interesting, I’m involved in a business that you really have to educate the customer about, it’s not intuitive. It’s a little confusing as to exactly what it is that we have some patents on it, which is the good side. And this is my first foray into kind of a new type of business, new technology, which is good because we’re able to protect some of that technology. It’s bad when you’re trying to market and distribute it, because it’s like, Okay, we have to tell people, what this is, you know, how it benefits our life when somebody goes to McDonald’s, you know, heaven forbid, but I guess it happens, and they’re like, Okay, I know what this hamburger is, like, I know what I’m gonna get, for better or worse. Have you found that there’s this struggle in helping people understand, I mean, the idea is simple enough, I feel like there’s still some, hey, we have to help them see the value and how it will benefit their lives.
So as you’re saying, I, the pain was coming into me because I feel I feel your pain, because we have a new product or new idea, a new product, new service, right new technology, it’s like, you know, it’s not like when I was at Stryker selling spine implants to spine doctors, for their spine patients, like they just they were trained on it and knew about it, like, it was just, you know, it’s an easier sell, I think there’s a good thing and a bad thing about being in this boat. Because if you push in you, you’re a visionary, and you’re able to get that company off the ground faster than anybody else, like, you’re gonna be in a better spot. Because once you start having success, and people see your success, you know, other competitors are gonna start entering the market, what we try to do is like, tell people like, hey, like, just send a thank you card, but then we try to tell them, you can automate it, but then when talking about automation, like their brain kind of just glosses over, like, you know, and then the hard thing to we still live in a digital world. So you know, digital marketers, they want to track everything. And it’s like, if I can’t track the open, I can’t track the click through and I can’t track the click, you know, to the payment, like, we can’t see the ROI. And it’s like, what the ROI of a thank you note, like you don’t want to just, you know, I’m talking to a luxury brand right now, their average selling price is $7,000. To talk ROI, $3 handwritten note, just like, I’m like ripping my skin off, I’m like, It’s $7,000 Like, I get it, you know, it’s just like, but why don’t you just say thank you, right? The Law of Reciprocity, right? Just saying thank you, you’re gonna increase lifetime value. There’s an American Express study out right now saying that, it’s more of like, towards like business accounts. But if like, you can retain 5% of like, your business accounts, your revenue is going to increase 25 to 95%. Like, you know, which makes sense, right? Like, you’re not filling the leaky bucket, right? You’re increasing the or whatever. Yeah, customer retention, right? It makes sense. So what we’re trying to do is try to show people like, here’s our platform, here’s our product, we can automate it, or we can scale it. This is how we automate it, you know, either through software and Zapier API, web hook, or just scale it, it’s just like an email list. But we need your mailing address list. And most companies, you know, have mailing addresses, like if they don’t we know how to get them. So at the very beginning, like hey, do you find value in this service? Great. We’ll show you how to use it like we’re still there because it is so new. But it’s really nice when we can talk to somebody who understands technology, like API’s integrations, it’s like it’s like a breath of fresh air for like, Oh, this is nice, like you understand how to plug and play you Yeah, but it is rare that but that is, you know, that’s the necessary evil trying to you know, track your own path, right like start something new like it’s there’s a reason it’s hard and there’s the people haven’t done it before, you know? Yeah
for sure. It’s it’s interesting because the digital world has shown us the give first mentality, the people that are the best on social media or with digital marketing, we’re always giving first and then asking right freemium, the freemium stuff, exactly. So Gary Vee long time ago, it’s been over a decade I think wrote the book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook or whatever. And the idea was, you give you give, you give, you give, then you go for the close. And I’m trying to remember his name, there was an Arizona State professor that wrote a book, I think it’s called persuasion. I think it was Robert key already, don’t take my word on that we’ll put in the show notes. But he talked about this idea of reciprocity that you brought up. The idea is that when you give something to somebody, however small, that the average person that’s not a psychopath feels this indebtedness to you. And when they do that, they feel like they have to pay you back. Even with something as small as 100, I can totally see this happening. And it’s not always in terms of like monetary value, which isn’t what they want, really, they just want to call, right, they just want to. And the reason why I understand this is because of Contatto. One of our methods is we use our gift packages to send to clients that we want. So then all we have to say is, when they call us after we send it, we’re like, you know how you just called me? That’s exactly what we want your potential clients to do with you. And so we show them that it works by using it on them.
Yep, yep, we do the same thing will always send a handwritten note out to a prospect of less and at the end, I’ll always put PS this was written by a machine. And that’s, that’s the hook. Yeah, exactly. It’s like why, like, why? Because I think it’s handwritten. But yeah, that is the world we live in. We have created the monster I do get those emails all the time, like, Hey, sir, freemium, can you give me this for free? And it’s like, in digital world, and makes sense because it’s infinitely scalable, right? But when there’s a product and a service, right, you have people, right, like doing the service for you in a product, which has a tangible cost, right? But people literally expect that. It literally like that’s another thing that like, did you think before you sent this email? Do you understand like, even though these are like machines doing it, like there are still people running the machines, and there’s still paper and postage in?
Yeah, you’re like, hey, is opposed to like asking me via email. Why don’t you write me a letter? And yeah, you know, those tangible costs? And then we’ll talk right, like, I
know, it’s just incredible. Yeah, that’s interest, we have created the monster. Well, you did say that early on, like, I agree. 100%. We are in a world now where it’s give, give, give, give, give before someone gives you something. But you said our businesses kind of fit right into that mold,
right? On a percent. Were you a solo entrepreneur? Did you start this on your own?
Yeah, if I can tell anybody write that, there’s two things about being a, you know, an entrepreneur, if you go by yourself, you can go fast, right? But if you want to go far, you have to go together. And that’s where we’re at now, the first four years, it’s just been a complete bullet train, roller coaster crazy ride, you know, we’ve had over I think 11 100% Like increase in revenue since year one. So it’s just like, we’re growing non stop. But now we’re hitting problems that take, you know, real true, crazy expertise, you know, people who have a career, you know, built around solving those problems, you know, scale a robotics company, it’s, you know, you need to see to see those, you know, industrial automation, like professional, like, people in there. So, that’s where we’re at now. Yeah, I started this out of my house, like literally out of my office. With like a six month old kid, you know, I was working full time still, and then just kind of just moved up, we went into a 900 square foot space and 1800 square foot space. Now we’re at a 3000 square foot space. So it’s just we’ve scaled as we had to to mitigate risk. Can we are completely self funded. And we’ve tried to do this without, you know, any outside help.
Yeah, it’s interesting to just kind of watched the evolution of a company. And I really like your mentality about kind of proving the value first, and you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’m developing a software right now. And I went through this phase where I was like, Okay, should I put a few bucks together in the beginning, or should I bootstrap it? Because I’m going to get a much better valuation when I’m like post revenue. Which we’re at now, right? We have quite a few users now, still early, still losing money. But that’s the mentality that goes into it. It’s like, this is our baby. Like, I don’t want somebody come in and just beat me up, because I need a few bucks, like, I’m going to show them the value. And the best way to do that is with clients, people that are paying for it. But it’s also tough. It’s tough to feel, because the risk is much higher. Yeah,
I think in order to scale a company, and to be an early, like, early, you know, beginning day CEO, you have to be so passionate about the idea, and believe it wholeheartedly, or else, it’s gonna be really hard to get it off, right, especially when you’re making those investments with your money and your time. And that’s what this has been for us for sure. And it’s really the only way to scale a business, you have to talk to it just grinds my gears, I guess talking to some like VCs, you know, like, I talk to him about our journey. And like, you know, we’re young company profitable, blah, blah, blah. And they’re like, Yeah, but can you be a billion dollar company? And this, like, why don’t we focus on getting to, you know, 50,000,001st? And then they’re like, Yeah, I want to talk to the guy who has no sales, no track record, right? You know, no business even started yet, but he’s gonna sell them like this crazy unicorn, we’re gonna solve every problem, trillion dollar idea, and they’re like, I literally think of this Rick and Morty, the meme, you know what I’m in? Like, that’s where I want to be. And no, don’t write them a check. I’m just like, the suckers. You know, there’s a reason why 99% of your investments don’t work. Like you have to find those guys who are so committed, so loyal. So driven, while lock pill have a background for success, right? And I’d rather I’d rather have that guy on my team, or I know, hey, you know, you may turn my million bucks into 10 million bucks versus that crazy guy who’s probably going to fail, who’s going to promise me 100x return. But anyways, yeah, you really have to be so committed in the early days for anything to work doesn’t matter if it’s relationship, your business, I think those core characteristic are all the same.
Yeah, it’s true. And as you know, we’re wrapping up here, I own quite a few businesses, I have 17 business partners. And when I’m looking to partner with somebody, the number one characteristic that I’m looking for, and this has changed over the years, but where I am today, the number one characteristic I’m looking for, is somebody that is going to wake up in the morning after a really tough day. And just say, it’s a new day, we try again, because if you have that mentality with a business partner, you won’t fail. And you really try to hedge against the highs and the lows. It’s somebody that’s like, hey, we just landed this huge client. Cool, like what’s next, right? And we’ve been able to find quite a bit of success, which is, you know, and it’s like that with relationships. It’s like, we like to, you know, watch these movies, these Hollywood, Hollywood movies, where it’s like, oh, they just have the perfect relationship. It just doesn’t exist, right? The overnight success doesn’t exist, it’s 1015 20 years in the making, but we like to romanticize it a little bit. And, you know, the lessons that you learn from entrepreneurship, affect every aspect of your life. And, you know, it’s just something that the formal education just can’t take the place of, you know,
no, and that’s another thing, you won’t learn how to start a business until you start a business. Exactly. Just start it. Yeah, a lot of people get that analysis paralysis, right? Like, you’re not going to solve a problem until you just start walking into it. You look around like, oh, okay, that, okay. See that? Up that okay. And then we come back, and we put a plan together. Oh, that plan didn’t work. Let me retry it like that. I’m sure there’s a lot of great ideas that never you know, that never come to fruition, because the person who had it just doesn’t know how to start it. Exactly. You just got to get going. And to scale it, you just like you say, gotta wake up doesn’t matter if it’s rain or shine, you’re good or bad. You just got to, you got to have your metrics that you got to hit each day, if it’s calls, if it’s activities. I’ve always been activities equals results guy. And I know at some point, I got to get away from that. But I’m always just trying to scale activity. Right? Yeah, that’s my sales and marketing out of mind. Yeah, I need my CEO and CTO mindset, someone to take those things off my, my plate, because, you know, those are different beast, for sure.
100%. I’ve shared this story a couple times before, but one time I was looking for, like fleet and liability insurance. This is like eight years ago, and I talked with this lady that’s, you know, getting me a quote. And she was asking me some questions that I didn’t know the answer to. And she said, Wait, you don’t know the answer to that. I’m like, No, I don’t I was like a year and a half, two years into my first business or you had a multimillion dollar company. And she’s like, you’re not supposed to start a business till you know everything about it. Oh, my gosh, and I laughed. I Seriously left and I wasn’t trying to offend her or anything. I started laughing and I’m like, if you did that, you would never start the business because you don’t you never know everything. It’s
probably never started the business.
And I think I threw in something like that I can tell you’ve never been in business for yourself. But yeah, but that’s 100%. Right? Sometimes you just got to put yourself out there. So
you just gotta have the courage. That’s it takes a lot of courage, especially early, for sure.
Amen. Well, Rick has been fantastic. Where can people reach out to learn more about simply noted, learn more about all the great things that you’re doing over there and how simply nobody can help their businesses?
Yeah, so just go to simply noted.com Just how it’s spelt, it’s, and you can go to our business page, we actually do a really nice job of sending a free sample kit, we send a really big nine by 13, you know, folio with tons of information on it. I think it cost us like 20 bucks, but we’ll send it to you for you just to literally see it and touch and feel it and get excited about it because it is an awesome product. Or you can just go to LinkedIn. I’m on LinkedIn basically all day. It’s just Rick Elmore, E L. M. O R E, I try to do basically daily updates of just stuff that’s happening with our business. If it’s podcast or interviews or new articles or support articles, we’ll share it there as well. But yeah, I mean, those are the two best places to reach me for sure.
Well, my pleasure, Rick rootin for you from the sidelines. wish you nothing but success and excited to watch you on your journey, my man.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
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