The Evolution of a Serial Entrepreneur and How to Manage a Remote Team

Cisco WebEx and Influencive are teaming up to bring you real-world tips for taking your remote business to the next level. Check out the advice below or and don’t miss our Facebook Live discussion at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to build and manage a remote team effectively.

Operating a business is so different today than it used to be. When I first entered the world of entrepreneurship as a 16 year-old entrepreneur in the suburbs of Massachusetts, I didn’t even know I was an entrepreneur.

I was selling products on Ebay as a way to make money because I didn’t want to work at a grocery store, but after a while someone told me that I had started a business and I didn’t even realize it necessarily. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

Ever since my eBay days I have went on to build, grow, and exit multiple businesses which have led me to founding Influencive.

With the way that technology continues to advance, the way that us entrepreneurs conduct our day-to-day activities also continue to evolve. Ten years ago, social media and networking online is nothing like what it is today. Now, you barely meet people in person first anymore because it happens online. The first impressions you give someone are online and are even more important today than they have ever been.

Social media and networking has evolved immensely over the past few years but an area that has allowed entrepreneurs like myself to build and manage a remote team is through software tools and apps like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark.

Without technology, I don’t think I would be nearly as “successful” as I have been. These types of tools are used by my team and I use them to communicate on a regular basis, but also use them for meeting clients. Having apps like this on my desktop or mobile are important for me to stay in the loop and in communication with team members as needed.

At Influencive and my other companies, most of the team members are remote. Managing a remote team can be tricky. Here are 3 ways to help you manage a remote team.

1. Have Open Lines of Communication

When you have a team spread out over time zones and countries, it’s important from day one to set expectations that your team is able to communicate with each other. The days of telling your employees and co-workers to just email each other are dwindling by the day. If you do this, you are going to create more work than necessary. I don’t know about you, but I get more spam than ever before and it’s increasingly difficult to find important emails.

What we do at Influencive to help minimize our daily emails to each other, is we have a chat group that we communicate and message each other in. This helps increase our productivity almost tenfold because we can ask questions right away, send documents, and can even do calls as needed. We know that if we want to contact anyone, we can just send them a message. Then people can reply on their own time instead of being constantly interrupted with in-person water cooler talk and other shenanigans that has been proven to reduce productivity.

If you are still relying on your email inbox for communication, find a messaging platform or chat group you can use with your team to help minimize the amount of emails you send.

2. Implement Weekly Check-In’s

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to get away from actually holding meetings with my teams. We all have 1000’s of thoughts going through our brains at any given time and holding meetings daily with your team usually only hurts them because most meetings aren’t very productive.

As a matter of fact, most 1 hour meetings could be done in under 10 minutes. Crazy right?

When you have a remote team, one way to set expectations and maintain order and productivity is to implement weekly check-ins with your team. Everyone has different schedules and work better during different hours of the day.

For that reason, sometimes a scheduled meeting is pointless because schedules shift, people are on sales calls, in-person meetings and etc. I’m not a big fan of set weekly meetings for that reason.

Instead, all communications can be done through Cisco Spark. And the check-ins can happen when and if they are needed rather than having meetings just to have meetings. This saves the team time and money.

3. Promote Autonomy

One of the benefits of having a remote team in the first place is not having a team member be location dependent. You can pick people to be a part of your team no matter where they live. This is a major advantage to have.

Rather than relying on the uber competitive talent pool in the city of the founders, you can look elsewhere to add to your team.

Something that you need to implement from day one is that you want to give all employees autonomy. They all need to feel a part of the team, but they also need to feel that freedom to make mistakes and take risks. Now, this doesn’t mean go out there and make the company look bad, it just means employees need to feel that they can make some decisions and their boss isn’t looking over their every move.

A quote I really like is:

“If you don’t trust your employees to work from anywhere, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.”

This is so true. You need to trust your team to get the job done and if you don’t trust them to work from the beaches in Bali or from the coffee shop down the street then you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

Allow them autonomy and the ability to do their job from wherever they want. Just make sure that they actually get their work done. If they get their work done, and are the best at what they do, then you shouldn’t have anything to complain about.

With the power of the internet and remote collaboration tools like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark, location is irrelevant so stop using location as an excuse and instead use it as an advantage.

Want to know more? Check out our live discussion from the WebEx Facebook page below.

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Bringing Tech to the Classroom – 3 Strategies for 2017

Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to the same old classroom experience. The start of each school year means one more year of innovation has passed and our classrooms should evolve with our digital world. The days of all learning happening within the bubble of one room with just one teacher are gone; our connected world gives students access to learn beyond traditional boundaries.

Overcoming Concentration Hurdles

Distraction can feel like a losing game in the classroom (or in any interaction with students), but even more so in the screen-laden world of our children. That’s why teachers should meet students where they already are – 70% of children under 12 are using tablets and almost 40% start using mobile tech before kindergarten.

When kids walk into a classroom to see mobile devices, they are not only comfortable with the tech, but excited by the innovation. Any teacher knows when children are excited and comfortable, they are engaged in learning. It’s a “hands on” learning environment with a touchscreen twist, making abstract ideas tangible and within reach.

Visually Engaging with Video

We’ve all heard the term “visual learner,” but did you know all students retain visual information more easily than auditory info? Studies show students recall 65% of what they see but only 10% of what they hear. In a learning environment where 100% of the curriculum matters to make the most of a child’s education, teachers should take this research into the classroom.

Video conferencing and access to online videos can greatly enhance even the most established lesson plans. Through video, students from anywhere in the world can take a visual tour of the Great Wall of China or see inside the machines that make the Hoover Dam so powerful. Video conferencing opens the door to invite students from around the world into the classroom. Imagine students learning about a culture from students their own age living it every day. By tapping into our students’ visual learning skills, we can step outside the classroom and enhance learning.

Collaboration Beyond Boundaries

As our world evolves, so too does the profession of teaching and its importance. A Texas study showed that an effective teacher is 20 times more likely to boost student performance than any other factor. It’s essential, for students and teachers, that we give these teachers the tools to seek out the most current information for their students and connect them with leaders in the fields they teach.  Tapping digital collaboration tools is one way teachers can seek expertise beyond their own knowledge.

I saw the power of collaboration outside the classroom in my own son’s excitement. As a fourth-grader, he was tasked to build a sandcastle – and not just any sandcastle. With the help of experts and engineers in San Francisco, he designed a sand-constructed roller coaster. Of course the project was fun – his teachers knew these beach-loving children would jump at the chance to work in sand, one of their favorite mediums – but the value added by the experts will last much longer than their sandy creations.

As I send my son on to his last year of elementary school, I’m hopeful that the passion of the teachers he’s had so far and the exciting tech innovations will make this 5th grade a year of engagement, excitement and, most of all, learning.

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The future of digital teamwork: 5 ways to get ahead

Work teams that once huddled together in conference rooms are now meeting in virtual settings from multiple locations around the world. Employees are also sharing information through various messaging platforms and social media tools. The right unified communications (UC) systems can create real business value for organizations.

The latest team collaboration tools should offer searchability, a well-designed user experience, easy integration with business applications, and easy access to the most relevant information.1

Organizations can gain the type of on-the-go connectivity they need through the use of secure cloud-based business collaboration solutions. Cisco Spark is a cloud-enabled UC service that provides the accessibility and security that teams need to collaborate via a single platform.

Here, we explore five ways Cisco Spark helps businesses maximize the benefits of digital teamwork:

1. Remain in control with end-to-end encryption and security.

Think about all of the data, files and sensitive communications that companies exchange throughout the workday. There’s no question that digital technologies have helped unlock information barriers. But who holds keys to a company’s cloud security? Typical business messaging platforms compromise security by directly accessing an organization’s content. So what’s at stake?

Consider this: 40% of organizations have online team meetings that involve financial data.

In addition, one-third of organizations have meetings where employees share private customer or patient information, and approximately one in five organizations have web meetings that involve trade secrets.3

When it comes to security, companies can’t take shortcuts. Cisco Spark offers several key security features, including:

  • HTTPS to encrypt data in transit between devices and servers, which protects the identities of the senders and receivers of the encrypted content.
  • Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol for all media, such as voice, video, and desktop share.
  • Data that stays encrypted when it’s in transit to cloud servers, when it’s in use, and while it’s in storage.
  • Encryption of all content using dynamic keys from the key management service (KMS).

2. Seek a solution that grows with you.

Why invest in technology if it’s not easily adaptable to your growth or expansion plans?

For example, 66% of executives “have felt that limitations of their software programs have negatively affected their company’s growth.”4

Unfortunately, delivering digital collaboration capabilities using premises-based infrastructure can be very challenging because they lack the flexibility your company needs as it grows. Cisco Spark moves all of this complexity to the cloud, so businesses can quickly connect via phone, video, or messaging wherever they’re located. Cisco Spark also includes customizable plans that allow companies to easily upgrade from plans that offer video calling to plans that also offer video conferencing.

Plans offer the ability to: 

  • Meet with up to 25 people.
  • Instantly initiate meetings with a single click.
  • Join a scheduled meeting from any device.
  • Schedule meetings in Outlook by using @spark or @webex tags.

Video conferencing plans offer the ability to:

  • Meet with up to 200 people.
  • Join on any device, Cisco phones registered to Cisco Spark, Microsoft Skype for Business endpoints, third-party standardsbased video endpoints, and more.
  • Access to a personal room for each user with his or her own meeting URL.
  • Schedule meetings within the platform (no integrated, hybrid system needed).
  • Add @webex to an Outlook invitation to automatically populate the body of the invitation with information to join a WebExpowered meeting or add both @spark and @webex to the location field. A flexible, customizable collaboration solution frees IT resources to work on projects that are more innovative and growth focused.

3. Move quickly between communications tools and devices.

Today’s on-demand economy keeps employees on their toes. They’re constantly moving from one device or communication tool to another.

In fact, 49% of small and midsize businesses say they need to be available at all times to meet the demands of today’s digital economy.5

Having access to multiple communications tools helps team members get better work-life balance, stay on top of project deadlines, and respond quickly to customer needs. How do companies increase accessibility to these collaboration tools?

Cisco Spark acts as a bridge between mobile and the office, freeing the workforce to:

  • Receive calls that are identified as business related. This helps maximize that users are prepared for business calls if they’re answering a phone outside the workplace.
  • Switch quickly from one device to another during a meeting— advantageous for users who need to leave a meeting early, but want to remain connected. With Cisco Spark, users can turn a phone call into a virtual meeting with one tap, or move a video call from a conferencing room to their mobile phone and then to a new meeting room.

4. Consolidate project files and communications in one space.

Anybody who has worked on a project knows how hard-to-find files and miscommunication between team members can impact project goals. Sometimes individual team members choose their own filesharing and collaboration tools without checking in with IT or even each other.

For example, 90% of organizations collaborate using Dropbox, Google, Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networking sites.6

This can create confusion and inefficiencies if key team members miss relevant conversations, messages or document updates. Features to consider in a collaboration suite include the ability to:

Download the messaging app on a phone or tablet to remain connected while away from the office, including access to video calls and shared screens.

  • Create an unlimited number of team work spaces as needed.
  • Name work spaces based on specific projects, teams, or even a specific sales territory.
  • Get creative with whiteboarding or annotate existing documents. These features are particularly valuable for business units or groups within an organization that are working on specific projects. They also ease the pain of new-hire onboarding and training because organizations can keep all of their hiring documents in one easy-to-access place.

Keep existing systems with third-party integrations and support.

If you’ve already invested in a number of tools and communication systems, you may want to know how you can bring everything together and get more value out of your investments.

Your question makes sense: Modern business projects or work tasks that required two or three systems in the past now can take place over five to 10 applications or more today.7

Cisco Spark integrations bring together the tools organizations need—including those they may use outside of Cisco Spark. Other key features to consider include:

  • Self-enabled integrations, bots, and APIs that can be customized to existing processes and work streams.
  • The ability to integrate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Sameroom, and other apps.
  • A system that’s “open” and works with many developers for access to integrations and bots. (Bots can send automated notifications, respond to questions, and even be an in-app assistant.)

To learn more about how Cisco Spark brings together the digital tools organizations need in a secure, mobile environment, visit www.webex.com. If you’re interested in a free trial, visit: https://www.webex.com/pricing/free-trial-DG1.html.

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Presenting Data More Powerfully with 3 Easy Tips

#1 Make your slide title a news headline

Every journalist knows that if your headline doesn’t reflect your story’s juice, readers will surely overlook your article.  Well, the same principal applies for presenting the ‘story’ of your data.  To immediately engage your audience, create a headline that reflects your single most important piece of information.

Elevating your most important message to the headline (a.k.a. the slide title) has two advantages a) it makes your data memorable and b) it makes your audience lean in and want more information. Yes, it’s that simple.

Here is a generic headline. Notice: in order for the audience to learn anything more about the Olympic results, they have to squint their eyes and wade through rows and rows of data. Why make it so difficult?

SLIDE 1

20140122_before02

Here is the same data presented with an active, content-rich headline that tells us upfront what the big news is right away. Unlike the above slide, it doesn’t make us work hard to figure out the message:

SLIDE 2 

20140122_after02

If you’ve ever used the words “comparison” or “overview” as a headline for your charts, we are talking to you! While there might be occasional need for broad language, you are probably missing an opportunity to give power to the message within your data. Try asking yourself: where is my key message? What is this slide about? If you can’t answer this question in the title, then this could be a red flag.

Bonus tip: Whenever possible, the title should include a unit of measurement and a time period to give the audience context.

 

#2 Use callouts to pinpoint your main message

Callouts are simply an added shape that stands apart from the chart but draws attention to the chart’s key message.  Callouts are married to the headline. They work together to illuminate the main message. While the headline tells us the most important nugget of information in the chart, the callout points right to it.

In the example of slide 2 above, the callout is the blue circle to the right of the chart. It points out the exact same message as the headline. Again, both the headline and the callout reinforce each other and the main message of the slide.

 

#3 Color controls eyeballs

Color is the easiest way to differentiate the critical data point (that carries your main message). This is where you want eyeballs to go first. As you see in slide 2 above, it is best to go with a monochromatic color scheme that is clean and simple. When you add a simple contrast color to one data finding, you illuminate it immediately. Your audience will see your main message in one glance.

Although color itself doesn’t add meaning or value to your data, its presence makes a big impact. Consciously or not, when people look at a data display and see visual differences like color, they immediately try to determine the meaning of those differences. Too much color will confuse your message (a very common problem). Used sparingly, color is a great tool in telling your story.

Remember: Your audience will remember 4 slides in a 20-slide presentation. Make them count.

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Post originally published on The Presentation Company’s blog here.

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A DON’T-MISS WEBINAR: Using Data Visualization to Tell Your Story

From Salesforce to Hewlett-Packard, The Presentation Company’s Janine Kurnoff has taught some of the world’s biggest brands how to tell more compelling stories through data visualization. After taking a break to care for her newest (and cutest) data wizard Baby Liam, Janine is ready to put on her training hat once again and provide the opportunity to learn her time-tested techniques that will take your data storytelling to entirely new levels.

During a free live WebEx webinar on October 25, you’re invited to explore some of these incredible best practices, including:

  • How to tell a story with data that can be understood in a glance;
  • Clever visual tricks to think “outside the chart” using photography, icons eye-catching text and other visual effects;
  • How to dodge the most common pitfalls with charts and graphs.

Until then, we want to leave you with four particularly good nuggets about telling a story with data…

Step 1: Determine Your Story First

There is no understating how important it is to craft your story first. When we are sitting on mounds of data, our inclination is to immediately get charting. After all, doesn’t our data contain all the evidence we need? Doesn’t our data speak for itself? No, it doesn’t. And if you do present your data upfront, without critical analysis and an idea of the story you want to tell, it’s value will evaporate.

Step 2: Write Headlines that Report the News

Insights that you glean from data amount to more than just facts. It helps to see the charts, tables, or graphics you put on each slide as a news story. And doesn’t every news story need a headline? Writing headlines forces you to clearly display your most important data insights. You’ve already determined your story (step 1), so this is kind of like coming up with the chapter headings. And each of these headings must move along the story.

Step 2: Write Headlines that Report the News

Insights that you glean from data amount to more than just facts. It helps to see the charts, tables, or graphics you put on each slide as a news story. And doesn’t every news story need a headline? Writing headlines forces you to clearly display your most important data insights. You’ve already determined your story (step 1), so this is kind of like coming up with the chapter headings. And each of these headings must move along the story.

Generic heading
Heading that reports the news

Step 3: Use callouts to highlight important data insights

Now that you’ve determined your story and created bold news headlines, it’s time to get down to the details of data visualization. We love callouts because they are one of the easiest ways to draw attention to your most important data. During the webinar, we’ll dive into the details about how using color, shapes, and sizes will give your data impact.

No callouts
Callouts identify critical information

Step 4: Get rid of the noise!

Visually, you are doing your audience a huge favor if you minimize or delete any clutter on your slide. Start with any chart labels. Only include labels that are concise, necessary, and informative. Do they make your data easy to read? Are axis labels easy to understand? Do they make sense with the story you are trying to tell?       

Axis labels are unabbreviaited; chart uses heavy gridlines and vertical axis
Axis labels are abbreviated; amount of gridlines has been reduced

Missed any of the previous webinars hosted by Cisco WebEx and The Presentation Company?

WATCH NOW:

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#WebExPoll Results: Your Teamwork Habits Revealed

On the third Thursday of each quarter, many businesses observe “Get to Know Your Customers Day.” After realizing that yes, this is an actual thing, the WebEx team grew even more curious about our customers and kicked off our next #WebExPoll Series, dedicated to understanding their meeting and productivity habits.

So what did we discover? Overall, you guys send a lot of emails, get more done in the a.m. versus the midnight hour and are pretty good at juggling the collaboration tools you need to get your work done. Oh – and we love how easy you find it to take meetings from home using WebEx for your video conferences.

Take a colorful look at fun facts we discovered about you and be sure to follow @WebEx on Twitter to join the conversation.

For those early morning meetings across different time zones, 75% of you would hop out of bed and take the meeting from home.

Speaking of starting early, 64% of you shared that morning is your favorite time of day to get the most done.

And you’re all about finding ways to collaborate with your teammates. Because 52% of you use 1-3 collaboration tools daily.

And…Cisco Spark is one of your go-to tools to make things happen. Over half (53%) of you would trust Spark over email to send urgent and confidential documents. We’ve got your back.

We were sorry to hear that most of you are glued to your inbox. 55% said you check email constantly and 49% you send between 50 and 100 emails a day! That’s a lot of typing, folks.

But even when you’re busy, you love finding time to meet with your team face-to-face. For 44% of you, video is your favorite way to meet.

No matter how you like to get things done, finding a way that works for you is what matters most. Learn how Cisco Spark can work for your team.

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Three Ways to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

In spite of the recent winter storms that tagged the country last week, today marks the first official day of spring. In addition to the warmer days that lie ahead, today is also a perfect day to indulge in a bit of spring cleaning – but we’re not talking about a bit of dusting around the house. Today is also the perfect day for you (and your teams) to knock out a bit of digital spring cleaning as well and we’re sharing a few tips to guide you along.

Dust Off Your Digital Work Life

Any one of these tips – or combination of them – will fast track your digital decluttering.

  • Find yourself shifting pass the same apps on smartphone or tablet? If you’ve stopped using them or have turned to other products, then delete them! An added bonus? Eliminating unnecessary apps and files, helps your device could run faster.
  • There have been times I’ve realized I have dozens or even hundreds of unopened email in my inbox. Since selecting all and hitting the delete button is not a reality for many of us, revisit the “Zero Inbox” method to keep your inbox as clutter free as possible.
  • When you’re prompted to change your password for an email account for example, consider changing passwords for all of your work-related accounts. From internal intranet sites to your 401k provider, save yourself some time down the line by taking care of it now.

Get Your Team in the Declutter Game

When everyone gets in on the digital declutter game, your team will already be set to hit the ground running when it’s time to connect and work together.

  • Now that you’ve applied the Zero Inbox method, instead of a starting another long email thread filled with attachments, get the entire team onboard with an app like Cisco Spark to share information, whiteboard, edit documents and screen share.
  • Have your teams look at all of the meetings and invitations currently on their calendar. If there are some they never find themselves attending or are just simply meetings they don’t need to attend, they should delete them to ensure their calendars are as up-to-date as possible.
  • As a leader, do you know what your team members spend their time on each day? Help them optimize their energy and prioritize their day by auditing their time and helping them refocus.

Cultivate Creativity

What does all of this digital decluttering leads to? A fresh new digital environment prime for cultivating the most creative ideas and solutions teams have to offer.

  • One of the easiest ways to cultivate deeper levels of creativity is to welcome new members – and their ideas. Set up a video meeting with Cisco WebEx and tap into the fresh ideas colleagues across town or around the world may have to share.
  • After this deep digital spring cleaning, be sure to keep your digital life nice and tidy. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each to prioritize your workload, clean out your inbox and check your Cisco Spark work rooms for team updates.

How do you plan on decluttering your digital life today? Share your best tips with us or how these helped you below.

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Productivity Can Be Simpler Than You Think

“Be more productive.” While this is a simple thing to say, between busy home lives and just the day-to-day office routine of meetings, conference calls and client catch-ups (and some social media scrolling if we’re all honest), maintaining a certain level of productivity can be a challenge.

  • On a daily basis, Care@Work notes the average worker is interrupted every three minutes, taking another 23 minutes to get back on task.
  • Harvard research also shows that people spend almost 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.

All of these distractions not only cause employees to be less productive, but also costs companies some pretty big money in lost revenue. In fact, the total soars into the billions when employees aren’t engaged with their jobs, according to a Gallup poll.

Obviously, there are many ways to go down an unproductive path during the workday. But all hope is not lost! More research shows that people who live busy lives tend to do better on tasks of memory and tasks of reasoning.  So it’s good to be busy! The key is learning how to stay busy and engaged, without tipping into the territory of stress.

As a team lead, I’m all for helping others be more productive at work. In that spirit, I’m sharing a few things that have worked for me and that my team members have said work for them.

Clock Work

It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Set your clock 10 minutes ahead of schedule first thing in the morning so you have an extra 10 minute to get organized before you dive into whatever is on your calendar for the day.

Zero Inbox

No, I’m not saying you can just delete everything that arrives in your inbox each day. But, taking immediate action on the emails you receive can save you a lot of time.

When you receive a new email, reply to it, forward it or set a meeting to follow-up on the subject matter. Adding a task to your to-do-list (or best of all deleting it) is ok too.

Check It Off 

Making a list of all of the things you want to accomplish not only helps prioritize your day, but if you’re like me, you’ll find literally checking an item off of a to-do-list extremely satisfying.

When making a list, develop a system that works for you. It could be a color-coded one or maybe using icons helps you better. And if you find the list is getting too long, scale it back to what you can take on for the day.

Find Your Work Happy Place

Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans, believe workers who work remotely are just as productive as those who work in a business office.

Thankfully, technology has made it possible to pretty much take your office on-the-go. Apps and programs like Cisco Spark and Cisco WebEx make it possible to work and meet in real-time, share updates and documents, set up individual meeting rooms and more so everyone can review updates on their own and remain on the same page.

Throw Yourself a Party

Look, everyone deserves to treat themselves a bit when they accomplish their goals and get more done during the day. So celebrate your productivity throughout the day.

For starters, take five minutes to relax after completing a task. Go grab a snack, listen to a few songs, call your mom or best friend for a quick catch-up – whatever helps you recharge and refocus on your next task, do it!

 The great thing is, what helps with stay productive is not set in stone. Discover what works for you and run with it. Do you have any tips and tricks for getting things done? Tells us your favorites in the comments below.

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