International Networking Week 2010 Videostring(40) "International Networking Week 2010 Video"

I am pleased to announce that the new video for International Networking Week, 2010, is now available on YouTube.  The video was sponsored by Entrepreneur Press and the Referral Institute.  Mark your calendar now.  International Networking Week is the week of Feb. 1 through 5, 2010.  For additional information go to

This is the fourth year for International Networking Week.  It is now recognized by many countries around the world, with thousands of events being held during the week.  Take a look at the video and let me know what you’ll be doing to recognize this week.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwostring(36) "Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo"

I had the privilege of attending the rollout of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo yesterday.  The spaceship rides under the center portion of the mother ship, called the WhiteKnightTwo (which I wrote about last year).

The rollout had many special guests, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured at podium–last photo at bottom), Sir Richard Branson (pictured in second to last photo) and Burt Rutan (the designer of the spacecraft, pictured with me, here) .

The plane will carry the spaceship and its six passengers and pilots up to an altitude of roughly 50,000 feet before releasing it prior to the spacecraft’s rocket motor kicking in and taking it the rest of the way into suborbital flight (about 60 miles above Earth).  From there, passengers will be able to experience weightlessness as well as see the curvature of the Earth.

During Rutan’s presentation, he said that when he was working on the X Prize project to show that private commercial flights into outer space were possible, he spoke to several airlines to see if they would like to joint venture on the concept. None of them was interested.

He then shared with the audience that just prior to the launch of the WhiteKnightOne for the X Prize competition, he received a phone call from Sir Richard of Virgin Atlantic, who asked if Rutan were interested in working with him to help launch the Virgin Galactic spaceships as a commercial venture.  Rutan thought that Virgin was a great company to partner with because it has a history of flying passengers with a founder who is willing to tackle large projects that involve a high risk but can include a big payoff.  He said Branson has been the perfect partner throughout the process, giving him guidance and a substantial amount of freedom.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in the U.S. and the world! I was impressed by the designers and engineers I met.  The whole experience was concrete evidence that an entrepreneurial spirit can take the groundwork laid down by governments for space exploration and turn it into a viable commercial venture.  Branson said he hopes that by the year 2020, space flight will be affordable to many people around the world.  I, for one, would not bet against him.

I predict that before 2020, Virgin Galactic will have created more astronauts than all countries combined have done to this date.

Business Networking Predictions for 2010string(40) "Business Networking Predictions for 2010"

2009 is almost over (and many are glad about that!), and it’s time to look ahead. I have before me my crystal ball.  I am looking into the future, and this is what I see for 2010:

  1. First, the economy IS going to improve.  OK, this isn’t a”networking” issue, but it IS important.  Have faith.  Look for opportunities.  Focus on what you do best.  You will have a better year next year, but you need to focus on solutions and get out of the quagmire of problems.
  2. Online social networks will continue to grow in prominence.  OK, I didn’t need the crystal ball for that one.  However, consider this . . . digital schmoozing may continue to grow, but so will the frustration over how to convert that technology into viable business opportunities.  This is an emerging field, and much of it will be established over the next few years.
  3. Companies, small and large, need to create a social media strategy.   What’s your plan?  Oh . . . you don’t have one? Big mistake in 2010.  You need to start working on one now.  Don’t know where to start?  Do a little research.  There are some really good experts out there who can help you in this area.  I’ve been working with Social Media Expert Mirna Bard this year, and she has really helped my organization create a strong, cutting-edge social media strategy that we are now pursuing globally
  4. Victims of downsizing will become active in networking groups (both face-to-face and online).  Many people have been laid off.  My experience in running BNI, the world’s largest networking organization, is that within a few months of an increase in unemployment rates, there is almost always an influx of new members into networking organizations.  I am confident that there will be such an influx in 2010.
  5. We will begin to see more of an integration between face-to-face and online networking opportunities.  Online networks will do things to promote face-to-face opportunities, and face-to-face networks will begin to integrate online networking more effectively into their programs.
  6. We will see the slow death of the “one-way” website.  More and more, companies will create websites that operate in two directions.  They will not only provide information to their customers but will also seek feedback from their customers.  Blogs, interactive newsletters, social network sites, consumer feedback groups . . . all of these will continue to grow in importance for companies.
  7. Face-to-face networks will continue to grow, IF they stay true to a fundamental mission of helping people grow their businesses.  Nothing beats networking in person (see my blog on this subject from earlier this year).
  8. Companies that succeed in 2010 will remain agile and will focus on relationships. Technology is a tool.  Relationships are king when it comes to networking.  Companies who are creative in using tools to enhance the relationship building process will be the leaders in a company networking program.

Well, there it is.  Those are my predictions for 2010.  What do you think of these ideas AND what, if anything, would you add to these business networking predictions?

Don’t Try to Be All Things to All Peoplestring(46) "Don’t Try to Be All Things to All People"

I received an e-mail today from someone in my organization who said that entrepreneurs and business professionals really need help in management, sales, accounting, taxes and many other issues.  So far, so good–I couldn’t agree more!

Then he suggested that our organization would be so much better if we provided that kind of training. Whoa–stop!  Here’s where we part ways.  You see, I’ve heard that many times over the years.  It tends to come from groups that are struggling, and they’re looking for something to provide all the answers to a myriad of problems.  This sounds really good and I understand where the frustration is coming from–unfortunately, it just doesn’t work.

Many years ago as a business consultant, I saw a lot of my clients bounce around from one product or service to another.  They were chasing projects down rabbit trails because someone said they should be doing this element or that element of the business.  They didn’t specialize.  They tried to be all things to all people.  They ended up being good at nothing at all.

When it comes to being a truly great organization, I believe that a  jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.   Instead, I believe that you should focus on your organization’s core competencies.   Do what you are good at, and do it better than anyone else.

There are many, many companies that are MUCH better at teaching business people about management, sales, taxes, etc.  My networking organization is not an expert in taxes or business management.  Organizations such as iLearningGlobal provide more content from more experts than we ever could.  We shouldn’t even try to be “the” expert in these areas.  In fact, we are not and never will be the leading organization on sales training.  Organizations such as Brian Tracy University are much better in this field than we are.  If we try to do that–we change our core business model and lose our focus.

Don’t try to be all things to all people.  Do what you are best at and do it better than anyone else in the world.  My company, BNI, is myopic.  We do one thing and, based on results (thousands of groups in dozens of countries), we do it better than anyone else.  We help people build their business through a structured referral networking program.  We are the biggest and the best at what we do, and we don’t try to be the best at other things.

Great companies know what business they are in, and they focus on improving that business every day.

The Secret to Balancestring(21) "The Secret to Balance"

Do you have balance in your life?  Personal and professional balance in our lives seems to be the ever-elusive dream for many of us.  Trying to balance home, work, health, spirituality and free time seems almost impossible.  It is something that businesspeople have told me for years.

Well, I am pleased to tell you that I believe I’ve found the answer to creating balance in your life.   Are you ready?  Write this down. Here it is:  Forget about balance, you’ll never have it!

I can hear you now . . . “What?!  No balance?!? That can’t be!  It’s just not right!” But wait . . . there IS good news.  Although I don’t think balance is possible, I do believe you can create harmony in your life.  This differentiation is more than just semantics.  It is a critical approach to looking at life that can free you up to see the world in a different way.

“Balance” assumes that we spend an equal amount of time in all or most areas of our life.  It is like the image of the scales (see the picture at right) where everything is completely in balance and equal.  It assumes that we must spend a certain portion of each week devoted in some equal measure to every item important in our life.

Well, the problem with that is that almost no one can really achieve that.  Especially entrepreneurs, professionals and salespeople.  We tend to live such hectic, busy lives that it is incredibly difficult to fit it all in.  Women often tell me that this issue is an even bigger problem for them.

So what do we do about this?  For me, it’s about creating harmony.  Just look at the image representing harmony  in this blog (see the yin yang symbol at right).  Even the image is lopsided when you look at one aspect at a time.  But it is the whole that feels complete.  This is a way to look at the issue that has personally worked for me.  Sometimes I work crazy, long hours for several days in a row.  Or I may be on the road traveling for business for many days at a time.  On the other hand, I am a husband and a father.  I need and want to be there for my family as well as have time for myself.  Long ago I figured out that daily balance is almost impossible.  But I found I could create harmony using a few core principles.

First, three simple words make a big difference to me: “Be here now.” Wherever you are, be there.  If you are at work, don’t think about the time you did not spend with the family the night before or what you should be doing with you significant other right now.  When you are at home, don’t think about the work you have to do at the office.  Wherever you are, be there . . . fully and completely.

Second, make sure to set aside time to do all the things that are truly important in your life. Yeah, I know everyone says that, but here’s my twist:  Be creative about how you manage this. For example, when I wrote my first book I didn’t want to be holed up in my office writing in the evening and not be available to my family.  I found a creative way to find that time that was in harmony with my family time.  A few evenings a month, I’d stay up with the family, put everyone to bed and then go into my office and start writing at 11 p.m. and work almost all night on my manuscript.  I’d catch a few hours of sleep and get into the office a little late to start my day.  I’m a late-night person and this worked for me.  It may not work for you.  However, my point is to be creative and inventive in finding ways YOU can accomplish what you need to do, yet still allow yourself to spend time doing the other things in your life that bring you harmony.  Nothing pleased me more than when I showed my children the book when it was published and they said to me . . . “When did you write that?!” They had no idea I was up late working several times a month.  That was harmony to me!

Third, find ways to integrate various elements of your life. For many years, I have spent weeks at a time up at my lake home in the mountains.  Each year, I spend a week or two working from the lake house remotely.  Now I bring up my staff and management team for short retreat/workdays.  It is a great way to combine my work life into a leisure environment.   Then, the last week or so, I take off COMPLETELY and spend time with my family.  By integrating my two worlds, I create a sense of harmony.

Last, remember this: when you are 70 years old, you are not going to wish you spent more time at the office. You don’t need to be a workaholic to be successful.

Focus on creating harmony in your life.  Be creative.  Don’t try to do the things I do or that someone else does.  Find ideas that work for you and the life you live.  Make the time to do the things that are important to you and be innovative.  Harmony is created where harmony is sought.  OK, that’s a bit “new age” sounding . . . but it is true.

I’m very interested to hear what you think of this approach and/or what do you do to create balance in your life.  Leave a comment and let me, and others reading this blog, know what has worked for you.

Let’s Fix The Legal System; Does Anyone Have a Sledgehammer?string(66) "Let’s Fix The Legal System; Does Anyone Have a Sledgehammer?"

OK, let me start by saying that my real beef is with civil litigators, not all lawyers and though I may use the term “lawyer” in my blog, it is the litigators I am really upset with. I also understand that we need rules of law and people to help guide us through them, such as my colleague here on the Blog Network, Nina Kaufman, who writes the Making it Legal blog (Nina, please don’t hate me . . . for what I’m about to say).

Not all lawyers are litigators. However, all litigators are lawyers and it is that particular group of people that I think have made a mess out of our legal system.

The most outrageous legal cases can make it to court and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend. I recently saw a case where a man decided  NOT to renew his services with a business, then sued the business for the loss of income he incurred by not renewing the service! That’s right. He chose to not renew, then sued because he lost income after not renewing the service! Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? Well, to just about any sane person, it is. Unfortunately, litigators can make the most incredible “legal” arguments out of the most outrageous claims, and judges feel compelled to let them go through the system.   Welcome to America!

All of this means that the defendants have to pay thousands–sometimes hundreds of thousands–of dollars to defend these insane claims.

This particular case that I mentioned above dragged on for years in the legal system and cost the defending parties more than $100,000 to defend! The primary defendant refused to settle at any cost. She was not going to buckle to extortion from this guy. However, two of the secondary defendants finally paid a few thousand dollars to make this extortionist and his litigator go away because they couldn’t afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to have this go all the way through court. The ONLY winner was the litigator.

When I hear stories like this, I can’t help but wonder if Shakespeare got it right in Henry VI when he said the first thing we do is get rid of the lawyers! (OK, I know, that’s not the exact quote but, I don’t want to be sued by someone saying that I was threatening bodily harm to this esteemed group of professionals).

In preparation for writing this blog, I did some research on Shakespeare’s quote and I read one legal website that wrote that Shakespeare’s statement was actually a defense of lawyers because the comment was made by criminals. Therefore they (the criminals) just wanted the “good guys” (the lawyers) out of the way.  Wow, and we wonder why the legal system is a mess. Sorry, only lawyers could argue that the quote from Shakespeare was a compliment!

Well, I believe in solutions and not just describing problems. So here are some possible solutions. First, I believe that there should be mandatory mediation between parties before any lawsuit can ever be filed (the litigators will hate this one)! From personal experience (and contracts that I’ve done), this often works). The problem is, anyone can sue anyone for anything before there is any face-to-face time with a professional mediator. Second, I believe that 100 percent of the time, the losing party should pay the winning party’s legal fees. Furthermore, I think the losing litigator should share in paying this fee! This will make the extortionists and litigators very cautious about the ridiculous lawsuits that are filed.  Watch how many crazy lawsuits cease if the lawyers pushing the process have to pay something if they lose!

Hey, these are only ideas–there may be many better ones out there. I just know one thing. Our legal system is a mess, and it’s going to take a sledgehammer and a lot of work to fix it. What are your recommendations?

OK, I feel better now.  Oh, wait–I forgot something important:

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If something offends you, lighten up, get a life, and move on.

Networking Now One of the ‘100 Best’ Entrepreneurial Blogsstring(70) "Networking Now One of the ‘100 Best’ Entrepreneurial Blogs"

Today I am happy to announce that my “Networking Now” blog made it onto Accredited Online Degrees’ list of the “100 Best Blogs to Hone Your Entrepreneurial Instinct” in the category of blogs that aid in growing your business.

You can find this blog listed as No. 32 on the list, but more than that, I want you all to know about the list because it is a fantastic resource! In addition to learning about different blog sites in the “Growing Your Business” category, you can find several different educational and informational blogs in the areas of Starting Up, Money, Marketing, Success Stories, Small Business News, Internet Entrepreneurs, Women Entrepreneurs, Social Entrepreneurship and Web Tools & Resources.

I spent some time clicking on the links to several different blogs I’d never heard of before, and I think the entire list of links is extremely useful. I encourage all of my blog readers to click here and check out the list because there are some truly great blogs listed that you’ll want to be sure to check out!

Like the intro to the list says, “Whether you’re already running a business, or just thinking of starting one . . . it is necessary to look at several areas of the entrepreneurial process and develop expertise to excel in each and every business venture.” This list provides you with links to information on all aspects of business and entrepreneurship–and it’s FREE. So what are you waiting for?  Start clicking! 🙂

Networking From Tokyostring(21) "Networking From Tokyo"

I am in Japan doing presentations on business networking this week and it has made me think about how word-of-mouth marketing is a concept that crosses cultural, ethnic and political boundaries. It resonates within entrepreneurs all over the world. It resonates in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas–because we all speak the language of referrals.

As I put together business development networks or referral groups in many countries around the world over the past two decades, I was frequently told that this type of networking won’t work in other countries. It was ironic to hear “this won’t work here, we’re different” the first time because it was said by someone in one part of Southern California talking about people who were 25 miles away in another part of Southern California!

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I later came to understand that this person just didn’t want to do the hard work necessary to slowly build his referral business. Rather than say, “I don’t want to do that,” it was easier to say, “we’re different here” (even though “here was only a few miles away from “there”).

Over the years I was amazed to come across some people who absolutely refused to follow the tried-and-true fundamentals that proved to work in generating referrals as I developed networking programs through BNI across the  United States and later the world. In many cases they used the “we’re different” argument or said things like “that won’t work here.” When talking about self-development, I have a friend who often says, “When it comes to ourselves, we’re always the exception.” Everybody else should do what’s been proved to work. It seems that the “we’re different here” mantra that some people spout actually prevents them from following proven methods of self-development. Only truly successful people understand that everyone who has achieved success has succumbed to the basics.

Years ago, I began to dissect what we were doing to determine just what it is about referral marketing that makes it cross national and cultural boundaries so well. I determined that the lowest common denominator is that people want referrals! The public wants referrals, the business community wants referrals, everyone seems to want referrals. In order to generate referrals, people must build trust. Building trust takes time. Structured networking programs speed up the process in a safe environment, but they still take time.

Apparently, this concept does transcend cultural differences. One of the reasons this happens is that networking programs operate within the cultural context, not outside it. That is to say, the cultural differences can easily integrate within a structured program that takes time and is based on building trust among other business people. Structured networking programs may then embrace cultural differences while following an overlay or system that emphasizes relationship building and referral generation.

Now of course it’s true that people are different around the world, but normally all businesspeople want to conduct business more effectively. When harnessing the power of relationship marketing is the goal, driving businesses further and faster through business-to-business networking can be an effective result. Codifying the process of networking into a networking system helps businesses learn how to do that, thereby transcending our cultural differences.

My experience has shown that people in any entrepreneurial economy can use a networking system to improve their business. If this system is done within the cultural context and not outside it, I have found that the same networking concepts and techniques are almost completely transferable from one country to another. It is basically due to the truth that business is business when it comes to relationship marketing, no matter the culture, ethnicity or political persuasion.

This doesn’t change the challenges that occur when someone from one country networks or does business with someone from another country; however, networking techniques are simply business techniques. They work around the world–especially when they are applied within the specific cultural context.



America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, South Africa or Germany, different races and religions, different colors and cultures: We are all different–but we all speak the language of referrals. We are all different–but we all believe that relationships are the key to building a business. We are all different–but we all believe we can do better by helping connect people.

Networking is a great way to “get” business… but it’s an even better way to “do” business. While there may be many other things to divide and separate us–different countries and cultures, different languages and religions, different people and places, different races and accents–we are all united by one thing: We all speak the language of referrals. And that my friends, transcends our cultural differences.

Networking Lessons From Naturestring(30) "Networking Lessons From Nature"

Recently, when visiting our favorite Napa Valley winery, Chateau Montelena, my wife and I decided to take a tour of the agricultural side of the operation.  The vintner shared with us the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year regardless of the climate–a technique known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I began to see a business metaphor emerging for how referral marketing works for those businesses that understand doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated, dry season or rainy.  As a result, the roots of the vines must grow deep to get to the year-round underground supply of water, no matter the climate.  This reminds me of how we teach business owners to develop deep-water relationships between themselves so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

Doing business by referral truly is not about getting rich quick.  We want to be able to produce a bumper crop of referrals year after year after year regardless of the climate.

That is the gift of dry farming:  the stability of the juice’s quality.  Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, we feel that deep-water relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability unavailable to the average business owner.

There is another metaphor from nature that helps to illustrate the strength of doing business by referral–that is the story of the giant redwood trees in Northern California.

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet!  You’d think that with such an amazing height they would also have a deep, deep root system.  But they don’t.  They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like our California eucalyptus trees.  The California eucalyptus trees tend to blow over easily in heavy winds, but not the giant redwoods.

You see, the giant redwoods also use an amazing technique to remain upright when those around them fall.  They intertwine  their roots with the roots of their neighbor, thereby supporting one another when the winds come.  When one is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the destructive forces of that wind.

Relationship marketing puts you in a similar position as those giant redwoods.  When you learn the intricacies of doing business by referral, you begin to metaphorically intertwine your roots with the roots of those with whom you are networking.  When the economy pressures one member, the others help hold him in place!

This is why networking and relationship marketing are so important–especially in a tough economy.

Entrepreneurial Excellence Dream Teamstring(37) "Entrepreneurial Excellence Dream Team"

Frank DeRaffele Jr., host of the Entrepreneurial Excellence radio show, has been a good friend of mine for years and his show is a great tool for entrepreneurs everywhere.  He recently brought on a “dream team” of CEOs, authors, coaches and consultants to join his show to help the small business entrepreneur, and I am privileged to have been asked to be a part of the team.


I’ve spent the past 25 years of my life helping small-business entrepreneurs grow their businesses through the referral process, and I think Frank’s show and the dream team are incredible resources for the business owner.  I am honored to be on the team with Ken Blanchard, Michael E. Gerber, Larry Winget, Marci Shimoff and Jay Conrad Levinson.

The purpose of the Entrepreneurial Excellence show is to provide a free resource of information and education for the small-business entrepreneur who is always looking for ways to improve.  You can listen to the show live or listen to its archived episodes by visiting

Let me know what you think of the show.  Frank is a regular reader of this column.

I’ll Have an ‘Entrepreneur on Ice,’ Pleasestring(60) "I’ll Have an ‘Entrepreneur on Ice,’ Please"

dsc04691.JPGI just spent time in Kiruna, Sweden–home of the legendary ICEHOTEL and Ice Bar.  It was an amazing experience that I recommend to everyone. A large portion of the hotel facility is completely made of ice. Although there are normal hotel rooms at this location for the faint of heart, the truly brave live big and stay in the amazing “ice accommodations.” This portion of the hotel is a completely different set of buildings and has about 90 rooms along with a truly unique Ice Bar (seen here to the right). The ICEHOTEL and Ice Bar are both completely made of ice (including the tables, chairs and,  yes, even the drinking glasses).

The beds at the ICEHOTEL are made of ice with a small foam mattress and reindeer hides covering them (see below).  They are actually fairly comfortable and, with the high-quality sleeping bags, the room is fairly warm despite the fact that it is minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) inside the hotel and 22 Celsius (minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit) outside.

dsc04678.JPGI had the opportunity to meet one of the co-founders of the Hotel and Bar, Kerstin Nilsson. Kerstin and husband Yngve Bergvist started the hotel in 1990 when they did a small exhibition of art in a custom-made igloo on the frozen Torne River, which is adjacent to the hotel.  It turns out that one night a group of foreign guests, equipped with reindeer hides and sleeping bags, thought it would be a good idea to use the cylindrical-shaped igloo as accommodations.  The next morning the group raved about the unique experience of sleeping in an igloo, and the ICEHOTEL was born.

The hotel and bar have since become famous for their unique concept and famous works of ice art.  Even the chandeliers are made of ice, as seen in the last photo below.  The entire hotel, bar and art all melt away each spring and are re-created with a new design each November.

The conversation I had with Kerstin was interesting. They have partnered with Absolut Vodka and have now franchised the idea of the Ice Bar with locations in Stockholm, London, Tokyo and Copenhagen, in addition to the original. They are planning on many more locations but have not released them as of yet. I told her that if they open one in Los Angeles, I am soooo there!dsc04700.JPG

The ICEHOTEL and Ice Bar are a classic case of how creative entrepreneurship works.  A small hotel in a VERY far-away portion of a country comes up with a little idea (an exhibition hall made of ice) to help build its business. This idea (with a lot of hard work) turns into a hotel and bar. The bar spins off into a worldwide franchise co-developed by a major Vodka company–and a small business becomes an international one. I love the creativity of entrepreneurship.

You can see more photos of my visit to the ICEHOTEL and Ice Bar by going to my FaceBook page.  You can also see more about the hotel and bar by going directly to the website at


‘Legends in Excellence–The Series’string(52) "‘Legends in Excellence–The Series’"

legendsadmisner2_300×250.jpgMy long-time friend Annie Armen, better known as “The Hurricane” on Annie Armen LIVE Talk Radio, has just come out with a great new CD called “Legends in Excellence–The Series,” which features 20 of the world’s top authorities on success.

Annie took hundreds of hours of recorded interviews she’s done over the past decade with people such as Zig Ziglar, Stephen M.R. Covey, Denis Waitley, John Demartini of The Secret and yours truly (just to name a few), and she edited all that content down into 15 hours of powerful advice on how to create real wealth, achieve greater success and find opportunity no matter what the economy is doing.

CLICK HERE to get more information and to purchase the CD.

When you visit the web page above, if you scroll down you can also listen to a five-minute sampler track by clicking on the blue-and-white play button above the words “Listen While You Read.”

If you listen to the sampler track, feel free to come back and leave a comment about what you thought of it.

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