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Starting the conversation:
What does pivot really mean? With a wide range of meanings, pivot can secretly be shiny-object syndrome, necessary because of industry change, or even nuances in the way business is done.
Host: Jess Dewell
Guest: Brandi Bernoskie
This is Uncharted, a series of candid conversations about facing uncertainty. When we are called upon to be courageous, the strength of our leadership is tested. Red Direction has developed a library of resources to help you stay aligned, and in particular to develop your “True North". Now, here’s Jess.
Jess Dewell: 00:31
Thanks for joining me today on this Uncharted, we are going to explore this concept of pivot. And what does it mean? And how does it show up in real life with Brandy Bernoski. She is the CEO at alchemy and aim. She also runs north star sites and leads that team as well. She’s aware she runs a team of web development and business strategists. And they work with thought leaders and entrepreneurs to craft custom websites and enhance client experiences. Not only that, they’re thinking about the insightful piece, the questioning piece, that critical piece we need in our business, so that we can take our brilliance and what we are good at and mush them together for lack of a better phrase into something that sets the stage to open conversations between us and the clients that we are attracting. Brandy. Thanks, and welcome to the Bold Business Podcast and Uncharted.
Brandi Bernoskie: 01:26
Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Jess Dewell: 01:29
Good. I am so glad Now the first thing I have to tell you, I have to ask is, for those of you watching, you can see all the books behind Brandi. And you know, I’m an avid reader listeners and watchers. So I’ve got to know, what are your go to books, we’re just going to get that out of the way because I can’t get
Brandi Bernoskie: 01:43
Well I guess it depends like what I’m going to for sort of thing, but I will tell you like this is my special little book session right over my like, right shoulder. So I have some of the books that clients of mine have written, but also that have just really resonated in my business overall, like those kind of reminders of like, there’s a better way to do business and to be in the world. So I kind of keep them over my right shoulder just so even as I’m, you know, on calls and you know, I’m doing a lot of Zoom calls, usually during the day. I see them and I’m like yes, that’s right. That’s, that’s how to operate again.
Jess Dewell: 02:18
You know, that’s, I wish I could get mine to just that many books, my, my go-to books take up at least a whole shelf. And they’re in two different piles around my office. So when I’m on calls with people, I disappear, they can hear me as I walk around my office, but I’m like, I got to go get the book we need.
Brandi Bernoskie: 02:35
And I absolutely do that I’ve actually been on calls with clients and I’m like, hold on, I know what you need to read next. And I’m thinking I’m looking at my shelves and pulling but like, for me, it’s really like some of Brene Brown’s, I mean, all of her books, but her recent work particularly I really loved Dare to Lead and created some kind of things for my team to do together in order to better understand how we each individually operate based upon what I read there. I love, you know, the things that Mike Michalowicz does with like Profit First and just understanding business in different ways is really, really fantastic. And yeah, they’re, they’re kind of they become a lot of my go twos of..
Jess Dewell: 03:15
And you know, in a moment, we know we can pick up the phone, our trusted advisors sometimes can’t be available when we are and books are a fantastic set of advisors to help shape that initial response, I’ve got to send a text, I’ve got to pick up the phone, I’ve got to send that email. And it’s a, it helps with that pause piece, which is what we need when we’re thinking about, what, what does our business need now and what changes coming ahead. And that’s something that when you and I first talked was really clear to me that there was this time when you were going through, that you were going through that was really about changes not only necessary, it’s upon us. And how did that how did you find that?
Brandi Bernoskie: 04:01
Well, I mean, I feel like I’ve actually been in that sort of necessary changes period multiple times in my life, of having done one thing. And then the world shifting in some ways and realizing that you need to do you need to change what you’re doing sometimes significantly, and sometimes just in like little ways. The first the really the first significant time that’s happened to me was when I was in college, and I was I went off to New York University in 1998. And so I was in New York in September of 2001. And, you know, I was kind of finishing up my my degree there and things like that. And really, I was majoring in theater. And it was kind of a, one of those big world shifts where I was really kind of taken back and had to ask myself, is this really the most I can give to the world or do I have more? And I think that’s like even now after quarantine, it’s kind of the same question about even with my businesses, you know, it’s not about abandoning the business, but it’s like, how can I reshape the business to give more of what I can give to the world? And do I need to start something new? Do I need to let something go? And, you know, that I’ve clung to for some reason. So it’s not a good thing,
Jess Dewell: 05:21
Those we cling to, and we’re putting on those rose-colored glasses. And that’s really I think, when the world around us can, can shake us up, some are recognizing from your very first experience to your very latest experience in terms of that, do you feel like you have increased awareness and you and you recognize, okay, now I’ve got to respond in this particular way. We’re, we’re really evaluating something big.
Brandi Bernoskie: 05:51
Yeah, I think I think just being an entrepreneur has given me a phenomenal sense of increased awareness. But it’s also made me less reactive to. So I feel like I’m more reflective about the changes that are happening around me and how I need to respond to those changes, as opposed to simply responding in the moment. I feel like I plot out a little bit more and try to see potential futures. So that you know, kind of like, well, if I take this path, what does it look like? Is it really going to serve me and my team and my clients in the way that I hope it will? Or is there something that you know, could I, could I be taking a path that would lead to overwork and overwhelm?
Jess Dewell: 06:35
Nobody ever wants to look at that, that that’s just what went through my head.
Brandi Bernoskie: 06:39
But you, but you sometimes don’t even realize it. Like, if you don’t stop to even like look into the future, you may find yourself on that path, because you never took the time to consider what the full outcome could be.
Jess Dewell: 06:51
And okay, so before we continue, because I want to hear about this pivot thing, because I pivot is like a soapbox for me. And I’m trying to change my potentially negative reaction around that word. So this conversation is going to be really good for me. Before we go there, I want to recognize the pragmatism that you’re bringing, and the importance of that, of course, we can only look at the good until we look at the not so good, or what could not be good. We really don’t have a good picture. And we don’t know if the good is good enough, or just good at all.
Brandi Bernoskie: Yeah, yeah.
Jess Dewell: And that’s one of those things that I know, I really think about a lot as when, when I’m doing my president retreat, and the time that I spend working on my business is part of that time is, well, what is the worst that can happen? And how prepared are we for the worst that can happen? Because that does nothing but set the boundary and the guide the guide rails, if you will, for recognizing, oh, I have far to go to make sure that we have these guardrails, or we’re already there. So this is great, we can put our priorities on something else. And I think that that’s an important piece of critical thinking when we’re doing strategy for ourselves and for our clients.
Brandi Bernoskie: 08:03
Absolutely. I think that’s absolutely true. It’s just, it’s not that you’re, you’re being negative about reflecting on what could go wrong. But you’re just preparing yourself for doing even more right with this idea.
Jess Dewell 08:17
I’m actually writing that down to do that. All right. Yeah. So you were in a space where times are changing, and with the times changing, especially in technology, web design, web development. Are you in the digital marketing realm as well?
Brandi Bernoskie: 08:37
No, we’re not okay, actually, we have a lot of partners we work with who do digital marketing, but we kind of stay in the website area, which just allows us to kind of like hone in on how things are changing overall, as opposed to like, being spread too thin and trying to figure out not just how websites are changing, but our Facebook ads changing and Google is changing. That’s… There are a lot of kind of factors and in the digital marketing realm that are just constantly evolving these days.
Jess Dewell: 09:06
And that falls into customer experience. Yes, yeah. And that’s great that you knew exactly when I said that the answer was no, a lot of people are like, well, we can do that. And I like the flat out straight up, no.
Brandi Bernoskie: 09:20
rather not know, and frankly. It’s so nice when you can refer a client to someone who is an expert at what they do. No one can be an expert at all things you like there’s just literally not enough time in the day and not ,not enough power in your brain to be like expert at everything, but really to partner with people who are fantastic experts, and to just make connections with them. And, you know, I feel I feel like especially the people we work with and refer to, they take such good care of our clients, right? And they get exactly what they need from them like they’re getting a really really high-level picture and strategy.
Jess Dewell: 10:02
There’s something to be said for that network. And that that’s actually what makes business run that everything to all people does drains as well, was that kind of part of the creep? The creep up of the need to pivot within your businesses?
Brandi Bernoskie: 10:18
A little bit. I mean, are started out just as a freelance developer, and when I started to grow my business, you know, I started to grow with other developers, you know, I hired an assistant to take care of like some contract stuff hired other developers. And there was that natural push from some clients to be like, well, don’t you do design to? And then if you do design, don’t you do copy? And then if you do copy, can’t you do photography? Can’t you do videography? And, you know, there’s, we’re a group of very design-minded developers, but there’s also brilliant designers out there. And I love, I love partnering with people who are really fantastic at what they do. And so it’s always been kind of like a natural push, like I actually had, I worked with a business coach who I adore. And in one of our meetings, she was like, Oh, well, you should just be like a one-stop-shop. And I’m like, No, there’s enough, you know, subpar. One-Stop shops and there’s some great one stop shops out there, too. But then like, that’s just not who we are, and what we do, like, I’m gonna let us stay in this genius zone of what we do, and really resist that temptation to try to do more.
Jess Dewell: 11:31
Yep, that knowing who you are and what you do. I love that you preface that you love your business coach, every business coach, every business consultant, will want to explore an idea. And yet, sometimes the idea isn’t because that’s the best idea they have. It’s because they’re like, how and where do you stand on this? What are your non-negotiables? And you went into that conversation, knowing that, so that was the general thing. And then you found no, okay, we know what we’re not. We know, we don’t want to be a one-stop-shop. How did you start? And what did you do to start focusing in on exactly what you did do then?
Brandi Bernoskie: 12:08
Well, I think you know, for me, for me, it was part of the focus was also understanding better how we helped people and what our process was, because it’s not just that we do development. Like there are other people out there who do development, but we do strategic development really well. And one of the things like my genius is actually, frankly, it’s not development, like I was a good developer, my team, they’re all way better than I am. But I think of things differently. And I’m really great at helping clients see the connection between their business and the website, and to make very smart decisions about what we’re going to put on the website. And you know, from there, it’s just kind of, it’s kind of just been a refining. I feel like everything that we do is just a matter of talking to people better, and giving them more specifically what they need. So originally with alchemy, and aim, we were doing everything within, within the company. So we would do totally custom websites that would cost 10s of thousands of dollars, because they were that custom to starter sites for people. But I will tell you, it’s really hard to talk to those two people on the same web page, which is why it’s like for me, there’s like the little pivots are like, Okay, how do I better speak to people? How do I better like really tend to what their needs are, no matter what stage that they’re at. And that’s why I started Northstar sites because it let me focus in on alchemy, it was like this is totally custom websites. That’s what we do here. In North Star, we do starter sites for people. And kind of like I wouldn’t just say starter sites to a lot of the people we work with Lena, they may have done a site 10 years ago, or even five years ago, and they’re ready for something fresh. So we’re able to give that to them. But you know, for me, it’s like, pivots aren’t necessarily like gigantic leaps. It’s not like, I’ve I mean I have I have done weird, big pivots in the past, but now it’s just more of like these smaller refinements that like, just make everyone’s lives easier and simpler. Like the work is more clear. The expectations are really well defined, the boundaries are well defined. And like those are the pivots like I’m most curious about right now. Or like, how do you make even sometimes the smaller ones that just, that just really refine what you do and put you like that really sets you up as even more of an expert in the work that you do.
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Jess Dewell: 14:50
So how do you define the difference between the refinement pivots, and the big pivot because people use this word pivot all the time? And I’m curious what your definition is, because I’m curious if they know what their definition is.
Brandi Bernoskie: 15:07
Yeah. And I think it’s one of those words that can have like different meanings depending upon how you’re using it. So like, for me, it is like there are the small pivots of just you know, they’re like the like the little shifts. Then there’s like the hard right turn into something else. Yeah. So, I mean, that’s, that’s what I did before I actually started this business is, you know, I was I was doing, I was working in a nonprofit. And I was, I was a writer and like really kind of like a strategist there to help with some other educational outreach things. And I kind of had this like little side business as a developer. And, you know, everyone thought I was absolutely crazy when I quit my well paying nonprofit job to go work as a freelance developer like, Who does that? For reals? And it was, it was that was a that, was a hard, that was a hard pivot. That was, you know, like, I don’t know, I almost kind of think like, it feels like you’re on ice skates, like, you can make a really sharp turn, but you almost fall a little bit first before you get up and going again. Yeah, I feel like it’s, you know, they, they can be I think we always think of pivots as those super hard turns. And we forget that sometimes they can be more subtle, like, it can be as simple as you know, it doesn’t be that mean that you have to abandon what you’re doing. It can just be finding new ways to do it. It’s not changing. You know, I had a coach always said, it’s not about changing always the what? Sometimes you have to change how you’re doing it.
Jess Dewell: 16:20
Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. And the pivot part the how piece the underlying, and small it, I wish people would quantify in their conversations, because I’m always asking questions like you. I’m incredibly curious. I’m curious, why, what, where, how when the drivers, the constraints? And when somebody says they’re pivoting? Usually, what I find is they are not course corrections that they are shiny object syndrome.
Brandi Bernoskie: 16:49
Jess Dewell: 16:50
And so that’s why I think that’s why I have a soapbox room. Because…
Brandi Bernoskie: 16:56
That’s a, totally makes a lot of sense, you know, that people. They see grass is greener on the other side, sort of, you know, shiny object and, and they think life is going to be better like that. I that’s how I felt that way, like a year, probably a year and a half into my business. I was maxed out on clients. And I really thought like, I was like, I should be a life coach. Oh, no, I shouldn’t. There’s ways I can change my business. And I’m so glad I didn’t pursue, you know, being a life coach, because there’s so much I have to give to technology into business owners around technology and websites like, it’s fun to do.
Jess Dewell: 17:36
I do. By the way, I still do that every few years. shiny object syndrome, what if I became, what if I became a social worker? What if I, what if I became a lawyer? What if I decided to? Doesn’t even matter. But you said that I’m like, Oh, yeah, No, I still do that once in a while. And I think it’s validation for the path that we’re on, isn’t it?
Brandi Bernoskie: 17:59
It is, it absolutely can be. I think it’s also just a good reminder. It’s a good kind of like, check-in just to be really grateful for all that you have. You have just you know, like, it’s not going to be better. Like every industry has challenges. Yes. obstacles. And it’s just a matter of, you know, where does your heart lie? And maybe it does lie in that other direction, maybe, you know, you’ve come to realize that, you know, you were always meant to own an animal rescue and operate that instead. And that’s really it was like everything was just leading up. Yeah, to giving you the confidence and know-how to make that pivot. But I think it is, it’s a good place to play and just like what would that be like? And does your heart really sing?
Jess Dewell: 18:46
And what about it is missing in your business right now? To me, if you’re any commitment to the business, there are clues in there. And so like you’re saying, there’s this, there’s this place of curiosity and reflection that we can use to find out, well, how are our values not being met, personally? How are we feeling? And maybe actually really falling short of delivering on our mission? And those are incredibly important. So now, did you make a big pivot this last time around? Do you consider Alchemy and Aim and Northstar sides to have been a big pivotal moment?
Brandi Bernoskie: 19:28
I don’t think it was a big pivot. For me, it was more just a refinement. Again, it was just it was almost like just cleaning house a little bit and saying like, Oh, you know, I thought these were all in the same house. But it turns out that they’re two different ones, because we can talk to people better that way. And even I’m in the process with a friend of mine starting a new company. And again, it kind of takes a little bit of what I do and it puts it into a new house really and what that allows us to do is, is give more attention to the whole process in a different way. And to say like, oh, but there’s also these things that we can teach people and these things that we can offer them. And we can offer them in this other more coherent way, while simultaneously creating new boundaries and expectations. And, and just kind of honestly taking some things off my plate so that I can go deeper with some clients.
Jess Dewell: 20:23
Okay, yeah. And I see you looking at this and each refinement is is a new business unit, a separate and…
Brandi Bernoskie: 20:30
Not always, but in this case, in this case, yes.
Jess Dewell: 20:33
Okay. So for this example that we’re using, I’m noticing that and I’m like, well, that’s interesting, because I’m like, I only want the right products that I can actually really do under one brand. And under one thing. So I’m curious, because I know, I might. I think it’s I think it’s 50-50 out there, right? There are a lot of people that will have a combination of that, and different businesses and different business pieces. But when they’re so similar, like what you’re talking about, we’re taking pieces of what’s happening. And we’re doing it differently over here. And we’re taking pieces of what happened and we’re talking to somebody different over here. What makes what, what’s the path that you use to decide whether or not to put it under the same umbrella or give it a different umbrella? Since they’re all in? I would say, since they’re all in the same section of the market?
Brandi Bernoskie: 21:19
Yeah, yeah, they’re all, they’re all on websites really, it comes down to. For me, it was really that I was discovering pain points in everything being under the same umbrella. Uh-huh. You know, there were, there were misplaced expectations very often, sometimes, like things that I didn’t even know. Were expectations on the client-side. And, and I think there’s also, you know, for me to someone who needs a very custom website, and there is there at a different level of business, and their pain points are different than someone who’s just getting started with their business. You know, I it’s just what, like the needs, and the, the problems that they’re facing are different. And for me, that’s kind of been the biggest shift is like, just understanding like, Who am I talking to? And it? Can I do it under one umbrella, sometimes you would just legitimately can absolutely do it everything together. But sometimes, like it makes more sense to, to take a little piece and put it elsewhere, whatever that might be.
Jess Dewell: 22:31
Does that dilute your time and your ability to focus on each one? Since each one leaves needs leadership? Each one needs strategy? How do you reconcile the thoughtfulness and the direction and the time that it takes to do each one of those?
Brandi Bernoskie: I think you have to be very, very intentional when you’ve set it up. . So I am very, very present in alchemy. My team at Northstar is very present in North Star. I am not present or star in the same capacity at all. But I provide guidance and strategy. And I lead that team. And I also you know what’s really fantastic is when you find team members who can shape the company themselves too. So that that becomes part of it is finding the right team members who can be leaders, so that they don’t need, like, they, they may need my strategic vision and guidance. But I don’t that’s not like a, you know, 40-hour per week job that’s like they’re gonna I know, they’re gonna come to me with the right questions and with, you know, ideas that we can look at together. And so it almost, it’s almost feels like more advisory at times. So you have like, you just have to set it up in the right way if I set that up, so that I had to be in both businesses simultaneously. And now in a third too, like, I would have to either clone myself, or stop, probably stop sleeping. And you know, like, yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, it’s all about that this setup from, from day one, really, for me.
Jess Dewell: 24:01
Exactly. And then and who else is around? Because I know, . The businesses that I see fail, are. So it’s great to hear you say that, because the businesses that I see fail, they haven’t done that. And usually, by the time they bring me in, it’s a little too late to save everything. So something will have to be pre-done. And so that’s interesting that you’re being intentional about it. And you know, and it sounds like then there’s the buy-in from everybody else too here’s how we all are going to show up to this. And we’re very clear on it. And sometimes we’re clear and somebody else isn’t those same problems still show up. And now we’re just talking about the people problems, which comes back to that’s when it gets easy to, to pivot. That because that typically drives by the way, that’s a shiny object syndrome, but it typically drives well. What else could we be doing? Are we in the right place? Could we be doing this? Do we make that here or there or whatever. And I think that that’s it It’s really interesting to hear you talk about that, because you know what’s in and what’s out is actually a really hard skill to learn. And to do that route. I mean, it’s ruthless Brandi. It’s not even, you know, there’s a there’s prioritization and there’s decision making, but in the end, you got to be ruthless about what’s in and what’s out around those boundaries. And I know you’ve mentioned boundaries several times through our conversation.
Brandi Bernoskie: 25:24
Yeah, I mentioned boundaries, because it’s also one of my greatest lessons, but I’m always constantly learning.
Jess Dewell: 25:29
You and me both. Yeah. Yeah. What’s the latest one for you? What’s your latest lesson around boundaries?
Brandi Bernoskie: 25:36
I really like this summer, it’s really been all about, like asking for help. Like, and, and even just kind of putting the boundary around what is the work that I do internally? Because sometimes we think of boundaries as external, like, Oh, I need to put a boundary between me and my client or, and tell them that they can’t call me at 8 pm on a Friday night. But sometimes it’s those internal boundaries to have like, I am lying to myself by saying, I have to do that I have to do this. Yes, this needs to be done. But I also have a fantastic team of people. And I can ask for help. Or even if there’s someone not on my team, maybe I can find someone who’s going to be fantastic and collaborate with me on this so that I don’t have to do that. You know, and it’s about a lot of those personal boundaries of like, and on Saturdays and Sundays, I am not going to spend all day working like I am going to take time off. So I’m doing a lot of like, internal boundary thing and just kind of calling myself out on the lies that I tell myself like, oh, it has to be me. Does it? Like, I can ask for help? It’s true.
Jess Dewell: 26:43
Right? Yeah, that’s an issue. I hear you. I hear around that they show up all the time for me to and before this. I know we were talking about your cats. And we’re talking about my kid. Thankfully, you know, we’re still not quite in school yet. So they, you know, there’s no been no running and no padding. I actually think the word romping by the way, came from kids stomping around the house. Running, running, stomping? romping is funny, and I was like, maybe I need to try that sometime. How will that help me when I’m frustrated or have pent up energy? And so to look outside, it also seems like you look outside yourself, look through books to the people around you through what you can learn from your cats. I know I use my husband and my child, in addition to my clients all the time, as the places that I learned and you said you are curious, you’re curious about a lot of things. And that’s my number one value. Personally, my personal value, my number one personal value is curious. And you know, so I’m thinking about that in relationship to the pivots that you’ve done. And the fact that you’re very intentional about what you’re doing. So tell us a little bit about your next goals. I mean, knowing that you’re intentional, knowing that you have these things, you think about what goes under the same umbrella or not. Where are you going with Alchemy and Aim and North Star and this new company that is beginning?
Brandi Bernoskie: 28:07
Yeah, so really, with Alchemy and Aim, like, that’s the most exciting for me, because we’re really looking at deepening the relationships that we have with some of our clients. And we’re actually getting into profit-sharing models with them. Because there’s always that question of like, Okay, how do I grow so I can grow by doubling my team, and doing more, you know, discrete projects on like, where I can grow in other interesting ways. And I’ve always been a relationship space person, like, it’s, it’s honestly, it’s why I love the work I do, because I get to know these incredible human beings, collaborators, clients, just team members, everyone across the board. I just, you know, love people. And I’m like, how interesting would be to take that to the next level and to support them in different ways. And, you know, just, just to look at how we, we do more together, how do we support them? Because so many of them are, you know, operating as either a solopreneur or they have a small team and like, what can me and my team do to support them even more? So that’s kind of like the little shifting that we’re doing right now and Alchemy, which feels so good. The, the new company which is called Interstellar, it’ll be called Interstellar Support, full, like did everything space with you. It’s fantastic. You were like speaking to my heart. I Well, you know, what it is, is I also have a background in physics and astronomy, astronomy, particularly. I did a my, my internship when I was doing physics was in gravitational lensing of dark matter. So I’m like, I am totally like that geek, who like looks at the universe and just is in awe. So it kind of is, oddly naturally evolved that these things are named what they are. Um, and you know, Interstellar is going to be so much fun. So my partner and I, she has a business in tech as well. And she’s always been in her business as well, like similar to me. We’ve both been in our businesses where we’re talking to clients, we’re doing some of the work on our channel. is to stay CEOs and visionaries of interstellar and to be strategic about hiring the team that’s going to lead the company, and, and drive. You know what, what it becomes and we will stay visionaries and CEOs, but it’s, it’s going to be hard for us because we’re not used to solely being that we’re used to getting our hands dirty and doing the work and so I’m excited to kind of like, explore how that works as well because I’m gonna have to boundary myself there too and say, I’ve hired great people, I trust them, you know, well, what and you know, what, what, how, what things do I need to build more trust with them maybe in time? What do they need to show me like, what do we need to do? So it kind of all feels like part of the evolution of being a business owner and an entrepreneur of just, you know, stepping sometimes from you know, that role as Doer, you know, and being behind the work and, you know, beginning to be more strategic to running a business in a different way.
Jess Dewell: 31:09
You heard it here, people. Thanks for listening to this Uncharted, Brandy is fantastic. She has some great tidbits to share. I have multi colors on my piece of paper of notes. Yes, our regular listeners know that that’s also a norm from conversation, the more colored notes I have. So Brandi, thank you for being here today. I appreciate everybody that’s listening in on this Uncharted as we are working together, facing uncertain times, by learning and sharing through the program that we have brought to you today. Until next time, go to the website Red Direction and check out some of our other podcast programs.
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