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Archive for February, 2012

The Fabric of a True Leader – My Takeaways from the Last 5+ Years

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As many of the readers of this blog know, my day job has been at a large web services company over the last few years.  Today is my final day of juggling the absolutely exhausting schedule of a demanding full-time day job and simultaneous full nights and weekend entrepreneur with KikScore.  I am very excited for that, however, the only major downside really is I now have to find another excuse for why I am 10 pounds overweight, have no time to work out, am balding and have those dark circles under my eyes!

The substance of this post and the story that provides that substance has been years in the making. In short, this post is about the lessons I learned from an undeniable true leader, my former boss (who also left the company this past November).  Therefore this is a very personal and important post for me for two reasons: 1) to provide a way of saying thanks to him and 2) to share with the broader community some of the incredible traits that I hope we all strive for in leadership positions that we are in or may be in one day.  My tribute to him will only really be complete if I can embody and carry many of these same traits to KikScore and beyond in my career and not end up like the guy from the CareerBuilder ad (great song by the way from one of my all time favorite commercials)!

Instead of a long story, the best way to convey to readers what I experienced and learned first hand is by sharing the traits that he repeatedly demonstrated in his daily work and interactions with our team, management, board of directors, third parties, employees throughout the organization and even adversaries trying to sue the company.   The traits broadly broke down into four main areas:

1) Personality;

2) Management;

3) Strategy; and

4) Interaction with Others.

Just for some important context, I saw these traits and actions of this leader over the backdrop of more than 5 years, 4 different management teams (including 4 different CEOs) and 3 different owners that included two separate private equity firms.  His approach to leadership and managing his team instilled a tremendous amount of loyalty not just with me, but throughout the entire organization and especially with his ability to successfully manage through external crisis scenarios and heavy media scrutiny.  A testament to that is over the last few years there was not one person that had the overall and nearly universal respect of the multiple management teams, middle level management and employee base as well as scores of people outside of the company (even competitors too!) and in the community that consistently and repeatedly recognized and often commented on how phenomenal of a leader and person my former boss is.  The funny thing is I honestly think there are probably more than 20 people today across many of these organizations around the world that would write this very same post I am writing about him because our experiences with him have been so similar.

So based on my last 5+ years, the fabric of a true leader can best be described the following way:

A Leader’s Personality Matters

1) Be the person that sets the example and the standard for others

2) Remain calm during a crisis and when others are in various states of panic because that calmness helps everyone make better decisions

3) Keep everything in perspective, even when going through ups and downs as a company and team

4) Stick up for those people who do not have a voice, they will repay you with loyalty and even harder work

5) Be courageous and have the conviction to present a different opinion (just make sure to back it up with data and facts)

6) Steer clear of the politics for a decision and focus instead on what is the right decision for the business

7) Take the time to laugh and enjoy the moment – laughter can often diffuse the inevitable tense meetings and events that we all experience

A Leader Helps Create and Implement a Strategy

8 Work to create an overall mission/strategy that defines the role for yourself and the people you manage

9) Remain flexible and open minded in the tasks and roadmap needed to execute on the strategy

10) Always game plan so you think two and three steps ahead of decisions/actions taken so a team can adequately anticipate possible outcomes

11) Relentlessly focus on customers and employees for the overall strategy and the decisions that are made in executing on that strategy

A Leader Manages with Common Sense

12) Know the role that you have as the leader of a team and focus on consistently delivering in that role

13) As you manage and lead your team, work to ensure that the team clearly understands the strategy and mission that is to be accomplished and their individual roles in achieving the mission

14) Ask lots of questions, but do not second guess subject matter experts by replacing their recommendations with your own gut feelings

15) Learn to deflect praise to the team and team members

16) Actively promote the careers of deserving team members even if they end up having to leave your team

17) Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more with your team

A Leader Makes a World of Difference to Others Through Their Interactions

18) Set your own high standard for interacting with others and make sure you do not get drawn into reacting to other people’s behavior and negativity

19) Avoid unnecessary escalations where you need to “go over someone’s head” and instead give people the benefit of the doubt

20) Take the extra time to remove the attitude from communication and email – the attitude almost always is counterproductive to everyone involved

21) When in doubt, have a face to face conversation instead of trying resolve items over email, that hardly works

22) Be respectful of others’ workloads even when you are much busier than they are

23) Focus on the person that is talking to you, do not multitask and look at your email when they are asking you questions or talking to you

24) Encourage learning from failure and mistakes instead of pointing fingers

I could probably go on and on, especially with more than 5 years of material but then I would lose probably even more readers than I already have with this long post.  Ultimately, a person is perceived and recognized as a leader for a number of reasons often due to their own merit or in some instances just due to association with certain people in an organization.  This post is about laying out the path to do it on your own merit because that is what I saw first hand for the last few years with my former boss. I am forever better off for being part of a team that had a one of a kind leader that taught me (and many others on our team and beyond): that leaders succeed by standing up for a core set of values, working exceptionally hard, taking care of their people, and caring deeply about customers and fellow teammates.


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Archive for February, 2012

Thanks Fox Business For Covering KikScore As Their Featured Business of the Day

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

We were really excited that our friends on Twitter nominated us to Fox Business Channel to be featured as their Business of the Day last week.  Special thanks to Kate Rogers the fantastic Fox Business Network Online, Small Business reporter that interviewed and then featured KikScore.  Here is her article: Grading Small Businesses to Close Sales.  Fox Small Business is doing a great job profiling small businesses.  Just follow the hashtag #mysbc on Twitter to see other great businesses that they are profiling and nominate your favorite ones.  We nominated a bunch last week!

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Archive for February, 2012

Is Your Small Business Using Texting to Communicate with Customers? Here Are Some Tools to Help

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Hey, have you heard of a company called Seconds? No, well neither did I until I saw that they were giving small businesses texting. Apparently no one could send or receive text messages with their local businesses before Seconds came along.  But, Seconds isn’t the only one who doing this. There’s another company called talkto which looks like it’s going to do the same thing. (It’s still in beta right now, so we’ll have to wait and see.)

The good thing about Seconds is that it is a two way system. You won’t just be getting text messages from businesses, you’ll be able to send them messages too. This is great because it saves you time. Plus, since it uses text messages, almost any phone will work with it. You don’t need to have the latest iPhone model.

Seconds stores all the data in the cloud, so things are pretty smooth and quick. Right now, they charge only a dollar per customer, so it’s good for a small business just starting out.

So what can you do with this texting service? Well besides the obvious, keeping in contact with your customers, you can handle customer service complaints. Your customers will probably be happy if they don’t have to wait and you reduce the chances of getting yelled at over the phone. Also, you can use texting to promote your business and give your texters exclusive deals.

I think that this is a good idea and that if you’re a small business owner, you should look into it and see if it’d work for you.

What are your thoughts?

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Archive for February, 2012

A Look Behind Talk Business With Howard & His Tips To Grow Your Company

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

As everyone knows I am a huge Cleveland Browns fan and I have to say I do generally dislike all things Pittsburgh (Steelers!).  But I have the constant and recurring issue in my life of getting connected to just some fantastic people from Pittsburgh.  Well it starts with my wife, Rebecca, but it goes on an on.  It is really tough for me to keep up my angst about the 3 River city when they just have such great people from there!

So I met another former Pittsburgher, Howard Lewinter from yet another Pittsburgh native Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers (and of course I met Ivana through Anita Campbell…..ah yes another Ex-Pittsburgher).  About a month ago Ivana said to me I just have to meet Howard because he is great.  You know what, Howard is just fantastic and has been tremendously helpful in providing amazing practical guidance and direction to me at KikScore, among other things.  Then I found out that Howard has launched his own new radio show called Talk Business with Howard.  It is a great hour of radio where he interviews and talks with small business thought leaders and entrepreneurs.  The nuggets coming out of the show are excellent.  We at KikScore highly recommend Howard’s show to all of the businesses, startups and the entrepreneur community.  So we are really excited to give you a look behind Talk Business with Howard and also Howard takes a few minutes to give some great guidance to all of us business owners.

1. Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

I’m a Business Management Specialist. I advise, guide and focus CEOs, presidents and business owners.  My specialty is solving business problems and business issues. Whatever is holding you back from greater profit and success. I help CEOs, presidents and business owners get to where they want to be with their business regardless of what’s happening in the economy.

2. How did you get the idea for Talk Business With Howard?

I was sitting at my desk one day thinking about how many times I had to spell my name over and over again when I would talk with people and gave them my web or email address.  Although I’d been working with CEOs, presidents and business owners since 1989, about 5 years ago on that day I was sitting at my desk I asked myself the question of: What do I do?  I answered myself: I talk about business.  That’s how the URL of my website plus blog, radio show and Facebook page became Talk Business With Howard.  Easy to remember and very descriptive as to what I do.

3. What upcoming topics are you going to cover on the radio show?

My goal is always to get people in business to really think.  The greatest asset anyone has is to be thinking clearly and to have a positive attitude.  How you think determines how successful you will be in business – or anything else. The topics covered on Talk Business With Howard, either the blog or the radio show, always relate to business success.  Topics include: Almost anything you can think of related to running a successful, profitable business.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from starting your radio show that you could pass on to others about starting a business, what are those?

First: Plan.  Be prepared.  Second: Know who you are and where you want to go.  Relax and be yourself.

5. Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

The focus is always on the need of the client.  My objective is to help CEOs, presidents and business owners breakthrough the barriers that keep them from the success they deserve.  I’ve advised business people to become millionaires; struggling companies to stabilize, turnaround and become profitable again; and I’ve advised multi-millionaires.  I help successful business people become more successful – or successful once again.

6. What do you see as 2 new trends that your guests are talking about for small business?

Several years ago everyone who ran a company wanted to talk about employee problems – how to train, motivate and have employees do the best work they possibly can; and how to grow their business. Today many businesses are talking about survival and how to best navigate through this uncertain economy.  The two topics they are most interested in are: 1) prospecting for new leads  2) closing more sales.

7. Who would be your dream guest for the radio show and why?

It’s not just one individual.   It’s any book author or business person that will help the listeners understand how to run or operate a better business with less stress and more profit.

8. What is the biggest challenge that your business and your show faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

Time.  There is no more time.  So whether someone is running their business or hosting a radio show, they have to use their time wisely.  You can buy a new car, get new clothes, go out to a fabulous restaurant, take a vacation or any other number of things; but the one thing you can’t buy is time.  You can’t get any more time.  There are only 24 hours in a day.  That’s it.  Use time wisely.

9. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Yes! Don’t think of yourselves as small business.  Think as a business that every day is gaining momentum and growing into a very nice sized business that will help bring profit to the company and provide for their family, employees and everyone they are associated with a very nice living and way of life.

10. What is your 140 letter Twitter quote of your message to small businesses out there in the form of guidance, lessons learned or just your special thought?

Don’t sit behind your desk. Get out there. Get involved. Be in action with your business.

Thanks Howard for sitting down with us.  If any of our readers have questions for Howard, please leave them in the comments section and we will work to get answers to those questions.

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Archive for February, 2012

Untapped Potential in and around the Capital: How the GWR can catch up to Silicon Valley

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

When it comes to entrepreneurial success in technology, everyone thinks of Silicon Valley. The irony here is that, in spite of its highly entrepreneurial and technology-savvy environment, the Greater Washington Region (GWR) has not been able to catch up with Silicon Valley. This issue has perplexed many people in the GWR and spurred them to try and bridge this entrepreneurial gap. However, some things are not so easy to solve, and this conundrum has many different angles to it. Luckily, Amplifier Ventures’ own Jonathan Aberman, who is also co-chair of Startup Virginia and president of FounderCorps, has developed a report on the GWR and how it fares in surpassing Silicon Valley as the center of technology entrepreneurship.

Another Way

As Aberman discusses, businesses within the GWR have tried to understand why Silicon Valley remains at the helm of technology entrepreneurship. Like most of us, these businesses have looked towards the everlasting concept: To defeat your opponent, you must become your opponent. Such thoughts have led many to consider one of two options on how the GWR can become the new Silicon Valley:

1)      We can mimic Silicon Valley’s infrastructure by fostering particular aspects of its entrepreneurial demographic such as its capital and workforce.

2)      We can adopt the cultural mentality of Silicon Valley by creating a greater sense of connection and support amongst the entrepreneurial community.

Although these are good ideas, Aberman sees fault in how the supporters of these theories are viewing the issue at hand. No two people are alike, so we can hardly expect that two separate regions can be the same. Aberman feels that we cannot look for patterns that contribute to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial success just so we can copy it. Rather, he believes we must utilize these observed patterns in a way that caters to the GWR’s own unique infrastructure and culture. This being said, Aberman proposes that the GWR’s solution to overtaking Silicon Valley lies in mergers and acquisitions.

The Hard Facts

Of course, nothing changes if a proposal has no foundation. That is why Aberman has provided a convincing series of facts regarding M&A in both the GWR and Silicon Valley. Aberman examines the Financials, Healthcare, High Technology, Industrials, Media and Entertainment, and Telecommunications industry sectors of both regions from 2007 to 2011 in order to find substantive evidence to his claim.

Across these technology-intensive sectors, two particular points stick out. First of these is the difference in the amount of each regions’ local acquisitions. Of the acquired Silicon Valley companies between 2007 and 2011, approximately 45% were bought up by local firms. On the other hand, only around 37% of GWR companies were acquired by firms in the same region. The second point that deserves attention is the diversity of acquisitions among the various sectors. Silicon Valley saw around 64% of its acquisitions in High Technology. Although this is the same sector that the GWR had the majority of its acquisitions in, it was only around 37%. This means that, despite both regions focusing on High Technology, the GWR was much more diversified amongst the sectors.

What does it Mean?

From the differences in local acquisitions and the amount of diversity across the sectors, Aberman demonstrates his opinion of the issue at hand. By experiencing almost half of its acquisitions locally, Silicon Valley is essentially recycling its own resources. Beneficial assets such as innovative ideas, patents, and knowledgeable workers are not leaving Silicon Valley, but staying together. This consolidation allows for acquiring companies to gain valuable products and services from others with the same regional mindset, ensuring that the acquisition itself will be smoother.

On the other hand, Aberman explains that Silicon Valley’s inclination towards High Technology provides yet another reason that the GWR has trouble catching up. By focusing so much more on High Technology than any other sector, entrepreneurs within Silicon Valley can quickly create startup companies, sell them, and begin again. In the GWR’s case, focusing more evenly on the various sectors means that there are less companies that are looking to acquire startups, therefore causing a slower creation and acquisition cycle.

Putting it all Together

From these two points, Aberman surmises that businesses in the GWR are not catering enough to their own region. Entrepreneurs in the GWR need to focus more on what local businesses are demanding. By doing so, the likelihood of companies being created and bought will increase and the cycle will speed up. Although such a process will take a large deal of time and effort, Aberman offers a far more feasible solution that past ideas which proposed a simple copy and paste method.

If anyone is interested in gaining a better understanding of this issue, contact info@startupva.org and request a copy of “Merger and Acquisition Trends in Silicon Valley and the Greater Washington Region: 2006 – 2011.”

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Archive for February, 2012

Top Five Tech Tools You’re Probably Not Using – but SHOULD BE: part one

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Instant Messaging

If you’re like most Small Business owners or operators “of a certain age”, your view of Instant Messaging, if you have one, may be similar to one of the following statements:

  1. Instant Messaging is for kids
  2. I have an email account – what do I need messaging for?
  3. It’s too complicated
  4. I don’t have time for that nonsense
  5. What good could this messaging stuff do for my Small Business?


I’m sure most of you reading this can relate to at least one of the statements above; the last one asks the question is, in fact, the topic of today’s post.

Business, as I’ve mentioned in the previous series, is about relationships. Relationships, in turn, are about communication. I’m sure it’s no secret that email is an essential Small Business tool — if nothing else, it has allowed Small Businesses to save on postage and shipping costs once required to provide instant communication. Where it once took a special delivery or overnight package delivery (and still took at least a day) to ship critical documents to a business partner, vendor or client, we can now attach a PDF or word processor file to an email, and the relevant party receives it almost instantly.

Thus the “instant” in instant messaging — “IM“, as it is commonly known, combines the quickness of a phone conversation with the permanence of text. This second component is not to be overlooked, or taken lightly. How many times have you spoken with someone about a previous conversation, struggling to recall an important detail that neither of you can remember now, because you weren’t recording the call or taking notes?

IM-ing is nothing but taking notes, real-time, as you engage in conversation. Even with a stenographer on hand, you would still probably miss much, and usually only capture your side of the call. With IM, the transcription IS the conversation and, in addition, you have the benefit of:

  1. Including links to relevant websites
  2. Transferring electronic documents and digital images
  3. Copy-and-pasting information from emails and existing documents
  4. Creating a “paper trail” for reference and auditing purposes


In addition to these benefits, IM helps reduce the occurrence of  “foot-in-mouth disease“: since you type your responses before you transmit them, you have a few seconds before you click “Send” to decide if you want to forward what may amount to an emotional outburst, rather than a well-chosen response.

Google and Yahoo! have standalone chat clients and clients built into their emails; Facebook and MySpace accounts have built-in chat as well. Blackberry, Android and iPhone smartphones all have apps that aggregate all your chat clients into a single location, allowing you to appear online to all your various chat partners.

In addition, there are stand-alone chat tools such as MeeboCitron and ICQ that do the same thing from your desktop. Being able to communicate with your Small Business clients, partners and vendors as quickly as a phone call, with the permanence of text, the ability to embed web links and transfer files may be a novel concept to you, but you must certainly appreciate the possibilities it presents.

Consider it from the perspective of business objectives, not just technology. The strategic business advantages should be quite obvious — if you’re getting the message.


Cornell Green is Your Solopreneur IT Expert, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for February, 2012

Leave No Business Behind: Pearls of Wisdom for Every Startup & SmallBiz

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

A few years ago we were just a couple of entrepreneurs with an idea that we felt could solve a pressing issue for small businesses.  No one really knew us and in many ways no one should have known us then since we were just starting out. Thus we had little to no street credibility.

There is a funny thing that happens as time passes (besides me longing for those care-free college days where the toughest decision was Burger King, KFC or pizza for dinner tonight?).  As the clock ticks away you gain valuable experience and insight about life, growing a startup business, the team and people around you, the market, trends, dealing with your customers and partners and for us building a product that enables small businesses to show that they are trustworthy and credible.  The experience translates into knowledge.  Therefore we continually make it a priority for our team to share with the small business community the knowledge we have gained through ups and down, good times and challenges and those inevitable growing pains all businesses must endure.  It is our way of helping the startups, small businesses and the greater community. That is frankly one of the reasons we interview our own customers so they can provide their knowledge to all of us.

So we just wanted to take the time to highlight some of our knowledge sharing we have recently done. This has been through blogs posts on some really great small business focused sites.  We, at KikScore, were very excited to be invited to provide guest posts at two fabulous and prestigious SMB focused blogs.  First is Ivana Taylor’s awesome DIY Marketers Blog.  Ivana is such a force and inspiration for small businesses (though I have to ignore she is a Steelers fan! See earlier post on my feeling toward “those fans.”).  We were truly honored to be invited to contribute to her fast growing blog. Ivana by the way has some great things launching for 2012 so please be on the look out for them.  The second is the majorly popular and growing .CO Blog called Go.CO.  Again being specifically recruited and asked to contribute to this fantastic blog has been an honor.  So we keep working hard to contribute KikScore’s thought leadership on small businesses, operating a startup, setting, creating and managing strategy and also steps to effectively market your business.

Here are links to some of the posts if you would like to check them out:

1. Are you looking for ways to use videos in your startup or small business, if so check out  5 Types of Marketing Videos Every Small Business Should Use.

2. We each face the challenge of how do we build a brand with all of the “noise” out there, here are 4 Steps to Developing a Small Business Brand.

3. Wondering how to show website visitors you are trustworthy and credible check out The Online Trust Issue – Tips to Find the Right Trust Seal for Your Small Business.

4. As we get rolling into 2012, take a step back and review these 5 Steps to Make 2012 Your Best Year for Your Business By Learning From 2011.

5. If you are looking for a path to acquiring and maintaining loyal customers here are 6 Ways to Make Better Connections with Your Customers By Paying More Attention.

6. We are living in a LinkedIn world now so make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity to use your connections with these  Steps to Use Your Professional Network to Grow Your Business.

7. A lot of small businesses and startups just want to stick their heads in the weeds and get things done, but every business needs to take a look at these Business Strategy Tips for Small Business Owners.

8. As we all look inward at our own startups and small businesses and how we manage our teams, we can use these 5 Skills & Traits Every Entrepreneur Should Nurture for Success.

9. With everything that is on our plates for our respective businesses here are some important Steps on How to Cut Distractions & Focus More On Achieving Your Business Goals.

Well we have had quite an active few months blogging on these great small business sites.  Many thanks to each of the sites for having us and we look forward to providing more guidance on a range of items in the future.

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Archive for February, 2012

A Down Under SmallBiz Story & Tips with One on the Way’s Kelly Tredwell

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Today we have the honor of sitting down with one of our new KikScore customers that signed up through our partnership with ShopifyOne on the Way’s owner, Kelly Tredwell, has a really cool and interesting business that is focused on serving the maternity wear segment.  Kelly’s entrepreneurial story takes us to Australia where her business is based, but she has customers all over the world! Beyond Kelly’s story about launching One on the Way in October 2010, she has some very good tips for small businesses and online store owners.

1. Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

One on the Way is an online maternity clothing store, specialising on providing pregnant women with fashionable maternity clothes.

2. How did you get started selling online?

I bought the business in October 2010, however, it has been trading since 2007.  By the way you can find us on here on Twitter and Facebook.

3. What inspires you to grow your business?

Being a Mum myself and knowing how hard it was to find comfortable and affordable maternity clothes in the department stores, I am excited when I have been able to provide a customer with a dress or a top or something that she loves and will comfortably wear throughout pregnancy and beyond.  I also have a passion for fashion and have plans to release my own maternity clothing label at some stage down the track.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

Maintain excellent customer service – always address orders or customer inquiries within a 24 hour turnaround time.  Be sure to research your advertising opportunities fully before committing financially.

5. Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

For me personally it’s been about learning the industry, which was all new to me once I took over the store.  A new website has been on the cards since then too so I had been focused on what I wanted to achieve from this project and with it just going “live” on 1st January 2012 I am very pleased with the results of my hard work!

6. What do you see as a new trend for small businesses and in your business?

For small business I think a trend will be focused towards excellent quality products and in my business, I think enabling customers to have a more interactive approach to shopping for clothes online would be fantastic.  We’re working on it!

7. If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Audrey Hepburn – Graceful, Elegant, Chic and Sophisticated – like our clothing!

8. What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

Competition – both here and abroad.  It’s everywhere, always a new online store opening up but that’s retail I suppose and I’m learning to not focus too much on what other stores/companies are doing.

9. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

For readers I think I would say that you don’t necessarily have to shop at the big, well known stores to get excellent products, quality service and fast turnaround times for purchases – small businesses are much more focused on achieving customer satisfaction so give us a go! For the small business community I would say keep going, keep putting in the hours and you’ll get there! Keep searching for the “difference that makes the difference” with your store.

Thanks to Kelly for sharing her story with the KikScore small business community.  Let us know if you have any questions for Kelly in our comment section below.

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