Creative Ways to Wish Your Customers a Merry Christmas!

Can you believe it, it’s almost that time of year (again)! Christmas is just around the corner which means planning starts now if you want to make the ultimate impression. As much as we get excited about the festive season and all the wonderful things that come with it, it’s important to use this time as an opportunity to show your clients just how valued they are and how much business just wouldn’t be what it is without them.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of finalising work before the New Year rolls in too. But don’t let that be an excuse to skimp on quality and design when deciding how to wish your customers a Merry Christmas. Getting creative with the right printed products offers the perfect excuse to connect with your clients. And in the leadup to the festive season, showing appreciation and spreading that holiday cheer is essential. It’s also a fantastic integrated marketing opportunity to showcase your brand in a stylish and fun way. Here are a few creative ideas to show your gratitude and wish your customers a Merry Christmas this year:

Custom Printed Postcards

Beautifully designed Christmas postcards are a fun and economical way to send some Christmas joy to your clients. They offer the ‘spreading good cheer’ aspect of Christmas giving, while reminding the people you do business with how appreciated they are. Instead of sending the generic Christmas cards to your clients, do something a little different with custom printed postcards.

Like generic cards, you still have the opportunity to add your Christmas message and incorporate smart business branding, but in a sleek single or double sided postcard package instead. These postcard designs are printed professionally and come with the added benefits of being more economical and cost-effective than generic Christmas cards. And most of all, they show your clients you’re thinking of them during the festive season.

Choose the Right Message

It’s important to word your message the right way for clients and business partners. As much as spreading the Christmas joy is great, you still want to remain professional and choose a message that reflects your brand too. Holiday wishes should be kept formal, but also express gratitude for the working relationship you share. Be mindful that not everyone celebrates Christmas either, so wishing a client ‘Happy Holidays’ as opposed to ‘Merry Christmas’ may be suitable in some cases.

Keep in mind the client or business partner you’ll be sending the message to as well. Sometimes short and sweet is best, other times a longer or more personalised message is called for. Here are a few examples to inspire you:

  • Wishing you a wonderful holiday season! We’re so glad to have you as a client and wish you all the best in the coming year.
  • As we look back upon the past year, we would like to acknowledge those who have helped shape our business. Thanks for a great year and we wish you all the best for the New Year.
  • Season’s Greeting from the team at (company name). May you have a spectacular break and New Year!
  • It’s been a great year working with you and for you. Have a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
  • Merry Christmas! We appreciate your business and look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship for many Holiday Seasons to come.

Colour Therapy Books and Notepads

Most of us are familiar with the colour therapy book craze. It doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you want to admit it or not (c’mon now, be honest!), colouring in books are VERY therapeutic. And they’re not just for kids. Why should they have all the fun, anyway! Think outside the box for this year’s Christmas and check out these colour therapy books and notepads. You have the option to customise either option with your business logo and can include a small Christmas message to your clients inside the front cover too. Colour therapy is proven to have many benefits and offers the perfect excuse for customers, business partners (and you) to disconnect for a little while.

Say Merry Christmas… On a Bottle of Wine

After all, it is the festive season! If you’ve done the generic Christmas card thing for a few years now, chances are your clients are craving something different. Tyler’s Vineyard in the Swan Valley has a pretty cool thing going on. You can purchase any of their wines which includes a FREE label making service. Get a team photo with your holiday message and have it printed on a bottle of delicious vino to show your appreciation. If you don’t have an appropriate team photo to use (and make sure if you get one, it’s professional enough), you can have your business logo with the Christmas message instead.

Regardless of which creative idea you choose to wish your clients with for Christmas, make sure you put the time and effort into ensuring the design is quality. From a printed postcard greeting to a bottle of vino, you want to make a lasting impression and connect with your clients. Which ones will you be considering for your people this year?

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Five simple ways to enhances employee engagement with your company intranet

Embracing the shift to social-media style interactions is an effective way to encourage collaboration in business. Features such as ‘likes’ ‘shares’ and comments’ have become instinctive, especially to the new wave of millennial employees.  Adopting digital communication techniques in the workplace can enhance employee engagement and productivity due to the familiarity and simplicity of the interactions.

Digital interactions at work are not a new idea. Intranet systems to support internal collaborations have been around for years, however, older systems were clunky and difficult to navigate, due to the heavy design influence from the desktop experience. In addition the idea of a platform such as an intranet for business being used in a similar way to how Facebook or Twitter is used today is not something that would have ever occurred to anyone. The substantial cost of the hardware, maintenance and technical updates made intranet systems unfeasible for small and upcoming businesses, due to the financial strain.

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5 Ideas To Boost Your Motivation

Do you find yourself struggling to accomplish goals and tasks on a constant basis? Even the simplest actions can send anyone into their rebellious, lazy minds sometimes. Though, there are ways around this, and there is always room for improvement.

 

Inspiration

We can all forget the things we are inspired by. When we neglect to remember, motivation can float away with that faint inspiration. Try recalling the things which originally inspired you to be where you are, in whatever category necessary. When you constantly supplement yourself with inspiring material, you feel like getting more accomplished to reach aspired goals.

One of the best ways to gain an exciting new perspective if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut is getting in touch with a small business executive coach.

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How to Write a Killer LinkedIn Profile

by: Rebecca Gutierrez, Director of Marketing, OBMI

Let’s face it, it’s a noisy digital world out there and standing above the crowd is difficult and time-consuming! LinkedIn has recently launched their newly designed profile pages for both companies and individuals which can help your profile stand out amongst the clutter. Although initially in beta nearly every profile has now been updated. There are some big changes to the updates and make a great profile even more important. Below are some tips on how to create a killer profile.

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10 Things that make you less productive at work

The main thing that matters at work is your productivity. If you’re less productive at work, not only you would face the wrath of your clients or manager but also you would ruin your personal and professional life. And I certainly don’t want that and that’s why I thought of sharing 10 things that help me to be productive at work and get more done in less time.

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Why modern businesses are caring more and more about mental health

Many businesses are beginning to sponsor employee mental health programs. This can assist you to attain better human brain health. A fantastic support system is necessary to get from the challenging instances in living and it will help you undertake a much far better outlook on your own life. Modern tech makes this a more accessible option as services like online therapy and counselling are widely available

 

Your brain health is a critical part of leading a healthy lifestyle. There are numerous things that will affect mental health and there are a few ways you could combat these problems. When you give attention to your brain and be sure that this it is in the finest shape possible, it can assist you to in ways.

 

Everyone needs to be mentally healthy. When you are mentally healthy you’ll be able to maintain your stress more easily. Stress is responsible of so many health issues. Keeping anxiety levels in the healthy range is vital for a full bill of health. Finding some approaches to nurture your brain health will be imperative to living a long and top quality life.

 

There are numerous tests for your physical physique and these kinds of tests can explain to you if your cholesterol range or blood pressure is high. It is significantly more challenging to determine brain’s well being. This causes it to be more challenging to check for almost any mental problems in the person.

 

You may very well not have any definable emotional condition and so you are usually deemed emotionally healthy. There is not any real classification of just what a mentally healthy person looks like which can be frustrating. There are usually many factors that will affect mental health and the human brain health.

 

You may need counselling to really examine your mental health, this will be when you’ll be able to find the appropriate ways to begin to work on any issues you have.

 

A human brain injury can make a difference brain health and this can be an area in which someone can benefit tremendously from the usage of memory workout. This can assist you with virtually any motor handle problems and in addition can assist you to become a lot more independent.

 

Mental health is a critical aspect inside in anyone’s life. If the human brain health just isn’t where you want it, many business are now the ones who look to help. Studies show how much productivity is lost to mental health issues and it is in their best interest to invest in healthy minds for their employees.

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What employees want

Do we really know what an employee wants from their job? According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the Gallop Organisation, they want many things. Gallop asked 80,000 managers and more than a million employees about the things that are important to them at work and distilled the answers to 12 requirements of a great workplace. Employees generally want the same things out of their workplace, which means they face some common issues at work.

Sales and negotiating expert, Mike Schoettler of Sales Sense, says the findings are a good reminder about the investment we’re prepared to make in our own people. He takes us through the 12 questions asked in the survey. Both the questions and answers give you some good food for thought about your staff.

What’s expected from me at work?
It sounds basic, but in truth it’s easily overlooked.
You probably know someone who’s always busy and says they’re constantly being told what to do, but they don’t really have a clear picture of what it is they’re supposed to be doing. This has happened to most people at some stage or another.

Do we have the materials and equipment we need to do our work properly?
Employing people means you have to start at the basics first. If people really don’t know what’s expected of them, and don’t have the tools to get it right, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be really happy and satisfied trying to do this. These first two questions formed the foundation of the survey.

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
They use strong, extreme language in these questions so that the people answering the questions have to answer specifically. The Gallop survey has a one to five rating. To get a five is really an outstanding result – they didn’t expect to see a lot of fives. Of course, they got them in some groups.

Most of us have the ability to think back to different positions we’ve had, different organisations we’ve belonged to, where you would say you were really keen to go there and it was really exciting to show up and you probably felt like you could do your best every day.

Have I received recognition or praise for good work in the last seven days?
See how precise that is? In the last seven days. We like to think that we’re in a good environment and it would be easy enough to say that we do get to hear about the things we do well and people do mention it, sometimes publicly, sometimes not.

When you specifically say in the last seven days, as you can imagine it separates the groups that have the atmosphere of receiving praise from the ones who really do. There are not a lot of people who would actually say they really received recognition or praise for their good work within the last seven days.

Does someone at work care about me as a person?
Generally, people talk about joining a company and having a real opportunity to get involved in an exciting industry, or doing something for a company that’s really moving ahead. But typically if you talk to people when they’re leaving an organisation and going elsewhere, they say they’re not really leaving the company. Frequently, they’re leaving the person who they work for.

So the common expression is, “we join companies and leave managers” and that fifth question in the survey – “Does he/she care about me?” – indicates it is not a question of whether you are getting correction or praise, it’s a question of whether or not you think they are really involved in your result.

Is someone encouraging my development?
This is a similar question to the last, but it’s not necessarily referring to your supervisor. Historically, we used to have personnel departments that were supposed to help people in their developments and we had senior supervisors who were supposed to come around with certain training opportunities.

Now, we’re not sure who the person might be, but we just want to know if there is somebody there, a mentor, if no-one else, who’s actually taking an interest in our development. That’s part of being really happy and feeling like you have an opportunity.

In the last six months has someone at work talked with me about my progress?
This reminds me of a joke I heard once. A fellow slipped into a bar and used the pay phone to ask if there were any openings in a company and he hung up. The bartender said to him, “Were you looking for a job?” and he says, “no, I just wanted to find out what they thought about my work”.

All too often we have to go out of our way to find out whether or not things that we are doing, our opinions, our views, anything we’re working on, actually seems to matter to the people around us because they don’t incorporate it, they don’t seem to respond officially. We are just lacking feedback and some people will go to those extremes of asking other people to find out.

Do my opinions count?
If you don’t believe that you have a say, you’re being deprived of that sense of belonging that most of us want. You don’t have to be the decision maker, but if somebody will at least believe that you are worth listening to, they can lift your view of yourself.

If they start behaving as if they don’t care what your opinion is, it can work the other way very quickly, too. You have to feel sorry for people who work in that environment and you certainly understand why their retention rates are low.

The mission purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
When we talk about the importance of a vision or values for the company, we’re talking about the part that says what we’re doing is actually worthwhile. If you don’t feel like you are producing something, it’s hard to believe in what you’re doing.

There’s a stage in life where we are not actually working for the money – most people have a desire to feel like that what they are doing actually is worthwhile.

Are my fellow employees committed to doing quality work?
It’s tough to work in an environment where other people are trying to slow you down or discourage you. We’ve all heard stories where people come back and say, “The people around me don’t want me working so fast, or doing this so well”. That can really sap your spirit.

The reality is most of us want to have a group around us that encourages us to lift our game and even when we have been there a while there’s always something we can learn from people around us and we’re hoping it’s something positive. The question is sure. It’s there to specifically identify those situations where even with a great leader, the team around you can pull you down.

Do I have a best friend at work?
Some people actually seem to show up at work and don’t get involved. If you do get involved, you’re bound to have relationships. You’re going to develop some friendships. You work there for a while, certainly a new person probably would say, “No, I don’t have a best friend”. Someone who’s been there for a while should say they do.

In the last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grow at work?
This is extremely important because it has a total effect on each individual’s self development. Not talking to people and not developing isn’t good for the business. It isn’t good for any of the measurements we talked about.

The fact that a survey of this size was run shows in itself how important it is to be mindful of how your employees are thinking and acting. As Mike Schoettler says, “We need to be reminded of the investment we make when we take on staff and we need to look after that investment”.

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The right mix

How can I attract and retain good staff?
The success of your business is a function of many things but two important ones are having a great business plan and your staff. Like most small businesses you probably don’t have the luxury of a dedicated human resources (HR) person.

The business owner usually takes on this role. If that’s the case in your business, then develop a HR policy and procedures manual so you can effectively align your business goals and objectives and communicate them to your staff. This is all part of developing systems in your business. If something’s not on paper then, as the saying goes, it’s not on the planet.

Do you have written procedures when it comes to staff? A manual will provide clear guidelines that will comply with legal requirements and empower your staff to maximise their contribution to your business. They should be handed a manual when they start working with you – and sign a document to say that they have read it.

It can cover a vast range of topics depending on the size and nature of your business — even if you have only one employee.

We have a few pages written down. Are you saying we need to develop a proper system?
Having a few pages is a start but once you start to have people in the business other than you or your partner you can run into trouble if you don’t have a formal manual that clearly outlines the practices and procedures of your business as well as a comprehensive job description for your employee.

You see, as a small business owner you’re used to juggling tasks, but you can’t expect staff to be that dexterous. A proper job description, for example, let’s them focus on what you employed them to do!

I have mostly family working for me – do I need a recruitment strategy?
So often, the employment decision is made without following a structured process. The potential new employee might be a relative, a friend or come recommended- but does that make them suitable for the position? Will they be able to perform the tasks? Sure, it can be a quick solution but it also may not work out in the long term – an expensive exercise.

To be effective, recruitment must be planned and structured. If you haven’t developed a job description, you need to be absolutely clear what you’ll require the person to do. How can anyone give their best performance if they don’t know what they’re expected to do?

Most employees who leave a job within six months state that the job did not meet their expectations! This is a direct reflection on the recruitment process!

So it’s all about hiring right?
Getting the right staff is one thing. The next thing is to keep them and keep them trained so they add value to your business.

How do you do that?
You have to reward them! Your employees need to know that they are a valued member of your business and contribute to its success.

A lot of people say that they prefer working in small businesses because they feel more like a real person than just a number. See this as a real plus for your business and make sure that you take advantage of this – get to know what makes them tick. Make sure that you know what motivates them. Seek their suggestions on how to make your business better.

How can I understand my team better?
Anne Bartlett-Bragg, a HR consultant who not only provides professional development service and training to small business, she is also a university lecturer in human resources.

She believes that to understand a team better you could consider using a team performance profile and she recommends the Kolbe Systems. She says that by using the Kolbe tools:
o Team ineffectiveness can be diagnosed
o Strategies can be developed to enhance both individual and team performance
o You can work towards appreciating the diversity of others and how to avoid procrastination and inertia by understanding the instinctive drivers of each employee.

How often do you review or assess your staff performance?
Bartlett-Bragg says that performance and appraisal should link closely to the job description and done at least once a year and that ongoing underperformance can cost your business a lot in time and productivity.

She says that you can buy off-the-shelf performance appraisal products which are good but if you find them too cumbersome then you need to modify them and use their framework rather than the full process.

What minimum training should a business owner provide for staff?
Give all employees the opportunity to perform their roles to the best of their abilities, and with sufficient guidance and training.

Bartlett-Bragg says you should categorise training into these groups:

1. Induction training
Do you remember your first day on a job? How did you feel? Nervous, excited, apprehensive, terrified? New employees are likely to feel all these emotions and more – at once!
Ask yourself, what do you do to make them feel welcome and a valued member of your team?

Bartlett-Bragg worked with a small organisation that wanted to improve their induction process. She considered the essential issues that have to be addressed when you start a new job – payroll, paperwork, contracts, forms, all types of administrative issues. Then she asked why did we have to do that on the first day – what message was that sending the employee about the company? Not the one we wanted to portray!

So her company designed a kit and sent it to them before they commenced work – all the paperwork was clearly numbered and explained – the new employee had to do hand it in on arrival.
Then she went a step further – she wanted to get them excited about the company.

She brainstormed with the existing team members things they would have liked to have known about the company before they started. That information was then collated in a fun way and included in a separate kit – ‘Stuff you might like to know’ – it included public transport information, car park locations and rates, best places to eat (or not in this case – so bring your own), locations of major banks, favourite Friday night pubs (chosen by the team) and so on!

How would you feel receiving a pack like that in the mail, before you start your new job? The feedback has been tremendous – the new employees are already starting to feel like a valued team member BEFORE they arrive on day one!

She says that structured induction training involves planning – ensuring that someone is allocated and responsible for looking after the new employee – for at least the first month. She advises that you:
o Don’t cram it all into day one – they won’t be able to remember a thing!
o Introduce them to the rest of the team informally – have a morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea – use name tags. Ask each team member to explain (briefly) what they do and why the new employee would need to deal with them. Sometimes, one of the hardest things in a new job is working out who to ask!
o Check in with your new employee regularly and informally for the first week. Show some genuine interest and encourage their feedback.

2. Technical skills required to perform the job
Consider what technical skills are required and to what level that skill must be performed. For example, if the role requires basic knowledge of Excel spreadsheets, there is very little value sending someone to an advanced Excel course.

3. Soft skills to enhance their job and overall business effectiveness.
This is your area of greatest competitive advantage! If customer service is going to be your major focus it’s your responsibility to ensure your staff have the necessary skills to deliver that!

Consider all types of communication skills training and development sessions, customer service sessions, sales skills, negotiation skills, team building, etc.

4. Other – including updating skills and knowledge, further interests outside their role
Small and large businesses often ignore training. When was the last time staff were given the opportunity to update and further develop their technical skills – what extra efficiency and productivity might this provide the business?

What other areas are staff interested in? Again, supporting your performance management strategies with training and learning opportunities beyond the scope of their current job is a great motivator!

Where are affordable courses?
Some businesses attend Train the Trainer courses and complete qualifications like the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training to provide them with the ability to design and deliver effective training sessions themselves, and give them the knowledge to better understand and evaluate what external course providers are offering.

Why not consider some kind of strategic alliance with other businesses in your local area? The buying power of a small group is often a more economical alternative than sending an individual to external courses.

Tafe colleges, short courses offered by universities, and Continuing Adult Education organisations are also options worth considering.

Bartlett Bragg says to give your employees a statement about your vision/mission and objectives is crucial for your staff to understand what you’re trying to achieve. How can people contribute to your success if they’re unsure what you’re striving for?

She says to also provide them with a statement about safety at work that outlines your obligations and the responsibilities they have to maintain their working environment and/or report any accidents. She also says to include a statement outlining your adherence to your legal obligations to provide a workplace free of discriminatory practices and encourages diversity will clearly outline your position on these matters.

Don’t just put it together on paper, share your policies and procedures manual with your staff so they understand your intentions and expectations about the important issues.

And finally – your staff are such a valuable asset to your business – enjoy them, develop them, and treat them how you would like to be treated yourself!

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Family feud

Remember this: you should run a family business like a business – not like a family where there’s a place for all those family emotions that knit people together. I read something recently that was so spot on – family businesses often take the family to work and bring the business home.

Too often, too much emotion comes into play in a family business and this can ruin the business and put stress on family relationships. It’s important to have business meetings, but they should be run according to the rules of any meeting.

Here are some tips:
o It is important to start a meeting on time
o Issue an agenda in order to make sure that everyone is prepared for the meeting
o Send the agenda to all family and non-family members before the meeting and ask if they want any items added to it for discussion
o If anyone can’t attend the meeting, ask them to send an apology
o Conduct the meeting in an orderly fashion. Have one person chair the meeting so that this person keeps control of the flow
o Focus on the objectives of the meeting. If any issue can’t be resolved make sure a person is appointed to follow up and seek a solution
o End the meeting on a positive note. Seek to have any business issues between family members worked out as quickly as possible after the meeting. If you find that squabbling occurs every meeting it might be wise to bring in a facilitator – an independent person who can assist in cutting out the conflict
o Send out minutes of the meeting to all who attended
o If there’s continuous tension, seriously consider employing a third party to help resolve any ‘burning’ issues.

Objective eyes
Many family businesses hate seeking outside advice or using consultants and would rather struggle on with each meeting more like a battle ground. They like to keep things in the family.

A family business usually has good lawyers and accountants but they only let them get involved in the business as the need for their services arises – tax time, renewal of a lease, etc.

What happens is that family members get to a point where they’re so stressed about the business, that they don’t know where to turn.

There will often be a major turning point for one of the family members, who wants change and is prepared to do what it takes to make it happen. Sometimes it can be a spouse who’s fed up and threatens to walk out, or sometimes one of the family members gets sick – both situations necessitate change.

So how does change occur? Unravelling the issues between family members can be so complex and quite often a dispute that happens in the present can be traced back to some issue that happened way back between siblings or close relatives.

Experts in dispute resolution can help unravel some of these issues and then the family business can move on once they recognise that this conflict is negatively impacting on the family and the business.

I remember the late Jason Lea of the chocolate success story Darrell Lea. Jason was a major force behind Family Business Australia. He told me once that squabbles in his family were constant.

At one time they went public and outsiders were brought in, but every meeting was still a major fight and eventually the family decided that if they were going to fight with strangers they may as well buy back the company and just stick to fighting with family members!

Maybe a different strategy could have prevented this heartache …

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For better or worse

Employees taking employers for a ride are costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and experts warn an increasing part of the cost is linked to would-be employees falsifying qualifications and other credentials.

“It’s an untapped and hard-to-measure problem,” says Dr Russell Smith, principal criminologist with the Australian Institute of Criminology. “It’s a global problem, where we are seeing the likes of CEOs include false information, such as degrees, to get top jobs.”

According to KPMG Forensic’s 2006 Fraud Survey, corporate fraud cost $154.9m to businesses in Australia and New Zealand during the period April 2004 to January 2006. But the big worry for employers is the revelation that 54% of corporate fraud is internal and approximately 61% of such cases are reported to the police.

Dr Smith says there is a history of unreported fraudsters re-offending.

Sally Mooney, of a Sydney-based company which runs extensive checks on potential recruits for employers, warns that there is a lot of deception by employees in the workplace.

“We conducted a survey of 1000 applicants who had been short-listed for a job and found 21% had been falsifying information,” she says.

“A common area was for applicants to leave out a job that might not have been a positive experience from their employment details.”

Identity fraud, which involves an employee ‘massaging’ employment records or personal achievement data, is on the rise. Some hopeful employees add a degree, or two, leave out a criminal record, or convert a divorce into a very happy family.

Deception could be as ‘innocent’ as losing a year, or 10, off one’s real age.

Not too long ago the analytics website caslon.com.au suggested that there are about 500,000 false tertiary degrees in the US, including 10,000 dodgy medical degrees. The US Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as nine million people have their identities stolen each year.

The Australian Institute of Criminology believes the overall cost of fraud in Australia is some $5bn a year.

Dr Smith says the rush to employ means that many employers leave themselves open to costly mistakes. “The pressure to get an employee through recruitment means references are not checked thoroughly.”

Drake Consulting research says it could cost an employer 30-200% of an employee’s salary to replace someone hired on the basis of deception or fraud. That means someone on $56,000 could cost the boss between $16,800 and $112,000 to simply get it right.

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