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Pitching & Business Tips

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Crafting Your Message

Here are the key elements of an effective message:

Title – You need a title so colleagues can mentally categorize you. Emphasize your specialty. You’re not just a lawyer. You’re an attorney specializing in Elder Law.
Target Market – What kind of people do you help? CEO’s of mid-sized companies? IT directors of Fortune 1000 companies? Women going through a divorce? Be as specific as you can.
Pain – What problem do you solve or what opportunity do you help exploit?
Results – What happens as a result of your work? Remember, there are three things – and three things only – that motivate business people: time, money, and risk. Explain how you help clients make more money (lower costs, more revenue), save time, or reduce risk.
Services – Describe what you do and how you do it.

Here are 7 tricks for managing your legal expenses….

1. Make sure your dog can understand your question. Yes, make sure you know what you are asking. If you need to ask your attorney to help you figure out how to interpret your question, you will likely end up with a large legal bill. And while some people like large things, i guarantee this is not one of them. Go big on your house instead. Make sure your question is already thought through to the point where you are actually asking a question, not asking for a monologue.

2. Use your advisors. Almost anyone is cheaper than your attorneys and no one else bills by the second (okay minute). Ask your advisors, friends, colleagues, accountants and fellow founders your questions first. Make sure you get as far along with an answer that you understand your question (see above). Maybe you’ll even get your answer. Then ‘double check’ with your attorneys. Asking a yes/no questions takes 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. Considering you’re being billed in 6 minute increments, thats a giant savings!

3. Negotiate flat fees. Most attorneys will negotiate fee caps or flat fees for work. Do this. It is RARELY a time when your bill comes in under your cap. It happened to be once, yes once, ever. But i was lucky, my attorney was a friend and hooked me up as a favor (one i didn’t ask for btw and much appreciate)

4. Do first drafts. Ask friends for sample docs and do your first draft yourself. This does a few things. One it allows you to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Two the hard legal work is drafting. Reviewing is a lot simpler.

5. Ask specific questions. The best thing you can do with your attorneys is ask them a specific question. Don’t ask for a detailed written answer, unless absolutely necessary. Do your homework and ask for a specific answer. Repeat. Be specific.

6. Only do legal work when you absolutely need to. You don’t need a 10 page contract for your first customer in beta. Borrow one or do as simple email agreement. Spending $10k in legal work for a free trial, generally not a great idea.

7. Watch the clock. After you get your first bill, read the details. Understand where you’re spending legal time and optimize. It adds up fast and at $500+ an hour, it eats away your precious capital. Preserve capital. Keep it in the bYou need to understand your target customers, offer them something that is unique and valuable, have a good way of marketing your offering, and have a good economic model, you are going to either limp along or fail.

As a startup there is so much opportunity out there that if you just focus on what is in front of you, your company will do fine. But focusing on what is in front of you means not focusing on what is going on around you. You need to put blinders on and execute. Do not let what is going on around you whipsaw your strategy and your team.
I am definately not suggesting that you should put your head in the sand. It is critical to know what is going on in your market and your competition. But it is equally critical to have a strategy that makes sense in the context of what is going on and execute it with purpose and pace. If you spend too much time looking over your shoulder and that is not good for your business

BIGGEST ERROR (BY A MILE)
Nowhere in the average ES or BP does the entrepreneur bother to explain how much money an investor can make in this venture.
Further, I’m always amazed when I ask the BP author why anyone might consider writing a check to their company. I get answers ranging from total silence to “it’s such a great product” to “we really need the money” to “it’s an ideal extension for Facebook and everyone knows how successful they’ve been”.

There’s only one reason that anyone not directly related to you might invest: “To Make Money” – and preferably a ton of it. ROI and profits are everything!!
If you don’t know this and avoid banging away at the potential ROI throughout your documents, you might as well stop work and instead begin writing “a great, successful book” and try competing with the Dan Brown’s, Stephen King’s and Hemingway’s of our world.

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1. Best thing is to either never need to raise money or to raise money after you have a product, users, or customers. Also helps a lot if you’ve started a successful business before or came from a senior position at a successful company.

2. Assuming that’s not the case, it is very difficult to raise money, even when people (e.g. press) are saying it’s easy and “everyone is getting funded.”

3. Fundraising is an extremely momentum-based process. Hardest part is getting “anchor” investors. These are people or institutions who commit significant capital (>$100K) and are respected in the tech community or in the specific industry you are going after (e.g. successful fashion people investing in a fashion-related startup).

4. Investors like to wait (“flip another card over”) while you want to hurry. Lots of investors like to wait until other investors they respect commit. Hence a sort of Catch-22. As Paul Graham says:

By far the biggest influence on investors’ opinions of a startup is the opinion of other investors. There are very, very few who simply decide for themselves. Any startup founder can tell you the most common question they hear from investors is not about the founders or the product, but “who else is investing?”

5. Network like crazy:

Make sure you have good Google results (this is your first impression in tech). Have a good bio page (on your blog, linkedin and about.me) and blog/tweet to get Google juice.
Get involved in your local tech community. Join meetups. Help organize events. Become a hub in the local tech social graph.
Meet every entrepreneur and investor you can. Entrepreneurs tend to be more accessible & sympathetic and can often make warm intros to investors.
Avoid anyone who asks you to pay for intros (even indirectly like committing to a law firm in exchange for intros).
Don’t be afraid to (politely) overreach and get rejected.
6. Get smart on the industry:

Read TechCrunch, Business Insider, GigaOm, Techmeme, HackerNews, Fred Wilson’s blog, Mark Suster’s blog, etc (and go back and read the archives). Follow investor/startup people on Twitter (Sulia has some good lists to get you started here and here).
Research every investor and entrepreneur extensively before you meet them. Entrepreneurs love it when you’ve used their product and give them constructive feedback. It’s like bringing a new parent a kid’s toy. Investors like it when you are smart about their portfolio and interests.
6. How much to raise? Enough to hit an accretive milestone plus some buffer. (more)

7. What terms should you look for? Here are ideal terms. You need to understand all these terms and also the difference between convertible notes and equity. More generally, it’s a good idea to spend a few days getting smart about startup-related law – this is a good book to start with.

8. Types of capital: strategic angels (industry experts), non-strategic angels (not industry experts, not tech investors), tech angels, seed funds, VCs.

VCs can be less valuation sensitive and have deep pockets but are sometimes buying options so come with some risks (more).
Industry experts can be really nice complements to tech investors (especially in b2b companies). (more)
Non-strategic angels (rich people with no relevant expertise) might not help as much but might be more patient and ok with “lifestyle businesses.”
Tech angels and seed funds tend to be most valuation sensitive but can sometimes make up for it by helping in later financing rounds.
9. Pitching:

Have a short slide deck, not a business plan. (more)
Pitch yourself first, idea second. (more)
Pitch the upside, not the mean (more)
Size markets using narratives, not numbers (more)
10. Cofounders: they are good if for no other reason than moral support. Find ones that complement you. Decide on responsibilities, equity split etc early and document it. (Legal documents don’t hurt friendships – they preserve them).

11. Incubators like YC and Techstars can be great. 99% of the people I know who participated in them say it was worth it.

12. To investors, the sexiest word in the English language is “oversubscribed.” Sometimes it makes tactical sense to start out raising a smaller round than you actually want end up with. 6 Keys to Lead Generation Success
by Mike Schultz and John Doerr

Call 860-350-4440 to become a client and to find out specials available
Last week we were teaching a client of ours and 100 or so of the folks on their consulting team about prospecting.

It was really quiet. And this group isn’t usually so quiet.

It finally livened up when one guy—a very experienced consultant and leader at the firm— said:

“It ain’t you guys. It’s us. Speaking for myself, I’m great at what I do. But when it’s time to pick up the phone—or do whatever I’m supposed to do to bring in leads—I need a medic alert because I
feel like that old dude.

“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

Everyone else started to nod in agreement, “Me too…me too…”

If you’re there on the floor with them, looking around for that button, let us break it down for you to its most simple steps.

First off, let’s take a page from direct marketing and its age-old formula referred to as AIDA. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Think of prospecting as the process of creating attention and interest—enough interest to win a conversation to explore the subject area more deeply.

The goal of prospecting is to create interest and convert that interest into a conversation.

Note that we didn’t say that the goal of prospecting is to find someone currently looking to purchase your particular services. For most, this is not what you want to do because it doesn’t work often enough.

When prospecting you will find people who are already in the Desire Phase (someone interested in solving a particular problem or purchasing a known type of service) or the Action Phase (someone already in the process of searching for a solution to the problem). But if your approach is only to look for these people, then you’re in for a number of rude awakenings:

Find someone who is already looking to buy, and they likely have a front-runner in mind. This front-runner is not you.
If you don’t sell a commodity, it’s likely that the buyer isn’t considering buying what you offer because he doesn’t know much (if anything) about it, let alone how it works and why it’s worthwhile.
Find someone who has the desire to solve a problem and hasn’t yet started looking into how to do it, and you’re in luck! But finding these people will be like finding the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack.
If you are the one who can capture Attention and stimulate Interest and Desire, you will be the front-runner, you will shape the prospect’s understanding of the importance of solving a particular problem, and you will be in the position to persuade them into Action.

If you really want to be a successful prospector and fill your pipeline with leads, here are the six keys to lead generation success:

1. Targeting

The foundation that underpins sales prospecting success is the strength of your list and the precision of your targeting. Consultants often call too low in the organization and try to start a groundswell by working their way up. Reach high to the decision makers. Make sure your list is clean and ready to go before you start, or you’ll find that your day is lost in fits and starts.

2. Value in Every Touch

When you sell, no one wants to hear your capability pitch, your history, or your life story right off the bat. They’re looking to find out how their lives can be enriched by working with you.

When you think about providing value, don’t just think about the value you will eventually provide when they buy from you. Think about the value they’ll get just from speaking with you. Eventually you’ll sell your company, your offering, and yourself. At first, sell the idea that the prospects’ time will be well-spent if they elect to speak with you.

3. The Right Offer

Your ultimate offer might be a particular type of assessment, operations plan, or marketing tactic. But the interim offers—the offers you make and they accept before they buy from you—must be crafted with the utmost care.

4. No Tricks

Plenty of business success awaits you with your high-integrity approach. There is no need to use tricks, bend the truth, or cut corners to generate an initial conversation. Leave out anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling your children about when you tuck them in bed at night.

5. Multiple Touches

It takes more attempts than most people think to get through to top prospects. It can often take seven, eight, nine, or more touches to get through to someone. That number goes up and down—across different industries and when you reach out to different titles. What’s always true, though, is that it takes more attempts to get through to your targets than you think.

6. Variety of Touches

Cold calling works well alone, but it works even better with mail (yes, we are talking snail mail here) and e-mail touches. Use a variety of touches to reach out and warm up your prospects. And make sure each touch has value in and of itself (see #2).

Adhere to these six keys, and you’ll be well on your way to lead generation success. At the very least, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the consultants out there who will not prospect at all.

What are your guidelines for a qualified prospect?
“They are breathing – mostly”.
We hear this from many salespeople. They spend their days talking to prospects who will take all their information and use it – without ever buying anything. Not everyone deserves to spend time with you.

So how can companies and organizations protect themselves from such activities? “Businesses and organizations can mitigate much external risk through proper network design. For less than $500, even a small not-for-profit can install a decent firewall that provides adequate protection and functionality for their daily IT activities. Larger businesses or those dealing with more sensitive information, personally identifying or relating to children, must take additional precautions,” explains Sedlack. He suggests businesses do the following to stay protected:

■Check existing firewall support.
Monitored firewalls are important, but proper infrastructure design is paramount. Publicly exposed data, for most sites, should be static enough to monitor and report changed, authorized, and unauthorized access. Back-end processes should be regularly monitored and any database activities must conform to current standards. Open ports should be limited to real productivity and expressly block open web browsing.
■Conduct an infrastructure assessment.
An infrastructure assessment should include internal and external penetration testing that covers existing requirements and anticipated changes for the coming year.
■Review information security policies.
Information security policies should include procedures for technical issues, reporting chains for real or perceived intrusions, and most importantly, support for any security-driven action by the entire management chain, including tail-gating, open-desk policies, games, or social networking.
■Conduct perception analysis throughout organizational levels.
“If employees are either ignored or chastised for reporting seemingly perfunctory information security incidents, even the most expensive and extensive technical solution will fail,” says Sedlack. “Each organizational group should perceive information as important and understand what it means to the business and its clients.”

Know when to move on:
Know your steps: Qualify, Close, Present – in that order. Why solve the prospect’s problem before they decide to buy?
No TIO’s: “I want to think it over” is the signal that you lost the sale. It could be true – but usually means that the prospect doesn’t trust you, doesn’t like you, or isn’t the decision maker.
Up-Front Contract: What is the Purpose, Agenda, Logistics, and Outcomes expected from your meeting. BE CLEAR – if your acceptable outcome is a contract and a check – tell the prospect that up front – nurturingly. If they say no – then you won’t be upset.
Good for your head: Closing a file clears your head of all the prospects clogging up your sales pipeline. The strength of your conviction is in direct proportion to the size of your prospect box. If you have ten prospects waiting to give you business – it will feel Ok to close a file or two.
Close the file phone call: Sounds like a voice mail, “Bob – I get the feeling that you have gone in a different direction on this project and we are not part of it. I will close your file – could you call me back and leave word on my voice mail that it is Ok to close the file?” If you are just on a back burner – this will provide you with a positive response.
Understanding a clear future: “Let’s pretend” “Let’s pretend we do a demo of our program and it is the best you have ever seen – what happens then?” Drill down on the answer and be sure.
The most important thing to remember is:
Some will, some won’t, so what, who’s next!
If you haven’t closed the deal – it’s time to move on.

Planning for the future is an essential piece to the survival of your business. At the beginning of each year, you should have a sense of where money is going to come in from and where you’re going to spend it. To this end, putting together an annual budget can help you determine whether you have enough money to fund operations, expand the business and generate income. The annual budget process can be an onerous task so here are 12 tools to keep it efficient.

1. Revenue Projection Model
A good place to start the budgeting process is with the Revenue Projection Model. It is used to forecast business revenues under different conditions. Your budget should reflect the anticipated dollar value of sales and services. The Revenue Projection Model provides a comprehensive Excel forecasting tool that analyzes and manipulates the price, quantity, and percentage increase to give different possible outcomes. You can customize this tool to meet your company’s needs.

2. Sales Forecasting Guide
If you have several revenue streams, your budget should include anticipated income from each of them. Categorizing each stream allows you to identify which parts of your business are profitable and which are not. If your business is a start-up, you may not be familiar with creating a sales forecast. This customizable PowerPointpresentation can help educate you and your managers on the process.

3. Sales Forecasting Model
As the saying goes, those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. The Sales Forecasting Model is a form used by companies to predict future sales based on past sales performance and an analysis of expected market conditions. The Sales Forecasting Model is used to organize data that will be used to analyze future sales.

4. Sales Plan Template
Once you have a sales forecast in place you can use the Sales Plan Template to implement the forecast. The Sales Plan Template is a comprehensive template used by salespersons and organizations for creating a sales plan. The Sales Plan Template includes descriptions for the necessary sections: sales targets, market potential, sales strategy, execution details, budget, sales force compensation, sales force training and a time-line for execution.

5. Capital Budgeting Analysis with Excel Model
The capital budget helps you figure out how much money you need to put in place new equipment or procedures to launch new products or increase production or services. This budget estimates the value of capital purchases your business needs to grow and increase revenues. If your business involves jobs or projects, budgeting will probably include aspects of both product and service revenue budgeting. The Capital Budgeting Analysis tool can be used to determine the cash flow of a project and how it will contribute to the firm’s value. This tool provides an Excel spreadsheet model and allows you to organize different project metrics, such as payback period, profitability index, internal rate of return, and net present value.

6. Expense Budget
After you figure out how much you are making, you can determine how much you can spend. The Expense Budget is a spreadsheet used to track expenses throughout the calendar year. The Expense Budget lists the most common expense categories and allows you to enter monthly totals, which are then added for an annual total and a monthly average. This document is used on an ongoing basis and is customizable to your company’s usage.

7. Twelve Month Cash Flow Spreadsheet Template
A cash flow budget details the amount of cash you collect and pay out. This is generally tallied on a monthly basis and the Twelve-Month Cash Flow Spreadsheet is ideal to use for monthly tracking. In this budget, you track your sales and other receivables from income sources and contrast them against how much you pay to suppliers and in expenses. The Twelve-Month Cash Flow Spreadsheet template provides a comprehensive table in a business plan to evaluate all expenditure categories. A positive cash flow is essential to grow your business.

8. Cash Flow Forecast
To prepare for the inevitable cash flow peaks and troughs that all businesses go through, you can turn to the Cash Flow Forecast tool. It is used to predict annual profits versus end-of-year debt. The Cash Flow Forecast provides a guide for tracking which arms of your business are most profitable, and show which creditors are owed various amounts of the company’s future profits. The forecast helps set reasonable goals for the company’s next fiscal year. Read More

9. Depreciation Calculator Spreadsheet
It’s a sad fact, but many of the assets you’ve purchased for your business – computers, machinery, vehicles – have a finite life. In order to account for this – and plan ahead for replacing those assets—you need to calculate the depreciation expense for all your assets. The Depreciation Calculator Spreadsheet contains formulas to help you through the process so you can factor this expense into your budget. Read More

10. Asset Depreciation Schedule
The Asset Depreciation Schedule is used to calculate depreciation expense using straight-line depreciation method. Using this method means the residual (salvage) value of the asset is first estimated. Thereafter the asset, minus salvage value, is divided by the useful life of the asset. The resulting value is deducted for each year of the asset’s life. The Asset Depreciation Schedule is divided into major asset categories such as buildings, equipment, hardware, and software.

11. 12-Month Profit and Loss Projection Worksheet
This profit and loss (P&L) projection is not intended to be a detailed financial statement. Instead, it’s meant to act as a guide to help you forecast your company’s sales and expenses. This Profit and Loss Projection Worksheet is used to forecast profits and losses for up to 12 months into the future, making it an ideal tool for yearly budget planning.

12. Profit and Loss Projection Model
The Profit and Loss Projection Model is a planning tool to help you to predict sales and cost for the whole year in finer detail than the 12-month worksheet. It is a comprehensive worksheet for monthly and quarterly sales and expenses based on all available data and information. Read More6 Tips to Deal with Difficult Questions for a Polished Pitch
posted on January 28, 2010

If you want to fight or flee when dealing with difficult questions or reactions to a pitch or presentation, here are six tips to help you deal with them, whilst maintaining grace under fire and leave your credibility intact.
Firstly, don’t get confused between a difficult question and difficult people. . A difficult question might be from the most amiable person in the room but it’s the content of what they’re saying that is testing.

Tip No. 1

Separate the content from the tone of the question or comment. This is especially useful when there seems to be some aggression behind what’s being said. Instead of instantly reacting, pause and rephrase or repeatthe question back to the individual. This buys you time and gives them the chance to ‘repackage’ their statement or query. The presenter in one presentation, which I attended, did this and discovered that the seething woman sitting in front him with her spiky remark, was, in fact, agreeing with his point of view. If he’d just reacted to her tone, he’d have missed the opportunity to clarify his key point and a needless confrontation might have boiled up.

Tip No. 2

When it comes to difficult members of your audience, they tend to appear either on the presenter’s left hand side or right at the back of the audience.

I haven’t got a clue why the left hand side seems to throw out people biting at the bit for a show-down, but those sharpening their tongues at the back are easier to explain. They have a ‘you can’t get me’ belief accompanied by a notion of anonymity. There are several ways to snap that illusion:

1) Have a microphonepassed around your audience. In the time it takes for the microphone to arrive in the hands of someone chomping at the bit with a thorny question or opinion, they’d have decided not to be heard by everyone else and will keep their query or thoughts to themselves.
2) Make it a general practice in the Q & A for your audience to announce their namesand where they come from (Mars in the case of some, but you’ll only be able to tell when they open their mouths).
3) If you can, make to walk towards them. It might not quash that particular member of your audience but it’ll put down any invalid responses that might have otherwise been brewing.

Tip No. 3

You might have audience greedy for your attention in the Q & A. They ask, you answer, they comment and ask another question, you respond, they seek further clarification and before you know it you’ve got a 30 minute two way conversation which leaves everyone checking for new Apps on their PDA’s. Use a delaying statement like:
‘Obviously, you’ve got a few more questions. Let’s talk about this after the session.‘

By the end of the session, they’ve probably had a bit of a muse and the doubts have evaporated. If not, so you’ll deal with it after the session instead of having that conversation monopolizes the whole presentation. Then turn away from them: it’s important, at this point, not to look back. Once you’ve turned and walked to a different part of the stage, you’re politely saying ‘I’ve dealt with that’. Looking back shows uncertainty and invites a person to call your attention back towards them.

Tip No. 4

If you’re getting the same objections again and again in your presentations or pitches then why on earth aren’t you
pre-emptingthem by sticking them at the front of your talk: ‘I know many of you are wondering how this system is going to make your lives any easier when it feels like your teeth are being pulled.’ Or pre-empt with an attention grabber such as ‘This system is a complete waste of time’… This is what I’ve been hearing over the last 2 weeks. Of course, why would you think otherwise? I think it’s about time I told you why this upheaval in the short term will pay off and make your lives easier in the long run.’

Tip No. 5

Refocus questions to bat them away. Use this technique when you get sidetracked. Use phrases such as:
‘The essential question to ask is…’
‘The real issue here is…’

Tip No. 6

Hypothetical Questions such as ‘What if the targets fall below your expectations?’ can entrap you into a long, hypothetical debate. It’s like walking in a meadow, and slowly realizing you’re in the jungle. You want to get out but you don’t know how. Use the refocusing to pull the questioner backon the track you want. An example might be, ‘There are a number of factors that we’ve considered in regard to this…’ then you progress onto a summary of the key pointers to success, which you covered in your talk, rather than becoming trapped in a knotted wire of ‘What if’s…’.

All in all remember that whatever question or comment springs from your audience don’t get personal: treat the individual with respect and grace. And if you think this person deserves less, take a deep breath, pause and repeat the question to buy you time before responding rashly.

How you deal with difficult questions is the mark of your ability to handle sales objections or difficult people in a way that adds value to your whole presentation and beyond that, your belief in your product and yourself.
How to build an audience – by Nicky Nikolaev
There are simply 4 stages one has to follow. Every company has a database of emails of their leads, past clients and people they have done business with.

They have to realize that this database is a valuable asset. It shouldn’t just sit there. Companies can put it to good use and utilize it in order to build a bigger audience and spread their messages far and wide.

the 4 stages I would like to describe are as follows:

– build a community, forum, blog or a group here on LinkedIn if you will and urge your employees to join that particular community. Encourage them to provide valuable content and participate there on a daily basis. This will make your community look busy and interesting with regards to content.

– the next step is to utilize that email database of yours…invite all your past clients, leads, partners and affiliates to join that community. It is highly probable that they join. They have done business with you in the past which means that they are in the same niche you are. Use this database as a stepping stone to build a bigger community.

– the third stage is to find other related and/or similar communities and join them. After having joined these communities make sure that your profile really stands out and make sure you establish yourself and/or your company as an authority in the field that you are dealing in. After having achieved that you can easily start “pulling out” members by inviting them to your personal community.

– the final stage is when you approach and invite people that you do not know. These kind of people should definitely be people that are looking for content that is being provided in your community. That way you will be in the position of a person who is sharing something valuable with them not like someone who is spamming them or trying to sell them something.

If you follow these 4 fundamental stages you will get to build a community with a niche oriented membership a community that is active and has interesting articles, post and information…a community everyone would like to join!

I hope this is of help.

One Response to “Pitching & Business Tips”

  1. Gary Taylor says:

    Yes, it is certain this extensive piece will be of great help, Thomas. Thank you. For one, I have pasted and forwarded to my son-in-law. He’s recognized as an exceptional marriage and family therapist whose expertise and gift is in working with highly dysfunctional kids and their families. After years as lead therapist and equine director, he’s striking out on his own with a for-profit intensive family intervention therapy program, a ranch applying the strengths of equine therapy. It’s not your everyday venture investment, and not so sure it’s anyone’s. I will be exploring your sites and advice in detail for additional hints (like obtaining grants for the NPO side for charitable scholarships to assist desperate families not able to make the sizable investment, like $6500 for the intensive eight day protocol).

    Thanks again. I sure do like gents who know stuff AND are willing to share it.

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