Lifelong Business Learning, Create a Simple Plan!

Lifelong Business Learning, Create a Simple Plan!

When you are a small business owner, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? This is just as true when you start out as it is after you have been rocking along for a few years.  What an opportunity this presents!

Success Strategy

Lifelong business learning is a success strategy for small business owners, and a high-value activity that many do not utilize.  You are constantly running up against “must-do” projects without the “need-to-know information” to get them done! It often leaves you confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You can accept that, or you can put a plan in place to seek knowledge and find the solutions you need and grow your business.

Learning about new business topics and strategies does not need to be time consuming, over burdensome, or even expensive. It should be consistent and can be done successfully in tiny bites.  The information will not jump into your lap….well, with some of the social media ads today, it sometimes feels like it does. But seriously, solid information is out there waiting for you to discover and use it. How do you start?

Create a Simple Plan

You cannot learn everything you need to know in a day. Create a simple plan and start there. This is a situation where any action is positive and a step forward. Knowledge is never wasted, and yes, knowledge is power.

Here are some possible approaches for long-term success:

  • Topic:  Decide the topic you want to concentrate on first, or a set of topics. Do you want to learn more about Facebook marketing? YouTube? Podcasting? How to master your elevator speech? Improve your sales process? How to build a website? How to write a book so you have expert status in your field?  How to craft your digital strategy? How to use Canva? How to create your overall marketing strategy? So many topics!
  • Time:  Set aside time each week for learning.  How much time do you need?  An hour a week? 3 hours a week? There is no one right answer, only your answer. Your time will change over the course of your business ownership. It will typically be larger in the beginning, it may level off, and it will increase again as you tackle a new business challenge, growth area, or decision.
  • Approach: Be consistent and make learning a priority.  Over time you will be expert at topics you need to know. Start today.
  • Vet Resources:  Research articles, videos and other educational resources from trusted companies and organizations.  Beware, there is a lot of “junk” out there, and much of it is free.  Sometimes the free information is top notch. Other times it belongs at the bottom of the ocean.

Armed with this information, you can now begin to craft your Lifelong Business Learning plan.

And by the way, don’t stop there! In addition to your Lifelong Business Learning plan, do you have a business plan? Working with clients, I often call that a Business Blueprint, simply because it is less intimidating.  Everything we have talked about here can be added to a section of your business plan to help keep you on track. Another lifelong learning topic? You bet! That’s for another blog, though 🙂

MEG Membership and Coaching

It was with the idea of Lifelong Business Learning that Startup to Growth created MEG – My Entrepreneurial Group. MEG is an affordable membership program that educates small business owners about “need-to-know” topics by trusted subject matter experts.  We have opened our video Library, and it is growing!  Already you can watch these videos:

  • Boost Your Impact with Digital Marketing Strategy
  • Elevator Pitch – Compelling Self-Introduction
  • Sales – Painless Prospecting Process
  • 3 Steps You Can’t Skip When Building Your Marketing Strategy
  • Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Book
  • How Podcast Marketing Works
  • Creative Canva for Small Business Owners
  • Getting Started With YouTube Live Marketing

We are adding 1) How To Get a Website For Your Business and 2) Facebook and Instagram Marketing Success shortly.  Other videos are in the works, including women-owned business certifications, content marketing, LinkedIn success, and steps to starting your business (it includes a high-level overview of a business “blueprint”!). And we are just getting started.

Conclusion

There are many pathways to Lifelong Business Learning, your success strategy.  Whatever path YOU take, start today by creating a simple plan and be consistent. As you look back even a few short months from now, you will be glad you did. Remember, success is rarely accidental and results require action. What is stopping you? Yes, we coach on that, too!

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to [email protected].  We’d love to connect with you.

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Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through coaching, mastermind groups, education and training.  Robin believes success is rarely accidental and her passion is to help her clients set and reach their goals. Working with clients remotely through video platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning and execution questions as well as supporting them while they explore their potential.

Robin encourages clients to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their tangible Success Steps. Check out the website for ongoing virtual Small Business CoachingSmall Business Blueprint Coaching, and MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) Membership programFrom time to time we launch new MEG Connectand MEG Startup mastermind groups. Email [email protected] with your questions or to set up a free 1-1 consultation.

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Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group, Part 2

Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group, Part 2

This post was originally published on September 24, 2018 and updated on April 16, 2020.  

In Part 1 of the Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group we covered what mastermind groups are and the first four reasons, in no particular order, why as small business owners who are serious about growing their companies should join one – brainstorming, accountability, to help you “think bigger” and for support. Top Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group

In Part 2, we continue with our last 10 reasons, in no particular order:

New Business Ideas (5)

While helping each other, whether you’re making a presentation to the group or simply doing a check-in, the group is often discussing new business ideas. When you’re in a roomful of bright, dedicated, focused small business owners, how can it be any other way?!  It might even be something you had thought of before and rejected, or an idea you had decided to pursue but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  In your mastermind discussion, you will see these ideas from different perspectives, and hear everyone else’s thoughts on them.  And times change.  What didn’t seem practical or worthwhile before could be critical to your success now.  So whether it’s a revisited idea, a reevaluated idea, or a brand-spanking-new idea, it just might be the idea that you decide to pursue next. And it could make a big difference in your business.

Better Decision-Making (6)

Back to brainstorming and new ideas. Again, ideas are a dime a dozen. What really matters is your choice of which idea(s) to pursue.  Logically, what are the steps you need to take to execute that idea? How much time should you allow?  Is the idea timely?  Does it support your strategy?  If you run with the idea, what comes next?  Do you see where this is going?  Better decision-making is a key benefit of small business mastermind groups.

Aha Moments (7)

And I say “moments” because they happen often. What is an “aha moment”? Wikipedia describes it as that moment of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept.  That’s what I’m talking about, and they are golden!  In our groups, the mere act of discussing your challenge in front of your mastermind-mates forces you to really think it through, and leads to your “aha moments.”  I love it when they occur! The presenter often stops mid-sentence, looking completely befuddled, and says something like, “I just figured it out! It’s so obvious to me now –  why didn’t I think of it before?!!”  Then there is a little group “victory dance” celebration.  Mastermind groups have clear, actionable deadlines that force you to act.  The group holds you accountable.  As you work on your challenge, your conscious and subconscious minds get into gear, begin to work in concert, and in the process you find solutions.

Learn New Skills (8)

Often the group decides they want to learn more about a specific topic.  We frequently address that by scheduling a speaker, whether it’s an outside professional or a group member who excels on that topic.  And it is more fun to learn together, especially in a group that has bonded.  You not only ask questions you want to be answered, but you’ll also think of questions a fellow group member wants but might not be thinking of.  Again, more minds are better than one. The group has your back!

Stretch Yourself (9)

When you are by yourself, you often play it safe. Not with mastermind groups. You will be constantly testing and challenging yourself, but in a positive way.  You will set goals that will force you to stretch and get outside your comfort zone.  We are not talking about taking leap-off-the-cliff wild risks, and we are also not talking about simply taking safe steps you are 100% sure you can achieve. We support you in setting higher goals so you can accomplish more.

Positive Impact on Others (10)

As we grow and mature, we want to help others. While there are many ways outside of business to achieve this desire, mastermind groups are a way to fill this need inside the business world.  With a well-run mastermind group, you are only selected to participate if you want to help others, not just yourself.  Yes, every member wants to grow their own business, but they also want every other member in their group to succeed.  I still love watching the positive impact group members have on each other with a well-placed compliment, specific and well-deserved praise, and simply the offer to meet outside group to lend a hand.  It means the world to your fellow mastermind group members. And ultimately it means the world to you to be able to have a positive impact on the lives and businesses of others.

Focus on Priorities (11) 

I call this one “fight overwhelm.” I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you simply cannot do it all.  Small business owners often have too many irons in the fire, and they barely know where to start or which fire to put out first.  The group helps focus on your priorities.  In other words, you concentrate on your most important goal, figure out the highest and best use of your time to achieve that goal, and stick to that plan.  When you do that, overwhelm begins to fade away.

Stronger Network (12)

As you work with your mastermind members and gain their trust, you bond.  The friendships and “business-ships” formed in our small business mastermind groups often last for years.  Interestingly enough, even when you know someone before you join the group, you may not know them really well. Members often say to me, “I knew so-and-so before our group, but not like I know him/her now.  They are now part of my circle.”  That alone is priceless.  And there’s more!  As you gain the trust of your fellow mastermind group members, they will offer to introduce you to someone else in their circle that you need to know.  These are often people you would never have met without your mastermind group. For you, this means a wider, deeper, stronger network. And it means the same thing for them as you figure out who in your network to introduce them to.

Gain Self-Confidence (13)

While these reasons to join a small business mastermind group are in no particular order, one item does lead to the next.  By focusing on priorities, gaining new skills, making better decisions, stepping into accountability, and successfully reaching your goals, you gain self-confidence as a business owner.  There is no better feeling than this!  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Increased Profits (14)

When you gain self-confidence, you show a more accomplished self to your customers, employees, partners, suppliers and others.  When you are confident you are more at peace, and you worry less. It’s not surprising that you are likely to increase your profits as a result.

Conclusion

So now you have my top 14 reasons to join a small business growth mastermind group, as of this writing.  Find a group, join it, and work on your business!  I wish you much business success moving forward!  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  I would love to hear from you.

Also please check out our website for our virtual Rapid Launch Startup Mastermind Groups and Breaking 6 Figures Growth Mastermind Groups. New groups form on an ongoing basis. Email us at [email protected] for additional details, or schedule a free consultation and together we’ll discuss what is best for you.
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Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through coaching, mastermind groups, education and training.  Robin believes success is rarely accidental and her passion is to help her clients set and reach their goals. Working with clients remotely through video platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning questions as well as supporting them while they explore their potential. She encourages clients to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their tangible Success Steps. Check out the website for ongoing virtual Small Business CoachingSmall Business Blueprint in 30-Days classes, Rapid Launch Startup Mastermind Groups, Breaking 6 Figures Growth Mastermind Groups, and virtual networking groups. Email [email protected] with your questions.

The post Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group, Part 2 appeared first on Startup to Growth.

Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group, Part 2

Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group, Part 1

This post was originally published on September 17, 2018 and updated on April 14, 2020.  

Are you are serious about growing your business? Join a small business mastermind group.  This two-part blog explores what small business mastermind groups are and the top 14 reasons to join one. Hint: one reason is so you can achieve more in less time!

Top Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group

What are Small Business Mastermind Groups?

I first discovered the mastermind concept in Napoleon Hill’s book, Keys to Success.  He writes, “No one mind is complete by itself,” explaining that we need contact with others to grow and expand our minds.  He defined the term mastermind alliance as “two or more minds working actively together in perfect harmony toward a common definite object.”

Let’s put that into today’s language.  In the small business world, in its simplest form, a mastermind group is:

  • a meeting of two or more people who share a common purpose (business launch or business growth)
  • where each person is committed to helping every group member, including themselves, reach their common purpose
  • a meeting where brainstorming, accountability, support, education, sharing of knowledge and resources happen, empowering all mastermind group members

In a well-facilitated mastermind group, your business grows as each member goes from being a single note playing alone to being part of a powerful, harmonizing orchestra. While you are working together, you will each be creating your own masterpiece…your small business.

Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group

Hill’s core idea remains the same today – many minds are better than one when you share a common goal.  In our startup and growth mastermind groups, your goal is to either launch or grow your business. With an experienced facilitator and dedicated, open-minded group members, our mastermind groups can guide you to achieve more in less time. Specifically, we talk about achieving more in the next 12 months than you did in the last 12. You are challenged within a supportive environment.

With this background, here are the top 14 reasons to join a mastermind group, in no particular order. They are the “how” mastermind groups function to help you achieve more in less time:

Brainstorming (1) 

You need ideas and you need feedback!!  Are you wondering about your online marketing? You know you need to have a stronger online presence in today’s world, but what does that actually look like and how can you achieve it? How can you be strategic in your choices and make the best use of your limited resources (time and money!)? What are the best technology tools and platforms to use today? Are you bringing a new product or service to market, but want to talk it over with trusted colleagues, getting their feedback before you roll it out? Do you have a challenge that is making you lose sleep at night?  Or maybe you simply know something is missing, you know you can do better, but you’re not sure what is lacking.

Your mastermind group is tailor-made for all these situations. You build trust over time with fellow group members.  “Talking it out” with your mastermind group colleagues gives you new insights and ideas.  This is your safe place to explore new and old challenges, as well as seemingly wild and wacky ideas. It is all part of finding your path forward to building a stronger small business better equipped to withstand economic ups and downs.

Accountability (2)

Good intentions and a dream are meaningless without action. By ourselves, with no support, we often set goals and they wither and die. We don’t reach them. Your mastermind group works with you to ensure that doesn’t happen. You will create your Action Plan, and your group will hold you accountable.  And by the way, “accountable” does not mean judgmental. We are humans, and we naturally allow other things in our lives take priority. We also face fears and perfectionism, and they can stop us. In our groups, members help you set goals that are truly meaningful, goals you commit to achieving above all else. They also call you out when fear and perfectionism (and whatever else!) is intruding. You will constantly be checking that your goals are setting you up for success, not failure.  And then (again….drum roll, please) they hold you accountable.

Think Bigger (3)

This thread runs throughout everything that is done in our mastermind groups.  You know people who set goals that are ALWAYS achievable, right? They are safe, sure goals.  That is not what happens in our mastermind groups.  Your fellow group members will help you see the bigger picture, explore it, and establish goals that are often bigger than you might set by yourself, but not overwhelming (at least, not all at once!!).  They will help you think bigger and set up a plan to achieve your goals over time in bite-size pieces.

Support (4) 

Sometimes as a small business owner it feels like you against the world.  You love your family and friends, but they don’t understand anything about what you are doing or what your challenges are. They want to help, but they really don’t know how.  Where can you find a group of people who “have your back” no matter what is going on in your life and your business, a group who wants to hear what you have to say, and a group with no hidden agenda?  Your small business mastermind group, that’s where.

Next Steps

We will explore the remaining 10 reasons in Part 2.

Check out our website for our virtual Startup Mastermind Groups and Growth Mastermind Groups (Breaking 6 Figures). New groups form on an ongoing basis. Email us at [email protected] for additional details, or schedule a free consultation and together we’ll discuss what is best for you.
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Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through coaching, mastermind groups, education and training.  Robin believes success is rarely accidental and her passion is to help her clients set and reach their goals. Working with clients remotely through video platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning questions as well as supporting them while they explore their potential. She encourages clients to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their tangible Success Steps. Check out the website for ongoing small business coaching, Small Business Blueprint in 30-Days classes, virtual Startup Mastermind Groups, Growth Mastermind Groups (Breaking 6 Figures), and virtual networking groups. Email [email protected] with your questions.

The post Top 14 Reasons to Join a Small Business Mastermind Group, Part 1 appeared first on Startup to Growth.

Using National Holidays in Your Marketing Campaign

Using National Holidays in Your Marketing Campaign

National holidays are a great tool for your small business marketing tool kit. They can be wonderful idea-generators for your social media and content marketing, of course, and you can also use them to create flash sales, contest and events, or educate your clients on issues critical to them.

The first thing you need to do as you are exploring which holidays to choose is to make sure whichever holiday you decide upon aligns with your personal and business brands, your values and the values of your audience. Once you have determined that, you can move on to using that holiday in your marketing campaign. Below are some ideas about how to do that.

Content and Social Media

This is a big category that can range from a simple FB post to an annually updated cornerstone blog on your website. The holiday you choose as your marketing theme can range from a little-known to an internationally-celebrated holiday, and from funny to serious.

Let’s consider National Love Your Pet Day, Feb 20, 2020 (#LoveYouPetDay).  For veterinarians, pet stores, dog food companies, and pet-sitters, this can be an important part of your marketing campaign.  Is your pet up to date on their vaccines? If you are a pet-sitter, you could give treats to all your pet clients for their “people” to treat them with on Feb 20th!  On social media, pictures of most pets are seriously adorable and get lots of social media love. This holiday is tailor-made for Facebook and Instagram.

Ask yourself:  Is this is a major holiday for my business?  To use Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th (#ValentinesDay) as an
example, you would answer “Yes!” to that question if you are a florist, candy shop or restaurant.  If your answer is yes,
whatever the holiday, consider publishing a blog about that holiday ahead of time to potentially gain some search engine traffic as the holiday approaches.  Then publish a blog on the day of the event and link it back to your first article.  Then update that blog annually to keep your content fresh and relevant, and the search engines happy. See the link at the
end of this article for HubSpot’s social media holiday calendar, where the URL includes “2017” and the article is updated for 2020, as an example of updated content.

Include hashtags!  Get in the habit of adding hashtags and following them.  BTW, many hashtags are not capitalized.  In this article I followed Hubspot’s example from their social media holiday calendar and capitalized key words, for your easier reading pleasure!

Sales, Contests, Events

If you are a coffee shop and you want to celebrate International Coffee Day (celebrated in the United States on September 29th, celebrated globally October 1, #InternationalCoffeeDay), consider creating a special coffee drink and market it EVERYWHERE ahead of time.  Or create a contest or poll surrounding your customer’s favorite drink.   Are you a nonprofit?  Host an event on March 20th, World Storytelling Day (#WorldStorytellingDay), where your clients share their stories about how your organization has positively impacted their lives. Then release live videos, pictures and (more!) content on the day of and immediately after your event.

Education

This is related to the content and social media section above, with an emphasis on raising public awareness of critical issues such as health, wellness, ecology and social justice, to name only a few.  For example, National Walk to Work Day, April 3, 2020 (the 1st Friday in April, #WalktoWorkDay) is a natural opportunity for medical and mental health professionals to educate the public on the benefits of walking 30 minutes a day. Can’t walk to work?  No problem.  Walk on your lunch hour or before or after work.  Looking for a little stress relief? Take your walk in the park.  Walk with your pet. Educate. Educate. Educate.

Awareness Weeks and Months

If you would like to have a longer timeframe to leverage your marketing efforts and make a bigger impact, consider a national awareness week or month.  From National Volunteer Week, April 19 to 25, 2020 (dates change by year; #NationalVolunteerWeek) to Mental Health Awareness Month in May (#MentalHealthAwareness), there are some great causes to get behind. These are also timely opportunities for nonprofit fundraising tied specifically to awareness events.

Get Your Google On

Are you ready to use this information to creatively market your business?  Google national holidays along with key words for your business, and start spicing up your marketing campaigns.  From Earth Day on April 22 (#EarthDay) to National Paperclip Day on May 29th (#PaperclipDay), there is something for every small business.

Following is a link to a social media holiday calendar by Hubspot, updated for 2020, that will give you a head start on identifying a couple of holidays for 2020: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/social-media-holiday-calendar-2017 (updated for 2020)

There are numerous other calendars out there, as well.  One word of caution – they will not all match!  Some holiday dates change annually (1st Monday, or whatever weekday, of May, or whatever month, for example), and sometimes the holiday name changes over the years.  Go figure!  Just find one or two sources you trust and have some fun!

About the Author

Robin Suomi, MBA, Founder of Startup to Growth, has worked with thousands of small business owners to start and grow their businesses through 1-1 coaching, mastermind groups, membership programs, and professional development training workshops and classes. Her passion is to help her clients become better…whatever that looks like in their lives. Check out Startup to Growth for information on Small Business Blueprint classes, Startup Masterminds and Growth Masterminds. Or email [email protected] with your questions.

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Choosing the Right Entity for Your New Business

Choosing the Right Entity for Your New Business

Guest post by Ryen Rasmus, Esq., The Lipp Law Firm, PC

Congratulations!  This is an exciting time in your professional life – you’re getting ready to launch a new business.  Whether you’ll be continuing the same kind of work that you’ve been performing for many years or setting out on a brand-new venture, starting up your new company is a big step that carries major opportunities, but also more than a few risks.  As an attorney, I help my start-up clients to mitigate their risk as much as possible, and one of the simplest and most
effective means of doing so is housing your business within the appropriate legal entity.

There are four major entity types from which an entrepreneur may choose: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company.

Sole Proprietorship and Partnership

The first two types, sole proprietorship and partnership, require no formal filing to set up, but rather arise automatically by operation of law when people start doing business. A sole proprietorship is the default when a single person starts doing
business, while a partnership is the default when two or more people join together to perform work and share profits.
Although these entities are easy to form, they come with major downsides.  A sole proprietorship and its owner are treated as one and the same in the eyes of the law, meaning that if someone were to sue the sole proprietorship, the owner’s personal assets (i.e. house, car, and bank accounts) would be on the line and available to satisfy judgments against the owner’s business. Not only is the same true for partnerships, the act of one partner is presumed to be the act of another if it is within the ordinary course of business, meaning that you can get in trouble for your business’s partner’s bad
judgment.  Moreover, all partners are presumed to be equally liable for a partnership’s profits and debts, even if only one partner does all the work or incurs all the liabilities on the partnership’s behalf.

Corporation and LLC

For this reason, most businesses should be housed within either a corporation or LLC.  Each entity insulates its owners against personal liability for the company’s debts, which is a major protection.  These entities also provide structure for businesses, as they call for officers, and give the owners more control over the apportionment of profits and liabilities, often based on the roles that the owners perform with respect to the business in practice.  To apportion these factors
appropriately, the owners should come together to draft a governing document for these entities – a “shareholder agreement” for corporations, or an operating agreement for LLC’s.  This document can set forth the parties’ respective duties and obligations and provide certainty that the less formal entities (sole proprietorships and partnerships) often lack.

Of all entity types, the LLC is often the most advisable for new businesses.  It is most flexible from a tax standpoint, as an LLC may be taxed as a disregarded entity, partnership, S-Corp, C-Corp, or not-for-profit so long as appropriate prerequisites are met.  It also requires satisfaction of fewer formalities than a corporation, disclosure of less information, and (in most jurisdictions) less money to set up and maintain.  Unless you’ll be seeking outside investment in the short term, and barring the presence of other specialized business factors, an LLC is usually the right choice.

Specialized Entity Types

There are other, more specialized entity types that may be available depending on the nature of your business, such as non-stock corporations (for not-for-profit ventures), professional corporations (for those in certain regulated professions like doctors and lawyers), and limited partnerships (when different owners will be doing markedly different things for a business).

Conclusion

The decision about a choice of entity is usually very fact-specific, so be sure to consult with experienced legal counsel before making a final decision about what is best for your new enterprise. Congratulations again on this new step in your career, and good luck in moving through these early but crucial steps!

Disclaimer:  This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  For legal issues that arise, the reader should consult legal counsel.

About the Author. Ryen Rasmus is an attorney at  The Lipp Law Firm, PC.  Ryen has comprehensive experience in the fields of intellectual property, complex business transactions, and business-related litigation. He specializes in the drafting of contracts and operations documents; resolution of business and intellectual property-related disputes; and counseling in the fields of corporate, employment, and software law. Ryen also serves the firm’s clients by providing mergers and acquisitions-related advice and conducting regulatory oversight reviews to ensure that clients’ businesses are compliant and protected to the maximum extent.

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