The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Member Blog: Do workplace wellness programmes increase productivity and a company's profit margin?

By Andy Gardner, Director - Karen Andrew Partnership Ltd

The question of workplace wellness is one that seems to be very much flavour of the month in the media at the moment. Like many company owners, it is also one that we at Karen Andrew Partnership Ltd feel is of particular importance. If it doesn't positively benefit a company why would they do it?

So here is what we know:

The cost of absence averages at £609 per person with the public sector costing £914 per person per year [CIPD 2014]

Companies with workplace wellness programmes experience an 8% increase in productivity [2005 National Business Group On Health Report]

Healthy weight people take fewer days off. A healthy weight male misses three days of work due to illness per year, An overweight/obese male misses about five, therefore someone working 237 days a year will be more productive than someone working 235 [Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, USA]

Musculoskeletal complaints result in 31 million absence days per year, stress and anxiety result in 15 million [ONS 2013]

If this can be addressed then those savings will directly benefit the company in turn benefitting the employee, who then feels more valued. And so it goes on.

Many workers don’t directly generate income, it is a combined effort often involving different members of different teams working towards a common goal.

Neil Carberry of the CBI has acknowledged the importance of wellbeing programmes.

The key to getting the most from them is to offer support that, well, supports them. If a person has less time off due to ill health, they will contribute to the company mission much more effectively.

The benefits of workplace wellness programmes for employers are obvious. They provide the company with strategic advantages by investing money in a programme that will bring them lowered expenses in return, often in the form of better performing workers, and lower absenteeism and care costs.

Employees are the most valuable assets to any company. By providing workers with these services, companies are improving wellbeing and job satisfaction, as well as raising retention rates. The welfare of employees has a direct impact on the success of the company. This is even more important given that many employees work in teams. The team that trains together stays together. The costs of implementing a programme is more than recouped by savings on productivity [ Black & Frost survey recommendation, 2014]

A new concept from The Karen Andrew Partnership Ltd involves an interactive health kiosk being supplied to your work premises, along with a support package bespoke to your business requirements and needs.

We are holding a free launch event for both Chamber members and non-members to showcase the interactive health kiosk and how the support benefits your company. ’Wellness Wednesday’ will take place at Elliot House, 151 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WD on 16th September 2015 from 4pm until 6pm.

The event will include a chance to network with a glass of wine, and the opportunity to experience all the benefits of the health kiosk, with live demonstrations and presentations.

To confirm your attendance, email, or call 07860 223334.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Member Blog: Cyber Crime is a real risk to business, do plan and protect yours

By Paul Watts - Branch Director, Bluefin Insurance Services, Stockport

It has been said that there are only two types of companies; those that have been hacked and those that will be. (Robert Muller, FBI Director)

Cyber crime refers to computer or information technology dependent criminal activity. Phishing, spyware, malware, hacking and social engineering are all ways of conducting cyber fraud. Fraudsters are becoming more inventive and many victims are often unaware of the crimes. For many organisations cyber crime is frequently considered too ‘virtual’ to be a threat but the financial and reputational costs are very real.

Data breaches are costly and have risen year on year since 2008; last year the average cost per compromised record increased from £86 to £95*. Multiply that by hundreds or thousands of customer records and the cost of a single data breach incident can be overwhelming for many businesses. In addition to making sure you have effective internet security software the right cyber risks insurance can help protect your business from cyber-attacks, data breaches and other internet-based exposures.

Serious damage can be inflicted on most organisations as almost every business today has a CRM system, they store client data, hold payroll details or use computer-controlled processes and some or all these systems could be overridden or interrupted following a successful cyber attack..  Businesses need to be equipped to not only restore their systems as quickly as possible, but also cover the costs arising from complying with customer requirements and the handling of crisis management. A standard business interruption policy does not cover a cyber attack unless physical damage is caused. Cover is available for this through a comprehensive cyber insurance policy.

The nature of online trading creates considerable virus, spyware and hacker risk exposures, including theft of customer banking information, privacy liability following a breach of personal identity data, and e-business interruption. These risks may not be adequately covered by traditional standard policy forms. Modern businesses, of all sizes, are vulnerable to this type of attack from a local B&B with an online booking system to large online retail businesses.

Manchester is considered to be a 'beta' global city, rated as the second most globally influential city in the UK after London**. The region is now an economic knowledge-led centre, with research and enterprise clustered around the University of Manchester. Typical industry areas include: digital and creative services, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, environmental technologies, tourism, global sports brands, media and real estate.

Businesses that rely on information or research as part of their everyday business, such as IT, media, biotechnology and publishing companies are especially at risk of intellectual property theft and breach of confidentiality.  This type of cyber attack is considered a form of industrial espionage, cyber criminals intend to steal intellectual property or other economically valuable commercial secrets such as supplier and customer lists, financial information, contract terms or patents of new products with the purpose of selling it on. The need to protect your business against an attack cannot be underestimated. Such breaches can can result in unforeseen expenses arising from damages to victims of data theft, contractual penalties, investigative costs,  interest on money stolen, court attendance costs and public relations expenses.

In addition to the direct financial costs, reputational damage is the often overlooked cost of cyber crime. Loss of faith in a business that has been the victim of a cyber attack who did not adequately protect their clients, suppliers or themselves could have a longer term affect on the business. Competitors will be swift to take advantage of this situation; winning back customers and suppliers and rebuilding a reputation takes time and money.

So who carries out these attacks and why? Cyber attacks are carried out by a variety of culprits, largely by criminals, with specialist skills. It may not be an organisation’s own data that is the target; some companies are attacked to get information on third parties with whom they deal. For example, hackers can steal a bank’s customers account data. Attacks can also be carried out by disgruntled employees or those who believe they are fulfilling a higher purpose by whistleblowing.

Cyber liability is a hot topic, with insurers and brokers alike looking at this new and emerging risk. A report published by the UK government and a global insurance broker, warned of knowledge gaps among business that is holding the UK cyber insurance market back.  The government has worked with the Information Assurance for Small and Medium Enterprises (IASME) consortium and the Information Security Forum (ISF) to develop Cyber Essentials, a set of basic technical controls for organisations to use. It offers a certification process for businesses to show they have taken the necessary steps to prevent cyber-attacks.

Sensational news stories help promote the need for cover, but buyers, as always, need to be aware. Many policies that are emerging are very specific in what they cover and what they don’t cover. It is imperative that those buying this insurance think long and hard about the risks they run, and ensure that any policies bought reflect the cover required. An experienced insurance broker will be able to review your risks and provide professional advice on the best cover for your business.

*Source: IBM & Ponemon Institute 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study: UK).
** Source, Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Research Network, Loughborough University.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Member Blog: The Content Marketing Dilemma

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

It is the most common question I hear when talking with clients about the potential of social media….

Will we have enough to say and the time to say it?

In practice, finding subjects to talk about is not as challenging as people sometimes imagine, but it still takes time to turn these subjects into content and there is always the danger of focusing on quantity rather than quality.

Even Twitter and its 140 character limit benefits from tweets linking to more substantial content where quality is essential – though not always delivered!

This dilemma was summed up perfectly in this image I saw recently…
Thank-you to Marketing Land for the graphic

This graphic is neat but there is also another angle to the issue….

As with many things in business, a bit of planning can really help with content production but all too often, to meet their content needs, marketers simply focus on their own company stuff and write about themselves.

Unfortunately, most readers aren’t bothered about the details of other businesses so does this make sense?

What they are bothered about is their own business and taking it forward.

The art of curation

Hey, isn’t helping your customers in their businesses something you know about? After all your business is focused on delivering benefit to your customers which should hopefully make you a bit of an expert in an area of interest to your customers – use that expertise!

As I mentioned above, too many people go down the route of delivering high volume, low quality content, which interestingly presents an opportunity. Be different – use your knowledge to work through the rubbish and sift the nuggets of real interest. Become a Curator and build a name for yourself as someone who gets rid of the low quality content from your sector and feeds through the high quality so that your readers can jump straight to reliable quality.

Don’t forget your own content

By becoming a curator you are gathering quality content from across your sector and packaging it to be easily accessible for your readers, and readers who see good, relevant, interesting content will want to come back for more!

I said earlier that some people become over-focused on their own content but if you become a committed curator, there is a danger of going too far the other way and never mentioning your own stuff!

Mix mixing your own content in with your curated content you can create a great balance where the marketing messages you want to communicate are framed by strong, sector-relevant information attractive to readers.

As a guide, a ratio of 4:1, Sector Content:Your Content, is a good objective.

A perfect balance?

If you hit the 4:1 ratio it means that you only need to create 20% of your content from scratch so maintaining a quality feed becomes much easier as your 80% curated content is based on the work of others where you simply select the best bits!

The end result is better content, easier to deliver and with your business at the heart, a great way to communicate your message and build your brand.

If you want to find out more about content curation, check out this great post from – or give me a call….

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Member Blog: 5 Myths about Claiming R&D Tax Credits

By Mark Evans, MD at R&D Tax Claims (North) Limited

The R&D Tax Credit Scheme is a government-backed initiative instigated by the EU to encourage British companies to develop their products and processes.

However, there are myths surrounding tax credits.  Don’t allow your business to fall victim to them!

5 Biggest Myths about claiming for the R&D Tax Credit Scheme

Myth 1: The R&D Tax Credit is only for the big companies.

Fact: This is exactly what too many small and medium sized businesses think.  The R&D tax credit is available for small and medium businesses, but you do need to put in a claim to get it.  All too often SMEs act as though there was an invisible rope barring them from making a claim.

Myth 2: The R&D Tax Credit is only for companies that invent something revolutionary.

Fact: The R&D tax credit is designed to encourage innovation. Therefore, it is available to companies who are attempting to improve existing products or processes. So, this simply isn’t the case.  Any UK company which undertakes problem-solving activity in order to develop new and improved products or processes should consider making an R&D tax claim.

Myth 3: Our R&D project wasn’t successful so we can’t claim.

Fact: Just because your project wasn’t successful doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. The project does not have to be successful to claim the credit.  R&D Tax credit is effort based.

Myth 4: Submitting an R&D tax claim will usually lead to an HMRC enquiry.

Fact: It won’t. In our extensive experience, this simply isn’t the case. In fact, HMRC actively encourage relevant companies to claim and continue innovating.

Myth 5: It’s all too good to be true.

Fact: Thousands of companies benefit from the R&D Tax Credit every year.  The Government realises that we have a heritage of innovation and development. R&D Tax Credits are a way of acknowledging and encouraging that advancement.

When you use R&D Tax Claims Limited to handle your claim on your behalf there is absolutely no risk involved. We operate a strict “no win, no fee” policy, so you won’t be asked to make any upfront payment. Our expertise and established relationship with HMRC also allows us to handle all claims in the most efficient manner, and refunds are usually made to our clients within just six weeks of the original application. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, get in touch with our Shrewsbury or Warrington office today.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Member Blog: How to develop a reusable maternity cover plan

By Michelle Gyimah - HR and Gender Equality Consultant, Equality Pays

Having a maternity cover plan in place makes good business sense for all employers. I’m going to take you through the things that you need to consider when arranging maternity cover. Once you’ve written your plan you can easily edit it to suit for each member of staff as you will have a template to start from. So what needs to go in your maternity cover plan?

Time off

One question that you need a rough answer to is how long the temporary cover will last. Women are entitled to up to 52 weeks off (the first two weeks are compulsory), but you cannot assume that they will take 52 weeks off. Now that shared parental leave is an option, you may find that she wants to share leave with her partner in one or two blocks at a time.

The key thing to remember is to talk to your team member about their plans. Having a baby is a life changing event and often it is hard for parents to know exactly what they will want to do. It’s best to plan for 52 weeks leave, but advise your maternity cover that the end date is flexible and could stop and start if their staff member is utilising shared parental leave.

Helpful tip – when asking about how much time they will take off, try not to pressure them for an answer. At this stage their maternity leave is what they plan to take, but as we all know plans can change. It’s a good idea to encourage them to talk to you about their plans and keep you updated, so that you have a rough idea of how long you need maternity cover for.

Review the job role

Quite often, when working in a role, it changes and develops over time and the job no longer matches up to the initial job description. It’s important to get an up to date and accurate picture of what the job actually requires. Getting this right will greatly increase the likelihood of hiring the right maternity cover.

Helpful tip - Involve your current pregnant staff member. No-one knows the job better than they do, so get them involved and take their input on board.

How will you recruit?

In-house- You may find that you have the expertise and capacity to recruit maternity cover internally. It could be used as a great development opportunity for the right person. As with all recruitment campaigns, ensure that the process is well advertised, transparent and fair.

Agency – You may decide that you have the budget to use a recruitment agency. Will you use a maternity cover specialist agency, an industry specific agency or one that you have used in the past and been happy with the results?

Do your research and speak to a few. Find one that fits not only your budget but your business expectations. If you are unsure who to use, ask around. Find out from your trusted business partners and groups for recommendations.

The DIY approach – This is where you decide to recruit externally but will run your own recruitment campaign. This option can be cheaper than hiring an agency but it will take up more of your time. You will need to plan your recruitment timetable, prepare your job advert, job description, decide where to advertise, set the dates for interview, handle correspondence, prepare for the interview, decide on the best candidate, take up references and organise induction and training. There is a lot to consider, so setting up your recruitment timetable is essential.

Helpful tip - Work backwards from the date that you need them to start. This makes it easier to see when you need to start the recruitment process in order to get your maternity cover started on time.

How you decide to recruit will depend on factors such as budget, time and industry norms. However you decide to do it, make sure that it is well thought out and that your decision making process is well documented.

Preparing for the interviews
As with all interviews, the aim is to find the candidate with the best skills for the job, so prepare your questions in advance.  This is where having talked to your team member and updating the job description will really help. There is nothing worse than asking questions at the interview that have no relevance to the job because you’ve used an outdated job description. Some employers get their staff to help set the questions and even sit on the panel as an observer (with no bearing on the final decision).

Deciding who gets the job should always be done using a strict criteria that is consistently applied to all the job candidates to avoid discrimination and accusations of unprofessional conduct.

Helpful tip - Develop a set of criteria to follow when reviewing interviewees' answers and coming to a decision. Always document your decisions and reasons in case you are asked for feedback.

Start date and handover
Once you’ve picked the right person for the job, you need to be clear on when they will start. It’s a good idea to aim for at least one week of overlap, so that your temporary cover can work alongside and ask questions from your pregnant team member.

Helpful tip: Get your team member to put together a handover pack with useful information about their job, client accounts, and important dates to remember.

Those are the most important factors that you need to consider when planning for maternity cover.

Helpful tip – Create your maternity cover plan document and keep it in a safe and accessible place. Once you have these written down you can use it again for a new member of staff and just edit it accordingly.

Trying to organise cover can seem daunting, but having a plan in place makes it much easier and less stressful for employers.

For more information, contact Michelle Gyimah, HR and Gender Equality Consultant via or visit

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Member Blog: Finding the right care - Have you planned for the future?

By Phil Eckersley – Founder and Director of Bridgewater Home Care
Elderly care is something that affects us all at some point in our lives. How many of us can say that we have taken active steps to plan for the future of our loved ones, or even ourselves?

Getting older and the challenges that are presented to us can be difficult to come to terms with when we are talking about our own mum and dad. Sadly, there are all too many cases where families do not properly prepare for the later lives of their loved ones.

One of the most common and heart-breaking situations to deal with in social care is when a family member is diagnosed with Dementia and the family have not taken steps to initiate a Power of Attorney (POA) for the financial and health and wellbeing affairs of the person diagnosed. This is something that can be organised quite simply and saves much anguish.

Without a POA the family are unable to make choices on behalf of the person diagnosed with Dementia and these choices often fall into the hands of the local authority who do not know the individual personally and are unable to know of their best interests as the family do. So, if you take just one thing from this blog today, consider your legal position around your loved ones and POA.

When it comes to looking for high quality and reliable care in the home for a loved one it can feel like walking into a minefield.  There are far too many stories, I have my own personal ones, where care has failed.  Simple things such as turning up on time, having a carer who knows the person they are caring for and good communication from the office team can seem hard to find.

In many situations, it is the basics of care and support that can enable a person to live at home for longer and continue to live in close proximity to their support network of family and friends, rather than having to sell their home and live in an institutionalised setting.  Domiciliary care (or home care) offers a service that enables a person with a wide range of conditions to remain in the comfort of their own home without ever needing to move into a care home.

The difficulties people face in the home care market is finding trusted, reliable and responsive care. Often these difficulties can be due to the family not understanding what to expect, or accept, from the performance of a home care provider.

Bridgewater Home Care has produced a help sheet for families, which goes through the key questions that should be asked to a potential home care provider to enable you to form a well-rounded and informed decision on which provider would be best for you and your loved one.

The key questions to ask when seeking care for a loved one would be:

Do they send the same carer to each visit?
Do they introduce the carer to the client (person receiving the care) before care takes place?
Do they guarantee to arrive at the requested time and spend the full length of time with the client?
How many references do they take for each carer? This should be at least one professional reference and one personal reference.
Can they prove that their carers have had a DBS check (Criminal Records check) and a SOVA check (Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults)?
Do they have an on-call service 24/7, 365 days a year for emergencies?
Are they registered with the CQC (Care Quality Commission)?

All these key questions should be replied with a ‘Yes’.  This will mean that the fundamentals of a home care service will be being delivered.

Essentially, home care is about communication and relationships. It is important that you spend the time to find a care company which you can trust.  Time spent planning for a time when care may be needed will help mitigate the risk of a poor experience in the future. You should be able to have consultations with each home care company you are interested in, free of charge, this will enable you to get a good ‘feel’ for the organisation as a whole before you make that all important decision.

Bridgewater Home Care provides domiciliary care to vulnerable adults in their own homes, specialising in the care and support of those living with a form of Dementia.
For more information, please call Bridgewater Home Care on 01942 215 888 or email

Monday, 10 August 2015

Member Blog: Social media and the law

Social media is here to stay, whether it be the instantly disappearing messages from Snapchat or the more detailed blogs of Tumblr. Most employers will recognise that most of their staff now have some form of social media presence. Understanding how social media should be used at work and what businesses may need to have in place to ensure employees are not breaching any contractual obligations is crucial. Zee Hussain, Partner and Head of Employment at Colemans-ctts provides guidance around this rather tricky subject.

Bad news travels fast 

While having a social media presence can be commercially beneficial to business, many employers will be aware of the risks associated with employees’ personal accounts given how fast (bad) news can travel. To what extent an employer can take action when an employee speaks out on their social media account is a burning question.

It is important to recognise that every case is different and before taking action, an employer must show that the post has a detrimental effect on the employers’ reputation or is in breach of the internal policies. Take the case of Game Retail Ltd v Laws where the employee had tweeted some offensive remarks from his personal account that could be seen by other GAME stores. GAME dismissed Mr Laws but he succeeded at the tribunal on the basis that the employer could not show that the tweets would even be read by any of the store’s customers.

Contrast this with the case of Preece v JD Wetherspoons where Mrs Preece had made a series of derogatory comments naming a customer on Facebook during work time. As the employer had clear policies in place, the Employment Tribunal dismissed her claim for unfair dismissal agreeing that dismissal was a reasonable response in the circumstances.

As case law around this area of employment law remains shady, to follow are some dos and don’ts of social media to assist you in staying safe.


- Have a policy which is clear and spells out what is acceptable conduct on social media and what is not and also provides specific examples. If you are going to monitor social media, then this should be made clear in any policy.
- Have a strategy in place. If employees are representing your business professionally (e.g. on LinkedIn) do ensure that their updates and profile is consistent with your brand message.
- Ensure employees are made aware that personal disputes involving colleagues should not be aired on social media.
- Take steps to protect your clients and any confidential information. Often ‘off the shelf’ restrictive covenants do not prevent employees from befriending clients on social media which can be lethal if an employee jumps ship. Therefore, it is advisable to regularly review your policies in light of social media to ensure they adequately protect your business.


- Leave it to chance. Not having a policy in place can mean that it becomes difficult to take action when things go wrong. The case of Game Retail Ltd v Laws says it all.
- Ban employees from having social media. Most people have some sort of social media account nowadays and it is part of everyday life.
- Share employee content. Regardless of any disclaimer, sharing employee content appears to be an approval and you may find your contacts following them.
- Overreact. If an employee remarks on Facebook that they have had a bad day, it does not automatically warrant disciplinary action and certainly may not warrant dismissal. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Member Blog: How Important is Employee Engagement?

By Ailsa Lorimer - Screening Manager, REED

As much as we all hate to admit it, when applying for a new role money is the main motivator. We spend hours scrolling through job advertisements to find the perfect role to then dismiss it in the blink of an eye when the salary doesn’t meet our very exacting requirements. Imagine if the salary was off the table and we could see past the money to look at the other benefits the job could offer- more of a long term plan than a short term fix. Imagine actually going to work because you enjoy it rather than because you need to! Imagine if you could go to work and gain essential skills that ultimately would provide a platform for bigger and better things, how good would that feel? This is where employee engagement programmes come in to play. Most companies are happy to get people in and bums on seats, people who will come in each day, meet the minimum requirements and then leave at the end of the day having carried out their duties. Their retention is low and staff turnover is high. For those companies that do realise the potential of their staff and can see the bigger picture, it is all about the employees. For these companies retention is high and staff turnover is low. Unfortunately it is rare to find a company that is completely invested in its employees and so it’s not to be sniffed at when we do manage to stumble across somewhere that is willing to provide ongoing training and opportunities for ongoing improvement.

From a business perspective, you would think that offering these services would be part of the norm. Speaking as a Manager myself I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that I am conducting exit interviews for someone that has actually enjoyed working for me and that through my hard work and dedication they have realised their potential. Rather than leaving because they can’t stand another day in a tedious office, they are leaving because you have enabled them to have the confidence to take the next step in their career. As if that isn’t enough, as part of a longer term plan you will have established strong business relationships with potential future Managers, who's to say this won’t lead to referrals for future business?

So, what should you be looking for? For me personally, whilst I would expect to have the usual induction training, I would also be looking more long term than this. What happens when you’ve been in a business for 12 months? Are you just left to your own devices? Is your new starter training the only training you have involvement in? Hopefully not. In my current role I am fortunate to have access to a three-year advancement programme. Each Co-Member (employee) is given access to on the job training, classroom training and directed learning with the chance to become an affiliate member of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) at the end of the third year. Co-Members are engaged and are encouraged to take an active role in their own career path. They become better skilled, better trained, further developed and altogether more well rounded individuals.

Maybe this article won’t change your mind about considering other benefits when applying for a job, but speaking from experience I will certainly be looking twice at the company employee engagement plans when I’m ready to take that next step. This is a direct result of having worked for a business that is 100% committed to its employees and 100% committed to my development.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Member Blog: Do you backup your data?…Really?

Craig Robinson - Director, Cloud 53

Backup – something that is talked about often but what does it actually mean? A backup should be an automated process daily or even hourly to ensure you have a copy of all your data in case of loss, fire, corruption etc. More importantly with backups and something that is often over looked is to test that a) your backups are working and b) that you can restore files from your backups if required.

Traditionally tapes have been the solid way backups have taken place however to anyone who has had to invest in a tape drive and assorted tapes to a reasonable backup rotation scheme will know how costly this is not to mention the man hours that have to go into this and backup software.

More and more firms are moving to cloud backup as it is simpler, faster, more reliable and presents a far lower ongoing cost. Security is often an argument heard however how often do tapes just go missing or you see a pile of them on the IT guy's desk? Cloud53 backups are encrypted (only the customer has the security key) and stored in Tier3 UK Datacentres.

How important is your data? Some facts regarding data loss

6% of all PC’s will suffer an episode of data loss per year
31% of all PC users have lost all their data due to events beyond their control
34% of companies fail to test their tape backups – 77% of these have found backup failures
60% of companies that lose all their data shutdown within 6 months of the disaster
42% of attempted recoveries from tape backups fail
20% of all small businesses will be hacked within the first year
40% of small to medium sized firms who manage their own network will have their network accessed by a hacker, more than 50% will not be aware

To find out more about how cloud backup by Cloud53 could benefit you, please get in touch. We would be delighted to offer all Chamber members a 10% discount on our backup services

Visit Cloud53: 
Call Cloud53: 0845 557 8687
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