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Season 4, Episode 5

Mind, Body, Business

With RE/MAX CEO, Adam Contos

About the Episode

In this episode, I chat with RE/MAX CEO, Adam Contos. If you’ve ever wanted to get inside the world of a Fortune 500 CEO, then this episode is for you. Now Adam started his career at RE/MAX almost 20 years ago as an independent contractor and worked his way up to the very top of the food chain. And he’s going to share his stories, his tips, his tactics, how he does strategic planning, and how he rolls out communication to a company with thousands and thousands of employees all over the world. So if you can imagine yourself at that scale someday, or you just want to take a page from his playbook and stick it in yours and your size company, you’re going to love this episode.

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Full Transcript

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30:44

Chris:
Welcome back. I’m Chris Ronzio, founder and CEO of Trainual. And you just heard Adam Contos. Adam is the Remax CEO, the Chief Executive Officer of Remax, a massive publicly-traded company. So if you’ve ever wanted to get inside the world of a fortune 500 CEO, then this episode is for you. Now Adam started his career at Remax almost 20 years ago as an independent contractor and worked his way up to the very top of the food chain climb that corporate ladder. And he’s going to share his stories, his tips, his tactics, how he does strategic planning, how he rolls out communication to a company with thousands and thousands of employees all over the world. So if you can imagine yourself at that scale someday, or you just want to take a page from his playbook and stick it in yours and your size company, you’re going to love this episode. Take a listen.

Chris:
Welcome back, everyone. I’m your host, Chris Ronzio. And as you heard in the intro today, we are talking with none other than the CEO of Remax, Adam Contos.

Adam:
Hey Chris. Thanks for having me on the show. Great to see you again. This will be fun.

Chris:
So this will be the sequel. If anyone wants to listen, you can go to the Start with A Win Podcast and listen to the first episode, I guess the first iteration. So, so I wanna, I want to go through quickly your background because people might not know this, but you used to run a SWAT team, is that right?.

Adam:
Yeah. So, uh, the early nineties, I became a police officer and kind of, I mean, my dad was in law enforcement. He was in federal law enforcement. My brother’s a police officer. So, uh, I grew up in law enforcement and worked my way up through a very fast-growing, uh, Sheriff’s department. I worked patrol and undercover narcotics and things like that. A lot of street-type work and got on a SWAT team. I was in the Marines. So kinda, kinda helped shift fall into that whole piece. And, uh, ended up after, um, about a decade becoming the squad commander. And it was, it was the greatest job in law enforcement. I got to drive around and go to fun calls. So what else can you ask for? Right.

Chris:
So, so as you’re doing that as your SWAT training and going on these crazy missions, did you think someday I’m going to sit at a desk and do, uh, do business, was that as part of the plan? Well, I

Adam:
Had always been an entrepreneur. So, uh, in the the nineties I started an online business, which really wasn’t the best time to start an online business. People didn’t trust doing business on the internet yet, but, uh, I was selling to government employees, government entities, selling like law enforcement supplies, things like that. So built a website that had that, that whole product line and things like that. And it just, it, it was more trouble than it was worth. I was profitable, but it was, it was kind of a pain. So shut that down and started at another business, a consulting business where I was a counter-terrorism instructor, Homeland security consultant, things like that. And started doing security consulting, which is kind of how I got onto the, uh, the RE/MAX radar. And I, I had known the founder of RE/MAX in the nineties. I mean, he got it.

Adam:
We had met before. In fact, I was working an off-duty job at the golf course. He was building the kind of doing nighttime security one night. It’s the only night I ever did it. He comes by, he’s like, Hey, how’s it going? I go, good. What are you doing here? He goes, well, I’m Dave. I own this place. I go, I’m Adam, I’m protecting this place. So thank you. And he goes, you want to go drive around and see if there’s any, any destructive animals? Cause they had like porcupines that would eat their trees and stuff like that to cheer. Well, we got stuck in the middle of nowhere. It is suburban out four-wheeling. Um, we drove over this long piece of plastic and wrapped it around the drive shaft. So in the middle of the night, on this mountainside, you and I are laying underneath the suburban cutting plastic off the bottom of the suburban. And uh, that’s how we got to know each other. But I pitched my product, a service, an agent safety program to Remax one day to the CEO at the time Margaret. And, um, she wanted it and he’s like, Hey, I’ll mentor you in business. And eventually ended up working here,

Chris: (04:53)
Man. So it’s, it really is all about who, you know, who you meet, who you develop relationships with. Now. I went to the Remax headquarters for the first time in 2017. And I remember walking into the building and there’s like flags hanging from the ceiling and it’s this big building and beautiful boardrooms. And you can see the, all the snow-capped mountains in Colorado. And as a small business owner, that’s like the dream walking into a place like that. So when you walked in there 2003, you’re a contractor and 15 years later, you’re the CEO. So you’ve got to take us through at least like the high level of how the heck that happened.

Adam:
Well, I’ll tell you one of them, uh, it’s never given to you. I mean, it just doesn’t come out that way and everybody looks at it and goes, Oh, how’d you become the CEO? And it was through 15 years of hard work, really. So, um, when I had originally met Dave in 95, 96, um, so we’re talking a long time ago here and I started working for RE/MAX full-time in 2000. So, um, I was consulting all of 2003 forum did about a year contract with them, uh, as a consultant working on the safety programs. But really when I had met him originally, I asked him if he would mentor me and he said, well, I’ll mentor you, but you, you have to follow some mentee rules. That being one, you have to be a sponge. I said, you mean, I just have to go learn a whole bunch.

Adam:
He goes, no, you have to learn. And you got to give back. Yeah. So, uh, and then the next one was, he said, you have to take action. So, you know, you’re systems and process guy, and systems and processes are great. And we always talk about those with other business leaders, but ultimately nothing happens until you take action. And those are really two of the key things that I got from Dave was, you know, go out and learn and become better at your craft. And don’t be afraid. I didn’t know, sales or marketing. I’ve worked narcotics. That was my experience in sales and marketing, which by the way, each is your good sales. I worked undercover for a couple of years, but ultimately, you know, I needed to learn the business the legal way of doing it. And, um, I, I got that instruction from him and then I put it to work running different regions, um, becoming a head of marketing over technology, HR, chief operating officer sales, all of this stuff all the way up to the CEO. Yeah.

Chris:
So a lot of discipline, a lot of doing the work, and we’re going to get into that. You know, we had Michael E Gerber on the show who wrote E-Myth and he’s been a mentor to me. And he said, a lot of people read the book, not everyone does the book. And that’s kind of what you’re saying, you know, put the, put the lessons into, into work. You’ve got to execute. So I’m curious, the last question on the background. Are there things that you took from the SWAT program or your team that you still use today?

Adam:
Yes. Um, in fact probably one of the biggest ones that I use is the story of the beast. And there’s we all, especially now, when you, you look around, you know, we got this COVID environment, everybody’s afraid of everything. Um, well, that’s, that’s one of our emotions, it’s fear and that fear lives within all of us. And that fear is a beast and that beast will stop you from doing what you need to do. So, um, I was on a SWAT call decades ago and a fellow commander from another team was there with my team and he said, Adam, Hey, can I brief the team? I said, yeah. So he goes, he gets everybody together. And we always do like a locker room talk before. I mean, if we have the opportunity to, you know, sometimes just hit the, hit the ground running if there’s like a barricade of government or whatever, but, um, we had time to breathe.

Adam:
And so he started telling this story about the beast that’s within all of us and how we can go into the room with the beast, or we can go into life with the beast and let the beast scare us into submission or bully us into paralysis and not take action because of the beast. Or we can go in and we can look at the beast as our friend. And we go in to have fun with that beast. So it’s like going to a party where, you know, somebody is going to be there and you don’t think you’re going to like them and you go in and you’re, you’re either really challenged to enjoy yourself and get anything done. You’re not going to go dance at the party. You’re not going to meet anybody. You’re not going to be happy where you go in and you put a smile on your face and you go up to him and you enjoy yourself and you make the most of it.

Adam:
And the idea behind this was the beast is always there. It’s are you going to go in and fight the beast? Are you going to go in and party with the beast? And so we all wake up every morning. We have a challenge, no matter what, it doesn’t matter. It’s all different. We’re all different in our challenges and our fears in life, every single one of us. But the idea is, are you going to embrace that and love it and look for the opportunity and go party with the beast. Are you going to let it shut you down for the day? And that was the biggest thing I took from it.

Chris:
Yeah. So, so I’m sure you use that with your team when they come to you with problems, it’s, it’s identifying the beast, right. And then go to a party with the bees.

Adam:
That’s it. That’s it. You can do anything, Chris. It’s, it’s just a matter of what is your attitude about it, right?

Chris:
Yeah. I love that. Okay. So we’re coming into the end of the year as we’re recording this, and I’m curious with an organization as large as yours, how do you communicate next year’s vision? Not just your direct reports, but to the whole organization, to your affiliates, your broker-owners, how do you communicate that?

Adam:
Well, I mean, the first thing you gotta do is you gotta be present. So as a leader, you need to be present both with your, your customers. Uh, I mean, we have, we have multiple levels of customers, we’re a franchising organization. So we have the consumer, we have the agent, we have the franchisee, which has offices. And then obviously I have employees as well. And that spans well over a hundred thousand people in over a hundred countries, plus 600 employees here in North America. And if you’re not present people don’t trust you. And if they don’t trust you, they won’t seek clarity in what you’re saying. So you’ve got to be there. And I mean, I’m here on video and COVID actually has taught us a lot of lessons where it allows us to become more present. We’ve just made excuses for not being present in the past because we’re like, I can’t get in front of them.

Adam:
Well, guess what? That excuse is gone. So, um, so we’re here on video now and, and I get to be in front of my employees, at least quarterly. I get to be in front of my customers quite frequently, several times a week on video. And you just, give them clarity on what the mission of the company is. And you have to make small adjustments on that, but ultimately it’s not changing all that much from year to year, maybe small adjustments, maybe you’re adding on, you know, bolt-on services or, or parallel activities or markets, but ultimately your foundation for your business has not substantially changed over the past 12 months. And you continue to update people about that and continue to set that North star and give them clarity on what their mission is. Yeah.

Chris:
So it’s about alignment and trust. And by being in front of them, like, we’ve kind of been forced to be this year and be a little more vulnerable. You’re building constantly building alignment, building trust. And so just get out there and do it is what you’re saying. Get out, get on video, and, uh, and talk to people.

Adam:
That’s it? I mean, you, you should be thinking of, of three letters. It spells the word, ACE, ACE alignment, communication, and execution. Yeah.

Chris:
I love that. So shifting gears a little bit to your podcast, Start With A Win I mentioned it earlier, I don’t know a lot of the public company CEOs that have podcasts. So why did you decide to do this? Why is it important to you?

Adam:
Oh boy, I, I can, I can name a number of reasons why I wanted to get on there. I, I take it back though to be a sponge. And I kept growing as, uh, somebody in the executive, Steve, somebody in leadership, somebody, uh, who’s in, in business growth. And I saw a lot of people who were struggling with the same challenges and they were struggling from those challenges because they weren’t communicating the solutions to those challenges, challenges with other people that were struggling from those challenges. And I was, I was at a marketing conference, um, social media marketing world, Michael Stelzner puts it on. And I met him in the hallway and, and I wanted to do a better job of communicating with my customers. And he said, Hey, do you have a podcast? And I said, no. And he goes, well, you need to have one.

Adam:
I said, okay. So it took me a few years to finally kind of get it together. If you, you know, we hear about this, people say, Hey, you should go do this. And it just hit me one day. And I told my marketing team, I said, I want to start a podcast. So we hired a producer, producer, Mark, and we started the podcast. And then I thought, I can learn how to do this myself. So I went out and I bought all the same equipment. It’s right here. I have a pod. I have a mixer board right here. I’m talking to you on my mic. I got my headphones right here. I mean, it’s, I just recorded one this morning, in fact. And so I had to go out and learn how to do it myself. So I could say I knew the mechanics. That’s kind of how I think, but what I did then was I challenged my customers to start doing it. So we have a lot of people in the RE/MAX network and motto mortgage. Um, and the companies that we deal with that now have a podcast. Cause they’re like, Adam’s going to do it. I’m going to do it. Yeah. So it’s just, it’s be a sponge. Take it in, you have it back. And that’s why I have a podcast. I love that.

Chris:
And because you went to a conference and you see a lot of startups that are being told to do podcasts and someone in your position is not always the first one to do something like that. But because you acted quickly now you’re influencing others to do the same in your network. So it’s great. Uh, you know, um, the cycle like you’ve been talking about, and I love the messaging behind your show. So you talk a lot about needing to be in your right mind and body if you want to be right in business. And so I want to dig into those things. Let’s start with the mind. What is this all about?

Adam:
Well, the reality is your operating system determines what your actions are. Results are going to be your operating system in your mind. If you do not have the right attitude about it, you’re not going to do it. And you’re not going to do it with excellence, and you’re not going to do it in a, in a giving heart. So, you know, ultimately what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to, you’re trying to align everything that causes you to take action. And that, that starts in your mind. You’ve got to be happy as a human being. I mean, this, you know, businesses not just going in and going, Oh my gosh, we sold a lot of product or service or whatever. Yay. We’re successful. You’re not successful. If you’re unhappy, you’re miserable. Your relationships are terrible. You’re out of shape.

Adam:
You’re unhealthy, things like that. So all these things have to play together and it starts with you and your representation to yourself, of how life is, how life goes. And the beauty is you get to decide. So that’s having that mindset of I can. And I’m, I’m actually, um, I’m writing a book right now called Start With A Win. And it’s part of what I talk about is when I need to convince myself that I’m going to do it, I just tell myself I can, I can, I can. And you can actually feel that going through your body, but you have to realize that it’s true. And you know what, that gets that beast out of the room. It totally is the beast out of the room by having the right mindset. So you can think if you’ve got the right mindset, you’re going to do anything. You’re going to work on your health. You’re going to work on the relationships. And those are both more important than your business. And you’re going to work on your business.

Chris:
Do you think people, most people are introspective enough to realize that they’ve got some issue there, or how do you take stock of where you’re at to know if you’ve got to do some work?

Adam:
You gotta write it down. I mean, I’ll tell you, I, I write in my, on my iPad. It’s my journal. And I, I write on it all day every day. And it’s the reality is unless you can reflect that and you could think it all day long, but if you don’t write it down and look at it, you’re not going to realize what you’re grateful for. And you’re not going to realize what you got to get done. So stop guessing because all you’re doing is you’re just putting out fires all day. If you’re just guessing, and by writing it down, it forces you to create a plan of, I feel this way, I’m working on this, I’m trying to accomplish this. Here’s what my day looks like tomorrow. Um, you know, Friday next week, whatever it might be. And, and it puts you in a place where you feel confident and you feel accomplished and you can do anything if you feel those two ways.

Chris:
Yeah. And, and, you know, you mentioned the iPad and I do the same thing. What’s crazy is I can look back months ago or years ago and see a kind of like a different state of mind that I was in. I was super stressed, right. A lot going on it’s by having that journal of what you write down, it’s a, it’s a snapshot of what’s going through your mind at that time.

Adam:
Oh yeah. Yeah. And, uh, I learned all about this from Darren Hardy and Darren, a great guy. He’s, he’s a really close friend of mine. And he gave me this journal called Living Your Best Year Ever. I use it

Chris:
Every year. You got to tell him, thank him for me. I was with another, he texted him in the car. And so Darren’s going to get sick of hearing about me.

Adam:
I love it. Yeah. So, um, I, I love that journal. It, it makes you think about all these different aspects of your life and write them down. I mean, it gives you a paper to write on, uh, but I’ll tell you why, that, that guy, he doesn’t just say it. He doesn’t just publish it. He actually does it. I’ve, I’ve sat there. My wife and I vacation with him and his wife and you sit there and you watch him and you’re like, you really are this way. And he goes, yeah. I’m you think I’ve got this way? I’m like, okay. I love that. So, um, but yeah, I mean, it’s just, if you’re not willing to put down your thoughts, your feelings, your aspirations, your goals, things like that. And, and then work your way through this in writing. You’re not holding yourself accountable for getting better. Yeah. And that’s really what it’s all about.

Chris:
Yeah. Perfect. All right. We’ll link that book up. It’s a great resource for everyone listening. So next, next piece, here as body, you mentioned health a little bit fitness, so we’re all busy. How do you squeeze in the time to take care of your body? I guess I would say

Adam:
I’m intentional is if there’s one thing that I tell people it’s intentional and you gotta be intentional with all of those different aspects of your success. Um, if you are neglecting part of that, you’ve got to think of life like a wheel. And in fact, in, in living your best year ever, it has the wheel in it and you fill out, okay, where am I at with all these different things? Well, a wheel doesn’t work if part of it is flat or missing. So that’s how life works. If, if part of these success principles is missing in your life, you’re going to freeze right there. And that might be that you don’t have the energy to get through a meeting or get through a day, or it might be that you’re neglecting your body. So you’re not, I mean, the reality is, Hey, as we age, if your body starts deteriorating, so does your mind.

Adam:
Yeah, that’s the way it works. I’m sorry to tell you. But, um, you know, we get this period in our, you know, the twenties where we can maximize our performance, even though we’re, we’re treating ourselves like crap. But as soon as you get past that, you’re not going to be able to think properly, remember things, uh, and your emotions are going to be challenged. You’re going to lose emotional control. And, um, and therefore, no emotional intelligence, no emotional maturity, you can’t make decisions. You can’t commit to things. It’s all, it all starts in your body. And if you’re not willing to treat yourself well, other people aren’t going to treat you well. So, um, you know, COVID, for example, is like, are you wearing your mask? I’m like, are you working out? Are you drinking water? Are you eating healthy? Because your mask is one component of your immune system. Yeah. And I’m all for it. Keep each other healthy. But the reality is, if you’re not keeping yourself healthy, you’re doing me a disservice too. Yeah.

Chris:
So this is, it’s been a tough year. And so, you know, if people are struggling with mine and struggling with body or struggling with their business and maybe have gone out of business, you know, people could be, uh, you know, suffering in a lot of areas. Is there a right order to tackle, these things on the wheel?

Adam:
No. Um, I mean, here’s the reality. You, you need to work on all of them and you need to have a plan for all of them. If you’re not willing to work on all of them and have a plan for all of them, something’s going to fall off the map. It’s, it’s interesting. Cause it’s like when, um, I went, I went and got an MBA. About five years ago, I was running a company while I was getting an MBA. And they said you’re going to have to juggle all these things. Just don’t neglect. One more neglect, any particular, one more than one day in a row. So you got to balance all these things. And I thought, well, I’m not going to neglect any of them. So I scheduled just the daylights out of myself. I mean, my, my calendar did not have free time on it. I blocked everything out, but I got everything done. I got a 4.0 on my MBA and I continued to grow the company and my family was happy and I was healthy. So you can have it all in life. Yeah. That’s a reality. You can have it all, but you gotta be really disciplined and work for it. But it’s super rewarding when you succeed in those things. So,

Chris:
And you snuck it in there, but your family was happy. And I think a lot of people listening to this and trying to build businesses, that’s an easy area to sacrifice if you’re so concerned with your business or your workout schedule or whatever it is. And so I love that you’re, you’re putting even attention to all this. You are a super motivational guy. So I’m curious, like, did something flip a switch in you at one point? Like how, how did you start being able to share about this? Was it something in your own life? Or how did you this way,

Adam:
You know, we all have those moments where, we hit rock bottom, whatever that definition is for us. I mean, I’ve been burned out before. Um, I’ve been miserable before I I’ve been through a divorce. I mean, we’ve all gone through some challenging things in life, but really it doesn’t hit you until that moment where you sit there and you say never again, and I’m going to be the best I can be is you’ve got to, you got to commit. It’s hard every day. I mean, just being successful is not a destination. It’s a journey and you have to wake up and you have to go after that journey every single day, instead of thinking, all right, I made it, I’m here. I’ll put my feet up, I’ll get fat, I’ll get lazy. I’ll start letting my brain deteriorate. I’ll drink. Whatever I need to be successful.

Adam:
People don’t get that way. It doesn’t matter where they’re at in their life. They keep working at it until the day that they die. Because as soon as they decide to stop working at it, that’s when they die. So, um, I mean, it’s weird cause you don’t, you don’t comprehend when you’ve been doing it for so long. And I’m, I’ve got, I mean, so I’ve been at Remax for 17 years now. Um, and, and I’ve been hitting it as hard as I possibly can during those 17 years. I don’t remember what it’s like to burn out. I don’t remember what it’s like to, to let myself get fat or miserable or whatever. It might be becomes

Chris:
A lifestyle. It’s just right.

Adam:
Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s your habits. Yeah. Your habits create your results. When I first started getting,

Chris:
Getting into this, this fitness routine and everything, a friend of mine was really pushing me to, to, you know, we were checking in with each other every day. It was like an accountability buddy. And I asked him, how long do I do this for? And he wrote back simply forever. And that stuck with me. I was like, okay, this is, this is new life. So I’ve got a couple more questions as we take this to a close here. Um, we talked about vision earlier, but you’ve also got operational goals. You’ve got company goals, you’ve got personal goals, and picking the right size goals to set yourself up for success is important. So how do you think about that? What’s the right level of challenge?

Adam:
Well, all your goals need to be able to be deconstructed. If you can’t deconstruct your goals into activities, then they’re not goals their dreams. So really, I mean, a goal is a destination. People try to get to, but how do we turn those things into micro-commitments on a daily basis? Cause I mean, what is a goal? A goal is a commitment, right? It’s, I’m going to do this by this time you hear about smart goals and all the rest of this, but ultimately if your goal is smart, you need to be able to deconstruct that into a micro-commitment that you’re working on every day or every other day, or however many times a week or whatever. And, but if you can’t, if you can’t fit that goal activities towards that goal into a week period are not a goal. It’s an aspiration.

Adam:
And I mean, you might as well go, all right. At some point, I hope that my paths crossed with this opportunity or something like that. So I look at it and I say, okay, what, what is that yearly goal? Let’s break it down to half-yearly and then let’s go quarterly and then let’s go monthly and then weekly. And then what do we need to do each day in order to accomplish that? I can tell you one thing in business. It is almost always, how many times can you create an interaction with your customers? That’s pretty much, it, it doesn’t matter who they are, where they’re at in the world. I got, I got people globally that I talked to and I mean, I’ve been Facebook messaging, a guy in, uh, I think he’s in like a United Arab Emirates today. Um, I’ve been around the world probably a couple of times today talking to people, talking to customers. Um, this is the third video recording I’ve done today. Uh, I zoomed in to a business preparation meeting this morning. Um, gave a speech there, uh, talked to other CEOs of major franchise companies today. I mean, just do it. And I have a goals for all those things. They created business today for us. But the reality is I just didn’t sit back and go, Hey, look at my screen. What’s going to happen.

Chris:
Yeah, very intentional. And so the most micro level and the last question here, when I was on your show, you asked how I start with the win. What’s the daily habit. And so for your goals, annual half-year, quarterly, monthly, weekly, what do you start every day with?

Adam:
I wake up at 4:30 in the morning. My, my alarm doesn’t even need to make noise. My phone just does the screen turns on and it kind of lights up the room and then Seymour my 95-pound German shepherd sticks his nose in my face, a kiss. He’s like, Hey dad, it’s time to get up. And so 4:30, I wake up. I go, when I brush my teeth, get dressed to go to the gym, um, grab a cup of coffee with some MCT oil, coconut oil, some nutrients, and things like that in it. I love energizing my body and my brain and that fat and those nutrients do that. And then I watch my Darren daily from Darren Hardy, which is a short little video. I study a little bit of a concept. Um, like today I was listening to an audiobook by one of the CEOs that I talked to today. And, um, you know, just, I, I start my day and my wife, Kelly walks in, give her a hug for two minutes to our lover and we go to the gym. So, um, we’re back home

Chris:
In that balance in all areas of your life. Just like we talked about here, Adam, this was great. Thanks so much for diving into this. We’ll uh, we’ll wrap it up, but obviously listening, go check out Adam’s podcast. Start with A Win and if they want to connect with you elsewhere or somewhere else, they can follow you.

Adam:
Yeah, they can find me on all the social media platforms at Remax, Adam Contos or Adam Contos CEO. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, um, may have been all those places. Follow me like me, put out a lot of material. All right. Well,

Chris:
Thanks for listening. Go and Google Adam and follow him on all the social platforms. Check out his podcast. And Adam, thanks again. This has been good.

Adam:
Thanks, my friend. Great to see you again. You too.

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