Planning for a Rainy Day

In the business world, and the working world, we’ve all heard the saying “for a rainy day”. This typically means being prepared for when things are bad.

A rainy day is usually considered by be a period of unemployment, low workloads or a period of poor health, but is anyone ever prepared for a global pandemic?

As we move out of one of the toughest years many small businesses have, and probably will ever, face, we must consider how we can prevent hardship in future days.

Many small business owners simply cannot go a year without working. It’s the lifeblood of their existence. By this point you’ve already put everything on the line to pursue your passion. You’ve turned your dream into your career. Now we’re all fighting just to stop it slipping away.

Let’s explore three main talking points that could potential help you the next time we see a little rain in the world.

1. Broaden Your Reach – Embrace the Internet

If you’re a local store that offers products to your local community, perhaps an eCommerce option would help add a little safety to your future plans. If you rely on selling locally that’s perfectly fine. However, in the event of current events happing again in another form, your local community may not be able to sustain your business. Get yourself online and make your product available to the wider world.

2. Conduct Business Virtually

If you’re a service provider such as a music teacher, therapist, nutritionist, trainer or anyone else who guides people and helps them realise their potential, then you’ll know that being in a room with someone is essential to conduct business… or is it? These days with services like Zoom and Skype, your clients can be anywhere in the world at anytime and you can still deliver the same level of service you would face to face.

3. Put a Little Aside

This is easier said than done, but if this year has taught us anything, it’s the need to be ready. Try to put a little extra money aside each month just in case you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation again. It doesn’t have to be huge amounts, but a small amount on a regular basis adds up. This can really help keep you going in tough times.

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Singing Lessons Oxford

It brings me great pleasure to welcome Zoe Mace onboard as the person heading up our Singing Lessons Oxford page.

Zoe has done a huge amount of charity work as a singer, including recording three classical charity albums which raised in excess of £200,000 for various children’s charities.

I know Zoe is going to be a fantastic teacher and our base of students are going to love lessons with her. I want to welcome her onboard and I look forward to seeing her career grow.

Posted under mgrmusic.com

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 25, 2020

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The Importance of Having a Great Website

Having a great website is so important for a business. They are your central hub and a place to reinforce your branding identity. Your website will tell potential clients and customers about you and the services you offer.

Most business rely heavily on social media, which his fantastic for community outreach, however, you can only take the branding so far. A website will give viewers the full story about you and your business from the first click.

This applies to all sectors. For mgrmusic.com, our website gives potential students and teachers a place to explore what we have to offer. It gives them a list of the teachers in their local area and it allows them to reach out with any questions. It also centralizes everything into one place. Imagine having to create a social media page for each individual location your business operates in.

A website will also allow you to learn about SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is the method in which Google looks for and ranks businesses and websites according to a range of factors. If you ensure your website has good SEO, when people search for your service on Google your website will rank higher in the results.

Web design used to be an awfully expensive thing. Now, in 2020, we have so many tools available to us that allow us to build professional websites from our own home. All you need is a few simple things:

1. A Domain Name – This is your websites URL address. There are many domain registrars that you can purchase a domain from. It’s always good practise to aim for yourbusiness.com, or .co.uk if you want a more localised website. Domain names, for the most part, are very affordable. You can expect to pay £10-20 a year on average to have your own domain.

2. Web Hosting – Web hosting is a place on the internet where your website is stored. Hosting suppliers are companies that run servers all over the world from data centres. You rent space off them on a monthly/quarterly/yearly basis to place your website on their servers. When people access your URL, they get redirected to the hosts servers and then to your website. Hosting pricing can vary based on the company, web traffic, website size and more.

3. A Web Builder – Ok, I did say you can do this yourself, but some people just aren’t comfortable with this aspect. Tools like WordPress and GoDaddy make web building much easier these days. If you feel up to it, give it a go! You can download so many plugins, themes, add ons and more that will make web building a breeze. If you still don’t feel confident, or you want someone to build you something very specific, you may need to contract a good web developer.

Now that you know what it takes to have a good website, it’s time for you to get building. Stamp your brand authority all over it and get that SEO on point so your website ranks high in Google. Whatever your sector, from guitar teacher to solicitor, having a good website is your authority mark in your field.


Zoom Cello Lessons

Just a quick business update from my side, I’m very excited to announce we’ve just launched our Zoom Cello Lessons website. With the restrictions brought on by Covid-19, we’ve worked hard to get teachers online.

I am so pleased to be working with Viki Steiri who will be heading up the Zoom Cello Lessons page. Viki will be hosting online lessons for cello students from all over. She is bringing her 15 plus years of experience and knowledge to the table to share with students. Her experience and list of accolades speaks for itself.

I look forward to watching Viki’s online lessons grow and flourish.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 3, 2020

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Teaching During a Pandemic

If anyone out there is a teacher, you will know the impact that the last 6 months has had on the typical day to day working methods of a teacher.

It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher at a large school or you run a private tuition business, like many of the teachers I work with under mgrmusic.com, thing have changed. We as teachers, and business owners in a broader sense, need to adapt to this.

So, one conversation I’ve had many times since March is relating to what teachers can do to continue working both in a safe and controlled manner that does not go against any Government guidelines.

The simple option is move online. Many teachers I work with have moved a majority of their workload onto online platforms like Skype and Zoom. This allows them to continue working with students over a video call.

Teaching over video presents some new challenges that face-to-face lessons don’t present, but most teachers are able to quicky adapt to this.

Now that things are slowly returning to some form or normality, many teachers with teaching studios big enough, or indeed those who work at schools, are able to resume face-to-face lessons with social distancing measures in place.

If you teach one on one, this could be as simple as keeping your distance and wearing a face mask. Some teachers may want to look into a plexiglass screen that can be placed between you and the student, similar to those you see at supermarket checkouts.

While there are many challenges currently in the way, and with more to probably come, teachers are now being made to think outside the box more than ever.

Assess your teaching environment and see if you can make it safe for resuming your day to day work.


Guitar Lessons Sheffield

Here is a small business update for this week to round this off. I’m delighted to announce that we’ve recently partnered up with Robbie Chapman who will be heading up the Guitar Lessons Sheffield website. Robbie is a fantastic teacher and it brings me great pleasure to bring him onboard during this turbulent time.

I look forward to seeing his business grow and seeing him pass on his knowledge and experience to all his students.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on September 17, 2020

Running a Small Business During Covid-19

Covid-19 has really shook the business world. There are many areas of business that have been forced into fight or flight mode. In my own business with mgrmusic.com I have faced many challenges.

The industry we operate in is that of music education. Working with teachers and students all around the UK to deliver high quality instrument lessons.

The big challenges stem from this being a job that is predominantly face-to-face for all involved. Covid-19 has meant many restrictions needing to be in place which ultimately led to a lot of lessons being cancelled.

All businesses will have learned many lessons in this testing time, but unfortunately not everyone will have been able to weather the storm.

So what can we do better? How can we as small business continue to operate and be ready for whatever comes next.

  1. Secure Online Provisions for Trading – If you deliver a service such as music lessons, or you are able to provide your customers what they need via an online platform, now is the time to set up. Look at Zoom or Skype for client facing roles or if your business provides products, look into eCommerce solutions.
  2. Implement Safety Measures – If your role absolutely demands face-to-face interaction then it’s worth checking out some ways you can better protect your environment and give your customers piece of mind. Keep plenty of hand sanitiser and wipes near by. Perhaps a plexiglass screen between you and a customer if you meet face to face regularly. Look at ways you can make the work place a safe place.
  3. Plan, Plan, Plan – Plan everything. Plan for the good days and plan for the bad. With a situation like the one the world is currently in, nothing is as it was. Your regular routines may not return to normal for some time. We have to anticipate that some appointments and customers will now be gone and perhaps new customers timeslots in our working world may need to be spaced out for us to better prepare the space we work. Factor all this in to your planning.
  4. Keep Checking the Advice – Keep looking at the Government advice and speak to your local councillors to ensure that your work place is Covid compliant and that you are able to trade safely and securely.

It’s a tricky time for us all. If we are prepared and we use a lot of forward thinking, we can get through this. For all the small business owners out there, you are not alone.


Drum Lessons Guildford

Here is a small business update to round this off, although Covid-19 has proved tricky for many teachers we work with, we have been taking this opportunity to expand our teacher base. We recently welcomed Russel Bradley onboard as the drum teacher for the Drum Lessons Guildford website.

I am very excited to have Russell on board. He is highly qualified and very experience and I look forward to seeing how he passes this knowledge and experience onto his students.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on September 12, 2020

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Teacher Hiring

This week I’d like to talk a little about hiring. It’s been a very productive week for us at mgrmusic.com and we’ve hired 8 new teachers. Hiring is something that many small businesses struggle to fit into their already jam-packed schedules.

When we hire new teachers, we have a process that we like to follow.

First of all, we have to find teachers that I feel will be a good fit for what we do. We want to speak to individuals who are motivated and hungry to grow their business and we hire based on locational needs. When we’re building a new page for a new town, we then have to find a teacher to fill that space.

My usual process involves an initial outreach where we initiate contact to get the conversation going before scheduling a call. Once a teacher signs up via the online form we provide, we then schedule a follow up call to get them geared up for the next step which is getting into our systems and seeing how it all works.

Once we’ve hired a teacher, we spend time with them to be sure they know how to use the platform and perform all the admin tasks. This is similar to the training that you’d typically go through when starting any job. We schedule some phone calls/Skype calls to walk over everything that needs to be discussed and be sure that everything is in place for that teacher to start receiving lessons.

For anyone who runs a service based business, they know that on boarding clients correctly is a core part of the sales process – after all this is it the first time a new client (in our case teacher) interacts with your business/product, so you want to make a great impression. It is also a time where they are likely to have the most questions, so ensuring that the support is there to help them in those early days is so important in setting up a long lasting partnership.


Small business update this week, one of the newly onboard teachers has joined as a Piano Teacher in Bournemouth, named Alicia Sanchez. Alicia is originally from Madrid and moved to England in recent years to study a for a Masters in Health Psychology at Bournemouth University.

She runs her piano lessons business as a mobile teacher and works with students around the area to share her knowledge. Alicia specialises in Classical music and is very well educated in the works of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven and Liszt. She can also teach a wide range of other styles. We are delighted to have her onboard and really excited to have now opened a new music hub in Bournemouth for piano lessons.

 

Posted under mgrmusic.com, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 10, 2019

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UK Guitar Show

On the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of September I travelled down to London to attend the UK Guitar Show. I had been planning to attend for a few months in order to facilitate some face to face relationships with companies I had already started speaking with but also just to catch up with people I already knew.

Events like this are wonderful for networking and getting to know the people behind the business. I spoke to a bunch of vendors from both big and small companies and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The show was so well organised, and everything was really easy to find.

Some of my favourite discussions happened with some great companies that manufacture guitar amplifiers such as Orange and Blackstar. Both companies make incredible amps and we often find teachers and students of mgrmusic.com singing the praises of small and large amps from both companies.

One really cool conversation was with the owner of a company called Chicken Picks. They produce high quality guitar picks using some unique design and manufacturing methods. We spoke at length not only about the product but about the ethos of the company and the people behind the brand. It was really interesting to find out how they make their picks and how they get them to market.

They engineer their picks from a thermosetting plastic which is harder and denser than standard guitar picks, therefore harder wearing and will last longer and more resistant to breaks and chips appearing with heavy use.

If that wasn’t cool enough, their manufacturing is based in Belgium and Germany where they actually give back to local communities. They employ staff from a company called Fivelingo which is a sheltered employment organization. Fivelingo prioritise employment opportunities for job seekers and they also provide income support to low income workers.

They offer workshops and opportunities for anyone to learn a skill and secure a great job. Sometimes we forget just how personal the supply chains of some smaller companies can be. We should do more to support companies like this.


We have recently brought onboard the amazing Greg Mudd as a bass teacher in Southampton. Greg is a highly respected player and has performed across the world in some fantastic venues. He has also taught bass at some incredibly prestigious institutions.

He is currently based at Portsmouth Naval Base where he works as the Professor of Bass Guitar for the Royal Marines Band Service and a lecturer of Developing the Musician at Southampton’s Solent University.

His list of qualifications is also impressive including a Masters Degree in Musicology, BA (hons) in Humanities and Music, Diploma in Music and more. We are excited to have Greg onboard and look forward to working with him in more detail.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on October 7, 2019

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Why YouTube Can Help Grow Your Business

Has the internet changed the way we all teach? I certainly think so. In 2019, there is a growing hungry for visual media. Many teachers are taking their cause to the internet and teaching via the medium of video. This could be pre-recorded lessons or live on Skype.

The reason for this is that the internet simply allows us to connect with more people. If you teach face to face, you’re somewhat limited geographically, but if you teach on Skype, location is no longer a factor. If you are a good teacher, you could teach from LA to Sri Lanka and everything in between, time zones permitting of course.

Many musicians are looking to places like Youtube to host their content to educate everyone, and the great news for the consumer is this is FREE. Video allows people to consume media anywhere, anytime and with the fast-paced ways of the modern world, this seems to be getting more and more normal.

The benefits as I said are that you can connect the whole world to your cause with relative ease and with social media as the biggest marketing tool, you could reach an audience of millions armed with only your knowledge and a camera.

Making this content is not always easy, it does often require good quality equipment that can capture high quality video and audio and the ability to manipulate these recordings after they are made to ensure they are polished and ready to go.

If you are just getting started with the idea of video lessons, a good quality HD camera and a small home recording set up will give you the ability to do this. Audio and video editing is an art form in it’s own right so there is certainly going to be some additional learning for you as you get into this process. There are plenty of resources out there to help you become a fantastic editor and have your videos looking polished and professional in no time.


We are excited to be working with the wonderful Toby Huelin as our Piano Teacher in York. Tony is a fantastic teacher, offering custom tailored piano lessons across all genres to his students. He is an incredibly versatile teacher and can play anything from Classical to Jazz as well as being as holding experience teaching in schools at KS2 through to A-Level in Music and Music Technology.

He has also taught music at Victoria College, Jersey College for Girls, Jersey Academy of Music and Blackheath Conservatoire. Toby also holds a First Class Degree in Music from the University of Oxford and a Masters in Composition at Distinction level from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Outside of teaching, Toby works as a composer for theatre, film and concert halls. His music has been heard in venues such as Maida Vale, Wigmore Hall, The Barbican and Abbey Road and performed by ensembles such as The BBC Singers, EXAUDI, The Cavaleri Quartet and more.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on September 26, 2019

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2Factor Authentication – Why Security Should be Central to Your Business

Security seems to be a recurring theme in these posts but once again here I am to discuss the importance of security to a business website. Over the last month I’ve been making a conscious effort to improve the security on the mgrmusic.com platform to ensure that business can run smoothly and safely for myself, all the teachers we work with and any students that use our platform.

With the increase of hacking attacks and viruses that you hear about targeting websites and their plugins, I’ve decided to upgrade all the security systems that keep things safe for us.

The biggest change that I have implemented is the inclusion of 2 Factor Authentication on all our website and email log ins. For anyone unfamiliar with the term 2 Factor Authentication (2FA for short), this is essentially an addition step to logging in that involves a second stage of verification. Many websites already use this as an option such as Facebook who will prompt you to enter a code displayed on your mobile when logging into an unrecognised device.

I have decided to go with Google Authenticator for the same purpose so when myself, other employees and teachers log into our platform, they are prompted to enter their email and password as usual, before being prompted to open an app on their phone to obtain a security code, this is the second factor of the authentication. This code allows the security software to know the person logging in is indeed the person who it should be.

So many big businesses get hacked on a regular basis and the impacts range from a temporary loss of service to a long-term loss of income. My goal as a business owner is to ensure that all the people that use my service never have to deal with the outcome of such attacks. I want my platform to be secure and reliable for all that use it.


We have recently welcomed the incredible Hannah Rose to the mgrmusic.com family under the Piano Lessons Manchester page. Hannah holds a Bachelor of Music from the Royal Northern College of Music and specialises in pop and classical music. She has an unbeatable work ethic, teaching at two music institutions in her local area as well as running her own private tuition business.

She works over graded curriculum with students and also provides lessons based around their own musical tastes and interests to ensure very dynamic learning. We look forward to seeing Hannah’s business grow and we are thrilled to have her onboard with us.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on September 13, 2019

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Business Partnerships

Let’s talk about networking and the power of community in business. Every business you see has links with other companies. There intertwining threads through business are the veins that carry the company’s lifeblood. Can one company exist without another? Sure, but it does help to have connections.

Building relationships in business is a powerful thing and it should never be overlooked. When it comes to relationship business it’s often worth remembering that you aren’t building a relationship with the company as an entity, but with an individual (or individuals) within that business. These relationships should be viewed almost like your friendship circles. The people within the companies that you have relationships with as essentially your “business friends”.

It’s these close-knit relationships that allow you to maintain a great working relationship.

Never underestimate the importance of face-to-face networking. This is often a great way to get started with building relationships. I find that cold-email or cold-calling a company that you want to work with is often met with barriers, because to that company, you don’t have a face.

If you really want to network and get to know the people behind companies, get out there and meet them. Whatever your industry, check online and on social media for any networking events. It is often possible to see which companies will be attending, and sometimes even the person at that company.

If you feel you have a relationship worth building and you can offer them something in return, you can make it your aim to meet the person on the other end of that potential partnership. Things will blossom more in a face-to-face setting.

The digital age allows us to stay in touch electronically, and any face to face relationships that you build on, you can follow up with emails shortly after to keep that contact up. What is your business and what sort of companies do you think you would be able to form a beneficial partnership with? Make a list and get out there and shake some hands.


Now for a business update, we’ve recently taken on a new teacher in Liverpool heading up our Piano Lessons Liverpool website. Her name is Sophie Leaver and she is a multi-instrumentalist who graduated with a First in Music from the University of Liverpool. She also holds a Masters Degree in Music Performance and Pedagogy which she obtain in September 2018.

Sophie is an accomplished pianist, singer and guitar player and has performed at a range of festivals, sporting events and even on the ITV series Victoria.

Sophie started teaching in 2017 in New York before moving her teaching business to the Merseyside area of Liverpool.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on September 3, 2019

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Continuous Systems Improvement

Off the back of me discussing some of the lessons learned from the recent spam attack, I took the opportunity to make some important updates and implemented some new procedures to increase security and also improve a lot of other administrative processes along the way.

One thing that I’ve recently improved is the websites database systems. Due to the nature of the business, we receive a high volume of enquiries from potential students all around the UK. The unfortunate nature of dealing with high volume in a small business is that sometimes things could get missed, or as I’ve also seen, technology plays a part in the item not arriving with us even though the customer has submitted it.

I’ve made some back-end updates to the website which now provide a timestamp to all submitted entries. This means, even if an email physically does not arrive in our inbox, there will be a marker of this in the database. This means if a customer contacts us to say they got in touch but did not hear back, I can simply retrieve the entry from the database and deal with it right away. This saves us extra time and saves the customer from having to resubmit their request.

These increased records will improve our overall efficiency and also free up some all-important time to work on other aspects of the business too.

I have also made some important updates to our phone service which now provides each locational webpage with its own local phone number. This allows us to retrieve voicemails much faster and send them to the local teachers in a timelier manner. Previously the voicemails all collected in a central repository with no location indicator.


Quick business update, we’ve recently taken on a new singing teacher based in Newcastle that will be heading up our Singing Lessons Newcastle. We are so pleased to welcome Jay Hepple onboard to share his knowledge and experience with students.

Jay is not only a fantastic singing teacher, but he also performs up and down the UK on a regular basis with his band Groove Allstars at weddings and functions. You may also have heard him sing as part of SoulTown at one of the many Haven Holiday Parks around the country. He’s even sung on stage with Take That on their recent Greatest Hits Tour as part of their choir. Pretty cool huh?

Jay holds a 1stClass BA Honours in the Music Industry from the Academy of Music and Sound in Gateshead.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on September 3, 2019

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Spam Email Attack

So this week’s business update here, and this time it’s got a valuable lesson attached. Recently, some of the mgrmusic.com website contact forms fell victim to a spam attack. This type of attack is a bot-based attack which doesn’t directly affect the website, but the bot uses the contact form as a proxy to send emails out to multiple recipients.

These types of attacks work based on the contact form replying to the submitter with an auto reply. For instance, if you typed in the body of the text “Win £100” and entered your email in the field, our system would generate an auto reply to you and a copy of the text you submitted. The bot had used out system to email spam to a substantial number of emails, as we pay per email it also incurred a quite significant bill. Indeed, it was a bit of a perfect storm that highlighted a security vulnerability in our systems that needed resolving.

So, what did we learn? I mentioned last time that I was working on some integration with ReCapcha and we have rebuilt our contact forms from the ground up to prevent this happening in future. I have also been keen to increase security across the business, adding in 2 factor authentication on all business email logins and will look to do the same with websites. I would recommend that you do the same as well for your start-up, after all the cost of getting it wrong can literally put you out of business – no matter what size your company is.

One aspect of this that I really want to share with you is that as business owners we abstract business problems away from clients – it is part of the service we provide by default. Certain things should never make it to the client view of the business as it’s not something they should ever have to worry about when using your service.

In my case, I don’t want my teachers to be concerned with web security or the websites running as planned, but due to this attack I had to take various websites offline for 24 hours to increase security measures which placed this issue in the view of my teachers. This broke that invisible shield that you as a business owner abstract away from the client, suddenly teachers wanted to know why their websites were down and what was the cause of the attack – in other words the client became concerned with a business issue.

A good example of this scenario is in recent years when KFC changed suppliers and various branches ran out of chicken due to a change in suppliers. This meant, instead of the customers arriving and just using the service they expect (ordering their bucket of chicken!), they were then aware of issues with the supply chain. Not a great look for the company, after all you just want your customers to be thinking “wow this is great chicken”.

It is these moments, often of very high stress that you see how your company can cope with a setback and then how you can improve your systems/processes by resolving it in such a way that it could never happen again. This is what I hope that we achieved this week.


Piano Lessons Nottingham

Here is a small business update to round this off, we’ve recently started working with the fantastic Chloe Leak who will be the teacher on our Piano Lessons Nottingham page. Chloe brings many years of experience along with her and we are very excited to have her on board.

Chloe obtained her music teaching diploma in 2017 and knew from the age of 10 she wanted a career in music. She was committee to playing piano from a young age and now wants to share that knowledge and experience with students in the city of Nottingham

Nottingham has a thriving music scene with lots of new bands and great venues all around so it’s wonderful to see a new generation of musicians coming through under Chloe’s guidance.

I look forward to seeing Chloe’s business grow and grow.

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This post was written by Matthew Rusk on August 24, 2019

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