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Monday, May 24th, 2010

5 Tips On Managing Virtual Teams (From A Virtual CEO)


Virtual team management is not easy.

It sounds great for everyone to wake up in their pajamas and crank out work all day…but the fact is that managing virtual teams has a whole other host of challenges.

But I’ve been through it…so enjoy these first-hand tips to maximize your effective virtual teamwork.

Tips For Managing Virtual Teams

1) Hold Daily Huddles

I recommend that meet with your virtual team daily (every other day at the least).

See my article entitled How The Ritz Carlton & I Run Our Meetings: The Daily Huddle for my approach to such huddles.

These huddles can be via conference call or video-conferencing if you can afford that.

The main reasons for frequent huddles (which can be 15 minutes or less) are:

  • Speed — You will iterate faster
  • Alignment — You and your team will better stay aligned on objectives
  • Accountability — These meetings will hold you and your team accountable (it’s tough to hide poor performance when you meet daily or every other day)

2) Hold Periodic In-Person Meetings

For starters, for effective virtual team management, you’re still going to have to meet in person once in awhile.

If you are all in one country, I recommend you meet in person every other month — if that is not doable, I recommend you meet quarterly.

These in-person meetings are vital for such things as:

  • Setting longer-term goals — E.g. 3 year, 1 year and 3 month goals.
  • Virtual team building — Last I heard you can’t give hugs or high-fives over the Web!
  • Tackling discussion items that require 2 to 8 hours — Doing these virtually (i.e. over the phone) will be very stressful (especially since you and your team are already spending a lot of time on the phone)
  • Zoom-Out brainstorming — When you work virtually you tend to to be “zoomed-in” much of the time — you’ll need to leave your virtual workplace to zoom out on bigger picture/strategy items.

3) Use Document/Screen Sharing Programs — “Get on the same page!”

One of the biggest risks in virtual teamwork is that you and your team fall off the same page.

To help prevent that, I recommend you use such tools as:

  • Google Docs — This allows you to collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents together
  • ScreenShare Programs — These programs are are easy for showing your colleague what’s on your screen (screen-sharing programs I’ve used that I recommend include Mikogo, , the screen-sharing feature within Skype or Microsoft’s Live Meeting (all but Microsoft’s are free).

4) Hold A Regular Company-Wide Telephone Call

If you have multiple virtual teams (or your company is 100% virtual like ours), then I recommend that you hold a “Team Call” once or twice a month.

Topics for the team call can include:

  • An update on financials
  • An update on meeting objectives
  • Training the team on a skillset (perhaps how to use Google Docs, Mikogo or Live Meeting)
  • Praising team members for good work
  • Celebration of birthdays or anniversaries

5) Communicate Through The Appropriate Medium

Virtual team communication can be quite challenging…afterall, you can’t typically see another person’s expression or body language when you’re in a virtual office environment.

My general rule of thumb is that the more sensitive the topic to discuss, the higher the bandwidth communication you should use.

Here are examples of discussion topics and the communication method I recommend you consider:

  • Updates on product sales — Email is ok
  • Updates on a change in a company policy — Telephone preferable/email ok
  • If an employee is under-performing — Telephone is preferable (backed up by email)
  • Bad financial news — Telephone is preferable
  • If an employee needs to be let go or fired — In person is preferable/telephone is next best option (don’t do it via email!)

Leading virtual teams can be fun and rewarding…you just have to realize that it’s going to require some different approaches than working with your team in-person.

You’ll be mastering virtual teams before you know it!

If you liked this article, you may want to check out my article on Virtual Team’s Pros & Cons.

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Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

7 Tips On How To Motivate Your Team (Hint: Make Them Feel "Progress")


A feeling of “progress” may be the most important motivator for you or your team, according to a Harvard Business Review study on what motivates people (thanks to my colleague Mary for pointing this one out).

The HBR study took an interesting angle on motivation by studying hundreds of workers and digging into what happens on a great work day.

Image courtesy of José-Manuel Benito Álvarez, Wikipedia.

The gist of the study is that on days when workers feel like they’re making progress on projects their emotions are positive and that increases their drive to succeed.

The opposite is true: when workers are feeling like they’re on the “hamster wheel,” working hard with little in the way of results, they feel negative emotions and their performance plummets.

And the progress that your team feels can even be small…and they’ll still feel motivated!

7 Tips For How To Motivate Your Team Through Progress

1) Set SMART Goals

To motivate your team through the feeling of progress, you’re gonna first need to work with them to set goals.

The goals you set should be SMART Goals:

  • Specific — Well defined, clear to everyone
  • Measurable — There should be a metric or some measurement to identify how you’re progressing on your goal.
  • Agreed-Upon — The goal should be agreed upon by the people working on it.
  • Realistic — The goal can be ambitious but should be within reason
  • Time-based — Every goal should have a time-line.

2) Provide Resources Necessary to Achieve Goals

You as a leader should do whatever you can to provide the resources necessary for your team to work on reaching goals.

Spend 1-on-1 time with them to discuss the goals and ask them what they need to reach them.

3) Hold Frequent Meetings To Chunk Down Goals

Let’s say you’ve got your team’s quarterly goals in place.

Now you’re gonna want to set up frequent meetings within the quarter to discuss them.

I recommend that you meet with your team either daily (or every other day) (see Daily Huddle).

In those huddles, ask your direct report to list things that they could do in THAT WEEK to make progress on the quarterly priorities.

E.g. If your quarterly goal is to close a major partnership with a single Fortune 100 customer, then ask your direct report at the start of a week what is it that they can commit to doing to moving that priority forward.

Example of chunking down the quarterly goal:

  • If it’s the beginning of the quarter, the first week’s goal may be as simple as committing to identifying the 10 Fortune 100 customers your direct report is going to go after.
  • The following week’s goal may be to telephone a contact at each of the ten Fortune 100 customers.
  • In the week after that, your direct report may agree to commit to making a proposal to a certain Fortune 100 customer.
  • Etc.

Now, as your direct report makes headway on these chunked-down goals, they will have a feeling of progress.

Remember this nugget of wisdom from my business hero Coach John Wooden (I’m paraphrasing):

Progress is not necessarily reaching your goal…progress is working as hard as you reasonably can on your goal and then letting the results be what they may.

4) Celebrate Milestones

When you reach your goals (i.e. milestones), take a moment to celebrate.

Acknowledge each and every person involved in the project…ideally with specifics on what they contributed to its success.

As a CEO, I ask my team to remind me of whenever anyone does something impressive…and then I try to write a quick congratulatory note to that team member (cc:ing their manager).

5) Acknowledge Failure As Progress

Don’t forget that failure is progress.

For example, your team may have a goal of trying to close certain types of customers or partnerships. If you explore one such deal and it’s not a good fit (for you or the other party), that is still progress.

Remember the old adage about the vacuum salesperson who realizes he has to knock on 50 doors before he makes a sale of one $50 vaccum:

“Each failure (closed door) is worth a dollar!” (because he gets $50 for knocking on 50 doors)

So when someone slams the door shut on a component of your goals, just move on — cuz you’re that much closer to getting what you want.

6) Be Authentic

This one’s easy: your praise of people should always be authentic.

Don’t tell someone they “really moved the ball forward” when you actually don’t know what they did.

7) Be Decisive

If you as a leader are indecisive about decisions around goals and priorities then you delay the feeling of progress that your team gets when they either reach (or fail to reach) their goal.

Progress is tough to feel when leadership is wishy-washy.

So be decisive about such things as:

  • Setting goals
  • Providing resources to help the goals get reached
  • Pulling the plug on deals/losing deals (once in awhile you will either want to pull the plug on a deal or you will have it pulled for you by another party — this is ok, just make it fast).

If you can work on the above 7 tips, you will help motivate your team though progress.

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Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

How To Determine Your Business Values: Exercises, Examples & Top Lists


Do you know what your business’s values are?

I believe that your corporate values may be THE most important asset in enhancing your company’s long-term monetary value.

Your strategies and trends will come and go — your values can be forever!

This article will help answer the top questions you need to know about corporate values, such as:

  • What are values?
  • Why are values important?
  • How do you determine your values (including a “values exercise”)?
  • What are some business examples of values?

Here we go…!

What are values?

My definition of values is simple: Values are deeply-held beliefs about the right way of doing things.

Each individual operates life with their own set of values…and, of course, a business should as well.

Why are values important to a business?

As the author Jim Collins penned:

“The founders of great, enduring organizations like Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson often did not have a vision statement when they started out. They usually began with a set of strong personal core values…”

It is your values that will guide you through the toughest decisions you make…you know, those 50-50 calls that every business leader faces periodically.

How do you determine your business values?

Here’s an easy values exercise Jim Collins suggests (with my own twists on it after going through a couple):

  1. Sit down with your team.
  2. Imagine that you need to create a mini-version of your company on Mars…
  3. …And you have to send a few people (up to 7)  from your company on a spaceship to Mars to represent your business’s best attributes.
  4. Identify the handful of employees you’d send on the spaceship (you can’t vote for yourself (and, ideally (if your company is large enough), you aren’t allowed to select anyone on the team doing the exercise)
  5. Now examine those people that your team identified and list out the values/attributes they possess that made you vote for them (e.g. Jane operates with integrity,Ralph strives for excellence, etc.)
  6. You should have a list of 10 or more business values at this point
  7. Start poking holes at each business value (you can use real-life business challenges/successes to test each business value to see if it is indeed true)
  8. Some values might be redundant with each other so start shrinking your list (I recommend you get it down to 8 or fewer values)
  9. Wordsmithing — Once you come up with the list of 8 or fewer values you may want to wordsmith them in a way that’s more of a commitment

Examples of Business Values

There are numerous examples of business values out there — here are a few of companies I’m familiar with:

Hot Topic Media’s Values — Here’s an example of values our team came up with:

  • We treat our customers, partners & employees with dignity and respect
  • We do what we say, and we own what we do
  • We give our customers more value than they expect
  • We are good shepherds of our company’s assets
  • We leave the world a better place than we found it (the “Campsite Rule”)
  • We are proud of what we do and have fun doing it
  • We keep things simple and clear

Google’s Values — Google has a version of values it calls “Our Philosophy: Ten Things We Know To Be True

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
  3. Fast is better than slow
  4. Democracy on the web works
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
  6. You can make money without doing evil
  7. There’s always more information out there
  8. The need for information crosses all borders
  9. You can be serious without a suit
  10. Great just isn’t good enough

Hewlett Packard’s Values — HP Calls these  their “Shared Values”:

  • Passion for customers — We put our customers first in everything we do.
  • Trust and respect for individuals — We work together to create a culture of inclusion built on trust, respect and dignity for all.
  • Achievement and contribution — We strive for excellence in all we do; each person’s contribution is key to our success.
  • Results through teamwork — We effectively collaborate, always looking for more efficient ways to serve our customers.
  • Speed and agility — We are resourceful, adaptable and achieve results faster than our competitors.
  • Meaningful innovation — We are the technology company that invents the useful and the significant.
  • Uncompromising integrity — We are open, honest and direct in our dealings.

BabyCenter’Values — Johnson & Johnson subsidiary BabyCenter calls it these their “Operating Principles”:

  • Operate with Integrity — Always
  • Our Sucess Starts with Our People
  • Be Customer-Driven
  • Strive for Excellence
  • Work Together to Make Decisions
  • Everyone Needs Feedback
  • Respect One Another
  • Face Facts Constructively

A final point: values aren’t just something to write down (or put on a coffee mug as some do).

Values must be based on the real-life actions of a business.

And it starts with leadership — exemplifying their values through their actions and decisions.

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Friday, May 21st, 2010

How One Biz Used A Free Coke To Get 25,000 Facebook Leads (Real Leads with Physical/Email Address!)


If you want to generate free leads on Facebook, Scott Crider is someone you should listen to.

He’s been preaching the benefits of creating value through social media for a few years now.


Back in 2007 Scott built the Dogs Against Romney blog after hearing Presidential hopeful Romney tell a reporter about how he had once strapped a dog cage to the roof of his car (with his dog in it!) on family vacation, traveling 80MPH…scaring the dog so badly that it shit all down the side of the car.

Dogs Against Romney was an overnight viral success picked up by major media outlets — it generated at least 500,000 visits in less than a month.

Scott also helped his friend and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee get hundreds of thousands of free Web site visitors during his campaign.

If Elvis Presley were still alive, he’d probably be asking Scott for help monetizing Facebook (Scott’s firm, Aristotle Interactive, handles email marketing for Elvis Presley Enterprises).

Scott and the Aristotle team had a recent win helping a business generate leads through Facebook.

I asked him a few questions about lead gen win and general subject of making money through Facebook — enjoy!

Q: Would you explain how a business begins to think about making money through Facebook?

The real power in Facebook is in turning people into advocates for your brand, and you do that by giving them something of value, in a cool way, and making it easy for them to share.

Q: What is your definition of a Facebook app?

My definition of a Facebook app is one that requires the user to grant permission for it to access their personal information, and everything has to function within the Facebook API (the user never leaves Facebook).

Q: Tell me about Murphy USA — how did you help them acquire Facebook leads?

Murphy USA is a Fortune 100 gas station-convenience store chain, and a great client that lets us do great work.

They tasked us (Aristotle Interactive) to come up with a way of helping them grow their fans from their then-level of 5,100 (many of whom were associates of the company) to a much higher number of customers, and to activate those customers to visit their stores.

Q: So what was your approach?

We created a custom app for them that offered both existing and new fans a free Coca-Cola product of their choice, to be picked up at any Murphy USA location, and the app also allowed everyone to who got a free Coke to share one with their friends, as well.


The app collected both email and physical addresses, as well as age info (a Facebook requirement) from the customers, and delivered the free Coke in the form of a secure, printable coupon to their email address.

Q: Can you walk us through the steps that a user would experience in this app you built?

  1. Well, first off, existing fans of the Murphy USA Facebook page (about 5,100 people) were the first to see the new custom tab on Facebook that said “Help Murphy USA share 100,000 Cokes!”
  2. After launching the app and getting their own coupon, fans were then presented the message “Your free Coke is on its way. Now share one with your friends!” The app, still running within the Murphy USA Facebook page, then presented the customer with his or her complete friends list, and they could select up to 12 people to share the promotion with (a Facebook restriction).
  3. Each of the 12 people the promotion was shared with then got a message in their Facebook inbox from their friend that said “You have a Murphy USA coupon invitation.”
  4. The message linked the person directly to the Murphy USA page where the default tab was set to the promotion.
  5. The fan was asked to “Show us you like us!” (click the “Like” button on Facebook, launching the app) and the process started all over again.

Q: Were there other ways the app you built encouraged Facebook fans to spread the word?

Yes, in addition to choosing 12 friends to share the promotion with, the app also offered each person the opportunity to post a message to their news feed that said “I got a free Coke from Murphy USA!” which could be seen by everyone.

Q: On average, how many friends did each Murphy USA fan share the app with?

I’d estimate that most of them shared it with all 12 friends they were allowed to share it with, and posted the message to their news feeds as well.

Q: So, that would mean that perhaps two thousand of Murphy USA’s fans shared the app (the free coke coupon) with 20,000 of their friends?

It’s hard to say. It went viral extremely quickly. Literally within minutes. The first two days the app was live they grew by 7,000 new fans each day.

It was so much traffic that our outbound coupon email volume to AOL caused them to temporarily block us and we had to put some bottlenecks in to slow it down. It was something like 800 AOL emails in an hour that triggered it. I didn’t even know 800 people still used AOL!

So far, the app has taken them to over 32,000 fans in 3 weeks since it launched, and virtually 100% of them have stayed as fans.

How much does an application like this cost to build?

I probably shouldn’t reveal any figures on that, because the client is in a very competitive business and they’re pretty tight-lipped about things that give them an advantage. Let’s just say that it cost less than you might think. It easily fit within their normal quarterly promotions budget.

How does Murphy USA use the email address they now have for their 30,000 + new fans for marketing follow-up?

Murphy USA really respects people’s privacy, so they chose to send one follow up email message to them to offer them the opportunity to opt into Murphy’s monthly e-Offers (an opt-in email database that offers promotions on all the different things they sell).

Of course, nearly all 30,000+ of them are still fans of Murphy’s Facebook page, too, and can be communicated with there anytime.

How would you describe Murphy’s ROI on this?

I’d say the return on their investment has to be pushing 1,000+%, probably more, considering the lifetime value of these new relationships.

Will Murphy USA do more of these free coupons?

I’m sure they will. Re-skinning the app and replacing the coupon is fairly easy, plus it’s a win/win for Murphy USA and their product partners.

Q: What did Aristotle do to ensure security for all this (i.e. make sure there’s not an unlimited # of free coupons that people use)?

That was another level of complication in the app creation, but a necessary one to protect both the client and Coca-Cola.

We built a system that generated a custom coupon for each recipient. They received an email with a one-time link to the coupon, and each coupon had the recipient’s email address screened across the entire face of it. So they could only access it once, and they were discouraged from making copies.

Q: Can you give me another example of a business that could do really well with a free giveaway on Facebook?

Imagine Victoria’s Secret — if they launched something like this as a “share a free panty with your friends” on Facebook, it would go stratospheric. Are you listening Victoria? Call me (ha!).

Q: So, if you had to sum up the keys to making one of these Facebook marketing apps work, what would it be?

Three things:

  1. Share something of value – a coupon, good content, a fun digital experience
  2. Do it in a cool way and make sharing easy
  3. Let the customers who share it look good to their friends

Q: That’s a fascinating use-case, Scott — If someone were to want to get in touch with you or Aristotle Interactive, what’s the best way for them to do so?

They can call me at Aristotle Interactive at 501-374-4638, or hook up with me on Twitter @CScottCrider or here on Linked In.

10 comments so far (is that a lot?) | Continue Reading »

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Wow, Men Are More Popular Than Women On Twitter (& Other Interesting Twitter Demographics)


Fascinating study by Harvard Business Review looked at 300,000 random Twitter users and found the following demographics:

  • Followers
    • 80% of Twitter users have at least 1 follower
    • 20% of Twitter users have no followers
  • Men Versus Women
    • 55% of Twitter users are women; 45% are men
    • Men have 15% more followers than women
    • An average man is almost twice as likely to follow a man than he is to follow a woman (despite there being more women on Twitter)
    • An average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than she is to follow a woman
  • Volume of Tweeting
    • The typical Twitter user has only Tweeted once in their lifetime
    • 75% of Twitter users tweet once every 74 days
    • The top 10% of Twitter users accounted for 90% of tweets

There’s some good Twitter demographics on the chart at A Look at Twitter Demographics.

And if you want to see Twitter demographics related to Web site traffic, go here.

If you’re into Twitter, you may also want to read How to Make Money On Twitter and How To Get Twitter Followers (Ones That Buy!).

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Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The Myths Of Monetizing Your Blog


Many people wonder how to make money blogging.

I started blogging on April 22nd of last year and I just reached my 100,000th visit with around 200,000 Web pages viewed (e.g. each visitor is looking at two articles I’ve written).

Since I started my blog I’m amazed how many people have asked me:

“Can you make money from blogging?”

Indeed, one of the reasons I began my blog was to study the different monetization models used to make money from blogging.

I’ve looked at two ways to monetize my blog so far:

  1. Advertising (through Google AdSense) and
  2. Affiliate marketing (mainly through Amazon’s Associates program and some through Zazzle)

Two Myths of Monetizing Your Blog

Myth #1: You Can Monetize Your Blog Through Google AdSense Ads

If you want to make money with a blog through selling AdSense, you’re going to have to have a lot of traffic…a LOT of traffic.

You can expect to make a CPM of $.25 to $1 in selling your ads through AdSense, according to my own numbers, and those of friends of mine.

What does CPM mean?  CPM stands for cost per thousand (this is an advertising term as in an advertiser is willing to pay $X in cost per thousand of some audience metric (readers in magazines, viewers in TV, etc.) — interestingly, on the Internet the metric is page views.

For example, when I say that you can make up a $.50 CPM on a blog, I am saying that an advertiser (in this case many advertising bidding through Google’s AdWords system) is paying you $.50 for every 1,000 “page views” that your site generates.

So, back to my blog…if I were to receive a $.50 CPM, I would make:

  • $.50 for 1,000 page views
  • $5 for 10,000 page views
  • $50 for 100,000 page views
  • $500 for 1 million page views

So, if I were to have put Google AdSense ads on my site since I began, I would have generated a total of around $200 (The $1CPM ($.001) times 200,000 page views = $200).

Myth #2: You Can Monetize Your Blog Through Affiliate Marketing

A second way people try to earn money blogging is through affiliate marketing.

What is affiliate marketing? Affiliate marketing is just another form of selling ads: you put a link on your blog promoting another company’s product.

The difference is that you ONLY get paid if a person clicks on the affiliate marketing ad on your site and then buys a product from the site (the affiliate marketer) they then visit.

For example, I joined the Amazon Associates program (arguably the largest of its kind) and I include links to many products sold by Amazon (mostly books I review) here on my blog.

If someone clicks on my Amazon link, and they visit Amazon and buy any product (not just the one I linked to) during that visit, Amazon will pay me anywhere from 4% to 8% based on the volume of sales I help them generate.

In the year I’ve been testing out monetizing my blog through Amazon affiliate links, I’ve sold 51 products for Amazon, generating $1,048.31 in sales for them and $50.02 in commissions for me.

Basically, I’m making around $1 for every Amazon product I help sell — I’m converting .05% of my visitors to becoming a customer.

I could move that conversion number up to .25% immediately if I put more affiliate links up.

This .25% conversion number is fairly common for a content-oriented Web site like mine (and like most of the blogs of the world).

However,  if you had a Web site that was focused exclusively on commerce (as opposed to advice like I do), I estimate you could move your conversion up to 2 or 3% of visitors buying something.

So, in total, I’ve learned that making money blogging (Google AdSense and Amazon’s Affiliate Marketing Program) has been very tough: I’ve generated just a couple hundred bucks from the 100,000 visitors who’ve come to my site in the last year.

Don’t Fret: There Is Some Good News About Monetizing Your Blog

So, we covered the tough part. For your blog to make money, you’re gonna need enormous traffic.

But in addition to enormous traffic, there are many other ways to earn money through your blog. Here are some:

  • You Can ByPass Google AdSense — You can acquire much higher ad rates if you increase your traffic to the 100,000 visitors per month level and beyond (in my estimation, you could sell ads yourself for $1 to $10CPM at that range. That’s up to 20X as much as you’d make from AdSense!
  • You Can Earn Higher Affiliate Commissions — You can earn 100X+ higher affiliate commission fees than you get through Amazon by doing some research on what types of affiliate marketing offers would be most relevant to the content that you write about (for example, the relationship advice company I work for will pay $15 or more to you if you generate an ebook sale for us.)
    • Go search “affiliate marketing offers” on Google or visit AffiliateTips where as of right now some poker sites are offer more than $100 if your blog generates them a customer. That would be about 100X higher than the $1 commission I’m generating for each book I’m helping Amazon sell.
  • Endorsed Relationships — This is a new term that a few of us have been using lately. It’s the same concept as your putting up an affiliate link but in this case you go directly to the company selling a product you believe in and you write up an endorsement of it. Steve Pavlina writes in his book Personal Development for Smart People that he selectively chooses certain products to promote through his super-popular blog (only ones he believes in) and sometimes receives a share in the sales for it (some of you may recall that Steve Pavlina used to monetize his blog through AdSense).
  • Sell Your Own Product — You can earn even higher amounts of money if you sold your own product (e.g. if you were to write a book or manufacture some product that you sell directly through your blog). You have to figure out what type of product would be of value to your audience but if you did figure out how to create such a product (a book, ebook, audio or video program, piece of art, software, etc.) cost-effectively, you can generate much higher amounts of money through your blog that way.
  • Collect Email Addresses & Market To Them — You can often charge higher CPMs for emailing advertisements than you could for selling the same ads on your Web site. It’s not unheard of to charge $25 CPMs for sending out an email promotion to your list (that would be $25 for every 1,000 people on your email list).

I hope these tips on monetizing your blog were helpful.

I’ll be writing in the future about effective ways to monetize your blog or Web site and, as always, welcome your input.

If you like this article, you may also like MySpace & Other Examples of E-CPMs.

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