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Saturday, December 31, 2011

I call Bull$hit!

Bank of America made a big mistake this year.  They thought they could charge a minor fee to their customers, and it would be ok. People started realizing how much this minor charge would be - and were probably quite offended that their tax dollars were spent to bail this bank out just a few months earlier and posted the cry foul all over Facebook, Twitter - and it made the news.  Some time afterwards (and really not quick enough to be a marketing ploy executed well if you ask me) BoA changed their tune and took that idea of fee away.

Now, this week, Verizon pulls the same crapola. Two to five days after, they change their tune. This my friends in my opinion was a coattails marketing ploy.  They got free press all over the place. Sure it looks bad - but none of us remember half the things on the top 10 events of 2011 - this gets a burst of press energy.  That is priceless.  I still call BS though on this one - it was weak.

Not really a blog today - I need to get the bar all pretty for New Years and watch other people drink and have fun - so thought I would call BS and walk away today! Happy New Year :)

Friday, November 25, 2011


This blog is about human nature.  Everyone wants a bargain. Everyone is looking for a deal.  It's Black Friday and people were camping out, missing dinner with loved ones to get a bargain on a TV or an iPad.

It works though - I saw tents outside of our local Target last night.  We can debate how we should be focusing on one and other, and that the "reason for the season" is being forgotten, but brass tax people, if it wasn't wanted, this marketing tactic would not work.

Since everyone wants a deal, sites like Groupon, Travelzoo, Yelp, Local and Google Offers have all sprung up to save people money and give you a little change back for your trouble.  Yeah, you hear from my tone, that this is not really that supportive of the little guy in most cases.  My first experience with this deal was with a local radio station... they offered me these coupons that would pay for $3000 worth of advertising. It would "benefit" me because it would come in slowly, and would bring in traffic.  This is what happened:
  • No where in the document, did they say they were going to discount my gift certificates and that people would be paying $5 for $10.
  • They sold more than my contract expected
  • These "gift certificates" are still coming in two years later
  • Customers rarely tip the waitresses on what they spent before the gift certificate
  • People constantly try to use them all and dicker
  • New business was not created, because these customers were not our market
So then, I looked at Travelzoo.  They made a deal up from our menu, halved  it and told us we would get 60% of the sale.  So, math people.  Our Food/Wine goods costs are around 50%, add all the wonderful things like rent, lights, heat, employees, insurance... we have a slight margin.  So Travelzoo is asking us to lose money on the deal to get bodies into our restaurant - that is a SHORT TERM GAIN - and an overall loss.  Again, this is what I should be expecting from our Radio Ad:
  • Loss of revenue
  • Customers outside of our target
  • Employee morale hit
So, I decided, it was to big a commitment to too large an audience to experiment.  So I went to Yelp and played with their deals. They are the same commitment (they are all the same, 50% off, and they take a cut), so I wanted one that I could experiment with, turn off, modify, and play with our internal systems. So this is what I did:
  • Made it so it was very clear you could not use more than 2 at a time
  • Modified our POS to add gratuity when the cert is used to cover  the employees
  • Asked for them to be presented at beginning of the meal
The third bullet is super important.  This is why... This whole discount idea, really replaces my print advertising budget.  Unlike the snail-mailed coupons, that look kinda cheap, these sales online feel like a bargain for people to have an extravagant night out.  My servers need to know when someone has these coupons so that they can:
  • Make sure that their experience is so good that they come back (build loyalty)
  • Take the time to share what is great about the menu and the wines, and get them to have a big night out on their savings (upsell, because the majority of couponers that came in, don't spend more than the coupon)
  • Get them to have something that brings them back in a timely manner (we have dated coupons to get them back within 2 weeks)
This seems to be working.  I am working on a training plan for new employees. After my Yelp training, I was ready for Travelzoo ( We started this week - our sale expires soon.  I will give you updates on how we have been working, and the issues we have seen so far.  I think you need to go into this with a plan.  I worked with my Chef on how much traffic we could handle, I am printing special menus from a suggestion from another business that did this.  Overall, we keep repeating the goal:

Get the customer to become a repeat customer.

I warn against the TV and Radio deals. You see no cash come into your business at all.  It's a trade for advertising, and in this economy - cash (even if just covering costs) is king. Take a look at each program closely before you consider them.  They pay in different intervals, and some (Groupon) has not been paying quickly.  Check them out, and ask for local references. That was the best thing we did after our Radio debacle.

Have you worked with these deals?  What's your advice?  Like us on FB at: and get into the conversation!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I can make you rich... really.

Uh huh...

Every day at my bar I get at least two cold calls and at least one walk in that tells me how I am messing up my online presence and how they can bring in hundreds of people into my establishment if I just let them take over my social networking and website. Now, there is always room for improvement, but is that how you were raised to start a conversation, let alone try to make a sale?

My favorite, is when they say, "We ran a report and found TONS of errors on your site, and that they can fix them for you for a nominal fee" or even, "Whoever designed your site didn't know what they were doing."  Um, that person would be me, the person who will be paying for your service as well.  Starting our business relationship off like a bad abusive relationship where the salesmen first tells me that my past decisions sucked, and even that I do, but they are the only can make me better -  is REALLY not the way to motivate me, and I can't think of it working on any other small business owner. Honey, I can spot a snake oil salesman a mile away now, and mostly learning from my mistakes.  Maybe you can learn from some of them too...
  1. Don't be their first customer.
    • Ask for references... pages, quotes, phone numbers.
    • Ask their references... how much time they were saved, how much traffic change did they see,
      how well their vision is being communicated online.
  2. If they promise traffic and increased followers ask them:
    • Twitter
      • What % will be robots and what % high visibility people?
      • What % of followers retweet?
      • What tools do they use (existing or in house created)?
      • Where will they get content for tweeting? How often do they plan to tweet?
      • What are their goals for followers?
      • How will they report updates?
    • Facebook
      • What is their method for getting new followers?
      • Who will be responding and posting
      • Where will they get content for posts? How often do they plan to post?
      • What are their goals for followers?
      • How will they report updates?
  3. How much will this cost me?
    • Seriously, we tout social media as being free all the time, but we know it costs time, and time is money.  It also really needs tools and they cost money too. Lets say it costs minimum wage in California for someone to be maintaining your interests online. That's about $250 a month for 1 hour a day to be spent on Tweeting and FaceBooking.  That's a lot of money for a pretty low hourly wage to be guiding and directing your business strategy online, so what are they doing and how do they work for you?
I have worked in media companies, as well as now owning my own business for two years.   I need to listen to what they are saying in their criticisms, to see if I hear the same thing a lot, and then change things up to make that criticism go away and make room for the next one.  After all, I  let that "horrible" website ( lie dormant for 2 years, and in one week of making changes have made 5x the effort in party scheduling. What I don't need to do though, is spend a lot of money for someone who cannot show me how they will make up the cost with income like I just did.  Most can't.  I know how to run my business, today.  I learn more daily - my opinion is  - most people who cold call my business over the phone or by walking in off the street, should not have my business.

Your thoughts?
    Disclaimer: I worked on a design/ad company for 2 years, and Fortune 500 companies for years before that - vision comes from within.  If you have a company telling (or even yelling at you like I have heard in the past) what you should be doing and that you don't know how to reach your customers, run.  You started your business.  You know who you want for customers, you know what you want to sell, you know what makes you money.  If you don't know that, then an ad guy or social media maven is not going to help you.  At best, they are going to send you a bunch of traffic that you are not going to be able to fulfill, at worst, no one new will come to your door because the vision they communicate is not your business. 
    Assuming you do know your vision for your business, this marketing company should be able to come back with a plan that tells you how to reach the customers you planned your business for. If they can't, you can do this yourself.

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    A Place for Online SNARK...

    UrbanDictionary -noun Combination of "snide" and "remark". Sarcastic comment(s). Also snarky (adj.) and snarkily (adv.)
    I am sarcastic. I come by it honestly from a long line of New Yorkers that tell it how it is, and when they aren't being straight with you, they say the truth, sarcastically.
    I moved to California 6 years ago. To say it's PC where I live is incorrect.  It's small town.  Sarcasm is lost on many, thought of as mean and unapproachable by some and only appreciated by a few.  Add to that, owning a business in a service industry, and it is a sword that needs to be wielded very carefully if at all. When said in person, one can hear tone, see facial expressions, and has a much better chance of understanding your gist.

    Online... ooh that's another matter.  I thought about having my own personal Facebook page where I could be "me" and be pissy and acerbic if I feel like it, and have a way to vent. I thought about having my own twitter as well... *EPIC FAIL* No one cares. Really. If they do, they will use it against you. They will find you funny and awesome for 5 minutes and then a jerk for the rest of the day. 

    I am not a jerk, I just have jerky moments (yup, I am human). Jerky moments in print are forever.  Have you ever gotten an email that you sent in the past thrown in your face?  I have.  Have you ever print screened someone's status on Facebook?  It's been done...  A post and a delete, is out there somewhere still - trust me.

    My business was founded on buzz. Controlled buzz. I posted construction pictures, I got people excited about me buying their wine and showing it off, I invited them to the party that happens every night.  My business is based on my wine bar being "comfortably elegant" and comfortable comes from my business being an extension of my customer's home.

    Drumming up passion about negative situations or people in my life does not create comfort.  It might create traffic, but if people don't like our wine, our food or feel comfortable, then it's not a marketing win.

    That's the point - it's all marketing.  Know that every part of your life is your business. From going to the grocery store and running into customers, to getting a pedicure and chatting in the chair, to talking in a coffee shop, you are always a representative of your business.  If you have more than your closest 12 friends and followers online, then every account you have is marketing you, and therefore your business.

    There is no place for SNARK online if you have a business.  Belittling the competition, customers, rules will bite you in the butt. Personally, if you think about it, what profiles do you hide? I hide the jerky and pissy ones.  Do you want to be hidden or heard?

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

    Why does social networking work? Because you are not alone.

    I started a business with a lot of help from friends and family. My vision was singular, but I could not have done it alone.  People painted, built, scrubbed, and sweat to help me achieve my goals.  The best people did it because they saw my dream coming to reality.  They shared the vision.

    It does "take a village" to get things done and there is nothing different in Social Media.  It's not even subtle - they call it "SOCIAL" for a reason.  It's all about relationship building.  I have been told for 17 years that I am a force to reckon with, you don't want to mess with me. My communication style in the business world was, NO first, then MAYBE then NO... In 2 years, I have gotten to pour wine for a living, give hugs as people walk in the door, and make people comfortable - BIG CHANGE in communication. Social media was a way to get a quick makeover of sorts.  I share (sometimes overshare) all the time.  I brag about my staff, my food, my customers, my friends.  I know CLEARLY that all the vision in the world for a business is nothing without all of these people, but I get to share it every day.  I use social media to keep these relationships in tact, even though I have little to no time outside of the four walls of my business.

    What does 2000 followers on Facebook mean?
    • 3000+ page views a day - can't get that from standard media every day
    • Personal interactions whenever I have a moment
    • Ability to target messages to genders, locations
    • To the second advertising of specials
    • Easy tool to show appreciation immediately, instant gratification to the customer
    • Like watching a sitcom or the news, your customers get to know the people who make your business happen, intimately
    Interaction with your clientele is what makes you different from Walmart, chain Coffee Shops and chain Restaurants.  Knowing the owner is important. Being remembered by the owner and staff is your goal and what will separate you from the pack.
    "According to many, George H. W. Bush’s career was advanced by his strong habit of sending thank-you notes (an act ingrained by his mother, no doubt)."
    There is NO WAY ON EARTH, I will be mailing out thank you notes (so if you get one from me, you are truly special).  I have Christmas cards from 2001 with stamps on them waiting to be sent out (several people have died that they would go to, time flies) so I needed something that would allow me to say what I wanted to in an expedited manner. Social Media doesn't just help that, it is the glue to my business relationships.

    My business is a cocktail party every night, without knowing who was invited, and hoping they all show every night.  Social Media is my way of letting everyone know they are always invited, always welcome, and always appreciated.

    How do you use Social Media in your business to build relationships?

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Bad Energy

    I am taking a side trip around social media today to talk about competition.  Competition is healthy, and sucks at the same time.  Your business needs to have competition to be viable.  Competition helps you see that you need to change and grow, laurels cannot be sat on.  Being the only game in town can be harmful.  Your business gets traffic because you are "it" - competition makes you grow and change - which you should be doing anyway but can forget because you get so caught up in the day to day - but now it's a necessity because of competition.

    My business has been open for 2 years.  In the beginning, I thought I could do it all. I could manage the room, cook, serve and clean it up so we could start a new day tomorrow.  It took 2 weeks and not being able to walk on a bad knee to know I couldn't do that. I hired people, I changed the plan.  Then the wine bar down the street decided to have music every night, and people decided to say we hated each other.  Rumors spread.  My phone rang weekly saying we were going out of business.  I changed my music days so our musicians didn't have to compete in the same genres on the same dates.  I went a couple times to their place on my day off with friends.  The negativity died down. I changed the plan.

    Just recently more wine bars have sprouted up.  To be honest, I got a little worried about the dilution of my traffic.  And it did happen. So, I concentrated on what we had, that the other bars didn't have and I focused my efforts, hiring and marketing on it.  It worked because I changed the plan. We got less people in, but the people we got in, spent more money. 

    There are a lot of tactics you can take.  I have had competitors say we were going out of business, lie to people about sides and even start the thought of a "Wine Bar War".  I am a pitbull.  My first response to all of this is negative - I want justice and I want it now.  Then I hear my dad in my head (he is there all the time) telling me "Life isn't fair, Kari".  And it isn't.  So I focus on how to make my business better- I change the plan.   If I have vendors not sell to me because they have been told not to by my competitors, I buy other wine.  If people talk trash about my competitors, I don't feed into it - it's a non-issue.

    Competition is a GOOD thing.  Buy a fantastic house in a bad neighborhood with no houses comparable and your house will be hard to sell.  You want your business worth something.  If there have never been a business like yours open before, and no one else builds one like it, then getting a loan, selling the business, and even getting customers is hard.  We have had customers actually come into our business from a competitor recommendation - that's the way to go!

    A friend of mine knew someone who wanted to open up a wine bar about 30-40 miles away from me.  The woman came in, had a glass of wine and asked me a ton of "How" and "Why" questions on how to open a wine bar.  She then opened her bar a few months later.  You know what - we are friends now.  We talk about our worries, our goals and we even talk about collaborating.  I think that is what this is all about.  Good Energy.  She runs her business differently than I do.  I run mine in ways she would never want to run hers.  It's a synergistic relationship that brings us to a place where as small business owners, we get to chat and meet like when we were in offices.  It's a good thing. We learn how to change the plan from each other.

    As two owners of similar businesses, we had some ideas how to make the things that we both shared easy to do and even automated (we both have a geeky software background) and thought we could share that with others. Why?  So we could concentrate on what makes us different.  So we could talk to others and learn from their successes and mistakes. It's lonely owning a business.  It's nice to know you aren't alone in your experiences.

    My thoughts about the people that don't want to run their businesses positively?  It's hard to maintain, no one wants to be around a negative person all the time, and it will work itself out.  You have a business to run, you need to learn from your competitors and decide what you need to change, communicate and do with your business because of the competition, and whatever you do, even if nothing - has to be with the goal of growing your business. Looking for the positive is not my strong suit - but I try daily to do it.

    Good energy - send it to the negative people around you - work positively on your business no matter what is said or done to you - use the tools and materials you have been given - it will all work out fine if you learn how to change the plan.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    I am naked

    Titles work. They suck your customers and viewers in. It's marketing peeps. Gotta get people's attention in your posts.  I am thinking about Facebook for this post, but would love your input on other medium for your tips on how to see what has been successful for you (twitter, linked in, myspace, blogs and others - how do you do it?).

    My thoughts on how to get people's attention...

    • Say something out of the ordinary 
      • Constantly posting events the same way is boring - there are different ways to show things off - updates, pictures, friends posting.
      • Don't just post to post - if you post infrequently but it matters, then people will take attention at your posts.
      • Be timely - posting something that happened 2 weeks ago or 5 weeks in the future doesn't work.
    • Show a picture
      • Pictures draw people in - they say that it says 1000 words, but those words are different to every viewer.  It's an amazing way to say EXACTLY what the viewer wanted you to say by them making it up themselves.
    • Use a poll
      • Tricky one here - I think polls stink.  But if you can get a controversial (yet benign - this is business right?) topic and some wild answers - try it!  Prizes help too...
    • Make sure what you used to get attention is true 
      •  False advertising is false advertising - people will not follow your cry for wolf more than a couple times.
      • I am naked - under my pajamas (I blog in bed a lot)

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Making a club...

    My last post was about being cool.  What is cooler than being in a club?  Clubs are organized cliques! Cliques by definition are cool!  So why a club? Why make a group for people to be members in? How do you do it so that your goals for your business and the club are maintained? Because clubs get things DONE!

    I joined a board and a business association when I first opened my business. I really could not participate until I had my feet on the ground and had staff that could run the place so I could attend meetings and get time to help out with things - I am glad I stuck with it, because it's been a great thing for my company and to help build relationships with the bizs around me. I then was asked to be on a chamber board.  It was outside my physical business area, but the members of the board I knew were supportive, and it felt like a good fit - but then there was drama - and a LOT of it, so I left it before the ink was dry. Then, I was asked to join the Rotary.  I was sponsored, nominated and approved by the board.  It's a group that I enjoy because it has structure, goals and camaraderie. I am sure there will be others, but these are 3 great examples to start with.

    Why create a club?
    • Common interests attract people to each other
    • Relationships within the club keep people
    • Positive clubs with good membership invite the same to it
    How to create a club?
    • Start small 2-4 core people -you need workers and people with time and skills to help build the club
    • Set goals and objectives - keep them small 1 core goal, 2-4 objectives that meet that goal
    • Be selective who joins in the beginning - you are setting a tone and exclusivity will make the ones that want to join later, more willing to follow your structure and help out
    How to grow and keep the club going?
    Monitor your club... Your club has a goal, and objectives. You and your core group are now responsible for keeping it in line.  How to do that in your social media tools is important.
    • Facebook - watch for spam, hide it, block if necessary.  Talk offline to people about the goals of the group.  Do not chastise! No one, no one wants to be told they are wrong - so don't.  Explain your rules, and then moderate. If you need to - change to a group, and make it invite only.
    • Twitter - search for mentions, use tools that alert you. Search for your business or club name - stay on top of what people say - thank a lot and retweet as much as you can for things that fit your goals and objectives.
    • Blog posts - check for responses.  Delete spam, and respond to all posts.  Yes, all.  Your blog needs to be active.
    If I could say one thing about the club you are making it would be this - STAY POSITIVE.  Your club has to have a positive energy and goal to have growth, keep that always in mind.  If you have a Negative Nellie or a Drama Debbie, get them out.  The ripped band-aid hurts, but the club will be better for it in the end.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    I have a secret...

    Why do certain pages gain followers and others don't?

    'Cuz the cool ones make me feel cool for being there.

    Not always easy for all professions, businesses or even people.  Here are some quick tips on making your followers feel cool...
    • Know them.  
      • Even if you might not know them on the street, know what they love, who they love, what they want.  It's amazing when you can't remember a name, if you can remember their drink, the first time you met, what they were looking for that you found... It works.
    • Let them know you.
      • Weird but true, everyone wants to know the owner.  You have to put yourself out there.
    • Don't belittle your competition.  
      • Hard, especially when they belittle you, but higher ground prevails. After all, if your customer had a good experience there, or enjoyed themselves - you are telling them they are not cool by going there.  #fail on the goal.
    • Thank them.
      • In public, and in private.  They need to know you know how important they are to you. Thank with a note, a free sample, a hug, a flattering introduction... it all is appreciated.
    • Be sincere.
      • None of this crap works if it's an act.  You may be a great sales person, but if you are building relationships, you need to put yourself out there.  For reals.
    I go places that have great products and there needs to be more.  The chef coming out to thank me, the waiter remembering I can't have nuts, that all makes me feel wanted, or cool.  You really do want your customers... making them feel it is the goal.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Dangers of being positive...

    "The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Twitter is in low-level acquisition talks with Facebook and Google for a deal that would put the network at a $8 to $10 billion valuation. Stone tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “We’re not valued at $10 billion dollars. That’s just what people are writing in the newspapers, which unfortunately has the negative impact of my friends thinking I must have $10 billion dollars.” "(footnote)

    Yeah... marketing.  If I am happy all the time, and my business is always communicating positively - does it always have a positive effect?


    I own a small business in a great little town with amazing customers, a fantastic city that supports me, great landlords, awesome associates... it's not always rosy, but for cripes sake people, I don't talk about it in my social media (and if I do, I delete immediately -  #fail). Downside to only being positive online, looking like I live a life of leisure eating cheese and drinking wine next to winemakers, movie stars, and other peeps people aspire to be near for some reason - is that people think I am rich and that my business is ALWAYS booming. I have heard this from other small business owners - people say to them all the time - "You are so lucky - you have such flexibility!" or "It must be nice to not have to report to anyone" or "You get paid for your effort - that must be so cool".

    HAHAHAHAHAHA - here is what I have learned in the 2 years I have owned a business:
    • If flexibility means working 24 hours a day -  then yes, I have that.
    • I report to my customers - and my customers drink :-)
    • Customers are your lifeblood - try as hard as you can to make them happy - and if you can't - know you did your best.
    • Good staff is even more important.  We all get tired, always let them know when they are doing something well.
    • Unless you invented Starbucks, you are not getting rich or paid for every hour you work - so figure out how to save your pennies to have some time to yourself.  I saved 10-20 bucks a night in tips for 100 days to pay for my vacation - it can be done.  (BTW - this makes you look rich too)
    • Ride it - perceived success can beget real success.  Perceived success usually has a strong foundation in truth unless you have an amazing Ad team that can spread it thick and well... if you are a small biz, it's probably truth.
    So should you cut it out, and let it all out - so people know that you scrub toilets, pay taxes, have staffing issues or that your car won't start?  No. Stay positive.  It's hard for this black clothing toting, east coast reared girl to say it - but channel that bad energy into something good.  The more successful you are, there will be a percentage of people who want to see you fail and they are loud and nasty.  There is also a HUGE group of people who want to see you succeed, and an amazing core group who always knew you would and could and were always there!

    Biz Stone from Twitter has this problem, his friends think he owns a 10bill dollar business.  Even at 3.7bill, none of that is in his pocket.  But, the news reporting 10bill all over the place lends credibility, stability and doesn't hurt his business at all.  Look at what is going on for your biz from that perspective. Marketing is marketing, even if it looks like news.

    Watch your f'n "mouth"

    This is not a blog on swearing online today.  Come on - I grew up in NJ.  I use the "F" word as an adjective when tired or angry.  This is about opening your big fat trap when writing online.

    Your biz uses social media online.  You tweet, you FaceBook, you tell everyone where you are on Foursquare, you even yelp!

    Then you have a bad experience. Instantaneously, you can post the person's name, ask for their head, and demand that the business goes under...  You don't (or shouldn't) though.  Why?  Because every account is linked to you or your business for GOD'S SAKE! And negative energy from you will come back to your business! But that twerp who thought there should be more fries on their plate, or that you should have given them something for free while paying customers couldn't find a seat, waits two weeks and posts anonymously that you are horrid, and your staff is crap - and you have no retort. What do you do?

    NOTHING. (Well sort of)
    • Do not reply to the person - no matter how much you want to.  They are insane, pissed, uneducated, vindictive or - ALL OF THESE.  You can not talk this person down and you will only stir the crazy pot - don't do it!
    • Ask a couple customers that you respect to review - don't ask a ton - most places think of this as spam, you just want a couple, and if they can talk to the issues, the better.  Sometimes this happens naturally, but it takes time.  Asking a couple people, means that you can see updates at the top faster.
    • Own the bad review - mention it on a different medium as an attack.  Show your vulnerability - it's the only thing you have - you are human, your business is all you have in some cases - this person struck your child.
    • Ask everyone you know to flag the review (we are talking off the wall reviews here, don't do this for all negative reviews - some are actually good for ya).  The more accounts flag - the more chances that the thing will get pulled.
    • For yelp! - pay for an ad through their staff, and tell  them you won't sign up until the crazy review is removed.  I have a feeling this might work.  I haven't tried.
    • Sit down with your staff and go over the review. Learn from it.
    Bad reviews get easier over time - mostly if they are few and far between.  They are a good touch with reality.  You can't please everyone all of the time, but it's our job to try.

    Check out my bad review on yelp! :) ->