Tips and strategies

 
Tips and strategies for a successful service route

Want an easy way to save hundreds of dollars? Email your invoices!
If you`re still using snail mail to invoice your customers through the postal service you could be wasting hundreds of dollars. Most bookkeeping software programs will allow you to e-mail invoices to your customer`s directly. When you e-mail an invoice, your customer receives it as a PDF file e-mail attachment along with a cover note. With email, the invoice is sent directly to your customers email program instead of the 2-3 days it can take via snail mail. For every 100 invoices sent you save your business approximately $44 you do the math and start saving.

20 essential tips for a route owner.
1) Buy the best equipment that you possibly can but do not overextend yourself.
2) Do not put your cell phone down thinking you will remember it later.
3) Keep a fire extinguisher and a spare tire on your truck.
4) Keep the toolbox handy.
5) Remember to make sure your equipment will fit past that gate when pricing the job.
6) Make sure everything on the truck, and trailer is secure.
7) Don`t forget to do an inspection of your equipment before you move to your next job so not to leave anything behind.
8) Shut the tail gate. Always double check you’re trailer to truck connection.
9) Get liability insurance right away.
10) Always wear safety equipment when needed. Safety glasses, gloves, hats, respirator masks while working.
11) Always use Sun block and keep well hydrated.
12) Fill the bleach containers on the ground NOT in the bed of the truck.
13) Carry plenty of spares and double of whatever you use the most of.
14) Appreciate the good years, and prepare for the lean ones.
15) Leave your truck keys next to whatever you want to remember to pick up or turn off at a property so you cannot leave the property without remembering to do it.
16) Carry a First Aid Kit.
17) Keep a tow-rope or chains in the truck.
18) Always release pressure first from whatever you are trying to open.
19) Always have business cards on hand.
20) Wave at the competition.
 
Can you think of some more? Email me Rob@thepoolpros.com

Get around your service route quicker with route planning and optimization.
Are you taking the shortest route when driving to your service accounts? By taking the shortest route on your multiple stop service routes you will be saving time and fuel costs this will also enable you to possibly service more accounts per day.
 
Google Maps provides a web mapping tool that you can use for route planning and optimization with multiple stops. It also has high-resolution satellite images for most urban areas in the USA that could be used for marketing purposes as you can view which properties have pools and yards in you`re service route neighborhoods. Click the "Get directions" button to add multiple stops on http://maps.google.com/maps?ct=reset
 

Get paid for your services quicker. Invoices that encourage action.
Having the money you`re owed sitting in someone else`s bank account can seriously interfere with your business` cash flow. If many of the clients or customers you invoice are slow payers, maybe it`s time to look at your invoices; they could be contributing to your collections problem.
Does the invoice you`re sending out encourage action or inaction? For example, many invoices are simply marked, "Payable upon receipt". Invoices so labeled are saying to your customers or clients, "Pay me when it`s convenient for you," instead of "Pay me now." Those inclined to be slow payers will find the built-in excuse especially convenient; we`ve all heard the line "The check is in the mail!"
Instead of using invoices that encourage inaction, use invoices that encourage prompt payment. All of the invoices you send out should state a specific date of payment, such as "Due on May 31st, 2010", rather than "Payable upon receipt", or "Due in 30 days". People are much more likely to pay attention to a specific payment date, and you eliminate the possibility of misunderstanding or loose interpretation.
Don`t let your invoices contribute to collections problems and make your prompt payers feel as if they`re being unfairly treated. Using invoices that state specific dates that payment is expected and offer an incentive to pay promptly encourages action - and will help get the money you`re owed flowing into your bank account.
 
The most effective way is to have all of your customers pay via credit card. You must offer, American express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa. Feel free to be creative. Offer discounts, or 50% of annual increases to customers who pay their monthly service via credit card. If you have one deadbeat, you will have to service at least one good customer to break even. (if you are lucky)


Take Advantage of Your Customers
Your customers already know and trust you. It`s easier to get more business from them than to get business from a client who has never used your services. Take advantage of the fact that you have existing clientele by creating some special deals just for your existing customers.  You can also announce new products and services to them before you announce them to the general market. This will let them know that you consider them a priority and value their business.

You can also convert your customers into publicity agents for your business. Just develop an incentive for them to tell associates and friends about the value of your services.  When a current customer gives you an endorsement it can be more effective than other forms of advertising - and it is much less expensive.
These marketing tips utilizing your current resources are a simple, low-cost way for any service route business to generate more sales or find additional customers.
 
The best way of marketing in todays industry is Social Media. My Friend Murray is an expert and even holds workshops.
I also have a 2 hour class about how to apply these techniques. Check the Class calendar for the next Class. I believe it is January 6th at 6:30 pm. I am also available to assist you on any pool matter at a typical fee.
 
Thinking of upgrading your current cell phone? Consider a “smartphone.” Smartphones are the latest in cell phone innovation and have changed the way we work. The most common Smartphones are the Blackberry and iPhone but there are many others so check with your provider. With these types of phones, you are no longer a slave to your desk. These PDA devices can help you stay in touch with the office, get work done on the road, check e-mail, map a route, obtain news, listen to music while working and more.
 
Many smartphones allow you to sync with your desktop computer. That way you can store, view, and work on documents directly on your handheld and not have to redo the same work on your business computer. You can also receive and respond to emails real-time which can be handy if your customers are used to communicating with you in that manner.
 
Have you been considering a smartphone or are you using one now?
 
How to save money on gas for your service vehicle!
Turn off your air conditioner
 
Contrary to popular belief, Myth Busters "Busted" the theory that you get better gas milage when you sht off your A/c.
 
Reduce weight
You can also try to reduce the mass of your vehicle by emptying out and removing heavy items that you don`t need.
 
Drive slower
It`s a proven fact that driving fast will increase the drag (turbulence) and thus increase your fuel consumption, don’t be a lead foot driver.
 
Close your windows
By opening your windows you will increase the turbulence which can eventually cost you fuel.
 
Pump it up
Inflate your tires to the specified level. This will reduce the contact area of your tire to the road and therefore reduce the friction. It will help you to get slightly improved gas mileage.
 
Drive less
Condense your service route by buying, selling or trading accounts. Imagine how many more accounts could be serviced each day if you didn’t spend so much time getting to them.

Tips on Advertising Basics
1. Be consistent in your ad message and style including business cards, letterhead, envelopes, invoices, signs and banners.
2.Newspapers, radio and TV stations are not helpful in producing the advertising that you will ned to succeed. In todays world, they do not work. Just a waste of money.


3.While word-of-mouth advertising has been around a long time, it is the most powerful. I will explain to you how to double your route, just like i did, every 6 months. The average cost per account is about $50 in advertising dollar for every new account. 

4. Promote benefits rather than features. A benefit is the emotional satisfaction your product or service provides, or a tangible performance characteristic.
5. Know your competitors. Knowing everything about your competitors is just as important as knowing everything about your own business.

6. Become Licensed ! This tool alone is by far the most powerful. Attend one of my classes and ill explain more.

7. get a website. ! answer all of the questions any customer has ever asked you. describe your services. Describe your company, yourself ect. IT WORKS !

Tips for Building Your Referral Business
1. Referrals always begin with providing your current customers with prompt, reliable, quality service. They`ll be happy to spread the word on your behalf-often without you having to ask.
2. Ask your current customers if they know of any associates who are looking for the kind of service you provide. Follow up with a call or letter to those associates. Make sure you get your customer`s permission to cite them as a referral source.
3. If a customer compliments you on your work, ask them to put it in writing for use as a testimonial in your marketing materials. Again, make sure you have their permission to use their name for that purpose.
4. Always acknowledge a customer`s referral with a thank-you note or phone call. If you send a card, consider including a coupon to a popular restaurant or a discount on future services.
5. Many retail and service businesses lend themselves well to formal referral incentive programs with cash, gifts, or discounts. Make sure these "rewards" fit in your budget, and that you have clear rules and guidelines (e.g., only one referral reward per customer during a defined period).

Confidence Sells What makes a customer choose one service provider over another? Unless you`re the only game in town (or on the Internet), that`s an important question to consider when you`re planning your advertising, promotional literature, website and even your business card. Get the answer right and you`ll land more sales than your competitors. Get it wrong, and business that could be yours will pass you by.

So what`s the answer? What`s the secret to getting customers to choose you over several similar competitors advertising in the same media? The solution is simple: include words or slogans in all your marketing materials that will make the customer feel confident that they can rely on you to provide what they need and be there if they have questions or a problem next month or next year.

What kinds of words do that? Words that conjure up images of stability, reliability, professionalism and experience. Some examples include: "guaranteed," "satisfaction guaranteed," "board certified," "licensed," "insured," "serving the community for 20 years," "complete," "the [industry name] experts," "on time," "24-hour service."

If you`re not already using confidence building terms like these, add them to your next print ad. If you`re not ready to have business cards or brochures reprinted, consider putting a confidence-building word or phrase on a colorful sticker and affixing the sticker to your existing literature.

In the market for a new computer? Don`t pay for add-ons you don`t need. Retail stores and discounters often sell computers as package deals. Instead of getting just the computer CPU, you get the computer, monitor, a printer and possibly some software as part of the deal. Although these may be good deals for people buying their first computer, they may not be a bargain in other situations.

That`s because the computer, itself, may not have the bells and whistles you really want. For instance, if you`re going to be using a lot of graphics programs, storing a lot of audio and video files, playing games, or expect to have several programs open at the same time, a computer  that is part of a package deal may not have enough memory or a fast enough processor speed to suit you. Or, it may not have the version of Windows that`s best for the way you plan to use the computer.  Upgrades to memory and operating system can add a couple hundred dollars to your initial purchase price.

Furthermore, all those "free" goodies that come with the computer may not really meet your needs. If you need a laser printer for office correspondence, or a fast inkjet printer, the low-end inkjet printer that comes "free" with the package deal won`t do you any good. And if the package deal comes with a 17-inch CRT and what you really want is a 19-inch flat panel monitor, you`ll have to pay extra for the "upgrade." If you`re planning to add on a wide monitor or a second monitor, you may need to change the graphics card, which will add more to the purchase price.

Unless you`re buying your first computer or adding another computer to those you already own, software that`s preloaded as part of a package deal may prove useless or unneeded as well.

Keep Tax Documents for at Least Seven Years.Good record keeping saves money. Some things like copies of business tax returns, licenses, incorporation papers, and capital equipment expenses should be preserved indefinitely. Keep any tax-related documents (e.g., expense receipts, client 1099 forms, and vehicle mileage logs) for a minimum of seven years.

Cross-Promote Your Business with Others Who Target the Same Market.You can gain valuable new business by linking up with other non-competing service businesses to cross-promote each others services. For example a local lawn care company can promote a local pool service company in exchange for return referrals or a window cleaning company can refer a cleaning service business and so on.

Cross promotional and referral opportunities are all around if you look. Depending on your line of work, Pool service, Lawn service, Cleaners and window cleaners make good networking partners, as do other regular service businesses. Its all about networking use it to your business`s advantage.

Blogs, Quarterly newsletter and a monthly inspection sheet. Are you sending a quarterly newsletter and a monthly inspection sheet? When these are sent with invoices they can have a good response over the course of a year. Customers become accustomed to receiving these and within the inspection sheet include monthly specials and referral incentives. This is also a good way to build a good relationship with your customers.

The most powerful i todays market is a Blog that is integrated to your website. People want to hear what you have to say.
 

Economic downturns How’s business? Are you worried about falling sales, too-quiet phone lines, and an increasing stack of overdue receivables?Small businesses are often hit the hardest during economic downturns, and this one is no exception. When credit dries up, consumer and business spending does too.So, what can you do? How can you make it through the coming months?

Analyze expenditures to see which ones are directly related to producing income. Look at all your costs, but pay particular attention to costs that aren`t fixed. Are you spending money on "cool" gadgets or supplies that don’t really do anything to bring in sales? Are you paying a monthly subscription for services you aren’t using?

Market more aggressively to customers in the neighborhoods closer to your main route and to higher profit customers who fit a similar demographic profile.

Watch for income and expenses trends that could have a negative affect on your business (ie, your costs are going up but you haven’t increased your prices in three years). Make changes to ward off problems - and do it now - before little problems develop into major threats to your business.

Guard against embezzlement and shrinkage. Personal financial problems, hidden gambling problems, and other issues may cause trusted employees to steal or "borrow" from the company. Sadly, this is a fairly common problem for small businesses and the perpetrator is usually a trusted employee, partner or spouse.

Eliminate wasteful spending. Before you or your staff stop of and grab lunch out consider how much you could be saving on taking lunch from home. Cut down on trips to the suppliers where you may over spend unnecessarily.

Are you using your signature to promote your company?    
Set your signatureto appear on new messages, replies to messages, forwarded messages or any combination. This can all be set in the options of your email program. You could be loosing potential customers and referrals if not used.

          First & Last Name, Title
          Company Name
          Address
          City, State, ZIP
          Phone: 111/123-4567
          Fax: 111/123-6789
          Email: myemail@mycompany.com
          www.mycompany.com checkout our website !
          Follow me on Twitter
          Find us on Facebook


Advertise If your competitors have been advertising for many months in a specific media, their ads are probably working. Ride the coattails of their media research and increase your visibility by placing your ads in the same media. Doing so will reduce some of the trial and error associated with finding the right advertising media. It will also put your services where your competitors` prospects will see them before they make a decision.
In planning your media marketing, don`t forget about online advertising. If you just service locally and don`t want to pay for clicks from outside your service area, use the online search engines` local advertising options.
 
Create a website for your business.Most people these days are turning to the internet and search engines Google, MSN, Yahoo to find what they are looking for, whether it is a product, service or simply general knowledge information. Utilize search engine marketing to make sure customers can find you on the web if you haven`t got a website your loosing potential customers.


Affix a label with your business name.As you`re in the consumer service business, one way to get repeat business is to affix a label with your business name and phone number on the control box or some other object at the customer`s location. That way, they don`t have to remember to write down your name in their address book. 


You are you`re company`s mobile billboard.If you haven`t got your truck and company work wear with your company details on your loosing customers. Imagine all the people that see your vehicle on the road and at your customer`s properties. It`s very reasonable to get signage on your truck and just one new customer`s service may pay for it. The same goes for your work wear and it can all go as a company expense. It also makes an impression and looks professional.


Do you have a goal to have a tighter service route? The time spent traveling to customers that are out of your way is time you could be servicing more accounts in the area you want to expand in. Hundreds of service professionals have used me in the past to sell anywhere from 1 to 1,000 pool accounts.  looking for accounts in different locations, your out of the way accounts could be the ones their looking for which will enable them to get their tighter route. Make your free post today and get noticed! Start the process of reaching your goal! Imagine trading with others and increasing the amount off customers serviced in a day and less time traveling to them.
 
Automate as much as possible.This goes for sending out your invoices and payment reminders to customers. For instance within the popular accounting software QuickBooks you can create as many invoices as you need and send them via email in an instant. However this program doesnt work well in the pool industry. I recommend a software, like "The Pool program" from Wise Software. This will integrate everything you need into one program. Try to email all of your clients. its also an easier way to keep in touch with them.  Imagine how much time that will save you monthly and not having to pay for postage and stationery. Over the course of a year if you invoice say 100 customers a month that`s a saving of $492.00 on postage alone and hours of manually stuffing envelopes.
 
 
Accept Credit Cards Don`t miss out on providing a service by not providing credit card services for your customers. Yes there`s a small cost, but the flip side is you also get paid almost immediately. Shop and negotiate to get the best rates and fees possible but do offer this service. This is the biggest mistake small companies make, and prevents them from taking the next step to success.
 
Advertise & Promote.Unfortunately, you have to toot your own horn to get noticed. Whether a local business or a business on the internet you need to spend some bucks in order to sell your services. Finding the best method is the difficult task. Questions such as how much to allocate and where to spend it on marketing like the yellow page ads, web site, newspaper ads, promotional products, etc. have to be answered. You`ll probably have to do some experimenting and monitor the results to see what works for you. Again you`re looking for the most bang for the buck. Proven and recommend are a web site and promotional products as two methods that do provide some bang for the buck.
 
E-Mail Rather Than Telephone.Use e-mail rather than playing telephone tag and incurring unnecessary minute usage charges. Make sure your company`s e-address is on your stationery, business cards, and invoices, shipping papers, advertising and anything else that reaches the outside world.


Get Testimonials.People don`t like to make mistakes when they buy products and services. You can help alleviate your customer`s fear about using your services by including legitimate testimonials from satisfied customers on your website and in other marketing materials. Get testimonials anytime a customer sends you an email praising your work, your customer service, the quality of your service or anything that other customers may be looking for, ask them if you can use their comments in your marketing materials. Call customers who use your services regularly and ask them if they`ll give you a testimonial.


Get local referrals. Think of local business`s where people go to or receive deliveries in an area where you would like to obtain more accounts. Here are a few to get you started. Everyone has a barber or hairstylist they use on a frequent basis, especially if you have children. Most stylists always engage in conversation during clients haircuts. And most barbers and hairstylists are very happy when you give them a $2 - $3 tip. Do you see where this is going?
 
Why not approach the local barbers and hairstylists and offer them an incentive for every referral card they pass out to their customers. You might even motivate them to talk up your business by promising them a percentage of each new account that results from their referral.
 
Another is the food delivery business`s maybe the local pizza shop. Ask them if they can add a referral card to there pizza delivery clients in return you`ll offer them a referral fee. You’ll get local clients and get a tighter route.
 
Could you manage if the computer you run your small business on failed?
Most probably you`re very reliant on your computer for your business needs so here are some tips to help prevent a failure.
 
Install security software and update it regularly. Anti-virus software scans incoming emails for viruses and will delete or quarantine any it finds. Updates are critical because new types of viruses are created monthly. A free one to use can be found at http://free.grisoft.com/
 
Download PC operating system updates. Dump older systems such as Windows 98 or 95 in favor of Windows XP Professional and Vista, which is more secure. With Mac, go to OSX.
 
Make wireless networks secure. Because wireless networks use radio links instead of cables, they are more vulnerable to hackers. Encryption technologies such as Wi-Fi Protected Access can help.
 
Use ad aware and spy ware removalprograms that can scan your pc and remove unwanted software that can cause a security risk and slow down your computer.
 
Backup your data.An online back up is http://www.carbonite.com/ or you can regularly back up to cd of purchase some other form or backup software either way make sure it gets done before its to late.
 
Customer service is everything. Are you practicing these basics?
  • Answering the phone: Good customer service often boils down to answering the phone every time no matter what and in a professional manner saying your business name. If you can`t answer it ensure your voice mail is active out of business hours. 
  • Listen: Good customer service means listening. If a customer has a complaint, make sure you listen to it in order to come up with an agreeable solution. Listening often separates good customer service from bad customer service, so make sure you pay attention to the voice of every customer. The key to all good customer service ir, Listen first, sell second.
  • Deal with it: This is a little branch off of good customer service listening. Through your listening skills, you should be able to formulate a solution to every problem that comes up. If you want to show your customers that you actually care about them, you will want to match each of their complaints with a good customer service solution. 
  • Only promise what you can do: Integrity and honesty are keys of good customer service so unless you can actually do something, don`t promise it. Good customer service means you are reliable and not a liar. Customers that feel like they are being `played` will find a more honest company to buy from so in order to keep good customer service just be honest.
  • Always be helpful: Businesses don`t always have to be about profit gains right this second, and if you want good customer service, you may want to consider being helpful to all of your customers all of the time. Good customer service means providing for others in times when you won`t make money off of them.
Ensure your watching your cash flow.
The number one reason that businesses fail is lack of cash. Period. End of story. Some of the issues that can bury a new business are:
  • Under-funded growth.
  • Lack of adequate record-keeping.
  • No review of financial statements.
  • No control over business assets.
  • Unnecessary infrastructure.
  • Having to wait for payment for sales.
  • Sacrificing short-term cash flow for long-term growth.
  • Thinking that because they have a sale they have cash.
  • Spending on inventory.
Strategy: Watch your cash flow and do whatever you can to protect it. In each of the previous examples of mistakes that cause cash flow problems, there was simply a lack of consideration about cash flow. You wouldn`t grow too fast if you didn`t have the cash, ifyou knew to watch the cash. You`d have good financial statements and review these on a regular basis. You would practice good control and make sure you weren`t overspending when you couldn`t afford it. And, you`d make sure you first had the cash flow automatically working before you took on any more projects or expansion.
 
Ensure you’re insured.
Small business insurance is important because things don`t always go as planned and accidents do happen. Operating a business is difficult enough without having to be concerned about suffering significant financial loss, or worse, due to unforeseen events occurring. Insurance is to protect against loss of your investment and financial impairment to your business.
 
Here are a few sites that can help you get covered.
IPSSAgoldcoast.com  - Trade group with Many benefits.
 
http://www.neighborsins.com/  
Has Your Website Gone Stale?
Nobody likes to read yesterday`s news. And few people like to read old web pages. Even if the main purpose of your web site is to serve as a corporate static web page, try to update your site periodically with new information. New articles, fact sheets, updates services you provide, new information about your business are all appropriate.
 
Check periodically, too, to see if the overall look of your web site is in tune with what most of the web is doing. Web site design has style trends just like fashion design does. Having a web site that sports yesterday`s look leaves the same kind of negative impression that a frayed or seedy looking business suit would make.
To keep update costs down, ask your web developer to set up your website so you or your staff can easily update the site yourself.
 
Postcards Make Great Little Ads
Direct mail is one of the most effective advertising methods available to small businesses, and one way to make it even more successful is to put your message on a postcard. Though unassuming and small, postcards can deliver a powerful punch. Here`s why:
·         There`s no envelope to get in between you and your prospect, so your message is sure to get through.
·         They are small enough for your customers to keep and even post somewhere prominent - especially if you give customers a reason to hang onto them (like a coupon or other discount offer).
·         Your postage costs are much lower than with regular size mail, so your ROI is higher.
·         They`re personal - who wouldn`t rather get a fun postcard in the mail than a boring business letter?
·         They`re easy to read - Because of their small size, you have to keep your message simple and to the point.

 
Some points to consider before you choose a logo
If you`re planning to have a logo created for your business, you`ve probably spent some time considering things like what colors you like and whether or not your logo should include an image along with your name. To help you choose the best logo for your services below are some points to consider.
  • How will the logo be used?
  •  What do you want your logo to "say" about your business? What kind of impression should it leave about your product or service?
  • Will your finished logo need to be scalable so it will work on a website, business cards, advertisements, fliers, or billboards?
  • Will you want it painted on a van or embroidered on a shirt?
  • Will you ever need to squeeze the logo into a small square (such as a 125 x 125 pixel banner on the web)?
  • Will the logo ever need to be long and narrow (i.e.: for use on pens or pencils or other promotional giveaways)
  • Will you need to fit your logo next to a leader board-sized banner on your website?
  • Will the logo ever appear in print? If so, do you want to have the logo designed in a single color to keep your printing costs down?
  • What colors or color combinations do you like?
  • What kind of look do you want for your logo (i.e., modern, old-fashioned, artsy, country, professional etc.)
  • Will the logo look good if it`s printed in black and white?


    Tips for Business Owners Who Hate Handling Finances


  • Consult a financial adviser, an accountant or a CPA experienced with small companies. Organize your company`s and your own financial records before the meeting--and jot down notes for all your financial goals, both business and personal (including retirement).
  • During the meeting, work out ways you can hand over some of the financial details to a bookkeeper, who likely will be less expensive than a CPA for day-to-day activities. If you don`t want to write the checks to all your employees (or in this lady`s case to her numerous caregivers), hand that task over to someone else. Since she is having trouble finding time to write out and coordinate time sheets, it`s clear that she also needs someone to take over or, at least, assist with this detailed part of her operations.
  • Taking in a business partner more skilled and willing to handle the financial aspects of the business can take pressure off a people-person owner. Many highly successful businesses are based on a partnership in which there is a division of labor, and interests.
  • Delegating some of the financial activities to employees can relieve pressure. In this lady`s situation, she could assign coordinate of the time sheets to one of her senior caregivers. In her business, some of her elderly patients who require the most care have a team of caregivers working in shifts round the clock. One team member could be assigned the task of coordinating time sheets for others in the team. However, the actual billing of patients should be done by the owner or his or her bookkeeper or accountant.
  • Taking classes in bookkeeping can boost a business owner to a new level of financial ability. Often, not enjoying the financial aspects of a business is the result of not being familiar with financial techniques. When a person feels lost or out of one`s depth in a particular activity, it`s natural to avoid it. Spending time learning how to handle finances adds depth to a person`s overall business acumen and enjoyment level-even if some of the financial responsibilities are eventually turned over to others.

 

 

 

 

 If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

 

 

Rob Estell

Rob@thepoolpros.com

561-441-9932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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