TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Build a Million-Dollar Business in 1 Year (Yes, Really)

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You have to think about one thing—and one thing only—from the start

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Some people go their entire lives without earning a million dollars, so it sounds crazy that some businesses might be able to achieve this milestone within their first year. But it is possible. Plenty of businesses have achieved this goal, and you can too!

Pay attention to the following tips and use them to help power up your revenue growth:

1. Find a growing market

One of the easiest ways to build a million-dollar company in such a short period of time is to find a growing trend and ride it to the top. Take the example of Micah Adler, CEO of mobile app developer Fiksu, which grew from less than $1 million to $100 million in just three and a half years — with only $17.6 million in venture capital — following its 2010 launch.

Related: Looking for Stable Business Ideas? Here Are 12 Types of Companies With Healthy Cash Flow.

Certainly, Adler’s success comes in part from building great products, but it also comes from his timing. In 2012, just two years after Fiksu’s launch, mobile-app development represented $19 billion in revenue and was experiencing annual growth of more than 60 percent a year. Finding a growing market of your own like this can put you on the fast track to massive revenue growth.

2. Think monetization from the start

It seems strange to think about objectively, but some startups start without any obvious monetization strategies. Twitter is one example of this phenomenon, but there are countless other companies out there building up their free user bases, hoping that inspiration — and, consequently, financial stability — will strike along the way.

If you want to grow a million-dollar company in your first year, you can’t afford to think that way!

Most profitable companies operate from one of two models: either they sell a lot of inexpensive products to a lot of people or they sell a few big-ticket items to a more limited buyer list. Neither model is easier or inherently better than the other. What’s more important than choosing is having a defined plan for monetization. Knowing how you’ll make money from the start will prevent wasted time spent hoping that something profitable will come together for you.

3. Be the best

There are plenty of mediocre products out there, but the odds are good that these companies aren’t making a million dollars or more during their first years. If you want to hit these big potential profits, you’ve got to bring something to the table that wows customers and generates buzz within your marketplace.

Related: Field a Team of ‘A’ Players at Your Startup

How can you tell if you’ve got a “best in breed” product? Look to your current customers. If you aren’t getting rave reviews online or positive comments sent to your inbox, chances are your clients aren’t as ecstatic about your product as they need to be to hit your target sales. Ask your existing customers what you can do to make your product better and then put their recommendations into place. They’ll appreciate your efforts and will go on to refer further sales to you in the future.

4. Hire all-stars

Hitting $1 million in revenue during your first year is no small feat, and you certainly aren’t going to achieve this goal with a team of underperformers. Yes, hiring these people will be cheaper and easier, but you’ll pay for this convenience when your end-of-the-year sales numbers come up short.

Instead, you need to hire all-stars, and the fastest way to do this is to ask around for referrals. Pay particular attention to the sales hires you make, as these key employees stand to make the biggest difference in your business’s bottom line. Get them on the bus and then encourage them to do whatever is necessary to close deals (pro tip: a good series of incentives won’t hurt!).

5. Consume data

Finally, if you want to shoot for the revenue moon, you need to be absolutely militant about gathering data and acting on it. When I approach a new marketing project, I prefer to work in short sprints of a few weeks or less where we’ll try something new, check the statistics to see how the changes impacted revenue and then either commit the changes or try a new test.

Do the same with your growing company. You have a veritable gold mine of information just hanging out in your Google Analytics account, so put it to good use by identifying your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and running tests designed to push these metrics even higher. If you aren’t able to carry out these tests on your own, bring on a rock-star analyst who can help you make sense of your numbers. When every penny counts towards reaching your $1-million-a-year goal, you’ll find these employees to be worth their weight in gold.

Growing a company to $1 million in revenue in your first year isn’t easy, but it is possible. Stick to the tips above and be ruthless about profitability — even if you don’t hit this particular goal, you’ll earn the strongest sales results possible for your unique company.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Metrics for Business Leaders

TIME

The Super-Simple Way to Get More Replies to Your Emails

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New data shows you how

How much of the email you send gets deleted unread? A lot of it, if you’re like most of us in corporate America. But if you switch up the times and days when you send out messages, you can improve the chances that they’ll be read and replied to.

Email tracking company Yesware analyzed more than half a million sales emails to find out when recipients are more likely to open and reply. Their main finding: Send out email when there’s less competition if you want to grab a recipient’s attention. “When there’s little else being emailed, your emails are more likely to stand out and get noticed,” the company says in a blog post.

On weekdays, about two-thirds of emails are opened, but on weekends, that figure rises to about three-quarters. Weekend days only get about one-tenth the email traffic of weekdays, which means your message has a better shot of landing at the top of your recipient’s inbox. You’re also likelier to get a reply when you send email on the weekend, but you might have to be patient. A slightly higher percentage of weekday emails get same-day responses, but roughly 46% of messages sent on weekends are returned, compared to 39% of weekday emails. Contrary to popular belief, Yesware says, there’s no inherent advantage in sending emails on Monday versus any other weekday.

The time of day when you send messages matters, too. Yesware finds that although email traffic is highest during the workday and peaks during lunchtime, reply rates are highest when traffic is lightest. For the best results, Yesware’s findings suggest that you should send emails around 6 or 7 a.m., or around 8 p.m. During these hours, 45% — nearly half — of all emails sent receive a reply.

Previous research into Yesware’s data trove finds that another good way to boost your email reply rate is to copy additional recipients. An analysis of some 500,000 sales emails shows that messages sent to two people — one on the main “to” line, one on the “cc” line — were opened around 84% of the time, and replied to in more than six out of 10 instances. Copying a second recipient rather than sending it outright to both is the key, Yesware says in a blog post. If your recipients see that multiple people are included in the message, they figure somebody else will go to the effort of responding. “When a task is placed in front of a group of people, individuals are more likely to assume that someone else will take responsibility for it,” the company says. “So, no one does.”

TIME russia

Google Is Now Worth More Than the Entire Russian Stock Market

Google joins an elite list of companies, including Exxon Mobile, Microsoft and Apple

Google is now more valuable than the entire Russian stock market. Russia’s stock market is now worth $325 billion while Google is valued at more than $340 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The news comes as Russia’s currency, the ruble, continues to stumble under pressure from declining oil prices and western sanctions. Russia’s gold reserves have also declined to their lowest point since 2009.

Google joins an elite list of companies, including Exxon Mobile, Microsoft and Apple, worth more than the entire Russian market.

Read next: Leaked Sony Emails Reveal How Much Movie Studios Hate Google

MONEY working in retirement

This Is the Toughest Threat to Boomers’ Retirement Plans

Most employers say they support older workers. But boomers don't see it, and age discrimination cases are on the rise.

As the oldest boomers begin to turn 70 in just over a year, an important workplace battleground already has been well defined: how to accommodate aging but productive workers who show few signs of calling it quits.

Millions of older workers want to stay on the job well past 65 or 68. Some are woefully under saved or need to keep their health insurance and must work; others cling to the identity their job gives them or see work as a way to remain vibrant and engaged. At some level, almost all of them worry about being pushed out.

Those worries are rooted in anecdotal evidence of workers past 50 being downsized out of jobs, but also in hard statistics. Age discrimination claims have been on the rise since 1997, when 15,785 reports were filed. Last year, 21,396 claims were recorded. Not every lawsuit is valid. But official claims represent only a fraction of incidents where older workers get pushed out, lawyers say.

One in five workers between 45 and 74 say they have been turned down for a job because of age, AARP reports. About one in 10 say they were passed up for a promotion, laid off or denied access to career development because of their age. Even those not held back professionally because of age may experience something called microaggressions, which are brief and frequent indignities launched their direction. Terms like “geezer” and “gramps” in the context of a work function “affect older workers” and erode self-esteem, write researchers at the Sloan Center.

These are serious issues in the context of a workforce where many don’t ever plan to retire. Some 65% of boomers plan to work past age 65, according new research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Some 52% plan to keep working at least part-time after they retire. In a positive sign, 88% of employers say they support those who want to stay on the job past 65.

But talk is cheap, many boomers might say. In the Transamerica survey, just 73% of boomers said their employer supports working past 65. One way this skepticism seems justified: only 48% of employers say they have practices in place to enable older workers to shift from full-time to part-time work, and just 37% say they enable shifting to a new position that may be less stressful. Boomers say the numbers are even more dismal. Only 21% say their employer will enable them to shift to part-time work, and just 12% say their employer will facilitate a move to a position that is less stressful.

These findings seem at odds with employers’ general perceptions about how effective older workers are. According to the survey:

  • 87% believe their older workers are a valuable resource for training and mentoring
  • 86% believe their older workers are an important source of institutional knowledge
  • 82% believe their older workers bring more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience
  • Just 4% believe their older workers are less productive than their younger counterparts

The reality is that most of us will work longer. The Society of Actuaries recently updated its mortality tables and concluded that, for the first time, a newborn is expected to live past 90 and a 65-year-old today should make it to 86 (men) or 88 (women). The longevity revolution is changing everything about the way we approach retirement.

Employers need to embrace an older workforce by creating programs that let them phase into retirement while keeping some income and their healthcare, by offering better financial education and planning services, and by declaring an age-friendly atmosphere as part of their commitment to diversity.

For their part, employees must take steps to remain employable. Most are staying healthy (65%); many are focused on performing well (54%), and a good number are keeping job skills up to date (41%), Transamerica found. But painfully few are keeping up their professional network (16%), staying current on the job market (14%) or going back to school for retraining (5%). Both sides, it seems, could do better.

Read next: How Your Earnings Record Affects Your Social Security

TIME Television

Offline Viewing Is ‘Never Going to Happen’ Netflix Executive Says

Netflix Illustrations Ahead Of Earnings
The Netflix website and logo are displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2014 Bloomberg/Getty Images

#SorryNotSorry

You won’t be able to watch Netflix without an Internet connection. Ever.

“It’s never going to happen,” said Cliff Edwards, the video-streaming site’s director of corporate communications and technology, speaking to TechRadar about the possibility of offline viewing.

A few other streaming services do offer the ability to download shows and then view them without Internet access, but Edwards said Netflix is of the view that downloadable content is “a short-term fix for a bigger problem” of wi-fi access and quality.

The Netflix top brass fully expects both those things to improve significantly in the near future, and Edwards opined that the concept of offline viewing may be a thing of the past as early as five years from now.

[TechRadar]

TIME deals

New York Gambles on Full-Size Casinos to Boost Cash-Strapped Communities

New York Casinos
The Proctors Theater marquee displays a celebratory message after a New York State board announced earlier on Dec. 17, 2014, that the former Alco site in Schenectady, N.Y., would be recommended for a casino Patrick Dodson—AP

The recommendations favor gaming complexes situated in struggling upstate towns

A state board has recommended the approval of three full-size, Las Vegas–style casinos in New York State.

The three gaming complexes are slated for Schenectady (near the state capital, Albany), Tyre (near the Finger Lakes) and Sullivan County Catskills (north of New York City), the New York Times reports. They will be the first of their kind in the state.

The recommendations cap a competitive campaign by 16 casino developers for the right to set up shop in New York State, many of them hoping to tap New York City for customers.

Yet the board in the end rejected all six proposals for casinos immediately kitty-corner to the Big Apple, favoring instead developers with plans to give northward communities, still mourning the loss of a teeming manufacturing sector, a heady injection of jobs and cash.

Critics of New York State’s effort to expand gambling have doubted that casinos will renew hard-up towns and cities, citing a saturated regional gaming market, as well as predicting that casinos might hurt, not help, such places by sowing crime and spooking property values.

[NYT]

TIME Security

Everything We Know About Sony, The Interview and North Korea

What we know, what we don't know, and how a movie got pulled

Sony Pictures Entertainment said late Wednesday that it’s pulling The Interview, a comedy about two journalists tasked with killing North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. Sony’s move came a day after a cryptic message appeared online threatening attacks against theaters that played the film, and several weeks after hackers first breached Sony’s system and posted troves of private emails and other data online.

Shortly after Sony decided to scrub The Interview, a U.S. official confirmed to TIME that American intelligence officials have determined North Korea was behind the Sony hack, though no evidence has been disclosed.

Here’s everything we know for sure about the Sony hack, up until now.

What happened?

On Nov. 24, Sony employees came to work in Culver City, Calif., to find images of grinning red skulls on computer screens. The hackers identified themselves as #GOP, or the Guardians of Peace. They made off with a vast amount of data (reports suggest up to 100 terabytes), wiped company hard drives and began dumping sensitive documents on the Internet.

Among the sensitive information the hackers divulged: salary and personnel records for tens of thousands of employees as well as Hollywood stars; embarrassing email traffic between executives and movie moguls; and several of the studio’s unreleased feature films. More is likely to come, as Sony Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal said the hackers got away with every employees’ emails “from the last 10 years.”

MORE: The 7 most outrageous things we learned from the Sony hack

And the attack has already affected other companies: Secret acquisitions by photo-sharing app Snapchat, for instance, have been made public thanks to leaked emails from Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, who sits on Snapchat’s board.

Who did it?

That’s the million-dollar question. For a few reasons, suspicion has zeroed in on the North Korean government or a band of allied hacktivists. The hermit kingdom is apoplectic over The Interview, in which Seth Rogen and James Franco play journalists who land a face-to-face with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, only to be asked by the CIA to assassinate the reclusive leader. The comedy features graphic footage of the dictator’s death, which didn’t go over well in a country built on a hereditary personality cult.

From a forensic perspective, the hack had hallmarks of North Korean influence. The attackers breached Sony’s network with malware that had been compiled on a Korean-language computer. And the effort bore similarities to attacks by a hacking group with suspected ties to North Korea that has carried out attacks on South Korean targets, including a breach of South Korean banks in 2013. That group, which is alternately known in the cybersecurity community as DarkSeoul (after its frequent target) or Silent Chollima (after a mythical winged horse), often uses spear-phishing—a cyber-attack that targets a specific vulnerable user or department on a larger network.

MORE: U.S. sees North Korea as culprit in Sony attack

That does not necessarily mean the North Korean government, or even the same hacker collective, is responsible. In the world of cyberwarfare, hackers will often dissect and imitate successful techniques.

Even the clues that point toward Pyongyang could be diversions to deflect investigators. For example, the perpetrators could’ve manipulated the code or set the computer language to throw suspicion on a convenient culprit. Pyongyang has denied involvement.

Why did Sony scrub The Interview?

People who may or may not have been tied to the hackers posted a vague message Tuesday threatening 9/11-style attacks against theaters that chose to play the film. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there wasn’t any evidence of a credible threat against American movie theaters, but several major chains, including AMC and Regal, decided to play it safe—all told, chains that control about half of the country’s movie screens decided against playing The Interview. Sony then followed suit, pulling the movie entirely.

Were theaters really in danger?

It’s tough to say for sure. North Korea has made lots of bloviating threats toward the U.S. before, so anything that comes out of Pyongyang should be taken with a grain of salt. But again, no concrete proof has been made public yet that these attacks or the threat came from North Korea—or even that they came from the same person or group.

Will we ever get to see The Interview?

Probably. The movie cost about $44 million to make, according to documents leaked by the hackers. The ad campaign so far has cost tens of millions on top of that, although Sony has pulled the plug on further TV spots. A total loss on that investment would be a tough pill for Sony to swallow.

MORE: You can’t see The Interview, but TIME’s movie critic did

What will most likely happen is some limited release in the future when everything calms down, perhaps bypassing theaters and going right to Blu-Ray/DVD and on-demand services. There’s also a chance Sony could release the film online. That would eliminate pretty much any safety risk to viewers, but could further enrage whoever hacked Sony—assuming they actually care about The Interview and it’s not just a red herring. It would also let Sony capitalize on all the sudden interest in the film generated by the hack and threats. Don’t expect to see it soon: Sony said late Wednesday it’s not planning any kind of release. But it could, of course, be leaked online.

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, President Barack Obama called the hack against Sony “very serious,” but suggested authorities have yet to find any credibility in the threat of attacks against theaters.

“For now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies,” Obama said.

How did the hackers do it?

We don’t know exactly. Cyber-security experts say the initial breach could have occurred through a simple phishing or spearfishing attempt, in which the hackers find a soft spot in the company’s network defenses. That can be a coding error or an employee who clicks on an infected link. These breaches occur all the time. FireEye, the parent company of the cybersecurity firm Sony hired to probe the hack, studied the network security of more than 1,200 banks, government agencies and manufacturers over a six-month period ending in 2014, and found that 97% had their last line of defense breached at some point by hackers.

“Breaches are inevitable,” says Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. “But that just means they’ve gotten in the door. It doesn’t mean they’ll be able to walk out with the crown jewels or set fire to the building.”

Once inside, hackers will try to gain elevated security privileges to spread across the network. What made the Sony hack different was the fact that it wasn’t detected until large quantities of data had been swiped. And what stood out, several analysts say, was not the sophistication of the breach but the havoc the culprits sought to wreak. “The attack was very targeted, very well thought out,” says Mike Fey of the network-security firm Blue Coat Systems, who believes the hackers “planned and orchestrated” the attack for months.

What are investigators doing to find out who’s responsible?

Sony has brought in experts at Mandiant, a top security firm, to lead the probe of the hack. Their investigation, outside security experts say, will be similar in some ways to the forensic analysis that follow a murder: studying data logs, reviewing network communications, poring over code, matching clues to potential motives. It may involve probing bulletin boards on the Dark Web, where hackers sometimes go to seek advice on technical troubles.

“There’s a lot of detective work you can do,” says former Department of Justice cybercrime prosecutor Mark Rasch. “Are they native English speakers? What programming language do they use? The code will have styles, signatures and tells.”

And investigators are tracking the IP addresses from which the attack was launched, which in the case of the Sony hack included infected computers in locations ranging from Thailand to Italy.

What happens if it was North Korea?

It’s tough to say. It’s unprecedented for a state actor to conduct a cyberattack of this scale against a U.S. corporation. If that turns out to be the case, however the U.S. decides to respond will set the tone for a whole new kind of cyberwar.

Could the Sony hack happen to other companies?

It’s increasingly likely. Sony is unusual in large part because the attackers appear to have been driven by a desire to cause destruction, rather than financial motives. And the strange geopolitical overtones of the hack add a dollop of intrigue. “It’s a milestone because it’s such a large-scale destructive attack that is rooted in this bizarre political messaging,” says security researcher Kurt Baumgartner of Kaspersky Lab.

But cyber-warfare is a growing threat for which most companies are ill-prepared. Joseph Demarest, assistant director in the FBI’s cyber division, testified to a Senate panel earlier this month that the malware used in the Sony hack “probably [would have] gotten past 90% of the net defenses that are out there today in private industry.” Banks and government agencies tend to have better security, but in recent months major retailers like Target and Home Depot have been hit. When targeted by competent and persistent hackers, corporate defenses will often be outmatched. “This is a great wakeup call,” says Kevin Haley, a director at Symantec Security Response. “We need to get better at securing our organizations.”

-Additional reporting by Sam Frizell

Read next: You Can’t See ‘The Interview,’ but I Did

TIME Media

Sony Pulls The Interview After Threats

A poster for the movie "The Interview" is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater on Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta.
A poster for the movie The Interview is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater on Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta David Goldman—AP

Movie won't be released after an unknown group threatened 9/11-style attacks over the film

Sony Pictures Entertainment canceled the planned Christmas Day release of The Interview on Wednesday after an unknown person or group threatened to attack theaters that played the film. Sony’s decision comes after several major theater chains backed out of showing the film in light of the threats.

“We are deeply saddened by this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees and the American public,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

MORE: 3 Reasons People Think North Korea Hacked Sony

The threats, which warned of 9/11-style attacks against theaters showing The Interview, may have come from the same people responsible for hacking Sony Pictures late last month. Thousands of Sony employees’ emails and personal data have been posted online as a result of the hack, and Sony is still reeling from its effects.

It isn’t yet clear who hacked Sony or threatened the theaters, though some analysts have pointed fingers at North Korea. Pyongyang is furious over The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco about TV journalists asked to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But no clear link to North Korea has been established, and the government has denied responsibility for the hack.

TIME stocks

Cruise Line Shares Sail Higher as U.S., Cuba Relations Improve

Carnival's Breeze cruise ship stands docked prior to departure in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2014.
Carnival's Breeze cruise ship stands docked prior to departure in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Investors place bet on cruise operator shares even though tourism is still banned

Shares of cruise-line operators sailed to big gains on Wednesday as investors placed a bet that improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba could lead to new opportunities for tourism.

Shares of Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean all rose in early trading Wednesday, outpacing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after the Obama administration said it plans to lift many of its existing travel restrictions on Cuba.

The new regulations will make it easier for Americans to visit to Cuba under the 12 categories of travel that are currently allowed, The Wall Street Journal reported, though it isn’t immediately clear if or when the island will be open for mass tourism. Some kinds of tourism are still banned, according to various media reports,.

Still, Cuba is appealing to companies with the most to gain from the increased travel. The tropical island’s attractive beaches and proximity to the United States makes it a potential vacation hotspot. The Caribbean is already the largest cruise line market in the world, and Americans hop on the industry’s bulky ships more than any other nation.

Some of the cruise line operators already have strong links to the Caribbean. For example, nearly all of Norwegian’s ships serve the region. The Caribbean also makes up roughly 35% of Carnival’s passenger capacity, more than any other region. That means that if the U.S. were to allow its citizens to freely visit Cuba, many of the cruise industry’s ships are already in prime position to dock at Havana and other Cuban cities.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Companies

Bacardi, Exiled From Cuba in 1960, Is Hopeful for Change

A limited-edition bottle of BACARDI Superior rum on Dec. 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
A limited-edition bottle of BACARDI Superior rum on Dec. 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida. John Parra—Getty Images/2013 John Parra

The rum maker says it supports the restoration of human rights in Cuba

Bacardi, the spirits maker that was founded in Cuba and later exiled from the country in 1960, says it hopes for better lives for Cubans following the Obama Administration’s decision to normalize diplomatic relations with the Caribbean island.

“We hope for meaningful improvements in the lives of the Cuban people and will follow any changes with great interest,” Bacardi said in an e-mailed statement. “In the meantime, we continue to support the restoration of fundamental human rights in Cuba.”

Bacardi says it’s taking a wait-and-see approach on Cuba after the United States on Wednesday said it would open an embassy on the island nation following the release of a U.S. government subcontractor from prison. It marked the most significant change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship in decades.

Bacardi, which makes rum, Dewar’s Scotch and Grey Goose vodka, has close historic ties to Cuba even though it hasn’t operated there for more than five decades. The company was founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, and in 1910, became the nation’s first multi-national company when it opened bottling operations in Spain.

When Prohibition started in 1920, Cuba and Bacardi benefited from increased influx of Americans to the island for a stiff drink.

But relations between the company and Cuba soured greatly in 1960, when Bacardi’s operations were nationalized by the government following the Communist takeover there. At that point, Bacardi had operations in five other countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, and was able to bounce back. The company is now headquartered in Bermuda, but still touts its Cuban history.

“Bacardi is proud of its Cuban roots,” a company representative said in a statement on Wednesday. “We have the utmost respect and sympathy for the Cuban people with whom we share a common heritage.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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