EPISODE 17: Episode 16: Vista CMO Ricky Engelberg | The Power of Community

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Show Notes

Growing up, Ricky Engelberg loved both computers and playing baseball. While your basic 1990s high schooler would say the two sit on opposite sides of the cafeteria, it was the perfect mix for Nike, where Engelberg worked for almost 20 years after college. There at the dawn of the internet era, Engelberg helped Nike create digital products for athletes and sneakerheads alike, including Nike Plus Running, nurturing passionate communities. Today, as CMO at Vista (formerly VistaPrint), Engelberg is bringing a spirit of community among small business owners, who tackle marketing after regular business hours, helping them conquer pandemic-era digital transformations.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • If you want to build a new line of business, go crack some eggs
  • Community is a critical building block of brands today
  • Be respectful of your consumers’ communities, realize you are a part of it
  • Science plays a part, but ultimately, the future always involves a gut decision

Brought to you by Mekanism.

Transcript


Hi, I'm Jason Harrison. You're
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mechanism. Welcome to the PODCAST.
Today we're joined by Ricky Engelberg. He

owned a record label, he worked
at Buena Vista Pictures and he was a

veteran and Nike for about nineteen years, then went to converse. He is

currently the CMO at Vista. Formally, you might recognize it as vista print.

It is a one point four billion
dollar brand that helps small businesses tell

their stories and grow through a variety
of print and digital marketing and design services.

Vista is a marketing partner to millions
of small businesses all around the world.

As CMO, ricky oversees essential functions
such as customer experience and the digital

products. Ricky has developed an agile
approach to marketing by quickly adapting to the

needs of small businesses. During the
pandemic, which we will get into in

this podcast. He's led initiatives like
the well known, this is not a

mass campaign, which helped normalize the
use of masks as a form of expression

as we began to reopen during the
pandemic. Ricky also helped start vistas Save

Small Business Fund, which funds grants
for underrepresented and less fortunate communities in the

US. Through his work at Vista, Ricky has shown how a brand can

quickly shift to meet the needs of
their customers when they need it and how

to build a community. So we're
going to talk today about a lot of

things because ricky has been in marketing
for a long time, has worked in

a lot of places, and today's
episode theme, we're going to circle around,

is the power of community. All
right, let's dive right in.

We always start, ricky with the
person's origin story, because some people fall

into marketing and some people are born
into marketing. which were you? You

know, interesting question. I'd say
born into is probably closer to accurate than

fall into. I just a nerd
for ads growing up and a nerd for

innovation and what the what the world
could be, and always different things,

and so I reflect back on being
in high school or college and one of

my favorite things was seeing ad campaigns, seeing how companies launched, how they

existed, how the Internet changed things
for them. It's kind of always been

what I've done is try to figure
out how interesting things happen in the world.

So I'd say born into it more
so, but uh, not from

like a legacy family of marketers in
that way. You are one of maybe

two other people that feel like that. That was their career path. I

was. I was also born into
it. I always studied advertising and branding

and Um, when you started,
ricky, what was your first the first

like work thing that you did in
the field of marketing? But when I

was in college I was working at
the college radio station and we have put

on a talk show called sports talk
live. Trying to remember all right,

for an University of Georgia football game, you would have different like remote live,

a game day style broadcast. We
would do working every connection possible to

figure out how to get the actual
ESPN Game Day crew to go be guests

on our talk show on a Saturday
for a Georgia Tennessee game was one of

the first days. I feel like
it's like, Oh wow, we actually

built down something really awesome. Today
was very much a special moment on that

and it kind of looks like back
and it's like we had that point was

helping with a bunch of different record
labels at the time and it's interesting because,

like we would send out records to
college radio stations and too music reviewers

and get no feedback and you're like, Oh, I'm always sent down a

hundred CDs and four are now tracking. And there's an album we put out

the band life without buildings, and
I'll never again. On that Tuesday when

it met friends in downtown for a
lunch, we'd sent out a bunch of

their CDs on like the Thursday before
that Tuesday. Come home and on my

answering machine there's like fourteen voicemails and
start playing them and it's just Mount Rushmore

of like Indie Rock nerd them.
At that point it's the A v Club,

it's K E xp, it's the
village voice. I'll be like hey,

we got this life without buildings package. We love this, and that

moment of going Oh, this is
what it's like to have a hit product,

this is what it's like to find
product market fit. This is what

it's like to find something that people
really, really, really really care about.

The band broke up a few months
later. The whole other story for

an their time past four twenty years
to have a huge hit on Tiktok.

Last spring break my sixteen year old
niece was randomly listening to one of their

songs on spotify. She didn't believe
that I had actually released their album and

that I ever had a record label. So that was a little hurtful on

her part. Riley of real listening
things Um, but the same way we

went about anything at that time is
very much at the core of like how

I think about marketing today, like
who's the audience? Who Will Care?

Who could you actually make an impact
with? How do you make an impact?

How do you win? When I
got to Nike, I started full

time. It was twenty three,
it was two thousand two and you just

realized the power, like we should
go and dream big. Like my first

big project in Nikes we created a
Nike lab where we collaborate with thirty six

different artists around the world to tell, over multiple years, to how the

performance innovation story of our shoes.
We were making up a whole new language

at that time, but through the
lens of like what will actually cut through

and be amazing. I mean I
remember Nike Lab was like it was one

of the like seminal brand moments where
I was like, Oh man, Nike's

just doing doing it differently, and
it was an awesome example of like there

was three of us and the companies
that go do it, have fun.

I've been to company three months.
At that point self self been like I

had I knew the canned film festival, I didn't know anything about the CAN

lions. All of a sudden we
wont all these awards that can and for

night lap and it's like, Oh, I didn't know there was marketing awards

that can. That's amazing. That's
like winning uh in year one, winning

the NBA finals or something. You
know what I mean, like you start

off at the high point. Those
are some of the things where it was

how do you do awesome things that
make an impact? And so your record

label was in Athens. Yeah,
I mean it was a small baby record

label. Was Me and my roommate
for like six release. What was the

name of it? DC Baltimore.
Okay, DC Baltimore, named after a

fictitious Olympic bid for the DC Baltimore
area. And twelve and so again it's

the kind of the line, the
path from two thousand two into the Nike

Phase, into the Vista phase is
kind of all big, one big continuum

which has been, don't interesting upon
reflection, but not intentional. Everyone to

work at Nike. How did you
break in too, Nike? How did

you get your your foot in the
door? My senior year in high school

I was a very good as a
very good baseball player but also good with

computers. Through being a good baseball
player, got to know sports writer to

Ortlanto Sentinal, who was friends with
George Raveling. George was the former head

basketball coach at USC and then taking
over grassroots basketball for Nike, and George

needed someone to help him make a
media guide for the all America basketball camp.

He hit up the sports writer who
was like well, I can't do

that, but I know of his
kid who's good with computers, and that

kind of continued on to like helping
do research throughout the years on random things

and helping with the media guy the
next summer again, and fast forward to

an intern program and I applied for
it. Started sorting out supply rooms and

like old like all the old merch
that they would have for athletes like pip

and King Grifo, junior Jason Kidd, but also helping on trying to make

a database for all of their keeping
track of all of their high school basketball

players that they were. They were
part of their programs and developed a great

relationship with that team. They wanted
to come back in two thousand and again

and uh and then basically said when
you graduate, will throw you all these

projects and of it. And so
being an early adopter in there, it

really helped. And so that's when, all of a sudden this opportunity to

emerge in digital innovation and Nike,
where they wanted someone that could help go

and accelerate digital innovation. And so, Um, the non majority point of

view at the company it was like, I would say that point was like

well, digital and athletes, they
don't really mix together. But the leadership

of the company knew definitively that every
aspect of the world was going to change

and they basically said go and figure
this out, go figure out what impact

digital is gonna have on athletes lives
and crack some eggs, and I'll from

that grew things like Nike plus.
Running from that group, social networks and

partnership with Google for the World Cup, like Joka Dot com long way of

saying. For me, getting my
foot in the door was different. But

what made, I think, accelerated
success and Nike, you was the same

things that helped with trying to sign
a band or trying to make an impact

college radio station. Just with a
very large, smooth shaped spotlight on it.

You knew more than the organization and
so they kind of let you do

what you wanted. Yeah, but
I also was fun to it was also

just a lot of fun to it
was things like, all right, we're

gonna go to go meet with E
A and figure out how do we put

shoes in a game? How do
we make it so that kids can unlock

shoes and playing NBA live or FIFA, and we're gonna go to e three

and we're gonna go just figure out
opportunities. Oh my God, I worked

on playstation. I remember going to
e three every year. You felt like

you were on the verge of like
something really special, you know, and

I think that time we had touched
support from the senior leadership in North America

and globally at the company. Nike
opened up a lot of doors to go

and try to take a blank whiteboard
and make it a very big impact on

the world. I mean, we
came up with a program my friend Jesse

and I came with a program for
the two thousand ten World Cup called the

chance. Hey. There's a million
football obsessed teams in the world who think

they're the best in the world if
they only get a chance to prove it.

The global football systems kind of brutal, like if you don't make it

by fifteen, you're kind of done. Um and most of the world and

basically got all these players are like
sixteen, the twenty years old. The

eight kids that won that would get
a chance to be in the academy.

Then He created in London. I
think four of those eight players played in

the World Cup the next year,
like they were out of football and then,

because of this program we put together, they became professional football players and

played in the World Cup. They
played in national teams. That's amazing.

Behind everything that he does, it's
awesome. Or a couple are usually a

couple of people in a white word
being like wouldn't it be cool if we

did this and then working your way
through the Matrix to make it happen and

we're just really lucky. At that
time. What did Nike teach you about

the importance of building community and how
did that shape your career? Community is

just an absolute critical building block.
I mean, you look at sneaker culture,

you look at the love that a
fifteen year old kid could develop for

a brand, the love that a
sneaker he could develop, the passion that

if you can amount of people that
come up to us and be like,

Nike Plus runnings would change my life. I hated running and I fell in

love with running because of Nike plus
running. Those stories are community. I

mean community takes lots of different shapes
and forms, but anytime you could create

people that are truly passionate by creating
things that help make their life better,

great opportunities emerged from there. At
its core, Nike is obsessed with customers,

is obsessed with athletes, is obsessed
with this consumer. And how do

you actually make their life better with
such a constant conversation, and how do

you be respectful to communities that you
are part of and understand that you are

a part of that community like that, to me, was a foundational piece

of we're going from Nike to converse
to going from converse to Vista. It's

like and Vista. One of the, say the biggest things we've done this

year is just build a small business
ambassador program. Were able to we host

dinners every month with small businesses uh
in different in different cities in the US.

We did it's something called the refer
her program we did with I fund

woman, where we hosted dinners in
Sydney, Paris, London, Toronto and

Los Angeles with different first time female
entrepreneurs where they're able to invite other small

business owners into these dinners. Those
are just amazing community building opportunities where it's

about us just trying to have developed
relationships and understand how can we truly help

small businesses increased the odds of success. You went from Nike, then you

went to converse, then you went
to Vista. But what appealed to you

to make that jump from, you
know, twenty something years in the Nike

Converse World to the Vista World?
Twenty years a long time. Um,

the way I kind of aways put
it is like someone's born, they go

to Dankcare, kindergarten, elementary school, Middle School, high school and you're

a sophomore in college. And that's
kind of the approximate time that I had

been part of Nike Inc that's scary
to look at it that way. Yeah,

it was something where there's always gonna
be amazing new challenges that existed there,

but the opportunity to go and try
to make amazing design and marketing partnership

accessible to small businesses was something that
is just deeply passionate about. So when

I looked at the opportunity, it
was interesting because we had just spent seventeen

years in Portland and then moved to
Boston and been in Boston three years,

and I think that was so interesting
in Portland was it was just so small

business supportive. There was literally a
thousand food carts in Portland that the city

worked hard to protect. You had
these chefs moving on from San Francisco or

from Seattle that we're able to go
and start their dream restaurant in Portland and

be able to afford it and have
neighborhoods embrace these restaurants. It was just

this never ending amount of these incredibly
successful small businesses thriving. And how do

you take that same spirit and make
it available to everyone? Because once you

realize every time is for small business
is so much of it. Like you

start the business because you want to
be a baker, you want to be

a landscape architect, you want to
be own your own gem. But so

much of the job is marketing,
so much of the job is HR and

management, so much of the job
is accounting, and so I can't help

you with all those things. But
Vista gives you the opportunity to say we've

got you a design and marketing partner, in the same way that I can

pick up the phone and call an
R G A or a K Q a

or mechanism or whoever the case may
be, to go and help with something.

A small business when the door shuts
at seven o'clock at night is the

and they get to go figure out
how to go and grow their business,

run their business, because they are
there all day and you can't pick up

the phone and call R G A
to go help with that. And so

that opportunity, or maybe you could. My apologies R G A. They

have a small business arm aimed at
helping local small businesses, but in general

it's inaccessible for businesses exactly, and
the opportunity for us to try to make

it accessible was what maybe go over
to vista because it was interesting. We're

talking to Robert, Robert Keane,
the founder CEO, who is still the

CEO of the company. Like it's
twelve million businesses a year we work with.

It's just millions and millions of businesses
around the world. Is Super Global,

super global footprint, and if you
could truly go and be that partner

for a small business and make great
design accessible, can we increase the odds

of success that much more? If
we can make it so it's easy to

go and have social media management for
them? Can we make it that much

easier? Since I've been here,
we bought ninety nine designs, hundred thousand

amazing designers around the world. We
bought a company at a Ukraine called Krelo,

which we turned into is to create, which is amazing social media software

management. We have a partnership with
wicks now for all of our digital solutions

for small businesses and we're just slowly, insteadily bundling them together and to be

able to be that agency, like
partner for a small business. And so,

uh, exciting times ahead with it. Is that why you because you're

doing so much more now. You
dropped the print from Vista print and you

just wanted. You're basically helping small
businesses. You're their marketing arm. You

hit, you hit the nail on
the head. Like Um. Vista print

is a signature service of ours.
Mr Print will be around forever, but

Vista, Vista is it represents being
a design and marketing partner and that's a

combination to design, print and digital. Vista print is the primary service that

people know us for. As you
zoom out over the next couple of years,

increasingly the default state for us will
become Vista and it's about being the

collection of services for small business we
have where if someone is using designs to

get their logo and Vista Times wiks
to turn it onto to put other website

and that's an amazing list experience.
If someone uses this to create, for

social management, visa print to go
and print everything they need, that's an

amazing vista experience. And so visa
is that parent brand with the collection of

signature services underneath it. That's what
we continue to grow over time to help

small businesses and from an experience standpoint, I mean we're just continually pushing to

figure out how to have them more
seamlessly integrated and accessible to everyone. Do

you see that you're competing with like
h five or those types of brands,

or do you you see that as
more, not necessarily small business competition?

Fiber probably would fit into competition from
a design standpoint. Um, I mean

I think we're we don't really view
what we're doing is trying to compete with

any one company, but rather find
the right path down the mountain that gets

you the right design, the right
social media management, the right website,

the right print. Needs that holistic
solution versus ending a been a place where

we are singularly your design agency kind
of be like the long term partner for

these small businesses. Not just do
one, one thing, and you know

you don't, you don't talk to
vista again. But it's much more about

creating solutions for small business owners no
matter where they are in their life cycle.

Exactly wherever you are in the journey, we have a solution for you

and that's what we see from a
community standpoint. If someone just worked with

their best friend to create the best
logo ever, the last thing they want

from us is to be like,
you know what you need a new logo,

but you really need is understand how
to bring that logo to life in

all the different touch places, because
there's a good chance you just have a

pdf or an illustrator file sitting on
your computer at that point going all right,

other we're what's the right things to
do with this from here? Then

the pandemic hits. What? What
was the path there when that happened and

you realize small businesses can be in
trouble during this time. Yeah, a

surreal and interesting few week. For
the first few weeks, Um, our

first instinct was figure out what it
means for our employees. Like what is

it? What is this coming pandemic
means for our employees, and how do

you make sure everyone is able to
find that right balance of we're in a

global pandemic and we need to go
help every small business we can, but

you have to take care of yourself
and your family as much as you can.

This is gonna be like a hurricane
for small businesses. And you think

about like the concert for New York
type things, like we should put on

a telethon that brings different music artists
together to raise money for small business and

you're like, oh, cool,
we should have to see if we can

figure that out. Well, what
charity will we support? And you're like,

oh wait, there isn't actually a
small business charity would exists. And

that was an interesting Um, an
interesting moment to realize how important it was

going to be to really truly understand
how to help small businesses. And it

wouldn't be enough to be like we're
gonna have a fundraiser if there's no ways

to actually distribute money. At that
point and so just started banging the dry

I'm meeting after meeting again early days
of the pandemic, and eventually ended up

partnering with the US Chamber Foundation to
create the same small business fund. But

it was just interesting at that point
in time to realize just how alone small

businesses were going to be with things
like P PP coming into the fold.

At that point, that we're just
incredibly confusing. Um and since then lots

of small businesses support funds have emerged. We worked closely with Hello Alice on

a lot of different things and we
want to be a partner of small business.

You can't just be a partner for
them with things are good. And

so the I think, through the
US Chamber Foundation, was about eight million

dollars raised for small business and then
lots of other things have emerged from there,

from a fundraising example. But for
us we also realized very early on

that we had a global supply chain
factories in Mexico and Italy and China that

we're going to allow us to very
quickly get a line spun up for masks.

So a lot of people in the
first few weeks in the pandemic were

wearing like tablecloths that they had sewned
together as masks. Of the most important

things we could do for small businesses
was going to be trying to help make

masks normalized in an item people actually
are comfortable wearing. Our goal was not

make the cheapest mask or the most
expensive mask. Our goal was to make

the best mask available on the best
timeline we could, with great designs.

A few of my old friends from
their creative directors and Nike to go help

us do initial mask designs. We
brought it a bunch of different artists.

Will always be grateful to Futura and
Jin Stark at, Jeff mcfetridge and para

for jumping on this to say hey, let's go, and those are some

powerhouse designers right there. It was
it was a great first four the best

thing we could do as a partner
was going to be allowed advocate that a

mask was a sign of love.
A mask was not a medical device.

A mask was not paranoia. Mask
was saying I care about my neighbors.

A care about the business is a
care about my family. When a door

opens, a Baristas shouldn't have to
worry at that point in time about is

someone's gonna be coming in wearing a
mask or not? Am I going to

get sick from this person coming in? It's really those things were really an

investment in the future because kind of
brand building, but also like the right

thing to do. was that a
hard thing to communicate or get approval on

or to move forward? We couldn't
say we want to be a partner of

small business and not be a partner
of small business. So it was never

really much of a discussion. It
was just how do we do it?

And then from whiteboard to launch was
like four weeks. That's incredible. Your

career you've done a lot of breakthrough
work, you've done a lot of just

kind of going for it. Now
that you're, you know, older and

wiser, do you still mainly lead
through gut instinct and leading with your heart,

or do you use a lot of
data and information to make your decisions

as a leader? It's a cop
out to say both, but I would

say in the end the future always
involves a gut decision. I love that

the few ture always involves a gut
decision. Is Great, but in order

to have an informed gut, taking
as much information as humanly possible to be

able to find the connection points,
to be able to find adjacent analogous data

sets and try to reduce the risk
as much as possible. But in the

end it's still a leap. There's
nothing better than going out and walking around

a city and taking a bunch of
pictures of wild postings and retail stores and

going on listening to a podcast or
going to a random speaker on in this

golden era of zoom conferences being available, and finding a data point that from

a company that's may be similar but
maybe not similar, and all those things

get put into smoothie that eventually is
you're a problem has to get solved and

you have those reference points to be
able to latch onto and so to me,

I don't view it as a gut
like the decision in the ends of

Gut. But the thing that gets
too ideas are all form off of a

tremendous amount of inputs that I view
as data in the Google sense of the

word data. Is A data?
Probably, no, but also like one

of the things that we I'm a
big believer, and it's like it's important

to go and try to create the
press play vision of what you want three

years from now, five years from
now, to look like. Then it

makes every decision slightly easier as well
as like if you if this decision,

if you make this decision, it
goes well, does it gets you closer

to the destination you want to get
to three years from now? In the

end, though, you're still going
to have to make a call. What

is the three year idea in your
head now? Where do you see Vista?

How you're going to help shape the
future of Vista three years from an

hour? Hope is that when someone
goes and starts a small business, they

immediately think that I can think a
partner with Vista on this. It comes

to a place where your hope is
that when someone thinks, I want thinks

about starting a small business, we
show up as if we're the Guardian Angel

on your shoulder that could help you
on that journey. We're not there yet,

but it's very clear to us of
that opportunity is and the steps we

need to take to get there.
If you're driving from Boston to d c,

the route is gonna Change three or
four times based upon traffic, but

the destination doesn't change, and I
think that's where we're as like we know,

becoming that brand you're proud to use
as a design and marketing partners where

we want to be. We'll have
some route changes along the way, but

the destination won't change. That's great. I love that. There's, uh,

you know, some proverb or quote
about you. You have to envision

the future or else you'll just get
stuck in the past, and I think

that as a CMO and a market
leader, you always have to be thinking

about what's next. So some questions
for you, Ricky. Do you have

any role model that helps shape who
you are today? I'm not gonna reflect

back on lots of different people that
have impacted along the way. My mom

just let maybe a nerd on things. Worked out pretty well. Put up

computer in my room early on.
Was Cool when I wanted to be like

Hey, I'm gonna Figu out how
to sell baseball cards. Was Cool.

One of the I'd like to go
and redesign every logo for every baseball team.

At no point she was like,
you know what, you'd probably be

better off taking out taking science classes. Like she was more like cool,

if that's what makes you happy,
go for it. Um. But I

think over time, I mean there's
been people, uh, from a Nike

standpoint, that we're super impactful on
my career journey. I mean people like

Trevor Edwards, David Grasso, Lynn
Merritt, that just they embraced the possibilities

that the company had and at no
point where we like, Oh, you're

twenty three or your tent. It
was our job is to go and serve

athletes. Go after it, go
figure it out, and Nike were like

the people were just massively impactful.
And there's there's so many more. Um,

I don't know, uh, it's
not something I think too much about

on a on a daily basis.
You've had a lot of memorable on screen

moments. Oh Gosh, nickelodeon.
Hint, the Nickelodeon Game Show, you

answer correctly, got used in Promo. What was that like? And did

I teach you anything or did you
learn anything? You know, I don't

know if I learned much from IT, other than that game shows are weird

and that, like there's a tremendous
amount of breaks in a commercial and a

production of a game show and that
they filmed them in bunches and that it's

like sixty luck on a game show. Like is your buzzer working fast?

Um It did, I guess,
teach me that, like the footage of

you growing up might live forever in
this modern era. It was fun.

Like I had two thousand dumb dumbpops
as my prize for one of the game

shows and my kids are really,
really, really excited affect that that one

day when, when I was in
middle school, I was given two thousand

lollipops. I wish I had been
given like seven hundred bucks, but that's

probably less fun than I got two
thousand lollipops for my kids. Do you

have like a quote, a mantra
or a viewpoint that thinking something through you

kind of all back on? You
know, it's funny. I don't think

I realized just how much I probably
do until people pointed out. Like I

feel like do rad things and don't
be a jerk goes a long way.

Like, and it doesn't mean like
you just agree to everything, but like

there's a difference in like when someone
has to steam roll again some then,

versus building a coalition on things.
Because I think just in general, like

do rad things are impactful with a
point of view on how to impacts customers,

not just rad for Rads Sake,
but like aiming to do rad things

over and over and over goes a
long way, I think for people.

And I think that sometimes it's it's
tricky when, like, when people end

up not understanding how what the wind
might be. How, like what's the

if you even do this? And
always people are gonna spent eighteen months working

on this or three months or to
all nighters. It doesn't like what's the

win of it? It's always a
good thing to ask. But yeah,

someone made the sign of say do
red things. It's like, Oh,

I guess, I do say it
a lot. I love that. I

think that is a good business and
personal advice. So I think that could

be your book that you come out
with. Do rap things and don't be

a jerk, and I think that's
a good life advice. Well, thank

you, Ricky, for your time. You've had an amazing career. We

can't wait to see what you do
next and thanks for coming on the soul

and science podcast today. Thank you
so much, Jason, for having me.

Much appreciate it. Thanks so much
for listening to soul and science and

we'll see you next week. Soul
and science is a mechanism podcast produced by

the unbelievable Frank Grisco, Ryan Tillotson, Tyler Nelson, Ema Swanson and we'll

Leach Blonsky. The show is edited
by Daniel Ferrari, with the music by

Kyle Mary, and I'm your host, Jason Harris.
Soul & Science
Does marketing live in the heart, or in the head? Should you trust your instinct, or your integers? If the answer is both, should you lead with one more than the othe... View More

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