Tag Archives: Business

If I Had To Start My Amazon FBA Business Over Again With Only $500

Start FBA Over 500Who doesn’t love a do-over?

Hindsight is 20/20, and I’m sure all of us can think of ways we would improve our Amazon FBA businesses if we could start over from scratch. I know I can think of plenty of things I wish I had known back in 2011 when I started selling on Amazon!

Since I don’t have a time machine, I can’t revisit 2011 and get that do-over for my business. Instead, today I’m going to share with you the products and services I would invest in from the very beginning if I had to start over from scratch doing Amazon FBA with only $500.

These items are the essentials, folks. The bare minimum for starting Amazon FBA and finding success in a sustainable yet timely fashion. In fact, you’ll see that with my plan below, of the total $500, you’ll actually get to spend $342 for investing in inventory. Not a bad amount to start sourcing with!

Here are the ways I would spend my $500 if I got to start over on my Amazon FBA business today:

AM-Pro-Sellers1. A Pro Merchant account with Amazon –(around $40/month)

Yes, I know that you can start off with an Individual Merchant account and save the $40 fee per month for the Professional Merchant account. But Individual Merchants pay 99 cents per sale, and a little quick math shows that selling only 40 items per month means you’re paying the same as a Pro Merchant.

There’s a ton of huge benefits, however, to setting up that Pro Merchant account from the very beginning. It gives you accountability, a $40 incentive every month to send in plenty of items to Amazon FBA so that you’re making at least 40 sales per month to make that account worth it from the very beginning. If you can start off giving yourself the goal of at least 40 sales per month, you will gain momentum more quickly than if you allow yourself to be satisfied with only 20 sales. Another benefit is that Pro sellers are able to get the buy box – which is where 70%-80% of all of Amazon sales come from.

The Pro Merchant account is also necessary for other reasons that we’ll get into below.

175_InventoryLab2. Inventory Lab for listing and sourcing – FREE for first month ($49/month afterwards)

We use Inventory Lab to process our FBA inventory, list it on Amazon, and keep track of our accounting for that inventory. You can list your inventory directly through Seller Central, but the process is much slower than listing through a 3rd party program like Inventory Lab. Using Inventory Lab allows me to touch each inventory item fewer times during the listing process because I can label it and divide it into shipments at the time of listing, rather than waiting until I’m finished listing everything.

Inventory Lab comes bundled with the Scoutify sourcing app, which I use for scanning inventory at retail stores, garage sales, and thrift shops. I prefer to use Scoutify rather than the Amazon Seller app mainly because Scoutify gives me direct access to sales rank and price history on CamelCamelCamel and Keepa, which is essential for me to a make a smart sourcing decision.

You must be a Pro Merchant to use Inventory Lab, another benefit to going ahead and making the commitment as a Pro Merchant from the very beginning.

If you sign up for Inventory Lab through our link here, you can get a free 30-day trial of their listing software and Scoutify sourcing app. After the first month, Inventory Lab and Scoutify cost $49/month, but they are absolutely worth it to my business.

41MNr5dy0HL3. Barcode scanner – $22

A barcode scanner connects to your laptop through USB and saves a ton of time (and errors!) when entering the UPCs from the barcodes on your inventory. Simply place the cursor in the correct field of your listing program, scan the barcode, and presto! No more squinting at tiny numbers and pecking out the UPC on your keyboard.

Every little bit of time counts when you’re working at building an Amazon FBA business, and using a barcode scanner is a simple way to help scale your business more quickly.

41IWrVLa8yL4. DYMO LabelWriter 450 – $70 new, $40 used

A DYMO LabelWriter is another essential for scaling your business and saving precious time. When used in conjunction with Inventory Lab or other 3rd party listing programs, the DYMO will allow you to print a label for each individual item as soon as you have it listed. Scan the item, enter your price and other accounting info, and then print the label. If you have the “live” listing flow turned on in Inventory Lab, you will know at this time which fulfillment center the item will be sent to, and you can sort it into boxes immediately. No need to print 30-up labels and sort back through inventory at the end of your listing process.

s15. Scotty peelers – $6 for 3-pack

These are an essential tool for scraping the price stickers or other residue off my inventory before I send it to Amazon. The Scotty peelers come in a pack of 3, and we use them for several months before the ends become too dull to work easily.

61h-B0szXtL._SL1280_6. Goo Gone – $4

Another must-have item for cleaning up inventory before sending it to the FBA warehouse. Goo Gone takes off the sticky residue left over from price sticker adhesive. (Note: be careful not to use Goo Gone on certain types of non-glossy cardboard boxes or book covers, as it will soak in to the material and stain it.)

81K1bfSxJ5L._SL1500_7. 3-inch tape gun – $13

8. 3-inch tape – $13 for 4-pack

I started out using a 2-inch tape gun when I first began selling via Amazon FBA. That 1-inch difference may not seem like a lot, but it’s a huge difference when it comes to the number of times you have to swipe the tape gun across a shipping box in order for the tape to hold the box flaps together. With the 3-inch tape on my 3-inch tape gun, it’s one swipe, and I’m done – saves time and tape.

FB-Genius9. Feedback Genius – FREE for first 2 months ($20/month afterwards)

Getting control of the buy box is a crucial component of getting sales through Amazon FBA. Some aspects of who controls the buy box are a mystery, but having a positive feedback score is known to be one important factor. Having a high number of positive feedbacks and limiting your number of negatives will help you gain the buy box more often. Feedback Genius is a simple way to automate contacting buyers after a sale in order to limit your negatives and increase your positives. Feedback Genius also alerts you when a negative feedback is received so that you can quickly and appropriately handle it.

I wish I had started using Feedback Genius from the very beginning of my Amazon FBA business. If you sign up through our Full-Time FBA link, you can get 2 months of Feedback Genius for free, along with a bonus of 500 free email messages. Two months and 500 messages will go a long way towards boosting your feedback score!

Using Feedback Genius requires a Pro Merchant account, so go back up to #1 in this list and sign up for that account if you haven’t already!

UPS-Shipping-Labels-110. UPS self-adhesive labels – FREE from UPS.com

UPS offers a great partnered rate for Amazon FBA sellers on their inbound shipments, and they also provide you with free self-adhesive labels to use for your shipments. If you sign up for a free account with UPS.com, you can order the labels to be sent directly to you.

brownbox211. Shipping boxes – FREE from grocery stores, friends, etc

In the early days of just starting an Amazon FBA business, I recommend getting free shipping boxes from friends who have just moved, from grocery stores, or from other locations where people are wanting to recycle their boxes. Just make sure they’re sturdy enough to hold the weight of your shipment, and cover or remove any previous barcodes before adding your Amazon and UPS shipping labels.

61sL7QYmSwL._SL1500_12. Scale – $30

If you don’t already have a scale at your house, you will need to buy one in order to weigh your inbound shipments to the Amazon FBA warehouse. You can get a scale on Amazon for about $25-30.

In summary, here’s a list of the items and prices:

  1. A Pro Merchant account with Amazon – $40/month
  2. Inventory Lab for listing and sourcing – FREE for first month ($49/month afterwards)
  3. Barcode scanner – $22
  4. DYMO LabelWriter 450 – $70 new, $40 used
  5. Scotty peelers – $6 for 3-pack
  6. Goo Gone – $4
  7. 3-inch tape gun – $13
  8. 3-inch tape – $13 for 4-pack
  9. Feedback Genius – FREE for first 2 months ($20/month afterwards)
  10. UPS self-adhesive labels – FREE from UPS.com
  11. Shipping boxes – FREE from grocery stores, friends, etc
  12. Scale – $30

NOTE: Prices of these tools and services will change over time, so be sure you double-check all prices and fees before purchasing. Some prices might go up, while other prices might go down.

If you add up the amount of those items for the first month of starting an Amazon FBA business, the total comes to $198. That leaves us with over $300 to spend on buying inventory. I would recommend looking for low cost (or even free!) inventory with low ranks and high return on investment (ROI), so that you can reinvest your profits and grow your available capital quickly. When I started Amazon FBA, I frequented garage sales and thrift shops while I was learning the ins and outs of how the business works and while my capital was growing. I would follow that same method again today.

If you would like to watch a video where I show the items from the above list, check out this video on our YouTube channel:

Do you have anything you would add to this list? Or do you have questions about any of the items or services I mentioned? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

7 Tips for Navigating the April Sales Tax Perfect Storm

April Sales TaxToday we have a guest post from our friends at TaxJar. We hope you find the information as helpful as we have.

April is what we here at TaxJar call a “sales tax perfect storm.” Because quarterly and monthly sales tax deadlines converge this month, nearly every online seller will have at least one sales tax filing due in April. And that’s not to mention income tax day on April 15th. Yikes!

Fortunately, sales tax can be simplified and automated until it’s barely a chore at all. Here are my top 7 tips for navigating April’s sales tax perfect storm:

  1. TJ_logo_color_office_pngTake your sales tax discounts – About half of the 45 states (plus D.C.) that have a sales tax offer a very small discount to business owners who file on time. I guess they realize that collecting sales tax on their behalf isn’t easy! Don’t leave money on the table. Be sure to take your discount! (And if you AutoFile with TaxJar, rest assured knowing you always keep your sales tax discount.) Here’s a list of states that offer a sales tax discount.
  2. File your sales tax returns – You can file your sales tax returns the old-fashioned way by finding a sales tax form and mailing it in, or login to your state’s taxing authority website and file online. Or you can even let a service like TaxJar take this administrative hassle completely off your plate and AutoFile for you!
  3. Report how much sales tax you’ve collected (on all your sales channels!) – Now it gets trickier. You need to make sure that you know how much sales tax you’ve collected from customers in each state, on each of your sales channels. You could try to access a report from each channel and then combine it together, or you could use a sales tax automation service like TaxJar. TaxJar integrates with the channels you sell on and creates sales tax reports the way states want to see them. Speaking of the states…
  4. Know your sales tax filing due dates – You can’t file on time if you don’t know when to file. Here’s a list of April 2016 sales tax due dates by state.
  5. Breakdown how much you’ve collected – Wouldn’t it be nice if states just wanted to know one total amount of sales tax you’ve collected from buyers in their borders? Unfortunately, that’s far from the case. The vast majority of states want you to break down how much sales tax you’ve collected by state, county, city and special taxing district, too. You can do this manually (which can take hours upon hours and is rife with mistakes) or let TaxJar do it for you so you can file your returns in minutes!
  6. TaxesRemember to file zero returns – It’s very easy to forget that essentially every state wants you to file a return even if you didn’t collect a penny in sales tax over the taxable period. The states consider this your way of checking in to let them know you’re still in business. Some states will even charge you a penalty (Florida’s is $50!) if you don’t file a zero return.
  7. Give yourself a sales tax checkup – Once you’ve finished filing your April sales tax returns, assess your general sales tax health. Are you collecting sales tax on all of the platforms you sell on? If not, you may owe some sales tax out of pocket. (And no one wants that!) Have you hired someone or started storing inventory in a new state? You may have sales tax nexus in a new state and need to file for a sales tax permit there. Giving yourself a quick sales tax checkup now will ensure sales tax filing is even easier when the next “sales tax perfect storm” rolls around – in July!

If you have more questions about filing sales tax, check out our Sales Tax 101 for Amazon FBA Sellers guide or ask away over in the Sales Tax for eCommerce Sellers Facebook group!

mark_headshot_web_hAuthor Mark Faggiano is the founder and CEO of TaxJar, a service built to make sales tax compliance simple for eCommerce sellers. Click this link to get a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!

Responding To The Latest Changes In Amazon Selling

changes-ahead-road-sign

Updated for March 2016. First posted May 2014.

The past few days have seen many Amazon sellers freaking out about the latest Amazon policy update. I’ve even heard of people saying they are going to quit selling on Amazon because of this change. In all honesty, I think that most people are just overreacting and it’s really not as bad as people think.

If you haven’t heard about the latest policy update from Amazon, then I’ll sum it up for you right here. Amazon is starting to restrict some 3rd party sellers from sending inventory of certain ASINs to Amazon FBA warehouses. You may have seen this policy update in action if you’ve listed anything lately and received this message:

You are already at the maximum inventory allowed for this product, due to capacity or other restrictions. This product must be removed from this shipment.

amazonwarehouse-Flickr_Scott_LewisBasically, Amazon thinks that it already has enough of that particular ASIN being stored at its multiple FBA warehouses, and there is no longer a need for more of that ASIN to be sent to Amazon. Amazon doesn’t want to store 500 of the same item when they know it will only sell twice a month. Sure, the new policy has been showing up on some very low ranked ASINs with no FBA competition, but I think that’s just a glitch in their algorithm that they will soon fix.

For some Amazon sellers, this new ASIN restriction is causing severe panic… but it doesn’t have to. This is not the first time Amazon has implemented a new policy that changed how people sell on Amazon, and it won’t be the last. There is no reason to panic over this change.

If you’ve been selling on Amazon for any length of time, maybe you remember some of these changes…

  • Amazon announces a new 6-month long term storage fee that would be in addition to the 12-month storage fee.
  • Amazon requires approval to sell any toy related to Star Wars Episode 7.
  • Amazon closes the categories for Grocery, Beauty, and Health & Personal Care and people who want to sell these items need to be approved.
  • Amazon “froze” everyone’s toys related to the movie Frozen to check on counterfeit claims and then requires anyone who wants to sell Frozen related toys to seek approval.
  • Amazon announces a new 12-month long term storage fee in addition to the monthly storage fees.
  • Amazon begins to split up shipments to different warehouses.

The changes that Amazon makes have the potential to be discouraging to us as Amazon sellers. But we have a choice whether or not we’re going to let these changes get us down.

So what are your options in the face of these changes? You could see all these frustrations as a sign of things to come and you could quit selling on Amazon altogether… You could go to Facebook and complain about these changes (and miss out on time sourcing, packing, shipping, or even miss out on valuable family time)… OR, you could adapt to the changes and make the most of your mental, emotional, and physical energy to push your business to the next level.

change-quoteChange happens. It’s inevitable. Most of the time, we have absolutely no say or influence in the changes that occur. The only thing we have control of is our response to change. Those who are going to succeed in this reselling line of work are those who will adapt to the changes and make the most of every situation.

Amazon stopping you from selling slow moving inventory with the ASIN restrictions? Stop over-worrying about it and focus on finding faster turning items to send in to Amazon. Amazon putting an ASIN restriction on the wrong items? Don’t complain about it on Facebook; instead open up a ticket with Seller Central and politely ask them to look into the ASIN restriction on that item and see if the restriction can be lifted.

Learn. Adjust. Grow. Learn more. Adapt.

These changes will not be the last ones. More changes will come, but the important thing for you to do is to focus on how you will respond to these changes. Those who will win are the ones who will respond with wisdom, patience, and a renewed desire to accomplish their overall goals, no matter what happens.

So what about you? How do you respond to changes in your business? I’d love to hear how you make the most of these changes. 

 

5 Simple Strategies to Take the Next Step with Your 2016 Amazon FBA Goals

Are you like me when it comes to starting the new year off?

I love new beginnings, love fresh starts, love setting goals and starting over new. Every year we have the opportunity to make it our best year yet.

smart-person-2Hopefully by this time you’ve made some SMARTER goals for your business and for yourself personally. We hope you take this opportunity to dream big, have fun, and set some tremendous goals. If you haven’t seen our post about setting goals for the year, we encourage you to check it out and see how you can set SMARTER goals for yourself and your business in 2016:

  • S – Specific – The better you know your objective, the easier it will be to attain it.
  • M – Measurable – Can the results be measured and compared to the goal?
  • A – Actionable – Can you take action steps to meet this goal?
  • R – Realistic – Are you both willing AND able to meet your goal?
  • T – Time bound – When do you want to accomplish this goal?
  • E – Exciting – Do the goals get you excited about your future?
  • R – Relevant – Do these goals match up with the season of life you are in?

Now that you’ve set your 2016 goals (seriously, stop right now and set some goals if you haven’t already), we’re going to take those goals to the next level. Here are 5 simple strategies for taking your goals to the next level for your Amazon FBA business this year:

1. Write down your goals.

penpad2Often we find ourselves thinking about or talking to other people about our goals, without actually putting pen to paper and writing down a record of our goals. For some reason, however, the physical action of moving a goal from our brain and our mouth down to a piece of paper has an effect on whether we achieve the goal. There’s just something in the process of writing it down that causes people to achieve their goals more often.

2. Break down your goals into smaller goals.

kenya_2808How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break down your huge goals into bite-sized pieces so you can keep your forward momentum.

For example, if your goal is to double your sales by the end of the year, then figure out the halfway point and make that a smaller goal for your business. If you made $50k in sales last year and want to double it this year to $100k, go into your account in Seller Central and figure out which day in the previous year you hit $25k in sales. Set a smaller goal for yourself to hit $50k by that date this year.

Another example: You can set smaller goals for your Amazon FBA education. If you set the goal to finish the Proven Wholesale Course by February, you could set smaller goals that will help you complete the course on time. Look at the modules, see how many there are, then figure out when you should finish each of the modules in order to reach your February goal.

3. Put your goals on your calendar.

If-it-doesn-t-get-scheduled-It-will-never-get-doneOnce you know what your bite-sized goals are, write your deadlines on your calendar or put them in your calendar app. Having the deadlines on your calendar means you will see them regularly and will keep your goals fresh in your mind.

Even more important than putting those deadlines on the calendar, though, is scheduling time to work on your goals. Make an appointment with yourself to work on achieving your goals. You make time for the things in life that are a priority. If your goals are a priority, you will set aside time where no one can interrupt you as you make progress on your goals. You’re much more likely to actually do something if it’s scheduled in your calendar.

4. Find accountability for working on your goals.

AccountabilityWe all need someone to walk with us in life as we make progress towards our goals. I’m not talking about just posting your goals on Facebook for all your “friends” to see. That’s not true accountability. No one is going to come back in a month and check on that post and see how you’re doing.

Find a specific person who has experience in the area of your goal who you can talk to regularly and who will call you out when needed — someone who will ask you honestly about your progress. You don’t have to tell one person all your goals — that could get overwhelming for your accountability partner. But maybe you could tell your spouse one goal, tell a friend in the Amazon business another one, tell your sister another one. And with all of these people, make sure you’re giving, not just taking in the relationship. Accountability works best when it’s mutual, not a one-way street.

5. Review your goals regularly.

shutterstock_117743374-review-600pxStephen and I set ten really big goals for 2016, three personal goals and seven business goals. We will review these goals throughout the year, the same way we did last year. Towards the end of each month we have a budget meeting to go over our family finances, and we also review our goals at the same time. We remind ourselves of our motivations for reaching those goals, look at our progress, decide if they’re still relevant (in 2015, we completely deleted one goal by August because it no longer applied to our life situation; for another 2015 goal, we reached it in July instead of December!), and figure out the next step to take to keep moving forward.

For some people, a weekly review is good, for others quarterly, but for us a monthly review works best. Again, it’s crucial to put this review time on the calendar, or it’s too easy to forget to do it. We challenge you today to put a reminder on your phone or in your calendar for a monthly review of your goals for the next 12 months.

403a88a5d63b40347827bce7e74afd12If you follow the steps above, you’re much more likely to accomplish your goals in the time you set for yourself than if you just hope and wish that you’ll achieve them. Dreams are good, but we don’t want you to just live your life on dreams. We want you to develop plans that will help your dreams become reality. Some of you have some amazing long-term goals for your FBA business (like paying off your mortgage or other debt, being able to stay home with your kids, finding freedom from your corporate job). Working towards your 2016 goals will also help you achieve your long-term goals and achieve them faster.

Please leave a comment below and let us know how you’ll use these 5 strategies for making progress on your 2016 goals. What is your next action step? Did you put a reminder on your phone for your regular goal review? Did you schedule a time to work on your goals this week? Let us know!

 

The #1 Way to Ruin Your Q4 Sales on Amazon

ruin-q4-salesWe see them during all the pivotal dates this time of year. We saw them on Black Friday, we saw them on Cyber Monday, and we’ll see them again over the next couple of weeks. Posts on Facebook groups that include screenshots of huge sales numbers or pictures of 10 shopping carts loaded with toys from a retail arbitrage haul.

We can be inspired by these posts and feel excited for what is to come in our businesses — or we can have another response and ruin our Q4 sales.

We can start comparing ourselves to other sellers.

IMG_1571Comparing yourself with other sellers can be the fastest way to ruin your Q4 sales. Falling victim to the comparison trap might not cause you to lose sales today or tomorrow, but it will definitely have an impact on your psyche and your business over the long run.

When we compare ourselves to other people and start feeling negative emotions, that negativity can snowball. Pretty soon we’ll find that our entire mindset has shifted. We could become so dejected over not feeling good enough as a seller that we are tempted to quit. Or even worse, we could start making bad buying decisions for our business.

It’s crucial throughout the year but especially in Q4 to keep in mind what you don’t know when you see posts on Facebook about amazing sales or massive RA hauls:

  • recruiting-software-comparisonWe don’t know how much profit other sellers are making.

    If someone says “I made 6 figures in sales!” we can’t assume anything from that number. After that seller takes out the cost of inventory, supplies, or other fees, they might only be taking home in their pocket $15,000 of that $100k. And we don’t know how much time they spent to buy and prep their inventory. For all we know they really are only making minimum wage for their time.
  • We don’t know how other sellers are paying for their inventory.

    We don’t know if they run a cash-only business or if they go into debt to make huge purchases.  We never know if someone is making horrible decisions, taking out ginormous loans, and maxing out multiple credit cards to finance their Q4 inventory. This kind of behavior is very dangerous. At any moment Amazon could shut someone’s account down for something they did or did not do, and that seller would be stuck with the debt without getting a disbursement from Amazon. They could be making bad buying decisions thinking they have to blow a ton of money on inventory before December 10 in order to maximize Q4 — but what if their inventory doesn’t sell as expected? Or maybe they pay for everything with cash, make a ton of sales, and buy a new car in January. It could be either scenario when you see those posts online. The point is we just don’t know.

I’m not trying to suggest that everyone who makes these types of posts on Facebook is giving an inaccurate portrayal. On the contrary, many sellers make these posts in order to inspire others or as a way of celebrating within a community, neither of which is a bad thing. What I want us all to think about is how am I personally receiving this post? If I’m receiving it in a negative manner and comparing myself to others, then I have a problem.

When we get caught up in comparing ourselves with other sellers, we can have two types of negative results:

  • comparison-is-the-thief-of-We can begin to feel discouraged.

    If I’m comparing my Chapter 2 to someone else’s Chapter 12, I fail to take into account all the years of experiences (some successful, some otherwise) the other seller has had. When we compare ourselves this way, we can completely lose the steam in our engines and lose the motivation to excel as a seller. Worst case scenario, we could decide to quit.
  • We could look at other people’s sales and start getting puffed up.

    If I’m comparing my Chapter 12 to someone else’s Chapter 2, I can get arrogant, be filled with pride, and make reckless decisions. “Pride comes before the fall,” says the wisdom of Proverbs. Again, the comparisons have the potential to lead to incorrect thinking.

So then, what should we be comparing?

We should be comparing our outcomes with our goals

Q4 is an excellent time for us to begin looking back to see if we met our goals — for Q4 and for the year. I really hope you’re setting goals every year, if not every quarter. Goal setting is the best way for me to challenge myself in my business. Rather than comparing my sales to someone else’s, I want to look at my own goals and see how I fared this year. Did I meet my goals? If not, what can I do to tweak those goals for next year? What am I planning to do to make next year’s sales even better?

Don’t get weighed down by looking at other people’s sales numbers. Don’t fall victim to the trap of comparison. Focus on where you are personally and how you can meet your own goals.

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It’s not too early to start thinking about 2018! In fact, if you wait until January to start planning for 2018 then you’re setting yourself up to be left behind. I don’t want you to miss out on any opportunity for 2018, which is why I wrote The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Plan For a Profitable Amazon Business.

Right now is the best time to make 2018 your Best Amazon sales year ever! 

Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year. Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way in 2018. Imagine working on your Amazon business knowing exactly what your priorities are, what you need to avoid, and what you need to accomplish during each month to make progress toward making 2018 your best sales year ever.

Find out more about The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business today. The package includes a 200+ page ebook, month-by-month video training, and 4 special bonuses.

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How are your sales going this Q4? I don’t want to know specific numbers — remember, we don’t need to compare those to anyone else’s. But did you meet your goals? Did you exceed them? Do you see now that you need to tweak something for next year? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to know how your Q4 is going, in general terms rather than specific numbers.