During his time in the property management industry, Bob Preston has met many property managers all over the USA. One of the most exciting stories he has heard is that of Amy Hanson, who has purchased a property management company, sold it, and started another in a different city. There are many lessons to learn from Amy, including how NARPM has helped shape her journey!
In this podcast, Bob speaks with Amy Hanson about how she started in property management, the importance of the NARPM organization in shaping her career, and the lessons she has learned that can help many other property management companies.
[1:35] Amy Hanson introduces herself and her company, A Plus Management, in Plano, TX.
[9:00] Maintaining a work-life balance as a property manager.
[11:14] How the NARPM organization has influenced Amy's career.
[17:40] What lesson did Amy learn from her first company in San Antonio, TX, that helped her start A Plus Management in Plano, TX?
[19:40] What Amy knows now that she wishes she had learned in her first property management company?
[21:05] What ancillary fee has Amy implemented at A Plus Management that she would not have thought of with her first property management company?
[23:28] What is the best technology Amy utilizes today in the tech stack at A Plus Management that she wishes she had access to in her first company?
[28:10] Amy shares her final thoughts, tips, and lessons learned.
Connect with Amy Hanson, A Plus Management
Connect with Bob Preston
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Transcript of This Episode
Bob Preston 00:04
As a property management coach, mentor, and advisor, I meet many property managers nationwide in my consulting business. And I have to tell you one of the more interesting stories I've ever heard is that of Amy Hansen, the owner of A Plus Management in the Dallas, Texas area, Plano, Texas, to be exact. Amy has had not one but two different property management companies at two different periods of her life. And she has many lessons learned that she will share with us today. She's also very involved in the NARPM organization. We'll hear from her about why NARPM has been critical in her career and why she enjoys being active in the organization. Have a listen.
Bob Preston 00:43
Amy, welcome to the Property Management Brainstorm.
Amy Hanson 00:57
Hello, it is so good to be here. It's so great to see you, Bob.
Bob Preston 01:02
I know it's been a while, so seeing your face is remarkable. And I'm I've been looking forward to this conversation. So as I mentioned in my preamble, I've heard your story. I remember one time sitting in the audience. It was in Kansas City at the NARPM national convention. And I would like some help placing the topic of the presentation. But I remember your story. And I was mesmerized. It was impressive. And your journey is incredible. Would you like to start today? I'd like you to briefly introduce yourself and your current property management company, overview the trip you've taken in getting there, and explain how you got into property management. We'll get into this in more detail, but the short story.
Amy Hanson 02:08
My name is Amy Hanson, and I am the broker-owner of plus property management in Plano, Texas. I was born and raised in Texas and came to Dallas from San Antonio. I've had my real estate license for almost 30 years, which seems forever. But I beat you on that, by the way. I've had mine for 40. It's just amazing. It's incredible how fast it goes. I never thought I'd be doing this this long. But long story short, I did a presentation on buying, selling, and starting over because that's, you know, what happened in my life. I didn't plan this. It wasn't my dream. It should have been added to the spreadsheet or the five-year goals. It all happened. And it's unique that it all did happen. But the short story. I was in college and needed a job. And this is back before the days of the internet. Can you believe we lived without Google at one point?
Bob Preston 03:01
Are you saying you didn't attend college to be a property manager?
Amy Hanson 03:03
Exactly, exactly. I wonder if anybody ever goes to the missing half. So I got this part-time job at a real estate company doing receptionist work. And one thing led to another, and they said, hey, you know if you wanted to make some more money, you could help us with the sales. And we would pay you bonuses and commissions to get your license. So back in 1993, I got my license and started working for this company and had a great career in doing sales and went into relocation and corporate real estate. And I had to. I've done that for quite a while. And I was a little burned out in the corporate world. And so one day, I picked up the phone and called the old company and said, Hey, I'm looking to make a change; you know what's going on with you guys. And I've kept in touch with them, as many of us do as we travel worldwide. And they said we are now converting from a partnership to a corporation. So we can sell this company. And I said, Well, I would sure like to buy it. And so I went to dinner with them. And we shook hands over the table. Now back then, in 2006, which was a while ago. But in 2006, there were no parameters for selling or buying companies. There was no book on it. There was no history, and nobody knew what they were doing. So we did the best we could. Yeah, and I bet you a lot of the documentation was on sticky notes and pads of paper and paper file cabinets, right? Absolutely. I was like, we wrote out the agreement on a napkin and said, Hey, this looks good to me. It does look good to you. Sounds fair. Could we do it, please?
Amy Hanson 04:32
And I've known these people for many, many years. And so we had a personal relationship, but they let me buy it on a five-year seller finance that they allowed me to pay out. When I bought it, a real estate company did property management. They intended to do something other than property management. They have yet to try to do property management. But San Antonio is a massive home for veterans; many people move in and out, and there's a gigantic need for property management.
Amy Hanson 04:57
So one person asked, and then another and another, and then next thing, they had a property management department. So I bought it when it had 90 properties. And then, I knew very little about property management, zero, had made sales for years and years, could write a contract and, you know, with my eyes closed, but Property Management collects rent, right?
Bob Preston 05:15
What was the revenue split of the company, how much was the percentage of revenue from selling real estate, and how much was from property management?
Amy Hanson 05:25
At the time, they had 14 agents and about two sold houses. Most of our revenue came from that, but a lot of our income came from property management and property management, you know, paid all the bills for many years. That's where the recurring payment is, right? When I went in there, we were still handwriting statements to owners, writing personal, you know, writing checks to owners, and there was no Ach, no direct deposit. So we would drive after work to all the different banks and make the deposits for the owners into their banks. It was wild, but it worked. And, it's like, when you don't know any better it, it works. It's excellent; it keeps growing.
Amy Hanson 06:07
So fast forward. I fell into NARPM. In 2008 or nine, someone said, Hey, you should come to a narco meeting. I'm like, What the heck is Narco? I've never even heard of it. And I went, and my eyes were opened, and I drank the Kool-Aid of NARPM, which we can discuss later. But fast forward. 2016 came along, and I had an unsolicited offer that said, Hey, you want to buy your company. And still, in 2016, it wasn't a big thing, like people didn't do that. You would work. And then you would retire, and you would close the company. People didn't buy and sell companies like they do now. I said, Well, I never really thought about selling. I mean, the people I bought it from retired; I just assumed I'd be there till I was 65. And lo and behold, here it was, 45 years old, and thinking, well, this can be fun; let me do something different. So we made a deal where I did a seller finance on a three-year note with them, sold the real estate, property management, the whole thing. And that was great for them and me; I did have a non-compete. So my non-compete was for San Antonio. And so I hadn't, you know, had some family up in Dallas and thought, well, I'll go to Dallas and, and work up there. And when I got to Dallas, I applied for some corporate jobs. And I didn't know if I could do the corporate thing.
Amy Hanson 07:16
And so I thought, well, I'll open my shop, put out my shingle, and see how it goes. If I could manage 40 or 50 doors, that'd be enough to supplement my income. And I could do it. And fast forward a couple of years, and I was at 50 doors in six months. It was unbelievable how quickly that grew in Dallas. And that would have happened if I had the experience from San Antonio, being brand new as a property management company owner. I've had many people say, How did you do it? How do you do it? Well, I knew what worked and what didn't work in San Antonio. So I just duplicated that; it took out the stuff that didn't work and emphasized the stuff that didn't work. And now we're at 200 doors. And my husband is working on my team, my son has come on board with my team, and my other son works part-time for my team. So definitely a family affair now.
Amy Hanson 08:07
And so now, we're humming along at 200 doors. And we're, our goal is never to be in this big massive company with 500 or 1000 or 2000, or so that's not us. We like our slight portfolio management feel, but we are highly blessed. Extremely blessed. I could have never planned this out as it happened. But it all came together better than I could have planned.
Bob Preston 08:32
So when you started your second company, A Plus Management, you had some resources from the sale. So it wasn't just jumping in.
Amy Hanson 08:38
Exactly. So I had revenue coming in. When the market collapsed in 2007. And eight, I bought properties. So I had rental properties. So I had some rental property money, and I had some money coming from this from the sale of the company. And then now I had a new company to generate revenue. So lots of different revenue streams.
Bob Preston 08:59
So you mentioned it's a family affair; you work with your husband, and your sons are involved. One of the things I admire about you and I've watched because we're friends on Facebook, right, is that you seem to have a healthy work-life balance. And that is extremely hard to do. I see you guys out of ballgames or spending time with the grandkids attending concerts. And, of course, you mentioned you're involved in NARPM; how do you do it? What's the secret?
Amy Hanson 09:22
The secret is that when you set up your business, you must set parameters and guidelines around working with your clients and customers. Of course, we always want to be able to help people if there's an emergency after hours, but our phones turn off at five o'clock every day, and that's a hard stop. We will bend at eight 910 1112 o'clock at night, taking phone calls, sending emails, etc. So make sure that you have that hard stop, and you do make sure that you have a work-life balance; otherwise, you burn out. Anyone can burn out in this business, whether you're doing sales, property management, etc.
Amy Hanson 09:55
It's a high burnout business, and I've got to have some of that relief time. But that goes back into if you want to be able to create that, you have to make sure that your clients and your customers understand that. So we tell our clients right from the beginning, we are here nine to five, Monday through Friday, we will be here to help you, and we will lead you through this process. But if you want us to be on the phone with you at seven on a Saturday night, someone else is the right company for you. And that's okay. We're not the right company for everybody. But we also tell our tenants the same thing when they come on board; we work office hours. And so we ask them to respect those office hours. And, of course, we're available, like I said, for emergencies. But having that discussion with clients and setting that as a boundary and guideline helps out, and they appreciate that. And they expect that and respect it, which is even better.
Bob Preston 10:41
That's fantastic. Because personal boundaries are essential in this business, they need to know your customers need to know that, hey, you know, property managers get a vacation too. We also enjoy the weekend because many owners, when they're off, are typically at night or on the weekends, right? So if you don't set those limits or barriers, as you mentioned, you'll have people calling you Sunday's Sunday, you know, wondering where you are. And in this day and age of responsiveness, social media, and instant gratification, they expect an answer quickly and almost immediately. So that's good. You set that expectation upfront.
Bob Preston 11:14
You've been committed to participating in a NARPM throughout your career. So let's talk about that for a minute. That's for those who don't know the organization. It's the National Association of Residential Property Managers. Could you tell us about that and why it's so important to you and your career?
Amy Hanson 11:28
When I bought the company in San Antonio, the owners were retiring; they were 65 and 67. And they only knew what they knew. So like I said, we were making statements on paper, handwriting statements, making copies, and mailing them every month. And they didn't know any other way. When I went to my first Norba meeting, it was like, wow, other people do what I do. How cool is this coming from the sales world? I was so used to the sales world; everybody keeps everything close to the vest. I can't share my secrets with Bob because Bob might take my business. I can't share my struggles with Bob because Bob will exploit my efforts as a business. And when I went into NARPM, I was so impressed; not only were people willing to share, but people were willing to stand up and say, You know what, I have a problem with maintenance challenge right now, or leasing is our biggest challenge for now. And people would raise their hands and say, I want to help. I'll let you know what we're doing. This is working for us. And the knowledge that there was, there's plenty of business for all of us. And that our main competition, my competition is not Bob; my competition is the owner that's managing his real property. Those are my competition, not Bob's. And when you realize that, you know it's more of a collaborative effort. And it's a group that wants to do better; they want to make their businesses better. Of course, we all want to be profitable. I mean, we're not in the industry to be. We're not a nonprofit.
Amy Hanson 12:56
But knowing all that and having people think the same way you think to try to grow, develop and improve your business is fantastic. You know, when we started, there was no ACH, there was no direct deposit, simple things that we take for granted today, there was no Internet, we couldn't text tenants or text owners when we started, we had to pick up the phone and give them a call so that the world has changed in and I think NARPM has allowed us to take some technology and take some resources, and learn how to use that technology better to give our customers and our clients a better experience ultimately. And so that that part just blew me away, it blew me away. And coming into owning a business when I knew nothing about property management, I learned there's a better way to do this or a better way. One of the things that I truly love the most about NARPM is that it kept it at the local level because my culture for my clients will be different than, you know, a California property management or a Florida property management company or a New York property management company.
Amy Hanson 14:01
And so we can all sit at a table and say, that's a great idea. That doesn't work for my culture, but I still respect that you do that. Here's what we're doing. This could help somebody. And so I've gotten just so much out of it over the years; they said, Hey, can you volunteer and help us, you know, run a meeting? I'm like, help take tickets at the door and make reservations. And it started as simple as that. And I said, Sure, I'd love to. I will come to the meeting anyway; I can help. And you know, then it just grew from there. And they said, Hey, you want to be a secretary? Would you like to be a committee chair? Which would you like to be president-elect and president of a local chapter Association? It was great because I was a little nervous. I've never been president of anything before. How does this work? So many people have that experience, knowledge, and input to help you along that realm, which is fantastic. I could call ten people right now and Norbert and say I need help with this, and they would drop everything and help me, and you just can't. You can't find that other places.
Bob Preston 14:59
Look at you now; you've made the jump to the national level; you're on the slate this year as president-elect, which is very exciting. Tell us about what that's been like playing within NARPM at the national level and being a member of the National Board.
Amy Hanson 15:21
Well, it's been eye-opening; I'm using my experience at the local level. And then, of course, at the Texas state level, I served as Texas State president; I learned so much about how the state runs and how it runs in conjunction with national when I took the next step into the regional vice president and taking over the central region, I got to see how things worked in other cities, other areas, other states. And it opened my eyes to a whole different level of NARPM. And so, I found many cool things that have worked in Texas, and maybe they work in Arkansas, and perhaps they don't, perhaps they work in Kansas City, maybe they don't. But being able to try different things throughout the central region allowed me to move to the national level. I've served this year as national treasurer for NARPM, and that's been eye-opening to see how all the money flows behind the curtain. And it's important to know that all of NARPM has money is our member's money. And the number one goal at the NARPM national level is to ensure that we are spending that money for our members' best and highest use. And so keeping that in mind and seeing that the decisions made at the Board of Directors level and the executive level team, the local members are the top priority across the board. I am running for President-Elect; we're having an election soon, and I'd love to be selected. But, you know, if I'm not fixed and that, you know, that happens in a lot of these races. I'm not stopping volunteering at NARPM in my heart; I bleed NARPM, so even if I don't make it, you all will still have me here doing our work. So you know, some competition is healthy; it always makes us push our boundaries, move us a little bit, make us feel uncomfortable, and strive to do a little better. Competition is a healthy thing. And so we'll see how the race goes. But either way, I'm in NARPM to stay.
Bob Preston 17:17
You guys are doing some great work at the national level. You in the board this year and in previous years, too, I got to serve with you for one year, and then I just had too much going on. So I stepped down, but you know, power to you. You stuck with it. You see, it's fun, right?
Amy Hanson 17:29
It's not just all work. You make some excellent friends and have a good time together. And so it's, it's very, very rewarding.
Bob Preston 17:38
Okay, so you've told us about your journey. So let's have some fun here. I'm going to call this the lessons learned speed round. It's not a speed round, but I will fire some questions at you. And you get to tell us what lessons you've learned through your journey with two property management companies. Okay, so are you up for this?
Amy Hanson 17:57
Bob Preston 18:00
So here we go about your property management wisdom; you'll give us all your tips. So, what lesson did you learn from your first property management company that you found helpful in starting number two, A Plus Management?
Amy Hanson 18:12
The number one thing is that change is hard. And typically, people, myself included, are afraid of technology. And technology moves faster than anything we could ever imagine. And being open to technology allowed me to set the groundwork for my new company's success. And I know that the older you get, the harder it is to take on new technology. And the company's previous owners, whom I hadn't said anything about, were very technology resistant. And it that was a big challenge for me. And so I wanted to ensure I had the right technology. And there's so much to choose from. Ensure I had the right technology to set the company up for success in Dallas.
Bob Preston 18:52
That is a great, great point. I started my property management business from scratch. And that included paper pads, sticky notes, and the stuff we discussed. And I remember we hit like 50 properties or something. And I had a small team, and I said, Hey, this is ridiculous. We must do it on something other than paper. We got to digitize this, and everybody's like, what? No, you know, blasphemy, we can't do that. That's not going to work. I need the paper. And so it's a vast, massive amount of resistance. And so you know what, I had to hire a temp? Because I was the only one who would help me with that, I had to hire an attempt to scan all the files. And I said, Okay, no more printing paper, no more paper files is all in the cloud. And so that was a massive step for us.
Bob Preston 19:33
Okay, number two, what do you wish you knew in San Antonio that you know now in your current property management company?
Amy Hanson 19:47
I was trying to decide on just one, but there are two things. The first thing was that our competition was more extensive franchises. There are a lot of big franchise companies in San Antonio. And so I always thought, Well, that was our competition instead of focusing on the mom and pops earlier, our competition, so I wish I had understood that sooner; I could have made better decisions in the future. And I'm living in the cloud. In San Antonio, we had a ten-by-ten storage room full of paper. And we needed something; we had to drive to the storage unit and find the pile of paper. And I think it's overwhelming to take that like you said, you took 50 files and digitized them, but to take a ten by 10, storage, and put all that in the cloud and put it somewhere and know that you can retrieve it when you need it. It was scary. It was super tricky. And so I wish I knew how easy it was we went 100% paperless here in Dallas, and gosh, man, it would have made a difference back in the day in San Antonio. So I wish I would have been more open to technology and trusting that there are different ways to do it that don't include tablets and chisels.
Bob Preston 21:03
Number three, fee maximization and ancillary fees have become a big topic lately. Right? It's challenging to be profitable in this business if your only revenue source is your property management fees; what ancillary cost Have you implemented in your current business that you would have thought of in your first property management company?
Amy Hanson 21:21
Great question. So company one, number one, we were exclusively management fees. I mean, we had almost zero and Flurry fees. And you're right; I believe in the competition that we have now, and how the future is going, especially with all of the AI options out there for more prominent companies, there is a real push to push down the percentage base management fees. And so, as a business owner, you need to look at ciliary revenue to avoid problems in the future of being able to afford staff and compete in the marketplace. Admin fees were not a thing when we were in San Antonio; pet fees didn't exist. We had done test profits for years and years and years. And nobody had ever heard of a pet fee or a pet rent.
Amy Hanson 22:07
And most of the time in San Antonio, you know, we would give all the late fees, NSF fees, and everything to the owners, even though we did all the collecting. So it made some significant changes there—and renewal fees. We would have pretty typical leasing and monthly management fees, but renewal fees were unheard of. In San Antonio, as well. And the renewal process has gotten harder and harder. Over the years, I have found a lot more work goes into it than just renewal lease; poof, you're done. It can be a multi-week, multi-month process, depending on the client's wishes and what they're looking for. So, yeah, tons and tons of revenue. We have extra income; we're currently at 35% for our ancillary fees versus our management fees. We'd love to get to 40 or 45%. We'll see if we can make that happen. But we want to be prepared and ensure we're sustainable. Should there be an intense push down on management fees, which we think is in the future cards?
Bob Preston 23:08
Yes, we're starting to hear about zero management fee businesses. And they're making all their money charging; some might call it nickel and diming. Yet some say it's fee maximization, but setting the customer or the tenant for everything right, other than managing the property and naming the usual stuff.
Bob Preston 23:25
Okay, cool. Number four, what's the best technology you utilize today? You've already thrown out a few. You have a tech stack; we call it A Plus Management, and which one do you use the most, and maybe the one that you wish you had access to at your first property management company in San Antonio?
Amy Hanson 23:42
When I started in San Antonio, we used a dial-up system with only one user to plug in a couple of information, pieces of information, could not talk to any tenants, and couldn't email owners. It was very, very limited. So we're currently using the AppFolio software, a mammoth company; they've done a great job increasing their base of clients over the years. And while every product is flawed, AppFolio does an excellent job for us and can allow us to be as technology upfront and friendly as possible. But Dropbox and making sure we double backup everything. Hence, we have everything saved in Dropbox and in a folio in case something was to happen or crash or, you know, if we decide to change software one day, but I think Dropbox and having everything scanned. We scan and shred everything being able to have that has allowed us to have virtual assistant support. We're not tied to the office here. I could be working on the beach in Destin. My clients would never know the difference, and that's really what I wanted to be able to have that freedom. I didn't realize when I was setting it all up that it would be so easy to bring on a virtual assistant. They have every
Amy Hanson 25:00
They need as long as they can get on the internet. So that's just been huge for us. We use RingCentral for our telephone system. So our base can answer the calls and transfer calls, and people can text and text in text to one central number; they need our cell phone numbers. So again, making sure that we have that work-life balance, but that's been huge. I mean, simple stuff like Docusign. We used to fax over leases and have people initially women fax them back. And now I can send a lease and have it back and signed and you know, a couple of hours and it's clean, you can read it hadn't been faxed 100 times. So you know, getting it to be paperless, getting everything scanned and loaded into the system where anybody anywhere in the world can check it has been a huge game changer and bring it on the VAs. They're like, wow, everything's organized. Everything's in a folder. Everything's labeled; we know where everything is. Everybody follows the same process for filing documents. So we can look at any property at any time and know exactly where the documents are. It's, it's enormous. It's an absolute game-changer. Right? It untied us from having to be at an office behind the desk.
Bob Preston 26:05
What you described it's going digital. Let's go digital, baby. I mean, it's got to go all the way. And that creates this phenomenon that we call zero touch in this industry, right? And it's not that you don't have relationships with your customers. Still, you don't have to touch everything like you mentioned; print, you know, print the lease agreement; you don't have to act actively. Please show the tenant the property because there are digital ways to get in now. Is that the direction you've called an A plus?
Amy Hanson 26:32
Oh, absolutely. And I was a big fan of checklists; I had a move-in list and move-out inventory, a renewal checklist, and a periodic inspection checklist. And so we signed up, we converted last year to lead simple into their process flow to make all of our lists digital. And I was unfortunate to see my little checklist go away. But now that I look back, why didn't I do this? A couple of years ago, why did I, you know, pull the plug a couple of years ago and do that? But my son, who's a millennial, doesn't admit to it, but he is a millennial. Said, Mom, you can't have all these checklists. I'm going to be working over at my house; you're going to be at your house, and you may be in Destin; how are we going to know what's on the checklist? How do we process this checklist? And I said, all right, fine. So that was the last piece of paper I finally got rid of, putting all our lists into a process system. And then being able to hand off that process system to a VA was life-changing? Life-changing for me, 100%.
Bob Preston 27:32
So there was an era, probably four to five years ago, where the buzzword Systems Manuals. So we produced systems manuals for every position. They were PDF files that lived on a file server in the cloud, so who has access to that if you're out in the field in the middle of trying to do something on the property? , What you want to be able to do is, as you mentioned, in Lead Simple or whatever your process flow is, do it digitally. You have access to it all the time. And by the way, it's real-time. You can do it digitally to change part of that process as a team.
Bob Preston 28:07
All right, that was super fun. So what other thoughts would you like to share? We're having a great time; this is good to chat. But in the interest of time, we do need to wrap up. So what are your parting words?
Amy Hanson 28:19
If you're in property management, join our palm and get involved with your local association. I know some states don't require people to be licensed in our state; we do require them to be approved. So I attend many training and seminars, either at the state association, local association, or even at the National Association of Realtors, because this world is constantly changing; we just got word yesterday that the EPA is changing the rules on lead-based paint. Again, it's a continually evolving world. And there's no one source that you can pull a book off the shelf, and it's everything you ever needed to know about property management, and one book doesn't exist. So it's constant education, training, and networking. And I love the fact that I have an orphan family. And if I have questions, or if I'm struggling with something, or if I'm looking at some new software, I can call ten people and go, I'm looking at the software, I know you use it, tell me to the good, the bad, the ugly. And they'll be honest and tell me I would do the same for them. If they were looking at things, I needed help from them.
Amy Hanson 29:18
So I'm always available to help and to reach out. I did a podcast years ago, right after I sold my company. And I've gotten hundreds of calls from that over the years. And I'd be glad to help anybody thinking about buying or selling or starting over, have questions about NARPM or property management, or if you're just stuck and need help figuring out how to get your business going. I'd be glad to give you all the secrets, tell you how we did it, and share the wealth because it has undoubtedly been shared with me.
Bob Preston 29:46
That's a good segue. If people want to contact you, what would be the best way to do that?
Amy Hanson 29:50
They can call our main line direct. We are on aplusrocks.com. My email is on there, and our phone numbers are on there. They can reach out 24/7. Look, we tried to get back to everybody within 24 business hours. But yeah, we'd love to answer any questions or help out, and although I'm always nervous doing these podcasts, I always love them when we do them. So I appreciate you asking me to be your guest today.
Bob Preston 30:13
Thank you so much. It's been wonderful to catch up. A Plus rocks, you rock; Amy and I've enjoyed our friendship and working with you during the NARPM period. So hopefully we'll see you soon. Thanks for coming on the show today.