405: How to Leverage the Power of Amazon, with Lisa McNab
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Small and medium businesses can learn how to leverage the power of Amazon with our help.
We are bringing Lisa McNab, CEO & Co-Founder at Canbaba Network—Canada’s only wholesaling and dropshipping marketplace. One of the things the Conquer Local Podcast has made its mission here in the first six months of the year is to align around the user journey that we are seeing as common themes in our channel partner network worldwide. We all know is that e-commerce has now come to the forefront. We are learning that people are thirsty to learn more about best practices around e-commerce. Business owners are trying to figure out, and they have this e-commerce entity now, how can we help really make it hum? How do I turn it into a store that rivals the revenue that I get through my physical doorway? Lisa McNab will give the inside scoop on how to compete with dropshipping and how to Leverage the Power of Amazon
Lisa’s goal is to unlock Canada’s manufacturing through ecommerce to make it more efficient for business buyers to buy high-quality unsaturated Canadian products for low Canadian dollars.
In 2013, Lisa graduated from Okanagan College in Kelowna, BC, with a business degree majoring in marketing with minors in international business, linguistics, and opera. She did 4 exchanges in Quebec, France, Croatia, and China. Her love of travel and language mixed with business has fueled her supply chain passion.
Lisa has spent almost a decade learning about and participating in online product sales on Amazon, Shopify, eBay, social media networks, and many more. She’s one of the few people in Saskatchewan’s whole province that is a dedicated Amazon merchant and wholesaling ecommerce specialist. She’s looking forward to revolutionizing businesses worldwide with Canbaba’s unlimited marketplace syndication and leveraging tools.
Join the conversation in the Conquer Local Community and keep the learning going in the Conquer Local Academy.
George Leith: Welcome to this week’s edition of the Conquer Local podcast. One of the things that we are trying to accomplish here in the first six months of the year with these episodes is to align around the user journey that we have been seeing common themes in our channel partner network all over the world. And one of the things that we all know is that e-commerce has now come to the forefront. And what I’m finding is we have channel partners that are just thirsty to learn more about best practices around e-commerce. And then there are business owners that are trying to figure out, I have this e-commerce entity now, how do I really make that thing hum? How do I turn it into a store that rivals the revenue that I get through my physical doorway.
I met Lisa McNabb a couple of years back through some mentorship work that I’m doing on an advisory board that I’m a part of called Cultivator by Connexus Credit Union. And she’s a dynamic founder that has figured out a niche and we’re going to get Lisa on the broadcast this week to explain about her new company called Canbaba. But I have a method to my madness because Lisa’s company is a Canadian company. So she’s going to talk about how Canbaba is solving a problem specifically in the Canadian market.
But Lisa has been involved in online sales for over 10 years. And she has worked on a number of the platforms that are out there, including Amazon, Alibaba, Shopify, and she’s figured out some of the best practices to really make these organizations generate revenue. And I know a lot of local businesses look at Amazon and say, “Well, is a big bad Amazon. It’s a competitor.” But maybe there might be a way you could use Amazon and use the firepower that it has to generate sales for your business. Plus what are best practices that we should be putting into this e-commerce motion that our businesses now have to have. It is an essential thing.
Lisa McNabb, the CEO and co-founder of Canbaba coming up next to educate us on the world of e-commerce, Amazon Shopify, Costco, Walmart, it’s all next on the Conquer Local Podcast.
Lisa McNabb, the CEO, and co-founder at Canbaba network. Lisa, good to see you again and have a chat about what you’re up to.
Lisa McNab: Hi, good to see you too. Thanks so much for having me. This is really exciting.
George Leith: Well, it’s great to have you join us. Lisa’s based in Saskatoon. I’d love to understand little bit more about your organization and tell the listeners about what Canbaba is all about.
Lisa McNab: Yeah, so I’m the CEO and co-founder, I have another female founder with me on the team. And so we’re Canada’s only wholesaling and drop shipping marketplace. And our goal with this is to unlock Canadian manufacturing through e-commerce to make it much more easier and efficient for business buyers to buy high quality unsaturated Canadian products for low Canadian dollars. This hasn’t actually been done before on this level or this scale. So we’re kind of groundbreaking here at this point.
George Leith: I find that an interesting value proposition. Can we unpack that a little bit so our listeners can understand. High quality unsaturated Canadian products for low Canadian dollars. What would be the alternative?
Lisa McNab: Well, if you’re familiar with Alibaba, they’re the third largest e-commerce platform in the world and the number one wholesaling e-commerce platform in the world. They’re worth about $54 billion and they supply most of the products for Walmart, which is number two and Amazon of course the number one spot. And they have products from all over the world, but of course mainly they’re from China. And they have trillions of product listings on there. Guess how many Canadian products are listed on there?
George Leith: I bet you it’s very small, like a hundred.
Lisa McNab: Well, it’s a little bit more than that but it’s about 17,000. But when you look through them, a lot of them are missing, broken, or they say they’re from Canada but they’re from South Korea or Hangzhou or wherever. And when you scroll down to the bottom of Alibaba’s page and you look at the country search on there, you click on Canada’s page and it’s broken. This is how Canada is showing up on the world’s largest e-commerce wholesaling platform.
For me it’s gut-wrenching because I love products. I love Amazon. I love e-commerce. So there is a huge multi-billion dollar gap here that can be a huge advantage for especially people in North America, Canadians and Americans. So that’s what we’re doing with Canbaba is kind of setting up a Canadian Alibaba, but it’s all Canadian owned. It’s only for Canadian vendors and then people from anywhere in the world can have access to these, again low priced high quality unsaturated products. Because most of the products that are on Amazon and on many other e-commerce sites are from America and China which are totally fine, they’re winning the game right now. And Canada is not even in the game. So we want to change that.
George Leith: Well, congratulations on finding a niche and an opportunity. It sounds like it’s an interesting problem to solve. I was excited to have your background. I was going through your background. I’m excited to have you on the show because we know that e-commerce, it is vital for a business to be participating in this motion. I think that it has been for quite some time and then you have an event like COVID and now everyone is at the table thinking about e-commerce. You spent over 10 years learning and participating in this online product sale. I’d love to… If we could look at those 10 years and get some of your learnings that our audience might be able to take back to their customer base around, maybe some of the things that you might do differently if you could do them over again. So could we talk about that over 10 years you’ve been learning about this and what you’ve learned when it comes to online product sales?
Leverage the Power of Amazon
Lisa McNab: Well, definitely I would have gotten to Amazon way, way earlier than what I did but live and learn. So my first kind of intro into marketing merchandising products, I worked at the source, which is RadioShack. And within about three weeks I became assistant manager there because I just love products. I love electronics, especially. And we would do online sales in the store and that’s kind of how I started kind of my intro to e-commerce I guess. And then I did a bachelor’s degree in marketing and I also did a minors in international business. I did four exchanges, Quebec, France, Croatia, and China.
And I was always just looking like what are the products in this country or how are they selling them online different compared to Canada and the US. I did a lot of social media management. I worked for media companies, I sold advertising quite a bit of that. And then once I finally actually made my first Amazon account in 2013, I was absolutely mind boggled that a lot of the people they would put about 10 grand US into Chinese products have them shipped to an Amazon warehouse somewhere in the States and then just pray basically that they would sell.
And a lot of people were making millions on this and it was really good but for me I was like, “This is crazy. I don’t really feel comfortable with doing this.” But then I got back into Amazon again in 2017 and then I also did like Shopify drop shipping and all of that. And it can just really open up any door. And the big key I found with it was you don’t need one or two winning products. You need a hundred to thousand products that are consistent. They just sell consistently.
And there’s some really, really cool tools out there that you can just spy on these products with. I really like Helium 10 there’s Jungle Scout, there’s Egrow. I’ve been using Keepa for 10 or 15 years. So those are all kind of these cool analytical spine tools where you can see exactly how much that product is selling per month. What the revenue it’s generating, how many sellers are on that listing and what’s really cool about Amazon and a huge opportunity that most people don’t know about is that Amazon rotates between the different sellers on the product listing.
So you can have multiple sellers on one product and they’re competing against each other but they all get a chance to sell. And if you have a million people going to that product every month buying, and so everyone gets a rotation basically and, you know the little buy box that’s on when you buy something on Amazon, it’s called the buy box and you have to win it too. So when you create your own product listing, you don’t just automatically get that. You have to earn it. And that takes into account with like your reviews, how good of a seller you are, if you’re prompt with emails, all that kind of stuff. So that’s a really deep discussion, but it’s really interesting how you can really level up even though there’s a lot of competition on there, everyone still has a shot on this.
George Leith: Thank you for that because I’ve always understand how it worked. And I think that there’s more of a focus right now on supporting local, but listen we all have the smile on our front step. Over here at T-bone studio I saw a box of… You have a delivery by the way. So the question is then when we buy something at Amazon, this could be… I might’ve bought something from you if you were the person that figured out that there was a demand for that product. So you’re using these tools to spy to see where the demand is and then you build your own online instance with hundreds of products where you found there to be demand for that, and then you get a rotation. But I am assuming that there’s some sort of an algorithm to make sure that the store is set up properly in the experience is proper.
Lisa McNab: Yes, absolutely. And that goes into the BSR. That’s the best sellers rank. So Amazon has so many strict rules especially with like getting reviews, being very prompt with your deliveries, with your communication, with so many things. If you have a lot of products that have very low inventory or no inventory, that’s going to affect your ranking. And yeah, there’s a ton of different stuff that goes into it. We’re going to be putting out a lot of videos on Canbaba to help give people this type of information to give them that extra edge. And going back to like the merchants, 90% of the products that are on Amazon are by individual merchants and businesses like myself. They only sell maybe 10 or so percent of their actual own products, but majority of people on there are just regular people like us.
George Leith: Well, that’s an interesting stat because I know that you have the Amazon essentials products. And when I bought the doggy do essentials, the little roll of little bags you take the dog for a walk, I’m assuming and I hope that you can validate this or tell me that I’m not on the right path, but they’ve identified that there is a big market for this. So then they build their own product and they gobble that up. They’re kind of watching what’s happening. Is that what’s going on?
Lisa McNab: Oh yeah. They’re notorious for cannibalizing listings. And there’s ways to get around that. When in doubt bundle or create something that’s unique for you. And again like with Canadian products, we’re really not showing up a whole lot on this platform yet. There is a ton of products that are stuck in government bureaucracy, they’re stuck in huge, like the big five grocery stores here but there isn’t a whole lot of like the actual e-commerce wholesaling in Canada yet. And so again, it’s free to sign up to Canbaba. So get in now if you want to catch this like next new way of wholesale chain.
Amazon Business Model
George Leith: Let’s talk about that business model because I appreciate you educating us and the listeners on the Amazon experience. I’m a little embarrassed because I spent a bunch of money there over the last couple of years. I don’t really understand how the hell that works. So it’s great. Now and when we talk about your vision, here’s the other thing. Like how does this stuff get shipped? So I put my stuff on there. Let’s say I go through all that. I put all my products on there, but it comes in an Amazon box. Like they do all the shipping and everything educate us on that as well.
Lisa McNab: So there’s two types of fulfillment, and this is where Amazon’s really, really won in e-commerce because they’ve monetized and just made the fulfillment process so streamlined. So they have FBA, which is on the seller side. It’s called the FBA and then on the buyer side that’s what people know as Amazon Prime. So FBA stands for fulfilled by Amazon and so what you do, it’s really simple. You send like a caseload or a pallet or a truckload of your products to an Amazon warehouse. They store it for you. When you get a sale they ship it out. They take care of returns, customer service, everything like that.
After a few months, you can automate that. So whoever your supplier is or if you have a supply chain system, you can just… Amazon will say, “Oh, your inventory is getting low. Okay. Let’s reorder, boom. You can automate your pricing. You can automate your sales, everything like that is completely automate-able. It’s brilliant how they have it set up. The other fulfillment method is FBM, which is fulfilled by merchant. So that’s me shipping out my product from my home or from my business. And what’s cool about that is Amazon recently changed it, so FBM merchants, if they can guarantee two day shipping, they can actually get listed on Prime as well and catch those like Amazon Prime days and things like that. So it’s pretty cool.
Canbaba Business Model
George Leith: So let’s go to your brand Canbaba, I’ll get it right by the end of the episode. And we have these Canadian products that you are now going to put in this ecosystem. So let’s talk about your business model now.
Lisa McNab: Yeah. So again, I was just buying a ton of products from China, probably 95% or more of my inventory was coming from China. And then when the pandemic broke out, I was like, “What am I doing? This is crazy. I should be helping these businesses that are closing here.” I’ve talked to a lot of different people in Saskatchewan, we aren’t the farthest advanced techie people yet, I’m one of the only people that I found here in Saskatchewan, that actually is an Amazon merchant. So for me to explain what it is that I do to people, they kind of scratch their head and look at me like, I’m crazy.
George Leith: By the way, I feel your pain.
Lisa McNab: Yeah.
George Leith: I feel your pain.
Lisa McNab: Yeah. And that’s not a bad thing. And it shows how much opportunity there is for growth here. And we have incredible manufacturers, farmers, artisans, producers, distributors right here that are untapped. It’s just like a brand new market that’s like prime set up, ready, ready to go for this. So with that I basically want to try and get as many people as I can into this supply chain because this is the foundation. This is where it all starts. And where it is right now is it’s all coming from China and the US or other countries.
But for Canada, let’s build up our foundation and then we can springboard it off from there. And people don’t have to use this to go into Amazon. They can use this to get into Walmart, to Costco, to Home Depot, to other major retailers or just other supply chain, Brick and Mortar stores. So again like this has so many avenues out of it and it’s really just setting up the system for it because the system hasn’t been created yet.
George Leith: Well, congratulations because I’ll tell you as a serial entrepreneur and having a lot of empathy for serial entrepreneurs, it really is the lifeblood of any economy or people who were developing new products and services and giving them the ability to get to market. The drop shipping thing scares me. Fulfillment is always a challenge. It doesn’t what it is that you are delivering to a customer fulfilling it. How are you crossing that bridge because it it’s a massive bridge to cross to make it easy?
Lisa McNab: Yeah. Drop shipping is its own kind of beast. I really like it because you can start and you don’t have to have a whole lot of investment to start with it. And depending on which channel you use for it and how you have it set up that’s the key, that’s the make or break point there. And again, with Canada drop shipping was almost non-existent or for me, I had to order all my drop shipping products from China and it would take like two to three weeks or more to get shipped over here. Whereas in the States there’s a ton of drop shipping warehouses, but they will not ship over the Canadian border. And I think now they are starting to, but it’s crazy how we’re so close to them but again, our fulfillment, our supply chain logistics are not totally there yet.
So again drop shipping. I don’t even know the number of it, but it’s definitely in the millions, possibly in the billions now for just drop shipping in the US. So for Canada, there’s a huge open market to that. I know like there’s E-shippers out in Ontario that does do fulfillment. They have an Amazon warehouse and then they also have a warehouse for everything else. So there are some things that are just getting started here, they’re like little buds just ready to bloom. So for anyone no matter where you are in the world, Canada, US, anywhere else, this is a massive opportunity to get in on.
George Leith: I’m over here on the cold pressed hemp seed oil, which apparently is going to help me with my receding hairline. And I’m just toggling through the product $12.50 cents Canadian for our American listeners that’s like about 50 cents American. In fact it’s double to ship it than it is to buy it. Now I’m looking through the pictures. There’s some really good pictures here. I’m wondering if you could give us some advice if with your more than 10 years experience in the e-commerce space, how good do these photos need to be? What sort of story do they need to tell as I walk through the carousel. Like what’s going to make an e-commerce solution that our channel partners are offering to their customer, what’s really going to make it pop in your opinion, so that you can get that sale because just building the store, it could be a billboard in the middle of nowhere. What can you do to really make these products pop?
Lisa McNab: That’s a million dollar question right there. There’s again, so much that goes into these product listings and it depends on what your end goal is. What channel, what different type of product feeds are you planning to go on? So for us here we are just in our beta testing site. So this is super basic. We do have a much bigger vision to end off on. So with these ones, we don’t have a whole lot of strict rules yet but if you do want to get onto say Amazon or Costco, Home Depot those bigger ones, they have way stricter rules. So it’s kind of nice, this is an easy way in for people to start with Amazon though we always try to get the pure white background, make sure it’s an optimized listing. So it has like the five main features benefit point, a fully optimized product listing title, have all of the information there that is necessary.
Like the product dimensions, the weight there’s the product weight versus the shipping weight, the shipping dimensions as well. And illegal disclaimers or things like that. If it’s wholesaling and drop shipping or one or the other or if it’s a white label product that anyone can put their label on. You know all about that. Right?
So, yeah. Yeah. There’s so much that goes into this. And again we’ll be putting out a lot of great content to educate people on how to improve their product listings, like give them that edge over their competitor and really make them stand out.
George Leith: We appreciate that insight and I think that it’s interesting when I’m on your site and I’m looking at some of these products this is the manufacturer that has set… That I’m looking here at the Hemp Cold Pressed Oil. And what they’re looking to do is to access these markets, find other sellers that would sell those products. But the insights that you’re giving us on…. What I’m finding is if you look at what we do when we buy on an Amazon or on a Costco or a Walmart or Home Depot, there’s a lot of research that goes into this.
And I’m seeing e-commerce stores being built online, where it’s just the product and a price. And I’m like, “It seems like there’s something missing there to get that experience.” So what you’ve opened my eyes to and for our listeners I think you maybe going there as well is go to the people who were doing it really well and copy what they’re doing because there’s a ton of research that’s been… They didn’t get to saying, “Oh, we need the product weight and the shipping weight.” They didn’t do that just on a lark. They did it because they were analyzing the hell out of it and they figured out that it wasn’t getting the traction so they continued to iterate on the product and get the outcome that they were looking for. So I love the comment you made off the top. It depends upon what your outcome is as to how you structure that. We have this story that we’ve been telling, it’s not a story it’s based on data that e-commerce grew more in about 120 days than it grew in 10 years.
Lisa McNab: I wanted to go through some of the stats because they’re really my employing with Amazon. I think it was about a year or two ago. They’re at about 400 billion and they were growing about 25% year over year. And then within like a few months when COVID broke out, they grew about 38%. So now they’re worth about 1.7 trillion. And so going into like breaking that down what does that really mean? So can you guess how much they sell every second?
George Leith: Oh, I could make a wild guess and say like a billion dollars a second. That’s a little wild. Okay there. You asked for wild.
Lisa McNab: Oh, so they’re about five grand a second.
George Leith: Wow.
Lisa McNab: Just under five grand. Every minute they sell about 283,000. So over quarter of a million dollars every minute. Every hour, they average about 17 million US dollars. That’s about 408 million every day. And it’s just continuously growing this huge monster giant that’s like growing, growing, growing.
George Leith: And as a local retailer, that’s who you’re competing with and you’re not just competing with that massive growth curve and the brand, really what you’re competing with is the experience. The reason why it’s growing like that is because of the experience. And I’ve noticed I bought some crap on Amazon. I’m not going to lie. And I found that returning, it was like returning at Costco, but you could take stuff back from three years ago at… They just take it. They’re like, “Yeah, bring it back.” And I found that Amazon was that way. We bought some protein powder and it arrived and it wasn’t the image. It wasn’t what we were looking for. And they were like, “Yeah, don’t even ship it back. Just keep it.” Anyways, funny story but it relates back to the experience.
And when you are building your e-commerce experience as a local business or if you are the channel partner, which is who our audience is here at the Conquer Local Podcast, the folks that are selling to those local businesses, take some of Lisa’s top tips on how to position those products and services inside the e-commerce store. I think some people are like, “Yeah, I got an e-commerce website. I’m good.” It’s a constant evolution of that experience to get close to what Amazon or a Costco or a Walmart have online. And the real challenge that is they’ve got teams of people just thinking up new ways to make that experience better. So you have to keep looking under the hood and figure out ways and go to best practices. We really appreciate you jumping on the podcast and educating us on e-commerce and what you’ve been seeing online and all the best with your new venture.
I think that you definitely have something here, especially for the Canadian marketplace, but I also think that you could teach our listeners a little bit something being a founder because you and I met a period of time back and you’ve had a couple of different ideas and you’ve been constantly evolving those ideas. Can we talk a little bit about that founder motion where you’re just getting started, you’ve got an idea. You think there’s something there and lo and behold, 24 months later, you’ve got something different, not too far different, but you’re evolving.
Is that something that just happens all the time or are there catalysts that have led to that evolution? I’d love to understand that a little bit more because we don’t get to talk to too many founders that are… You’re trying to figure out. I think you got something here, but you’re trying to figure out how now to make it something that turns into the next Alibaba.
Lisa McNab: Yeah, exactly. So the big thing for me, I did a talk at Weekes Saskatchewan Women in business group here. It was actually last January, a year ago, pretty much today. Crazy. And I was talking to a big group of people and I just told them about how Amazon works and how you import Chinese products and you sell them in America and Canada and you can automate it and make lots of money. And it’s really great. And there was people in the room who were very mad, especially this one lady and bless her. She gave me such a great idea. It was so important because she was like, “I hate this. I hate this method. How dare you support people from the other side of the world.” And I was like, “Hey, I didn’t set this up. Don’t hate the player.” Hey. Right?
So for me that stuck with me and I was like, “I wish it was different. I wish there was something like this in Canada.” and then pandemic broke out a couple months later and then my business partner Fiona O’Brien, she messaged a few of us who do e-commerce here in Saskatoon and she said, ‘How can we help businesses? How can we help the people in our community?” And I was like, “Well, there’s this huge undertaking. Like this crater of a multi-billion dollar gap here. Do you want to do something with it?” And, “Yeah.”
So it just like started out kind of simple and then it got bigger and bigger and bigger. And then we went through the cultivator start program, which was absolutely amazing, great group of people, lots of great founders here in Saskatchewan. Like the tech industry is really starting to ramp up here too, which is super cool to be a part of. And then we are currently in WES Founders table’s group, it’s an all-women’s tech founders. There’s about 20 of us, which is unbelievable as well because there’s, I think it’s like 8% or something of the founders are actually women. So pretty unreal in that aspect that we have two female founders for this company.
George Leith: That’s amazing. Congratulations.
Lisa McNab: It’s ever evolving for sure.
George Leith: No, I have a privilege of working with a number of founders through various advisory functions and I admire it as a serial entrepreneur. Also know how hard it is, also know that it’s very challenging and you’ve got to be, your head on a swivel looking around the corner figuring out where the opportunity is. So congratulations on the growth that you’ve had and where you’re going with this. And I really appreciate you educating us on e-commerce and understanding a little bit more maybe who we’re competing with, if you’re a local business person. Or maybe there’s a way that you could capitalize on that as a local business person with your audience. So it’s great and I don’t even want to go look at the credit card to see what I’ve spent on Amazon, and I didn’t even know how the hell it worked. So thank you very… I just knew that Bezos was making a lot of money. That’s what I knew.
Lisa McNab: Yeah. And I have included a free PDF guide for Canbaba and a whole bunch of great little tips of how to get into Amazon, get into Canbaba and really catch this next wave of e-commerce and all the opportunities involved in it.
George Leith: Well, that’s great. I know that our listeners love free gifts and they love further education. So thanks for that, Lisa. And thanks for joining us.
Lisa McNab: Thank you.
George Leith: Well, I have an old saying, I love it when a plan comes together. I was hoping that having Lisa on the episode would give us some lessons on what she’s learnt over that 10 year career of selling online. And I find that it’s interesting she talks in that episode about going to an event and having a local business person basically call her out, “How dare you tell us how people are eating our lunch?” But if you can’t beat them, join them. And I think it might be hard to beat the ecosystem of Amazon. So if there was an opportunity to take unique products and services that you offer in your business and put it out to a worldwide audience, why the hell wouldn’t we want to do that? And I appreciate where Lisa went in that episode right down to the bare bones this is how it works.
And this is why the product descriptions are the way they are. I bought something the other day on there and I went right to the dimensions because it was something that was fitting in an area of my house, had to make sure that it was going to fit. Nothing, that I wouldn’t have done physically in a store but I find sometimes when I go to an e-commerce store of a local business that there is a picture of the product and the price and they forget about some of the very important components that go into that research phase of the buyer’s journey. So I appreciate Lisa validating some of the things that we’ve been learning, that just having the store billboard in the middle of nowhere, there are things that you need to do inside that online store.
And it’s a constant iteration to figure out ways that you can improve the experience so you can convert more deals, but also at the same time, how can you get more eyeballs onto that product or service that you have in your e-commerce motion? And maybe you have a set of products with drop shipping now out of the way, because she basically unpacked drop shipping where you can just let Amazon do it. So solving some of those big challenges of moving to an e-commerce solution and you heard it all here this week, in this episode of the Conquer Local Podcast. So thanks to Lisa McNabb, CEO and co-founder at the Canbaba Network for joining us this week on the Conquer Local Podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.