How to Build Better with Ahmed Seirafi

Posted by Shannon Robnett Posted at November 23, 2022 Posted in Podcast

Are you looking for ways on how to build better especially in the area of real estate investing?

In this episode, Ahmed Seirafi, principal of Andalusia Development Company, talks about how to build better by finding your niche, knowing how to scale and how to develop better and quality projects.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

How to Build Better with Ahmed Seirafi

Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Real Estate Rundown today. I have the pleasure of having a friend of mine, Ahmed Seirafi on the show, and we’re going to talk about how to build better, very different from the Presidential conversations everybody’s having about building back better. Ahmed just wants to do it right the first time, because Ahmed is a builder, just like myself, but I want to be welcome to the show. Good morning, man. How are you?

Hey, good morning, Shannon. Thank you for having me. I’m doing well.

So Ahmed, instead of me butchering your bio, and your background and reading all of this, I know it but for my listeners, would you tell us kind of how you got here and what your list of accomplishments as far as your field of work is?

Sure. That’s the fun part of it, right? So, you know, I’ll kind of jump forward a little bit here. It’s like, you know, when I took seven years to go to college, so technically seven and a half years because I was working in my dad’s gas station, I grew up pumping gas my whole life, right? So the priority was on the family business, which was the gas station. So seven and a half years working 60 hours a week, it took me a long time to get to college. But towards the end of college, I was trying to figure out what am I going to do next? You know, I wanted to go into law school but it wasn’t really something that my family was favorable about, I thought about this and that. And towards the end of school, I was talking to one of my professors, and he said you should definitely get into commercial real estate because you’re a finance major. It’s something that you like you did well in classes. You enjoy these subjects. I’m like, Yeah, that sounds great. I would love to do that I was recruited out of college to work for a company called CB Richard Ellis, now called CBRE was taken into their initial freshman class of new brokers, where they’ve trained us for a couple of years in prison in the field, did fairly well did some good sized transactions figured out my niche was finding opportunities, I wasn’t necessarily the best closer, I was, say the best processor. But I was really good at finding the opportunities looking for those clients and those lands sites at work. So I found my niche and did that for a number of years. After that, I kind of transitioned over and was invited by a friend to come and run an operating his contracting company, he was a public works contractor, meaning he did a lot of work for schools and colleges and universities and I was part of those teams that would build the colleges, the schools and universities manage significant significant portions of that work. And then over the years, I’ve always been working with my father and I shoulder to shoulder. We started with the business 17 years ago, you know, sold the gas station, bought some real estate and  bought more real estate along the way but that was always kind of a part time thing. Now I’ve come full circle, finished the contracting work and have taken that family business and growing it at a more, shall we say significant pace versus just kind of as it was before just small investments here and there along the way, I’m now actively growing it  at a pace that I think is appropriate for a company or a business of that size. So now just mostly focused on real estate development, still doing some acquisitions, depending on the deal, mostly multifamily stuff here and there and they have a lot of property in Phoenix, but now mostly focused on the development side. Because as you know, in this market, or it has been for many years now, if you want to be in the acquisition side, you’re gonna be fighting with a lot of guys. So I decided to go a little bit more in the development direction where there’s a little less competition, and we’re a little bit more in control of our own destiny that way. 

So that leads me to a great point. I mean, because you know, I know exactly what you’re talking about. But for our readers and our listeners, right? What is it about being on the development side that makes it less crowded?

I think a lot of times, it’s a few things. One, it’s the barrier to entry, people think it’s extremely difficult, you need extreme amounts of capital, you need extreme amounts of knowledge and experience were just true. But it’s not rocket science. It’s not something that you need to be an expert at. And you’ve been doing this for 100 years, you just need to follow the steps from A to Z from one to 100. Check off all the boxes and don’t forget to skip anything. You know, development is intensive and you can get through it as long as you follow the steps and you don’t skip anything. But I think a lot of people feel development is also prohibited because of the amount of money it takes to get started in the business as well as the amount of time it takes to start realizing your gains. So most people will say, “hey, if I want to get into real estate investing, I want to place my money. I want to close escrow in 90 days. Isn’t starting, you know, realizing my investment.” But development is more like, “Hey, I wanted to get into development. I want to buy a piece of property. And hopefully, hopefully within 36 to 48 months, I can open the doors if I’m lucky.” So real estate development has some really significant upsides is you know, financially, but it’s also patient money, you have to be patient, you have to go through this process, it’s not going to give you a return in 30, 60 or 90 days, it’s going to give you a return 36-48 months if you’re lucky,

That’s the funny thing, too, Ahmed. I mean, I knew you’d get there because you know, people look at that and they go “Oh, wow, man. Hey, real estate is sexy again, Amed. Did you know that? And you and I’ve been doing real estate since we were kids. So of course, we knew that. I mean, you know, we’ve been involved in this for a long time. And now all of a sudden everybody wants to get back in and everybody’s fighting over the cashflow product that does exactly that. 60 days from now, man, you can be closed, you can have your money spent, you could be the proud owner of a Motel Six gonna make it a motel seven, right? Or you could go into development, and for the next seven months, maybe find a site. 

Yeah.

And there’s a whole different ball game that’s played. And it isn’t that it’s so much more sophisticated, it is the long game. And there is that you don’t just jump into development, it’s not like you decide one day, hey, I met I’m gonna go into development. I mean, it’s something that everybody kind of gradually gets into, probably from a source like a lot of people where they’re going, I can’t find the product I want. So I gotta go create it. But I already have some products. So I have some understanding of the timing that it’s going to take for me to get to where I want to go. But then there’s people that just come up and go, Well, how do you get started? You know, but to a large degree, amen. As you know, and we’ll tell our listeners, a little secret developments actually a little bit easier, because you’re not staring down the barrel of nine other offers, trying to figure out how low you will go, and how stripped out your bank accounts going to be in order for you to get this pride and joy Motel 6 going to be a motel 7, right? And you have the ability to create it yourself. And in that underwriting process, you know, you’re gonna get it mostly right. Whereas you might have inherited somebody else’s Motel Six and a quarter. That’s that, they don’t, they didn’t even leave the light on for you, you know what I mean? And so a lot of people forget that, you know, there’s multiple facets in this game of real estate, but they don’t all play the same. Not the same playbook, for sure. So when you’re filling your pipeline with stuff, and you’re looking at that longer game, how do you go about balancing the long game with the short game with the cash flow? With all of that, you know, dogs need new toys?

Yeah, that’s a great question. And that was one of my biggest questions that I had, probably about a year ago, when I started scaling significantly, really saying, hey, I want to start taking on more than one or two projects at a time. And I started putting four or five, six projects into a pipeline and spreading those out. Because you know, just because you have one project under construction, doesn’t mean the next project is going to fall into your lap, the day you close on getting a certificate of occupancy, you have to place it out. And you got to understand that, hey, one project will take 24 months to get off the ground. And the other one may take 40 minutes, just depending on the political climate of that area. So I need to start filling up that pipeline, and being strategic about it about what I can get to and I can accomplish and take, take take on those projects and being able to do it effectively at the same time creating a team building a team along the way to be able to to make sure that pipeline flows smoothly. And one of my mentors, maybe many of your viewers and listeners know Aaron Wagner, head of Utah, WAGs Capital, big developer, big investor out of Utah and this was exactly the question I asked him, I’m like, Hey, I gotta pull up money. I got properties in the pipeline. I need to know how to direct and how much and what, what percentage of money and allocations and property I’ve put up there, how much do I keep for a rainy day? How much do I put out there for new sites? How much do they keep on the side to fulfill bank requirements to get construction loans? And he told me that sounds pretty simple. He allocates pretty much 80% of his cash into investment development. I have opportunities and it keeps 20% back for a rainy day or if something hits the fan or if the market crashes or something I still have 20% in cash in reserve, but the other 80% is deployed for development and investment practices. So that’s why I see it 20%. In reserves, I’ll keep another 10 or 15% of cash for construction and construction loan responsibilities. And then the remainder of it meets 50 to 60%. Somewhere in that range, all deploy for new development opportunities over, I would say, for the next five years, I like to keep a five year pipeline minimum, because it takes a number of years to get projects up to speed to get started anyways.

And you live in a little bit of a different world where you’re as far as that pipeline. I mean, you know, we have a project that we’ll have in the ground in January, that we put under contract in March, we took it through a conditional use permit, a development agreement, you know, all those kinds of things, which typically take you quite a bit longer. And that’s another thing that that you have, that you’re looking at is the length of your runway, you know, I mean, you’ve got to look at it and make sure that you’re not getting too much in the pipe for three years from now, and nothing in the pipe for a year from now. Or like I do. I mean, you know, as soon as I put something under contract, I find three more deals that are that same timeline, right. But if you don’t have anything, you’re right now, there’s nothing on the horizon. It’s weird like that. But you know, the thing is that you keep talking about scaling. And when you’re talking about scaling, you’re talking about cash flow. I mean, that’s so necessary. How are you blending that? To build that out? I mean, other than just that you’ve got your 80% allocated to that. How are you? Are you involving other people? Are you taking that through all the entitlement process and then involving other people? I mean, how are you scaling your business, outside of your own personal cash?

Well, you know, I’ve been preparing for this for a number of years. So I’ve sold the assets, I have cash out refinance, and I put a good amount of cash to the side, which is allocated for all these upcoming projects that have which, you know, I got about a handful of projects I’m going through right now in various forms of planning, permitting, escrows, acquisitions, stuff like that. And I pretty much figured I am, I have enough cash allocation to probably undertake the majority of those projects, to get those started off the ground. But I know if I want to really scale and scale like you and scale, to a level where I’m really doing a lot of projects and bigger projects and more projects more often. I know I’m gonna have to start bringing in partners. And that’s something I’ve also been investigating how and where what type of partners I’m looking for? Am I looking for a high net worth individual who just wants to be an equity partner, write me a check? Or do I want to go after some syndication money and have multiple investors into a property, and then have to maybe hire some sort of, you know, asset manager or something that would have to deal with those investors at the same time? Because that’s a lot of work, or do I just go after maybe some, some private equity money, and I only have to deal with an asset manager from one or two companies versus multiples. So it’s definitely something that’s on the horizon, especially if I want to grow and I am starting to look for development opportunities out of state and I’m looking in Arizona and Texas because of those two markets, and they seem to know fairly well, or at least I’m starting to get to know pretty well. So if I’m going to do that, and I want to scale, I definitely have to bring in that capital, but right now I’m trying to evaluate what’s my best option? What’s the best route for that outside capital?

And, you know, that’s, that’s always important, because sometimes, you know, too much capital can be almost as problematic as not enough, because now you’re being pushed to scale in an uncomfortable direction. How many times have we seen somebody or a conglomeration or, you know, four letters have some sort of acronym that you know, ABC company that’s coming to town that they’re going to turn the town on its head and they’re in there to buy stuff and and they’re coming in, they’re buying whatever at whatever price and then pretty soon, ABC company is not around anymore because they didn’t scale in a way that that’s sustainable. You know? There’s always stuff like that, but you kind of operate in a niche that is that that you’re trying to drill down into? And and basically, you know, the riches are in the niches We hear that a lot not to be confused with snitches get stitches, but there’s that’s a different podcast that I’m at and I have on the site, but But you know, in your niche, what are you trying to niche down into and where do you where do you see that taking your company?

So it was kind of a decision that was made, you know, a number of years back kind of just looking at the demographics, the economy and where this country’s going. And that niche was twofold. Not an opportunistic developer that will go after everything. No, that’s not what I’m trying to do. Unfortunately, you know, when a good deal falls into your lap that’s outside your niche. Maybe she takes it just because it’s such a good deal. But right now, my niche is twofold, either small, commercial products for sale, meaning I can go like I’m doing right now. I just closed escrow on a couple acres here in Southern California. That’s our rezone for business park, meaning I can go build multi-tenant or concrete tilt up industrial buildings, that is not something I want to keep in the portfolio, that is something that is much better suited for a For Sale product. So I will go and build that and put it up for sale. So small scale commercial projects, or large scale multifamily meaning multifamily products that are most likely 80 to 100 units plus, and most of that product would probably be senior apartments, I’m talking about active senior 55 plus the kind of seniors they still drive, they still see their families, they don’t need any additional services, there’s no additional requirements based off of off of me or my operating team, meaning no food delivery, no assisted living, no medical care whatsoever. It’s just completely independent. 55 Plus active seniors is what I’m looking at. Now, if I find a product, or project that is suited for market rate, yeah, I’ll pursue it. But I’m trying to pursue that market of 55 plus seniors because that demographic is retiring. in large numbers, they have a lot of wealth accumulated. And whether it’s their 401 K or their home, or their savings or investments. And they need to be able to live somewhere because they aren’t empty nesters, they don’t need the large home anymore, the market is good. And there’s a lot of buyers and they can downsize. So might as well give them a productive place to live, they will feel comfortable in that they will feel proud of living there and want to give them that opportunity. That’s why I’m trying to design all my projects that are 55 Plus active senior apartment homes, to have a resort style feel. It’s kind of like when you go to Cabo San Lucas, and you go to one of those resorts, I’m a big fan of Cabo, and you come into the lobby, which would be the clubhouse, and you have a clear sight out to the ocean or out to the pool or out to the grounds behind it. And I want that kind of feeling when people walk into the clubhouse or the leasing office. And they see this big, beautiful open space with, you know, tall ceilings and a lot of natural light. And it looks out onto the pool and the cabanas, and putting green and, and the gym and the fitness center. So I want people to have that kind of experience. Because if you asked me, I’m not in the real estate development business, I’m not a real estate investor. I am somebody that is providing people an experience. And I’m using real estate as the tool. So if I can provide my tenants an experience that they want to be at where they are drawn to, real estate is just the tool, it’s the experience that I’m trying to sell.

You know, and that’s so important too, because you’re doing the same thing with your investment group as you are with your tenants. And when you understand that, it makes the scalability of that product work so much better, because your investors are getting that. And then your tenants are getting that, which means that your occupancy is coming along stronger. And when you’re niching down and you’re getting specialized at that, it’s definitely going to be something that you’re going to continue to perfect, you’re going to continue to get better at, you’re going to continue to make sure that you’re going to be the best in your field, which means your occupancy again is going to go up your investors are again going to get a better return. And you’re going to become even more specialized at that. And I think I think the fact that you realize that the investor for every, I mean, I’ve said it jokingly, I’ve never met a piece of real estate and in love, right? But at the same time, I’m only good at certain things, right? There’s people that are really great at the office, there’s people that are really great at retail, there’s people that are really great at a lot of things. I know what I’m good at. Right? So that’s a really important point. The last thing that I wanted to talk about with you in hit on before we close out the session because it’s really really been full of a lot of information. But you know, when you talk about spending time developing a better project, how do you develop a better project? I mean, projects or projects now they’re all full of problems. You know, yours isn’t any different. How are you building a better project?

That’s kind of the way I’ve been trying to live my life and it’s fairly simple but it’s being intentful about everything you do. So a lot of times we get caught up, because we’re busy, we’re pressured, we’re stressed, we have a lot of things going on. So we’re just doing our best to get through the day or to get things off our desks or things move forward. And that’s not being intentful. That’s just being reactionary. You know, I want to be intentful with everything and do. So that doesn’t only include just my projects, but it includes my team, or my subcontractors, or my consultants, or everyone around me, if I want to put them in a place so they can be intentful, about everything they do when they’re working with me. So one of those big things that we need to look at is the design of a project. Don’t just design it, because it’s functional, you need to design it. So it’s intentful, for what you’re trying to accomplish. You need to live five years, 10 years down the road and say, Hey, this looks good now, but is it going to be good in five or 10 years from now? It might design air conditioning and water and electrical systems that are good for now. But they’re not good for 10 years down the road. I need to design everything that I do with a 10 year plan plus, because I don’t want to go back and say, Hey, looks good on day one. But six months down the road, hey, this doesn’t really work. Because we didn’t really think this out, Hey, this is kind of difficult, because we didn’t think far enough ahead. Or, hey, we didn’t take into account changing demographics and changing markets. And that’s just one small part of building better. It’s about being intentional about your design, being intentional about your team being intentful, who’s working with you, but also at the same time, it’s during the construction process. Hey, are your subcontractors being intentful? And smart? And? And are they really, you know, thinking about what they’re doing? Are they really putting your best interest forward, or are they just trying to rush to get the project. And I bring this example many times. I’m sure you’ve seen it, and it drives me absolutely crazy, is when your electricians rough in a box for a switch or an outlet or something like that. And then the drywall on the pasture guys come by, and they plaster up everything. And there’s big chunks of plaster and all the junction boxes, and you have to chip them out to be able to put in your outlet or put in your switch. And then you got to chip out some more so you can screw on your screws. Because these guys were just rushing through the job. They weren’t being intentional about what they’re doing. You know, they’re wasting material, they’re wasting time and they weren’t really thinking about it. And that’s just one example. Or how many times have you gotten to an attic or opened up a wall and you saw all this trash in this material. And all this stuff that was in there is because they weren’t thinking about their job, they just wanted to rush through it. And that not only applies to the guy’s on the job building, it also applies to the engineers who are designing the job. It applies to the architects who are designing the building, it applies all the way down the line. Are these guys taking the time to think about it? Are you doing it right? Hey, Mr. Engineer, you designed a certain type of structural system for this building? Because it was easy because you are cutting and pasting from another project. But does it really really work? Are you just doing it? Because it was easy? And does it cost me more money? Or does it hinder the project? I don’t want people to think about things like that, when they’re going through the steps of developing properties. And it doesn’t just end with a development, it could be in any aspect of your life, hey, you’re going to the gym, you’re working out. Okay, are you working out better? Or are you just rushing through when you’re set to get done? Or are you actually taking a nanosecond to think about your form? Are you taking a nanosecond to think about the design of this apartment unit? And is it functional for senior citizens? Or is it functional for young people? Are you taking the nanosecond to think about, hey, I need to spend just a tiny bit of time being intentional about it. Because if I do that, it’s going to be huge, a huge advantage for not only the project, but for me and for the team, and it’s going to be a much better project. So all I’m asking is for people to be intentful about what they do, spending that tiny little second of extra thought or care. And you’ll see how much further the project or your life or your investments or your business will girl,

You know, and that’s and that’s so key. And that’s exactly you know, that’s exactly how we do things over here is we have the subcontractors involved in the process, right? I mean, they have ownership, their stakeholders and drawing the plans. And then we’re not getting into that change order process at the end because we’re using the contractor based on I want you to win, I want you to make money. And in order for you to make money. I need your expertise. I need you to bring your A game and when you do that, let’s design. I mean listen, let’s be honest, a man who’s going to design a better plumbing system, the plumbing engineer or the plumber, right? I mean, when you design that, are you going to design a plumbing system that is cost effective, or are you going to design One that’s gonna get covered with sheetrock but has got the best pipe in the walls that you could possibly get right. And so when you bring those stakeholders in, and you have them be participants in that, it’s amazing what happens when the job goes south, and there’s something on it that didn’t work. And they’re always willing, right? There’s always something. But when the plumbing contractor had a hand in the design, and the electric electrician had a hand in the design, they’re not sitting there going, well, you’re stupid, you’re stupid, they’re sitting there going, Hey, let’s solve it. Because we drew it, we were part of it. And it creates a whole different thing, because now they’re partnered nerves with us in how that whole thing got built. Right. And I love how you’re saying that, because although we’ve talked about how we do business together, or we’ve talked together about how we do business, we have similar pathways to get it done for those same reasons. And that’s what I think is so impressive about what you’re doing with your company, if you’re really, you are being intentional, you are looking at it going, I want to build something that 10 years down the road, it’s still doing that improvement process on itself and the community. And I really think that that’s important, because a lot of people are just developing property for money. I mean, and there’s, I mean, there’s a, there’s a there’s a reason why we do what we’re doing and it is for money, right? Let’s not be completely idiotic about it. But being intentional about what we do beyond that, I think is so so important. And, you know, that’s the one thing that I’ve always been impressed with you about, and every time we’ve had a conversation, I’ve come away with that. Yeah, he’s a thinker, because you’re always thinking about not just today, but how to build something that is better, that lasts longer, that’s more relevant for a longer period of time. It’s not something that we’re just throwing away in a couple of years because it’s, like a Gameboy. It’s irrelevant. Now, you know?

You wouldn’t be known as hey, this is Shannon Robnett. This is a Shannon Robnett building. And every time I see a Shannon Robnett building, it’s impressive. It’s done. Right, I will always be known as a guy that has taken the time to build an impressive product with you. I want everyone to drive by like, wow, look at every one of Shannon’s projects is amazing. He doesn’t cut corners, he doesn’t get cheap, he’s intentional about what he does. And you will always forever be known as an amazing developer.

And, you know, I mean, when you have that mindset, you have that mentality. As you know, it’s not about being cheap or being expensive. It’s about providing value, right, it’s about exchanging your dollars in the highest capacity to get a return for your tenants and your investors. Right?

I’ve made mistakes before like that, I’ll give you one of them here where I will never do it again. So I was remodeling the house one time, restricted to the studs. And I was buying fixtures for the house and I went and I bought a bunch of these Chinese water fixtures, you know faucets and stuff like that beautiful, well made high quality steel. And, you know, saved hundreds of dollars on the fixtures because you know, they’re half price. These are greater than half price. But a couple of them after a few months sprung a leak. So when it’s time to go and change that washer, change that fitting to fix it. You can’t buy them here in the United States. They are a completely different type of fixture in a fitting and huge tent. Yeah, so I had to remove the friction put a little fixture, it’s the same thing with air engineer, you want to buy an air conditioning unit that you know, the parts and material will be on the shelf for repairs and maintenance for the next 10 or 20 years because that design is is is tested out and it’s a staple to the economy. Meaning you will always have the opportunity to fix something because it’s long term, it’s well known, it’s a good brand. And even if it costs a little bit more, it’s going to save you in the future.

You know, and we can apply that same thing to our subcontractors, too. I mean, I learned that lesson on framers, you know, I got a framer that was going to do it for a lot less by the time I got done with with interest that I paid the bank and delays in the game and all the idiotic stuff they did, I would have been better off to hire the best framer in the valley and have him do it and not have to mess with us. So really, really valuable lessons. And you would think I’m as good as we are at our job. We would have already learned all those lessons. But I am adapting this new phrase if I had $1 for every time I await I do because it’s not the it’s not the successes that have taught me as much as the failures and the things like the faucet and things like the framer that have taught me the lessons on what not to do again that have actually allowed me to become profitable. Right.

Sure. 100%

I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us today. It truly is a pleasure to have you on the Real Estate Rundown. I really appreciate you stopping by.

Thank you, Shannon, I was looking forward to this a long time because the conversations you and I have are always exciting. And they get me thinking as well and wanting to do more and then just, you know, level up to get to your level and, and do things not only across the country but around the world like you’re doing right now.

Appreciate that, Ahmed. So guys, thanks for tuning into real estate rundown. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe to the real estate rundown on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcast to get an automatic update. Also, if you’ll stop by and leave us a review on Instagram or YouTube, we’d love to hear from you. I actually answer all the feedback myself. So guys, thank you for tuning in. And if you liked Ahmed, what he had to share today, go ahead and give him a follow as well as you can find him on all the places Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. His website is ADCprop.com. Thanks again, Ahmed for joining us. We’ll talk to you guys soon. Thank you!

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About Ahmed Seirafi:

Ahmed Seirafi, principal of Andalusia Development Company, oversees all aspects of the acquisition, disposition, and development processes for Andalusia Development Company. He has led all facets of the business, spanning more than $100,000,000 in commercial assets, primarily in multifamily and retail. A second-generation real estate investor / developer, Ahmed successfully launched the repositioning and has spearheaded substantial growth with acquisitions of value-add multifamily properties and development opportunities since 2015.

Ahmed has led Andalusia Development Company in the execution of several development opportunities in its first few years of existence and has been instrumental in growing the development pipeline by 300%. With his expertise and experience, he has consolidated and focused the firm’s strategy to the acquisition of value-add and development opportunities, where value can be created through new construction, extensive renovations, hands-on management, and improvement of operating efficiencies.

Prior to founding Andalusia Development, Ahmed amassed his comprehensive and expansive level of expertise while serving as senior associate at CB Richard Ellis, as well as leading several projects as vice president of operations at a large commercial contracting company specializing in civic development endeavors.

As an esteemed graduate from California State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Finance and Real Estate, Ahmed has leveraged his amassed skills, experience and education to enhance and expand real estate projects across an array of specialties, most specifically, in the commercial real estate sector.

Learn More about Ahmed here: https://beacons.ai/ahmedbuildsbetter

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