My Pivot to a Purpose-driven Business and Personal Life
This is from a recent interview as a guest on Faith Marketplace Radio (WYLL 1160 AM) who has done over 300 interviews with World Class Christian Marketplace and Ministry leaders who share inspiring faith stories, how faith has been powerful in their marketplace leadership and sharing tips/suggestions with their listeners. Below are the questions and answer I prepared to be on the show and the full transcript is at the end of this post.
In late 1997, I got married, quit my Fortune 500 job of 7 years, and started a company…all in the same month. My wife is either a saint or someone that sees things in the long-term vision, like our marriage. Thankfully for me, it is both.
I was fascinated by the Internet while working in the printing industry. I started a company building websites, but more so, teaching businesses about the future direction of their company’s growth. In the late 1990s, the pitch to businesses was, “Have you heard of this thing called the Internet? It is going to be big, and you need to have a website.”
In 2008, it felt like a deja vu moment in that I was reliving the obscurity of presenting a new digital revolution to businesses, but this time it was social media.
Instead of going about this educational process as a one-to-one presentation, I reached out to four experts in their fields: sales, presentation skills, finance, and digital strategy. We created a seminar and webinar company (World Webinar Network) to educate businesses on what was to become the next big thing that every business must embrace. Our success overwhelmed us in that the demand was more that we could handle as a side-gig, and we decided to stop so that we could focus on growing our own businesses.
The third evolution of this 12-year cycle continues to the present day, where the need to be a content creator and publisher of videos, podcasts, and articles is required for your business and personal brand.
Life has patterns, and as Earl Nightingale so eloquently shared, we all have our own acres of diamonds.
The timing is now to seize the opportunity (our own acres of diamonds) and have a positive impact in our communities and potentially all over the world.
Why I’m Passionate About My Work
When I launched my first company, Ad Foresight, I was more compelled to be an entrepreneur than a purpose-driven mission. I quickly found that this type of business model of “taking whatever comes in” is not sustainable and scalable.
Being ahead of our time is a recurring theme with me and my businesses. With my first business, we developed a site mapping technology which created a visual image-based representation of websites (The Original Aerial Site Map). This was way before its time. With this technology, we had our business sold for over 7 figures, and then the Dot Bomb crash happened and nullified the agreements we had executed.
As a result of this, we had to buckle down for the next three years to regain the lost business (over 60% represented by venture capitalists agreements).
We spent the next three years building up the business. After 7 years of working with my partner, we agreed that it was time to sell the business. We were fortunate to find a buyer, and I ended up working for this new entity for three years. It was through this three-year period that inspired the business model for MINT Social.
It was about 2005 when Business Week magazine came out with a headline, front-page news, that said that if you did not have a blog in the next three years, your company could be out of business. Anticipating this significant impact on the digital marketing world, we built a blog platform and a contributor network of stay-at-home moms and college students that could log in to our website, get a writing assignment, and get paid. We were ahead of our time in 2005.
What was most interesting is The Epiphany I had that this business model was wrong. As I’m looking at the statistics, I quickly realized that blogs were not the source of traffic but a means of syndicating content to people hanging out online. After all, this was first-generation user experience data, and it was saying that we need to bring the content to where people are online and not a hassle for them to go to a new website to read the content.
Coincidentally, Business Week revisited their 2005 issue in 2008 and updated their must-have digital strategy for businesses to include social media. Insert MINT Social.
After realizing that social media, content marketing, and syndication was a future-proof business model, I launched MINT Social as a means of building an associated press for businesses where we could generate content and syndicate this content to where people hang out online. It was 12 years later that this model could be significant and powerful for the business.
As it happens so often from experiencing health challenges, one can grow in their faith. I am fortunate to have gone through a significant health challenge. This was God’s way of getting through to me, and again I was fortunate to see the opportunity presented to me. As a result, MINT Social is a digital marketing company with three purposeful niche markets:
- Faith-based Businesses
- Health-related Businesses
- Purpose-driven Businesses
As a Christian, the old ways that I grew up with for getting people engaged in religion felt unnatural (brute force, guilt, and shame) and were not inspiring to me spiritually but did have lasting effects on my passion for seeking God in other ways. I find it most interesting that these changes have taken shape with churches to grow their following and inspire the next generation of Christian leaders. These old-school ways have long faded away, not to make you feel like this poor puppy below.
I find getting to common ground is the starting point while suppressing any thoughts of judgment. Saul, who became Paul, was technically a Christian serial killer and made one of the biggest, if not the biggest transformation. The people who have it all together are as much in need as those suffering from their issues. I can relate to this as I am committed to being a light to those in need and dark places.
How do you currently incorporate your FAITH and WORK?
I say this prayer as often, especially when I get up in the morning to start my day:
“Be at peace with God,
Be a Light with Christ,
Guided by the Holy Spirit.
Your will, your way, all day, Yahweh!”
No matter where your business and personal life lead you, if you can follow these simple words and be a light of hope to everyone you encounter, others may see something unique that makes them want to lean in. We are so focused on being right and proving/defending our thoughts and opinions that this should be secondary to being a good listener and peacemaker.
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!” (It is infectious!!)
A favorite Bible Verse or Song
I am a bit influenced by technology, and I use the Bible app (YouVersion) and like to see what God has in store for me each day. I love songs, and I can get teary-eyed when I hear “Who You Say I Am.”
Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost, but He brought me in.
Oh, His love for me
Oh, His love for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh, is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes, I am (see full lyrics)
I love this song and many others, especially songs from The Blind Boys of Alabama. It is all about you being open to the presence of God and experiencing the Glory that He has for our lives. Equally important is to filter the information we consume daily. If you are not sure what you should filter out, listen to the song below, Stay on The Gospel Side.
WORDS OF WISDOM would you have given your YOUNGER SELF
Stop pushing and make space for God. You will find that God will fill this void with the things you need and not necessarily what you want. I spent my first 50 years pushing my will, and I can look back and see this was not a sustainable strategy.
God has a plan, God is in control, and we need to realize that God’s time is not our time. Have patience for God’s plan, and do all that you can to hear what God has in store for you. God is with us at every moment, but we are not always in tune to hear his words and what his plan is for our life.
I work on being present to experience God in everything I see and do. A worthy challenge to take on every day.
Transcript from Interview on Faith Marketplace with Matthew O’Brien of MINT Social and Co-hosts Bob Lambert of Samurai Business Group & Jennifer Villarreal Reyes of Sales from the Heart, Inc.
Faith Marketplace Intro
Jesus said, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Every good Endeavor is a gift from God here on Faith Marketplace radio; you’ll be inspired, equipped, and encouraged in your work as you hear Business Leaders share how their faith impacts their work, joining us every Saturday at noon on AM 1160. Hope for your life for Faith Marketplace radio; here are your host Bob Lambert and Jennifer Villareal.
Faith Marketplace wants to inspire you to live out your faith in the work you do through your business’s daily interactions. Samurai Business Group and Bob Lambert offer business owners, sales professionals, and sales management with business development training. Bob specializes in serving the financial services area, technology, manufacturing, and educational field. Jennifer Reyes, the founder of SalesfromTheHeart.com, serving entrepreneurs, coaches, and small business owners nationwide through customized business coaching, one-on-one, or in a group. Jennifer helps you gain more clarity and direction in your business to have more consistency and clients.
00:01:00 – Entrepreneurs coaches and small business owners get customized business coaching one-to-one or in a group. Bob helps you gain more clarity and direction in your business to have more consistency with new business growth.
Today, we have the privilege of introducing somebody Bob’s been working with for about two years now, Matthew O’Brien. He’s the owner of MINT Social (LinkedIn profile)
Matthew, how are you doing, bud?
00:01:38 – I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for having me on the show, quite a privilege.
Hey, listen, we want to let folks know a little background or a little history and share with us what your story is. So, how do you get this crazy business, and how long’s it been?
Well, I started my days of working very early and coming out of college, I was a sales guy living in Chicago, and I developed a process of closing one out of every three cold calls. I called on Treasurers and CFO, and I got the idea for my sales presentation while working at a Fortune 500 company from a convicted criminal called Frank Abagnale. He successfully created forged checks, and my company happened to be working with him as a keynote speaker.
So I leveraged something obvious and at-risk. As a result, I was very successful and got the corporate executives’ attention that promoted me to corporate life in Dayton, OH. I then was promoted again based on my success with my marketing of a quick-print division of the company and got promoted again to Arizona and became a sales manager.
After 7 years of corporate life, I jumped onto the entrepreneurial train. I got married, quit my job, and started a new business all in the same month. My poor wife had no idea what she was getting herself into. That was in 1997, and since then, I’ve been in the web and digital marketing space.
I had the web development company for about seven years (with a partner) and built that up, but I didn’t love the business model of finding new customers every month. So we developed a blog platform technology and had over 4,000 blogs. We had a content marketing and content writer network where we tapped into universities and stay-at-home moms to be writers, which was fantastic. People could log into our system to find writing assignments and be part of a community of online writers.
We were very early; this isn’t about 2005 and that it was around this time that my partner and I sold my company. I was working for the people I sold my business to, and I just didn’t love the company’s direction.
I had this Epiphany that this business model is wrong. I realized that blogs were not about getting people to your website, and it was about syndication and getting content to where people are online.
So you are really, really good after this whole digital marketing. Amazingly, you go all the way back to 1997.
00:04:26 This is where MINT Social originated, creating content marketing and social media syndication engines for businesses. It is like having your own Associated Press model, and this is more relevant today than when we started 12 years ago, and we have a lot of fun doing it.
Can you tell us a bit more about why you’re passionate about the work that you do?
00:05:28 That’s a great question. There’s satisfaction with helping people. I think that’s part of why we’re all in business. We want to make life better, and along the process, we help businesses to advance. There’s a lot of satisfaction with our space with being content publishers and marketers. There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping to establish brands online, both personally and as well as for the business.
I personally love publishing content. There’s something about it that just makes me feel good, and it’s that sense of worth and pride of your work that my father instilled in me at a very early age. So it’s a complex space where you’re constantly learning new stuff. It’s very technically challenging, and I’m not sure I would have jumped in if I’d known what it is today, but that’s part of the challenge, and it doesn’t let you get lazy.
Can you tell us more about how your business morphed into being more faith-based?
00:06:42 – You know, with every story in the Bible, there’s always a great tragedy that comes along with a big success or an ongoing challenge that becomes less challenging.
It was about four and a half years ago when my father passed away, and I had that big question of what am I doing? Why and I doing this, and what significance and impact am I having in the world? Just running a business no longer seemed as meaningful. So along the way, that wasn’t enough, and my health started deteriorating. This really started helping me to understand where I needed to be. I had turned 50 in between this four-year stint, and the epiphany was to stop trying to push the boulder uphill and give God some space, and he will fill it with His glory and what his plan is.
The more I learned to step back and give space and stop pushing, then I realized that all the pieces were there, and I just wasn’t seeing them clearly, and it’s been processed.
Last year I really got serious business about working with either purpose-driven or nonprofits focused or related to health challenges. Working with these types of businesses has felt different and have a different type of mission.
My other focus is on local businesses telling their story as a part of their community and their impact.
I think you really hit that on if you have had a health challenge and are paying attention to the message it represents. This is so important for your business and how challenges along the way, like yours with your father’s death, played what you did next.
More on Challenges
00:09:14 I play hockey, and I passed out a couple of times on the ice, and I thought that was odd, and it got me to realize there is something else, but I kept going. A couple of years ago, I went blind on the ice twice and found out that I had a heart issue. I sought high and low to find a solution and kept pushing to do it independently even though God put the right people in front of me, and I just didn’t see it.
The challenges are for you to really see those patterns that God so eloquently puts out, and sometimes he has humor, and sometimes he has numerological evidence that you just can’t see. The challenge is just to see every day to see what that message that God is telling you because it’s just sometimes tough to see when our health is suffering. We don’t see things clearly. We aren’t listening attentively, and it’s not because we do not try, and it’s just that many distractions get in the way.
You hit on that keyword “distractions” or us trying to do it independently and not really wanting to accept where we’re being led. At least that’s that was for me.
I want to be able to dive into somebody’s challenges; you know, it’s part of the business and faith. I think you shared with me that there’s a couple of things with social media that have been done to us.
00:11:14 You’re going to receive a social local and mobile assessment for online businesses. O’Brien social, stay tuned, and also check out our website FaithMarketplace.com.
Challenges with Your Business
00:13:00 – Well, you know, social media really either got our attention or lost our attention to the important things. One of the things that we laugh about at MINT Social is we feel social media has contributed to being a little bit dumb, lazy, and arrogant.
You look at the term selfie, and that didn’t even exist before.
Social Media Has Made Us Dumb, Lazy, and Arrogant
When we first came up with this concept of becoming dumb, lazy, and arrogant, we felt it would sound demeaning to people. Still, we decided that we would take an approach to challenge ourselves to be a bit more dumb, arrogant, and lazy.
It’s really more of shock value to create a headline to get people’s attention, but in reality.
- We’re dumb like Colombo. We know for us to figure out the need of a business, we need to ask a lot of questions, and I think that’s part of what social media doesn’t do is ask enough questions to get an opinion of both sides of a topic, which we have a problem with.
- We’re lazy to find all the information to the answer we want to find without looking too far. We are also lazy in loading data online because we don’t have the patience to wait for a slowly loading web page. It has made us want everything immediately.
- Arrogant (a play off of being dumb) in that we are confident that we can solve most if not all the challenges business faces in the digital world, but we also need to be humble.
So that’s kind of my shocking headline of the challenges we face and how we can take a challenge and address it.
Is it a Challenge to be a Christian in this environment?
00:14:52 – It is, you know, the old way of beating people over the head with the Bible and making them feel ashamed or using Brute Force is kind of past by the wayside. It’s not the way to go about it, and we found that you have to think more like Saul, who became Paul. He was technically the number one Christian serial killer. He made the biggest transformation ever, and as Christians, we need to think in terms of being more relevant and more transforming with our message. We have to be more respectful and take a more tactical approach to help convert or peak people interested because they have probably been turned off by the Christian mindset of the past years.
00:15:52 – You and I got together because I was having this issue with understanding what really would social me you were about and how to leverage it to do all that. I have to tell our audience since working with Matthew has been phenomenal. I mean, the kind of exposure he’s got me, the directions given me the expertise that they have just been terrific. I can’t say enough about it because it was something sorely lacking for me. I just wasn’t up to speed on all the stuff, and it’s constantly changing. So well anyway with me, thank you, Matthew.
How do you incorporate your faith in work?
00:16:35 – I think it starts with being centered with yourself. Starting the day and getting right with God. As far as my business leading my personal life or my personal life, leaving my business. I try to be at peace with God.
There are three things I do every day:
- Be at peace with God.
- Be light with Christ.
- Listen to and be guided by the Holy Spirit.
No matter where I’m at, if I just take time to stop and breathe and see what God’s plan is, I make better decisions at work. I think we are multitasking too much in what we’re doing, and we’re just not tuning into the higher power of the knowledge that sits right in front of us every day. And that’s what I try to bring to work every day.
What’s the Direction Change for Your Business? What are some of the Bible verses that inspire you?
00:17:59 – My favorite Bible verse is the one that comes over my YouVersion app every day. I really feel like God speaks to me each day. This is who I am.
I love the song, I’m a child of God, and you know, it’s essentially the mindset that I look for. I’m not as good at memorizing Bible verses. I really feel like having an app and having a reminder is what I need to keep me focused on it, and whatever comes the way, I can handle it.
What Words of Wisdom Would You Give to Your Younger Self
00:19:58 – My first 50 years, I just was pushing my plan and my agenda. I’ve been a Christian and have been going to church my whole life. I think we get into that place where you know; we’re not necessarily the prodigal son that completely abandons everything and then comes back. I think many people just go with the flow and never have this disruptive change in their lives.
Once I stopped trying to make it my agenda and realizing that I’m not in control, God is in control, and there’s a much better plan with his direction than mine. That’s when things really started to change for me, and it definitely was with my business. I was able to open up and get that space. I realized that there is a different type of business that I wanted to work with.
There’s nothing like having a team of faith-based Kingdom Builders that are all working together and have your back that says something that’s really unique and feels very comfortable and also very challenging at the same time, and that’s a good thing.
Digital Marketing Must-Knows for 2020 for Every Online Business
00:21:39 – For 2020, there’s a lot of shiny object syndrome with tools, gadgets, and everyone’s trying to sell something to help grow your business.
I stepped back and said there are three things that every online business should focus on:
- Local Strategy – GeoSEO – I don’t care if you’re National Business; you need to be thinking locally. Are you part of your community, or are you impacting the lives of those where your business is? This is also a great foundation for any online business, and that we have a report that assesses your local SEO prowess.
- Social Media Strategy – We have an assessment tool that generates an online reputation and reviews report and your social media channels. It gives a score and maps what you’re missing.
- Mobile Website Strategy – Believe it or not, Two seconds is the load time we want on websites, especially mobile. Most websites take 10 seconds or more to load. You can imagine how much business is being lost with a slow website. We have a report that assesses how much new business you can gain from a faster mobile website.
Social, local, and mobile are three different digital strategy assessment report that you can pick one, or you can do all of them, and we will come back with a professional assessment of what you’re missing and how to scale and grow your business online.
Who inspired you over the years and for getting you into this?
00:24:32 – I had the opportunity of being in Bible study with the gentleman who’s the general editor of the English Standard Version of the Bible, Wayne Grudem. You feel the peace and presence of God whenever you talk to him, and you know, he was one of the reasons I really wanted to get into the Christian-based business principles of working with companies. My father and mother have been a driving force in my life, and I have another neighbor who is always full of this Godly goodness, and you can feel that energy and represents who I want to be associated with.
What do you do, Matthew, to encourage the people that you work with?
00:25:33 – It really comes down to customer user experience and that this is a moving target. The Challenge is always to be the best version of you and show that to customers, and that’s so what I do my best to instill with my team. The customer may not always be right, but we need to treat them with as much respect as possible, and in a space like ours, that can be challenging and very technical, and it’s easy for people to have short tempers and get frustrated. We have to take the high road and be a guide no matter what emotional energy is coming at us.
More on Social, Local and Mobile Online Marketing Strategies
I’m going to start with some local which we call that you and Geo may not realize this but that when you go and do a Google search and you’re looking at the results, the real estate for organically being ranked in the front page of Google is getting smaller and smaller. People don’t realize that Google My Business, a free tool, is one-third of the search results. Google is essentially creating their own version of your website, and that’s an important space for a business to focus on in 2020, especially if you’re local.
You have the ability to take control of the right side and left side in Google search results if you know how to put the right content out, and Google My Business (GMB) has a whole publishing component for posts, videos, and photos.
00:27:43 – It’s the best advertising for your business that you don’t have to pay for, and if you want to show up for keywords, you do the simple thing of getting reviews from your customers.
So basically, what we hear you say, Matthew, is if you have a local business, you’re going to want to check out Google My Business (Arizona Commerce Authority presentation on GMB). You can enter some information about your company, some images, you know, you’re definitely going to want to get those reviews from clients, and it’s going to help you get found faster online. Is that correct?
That is correct. And we have a free tool that’s that local tool that will assess that and give you a guide as far as I know what you’re missing and what you should be focusing on.
So what about people who have more online business or are service-based? What can I do with Social, Local, and Mobile Strategy?
00:28:52 – I’ve been experimenting with YouTube, and YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. So if you have videos, most people have not figured out that they can create a playlist and then populate that playlist on the homepage of your YouTube channel. So the experiment that I just ran was it I took a bunch of old content on content marketing and content syndication. I created a brand new playlist, and I put it on the front page of my YouTube homepage Channel, and within four days, I was ranked for the title of the playlist called Content Marketing and Syndication. So and I wasn’t trying to do it. I was just trying to make a better user experience for people to come to my YouTube channel’s homepage.
What about mobile?
00:30:11 With mobile, there’s a great tool that we used from Google that just checks your mobile website’s speed. This shows that every website is going to be loading and either two seconds to 19 seconds. Google is starting to penalize websites that don’t load fast. In fact, they came out with a new Google Badge of Shame. They might hop a warning that says this site is inherently slow.
So what blows down is it like those Flash images of people used to use on their sites or videos on the side or that they’re hosting what’s slowing it down?
About one-third of all websites are using WordPress, and with WordPress, can you put a ton of plugins in there. Plugins will slow down your site. Sometimes a site is old and picks up junk that causes pages to load slow. It’s like cleaning your house. You sometimes need to get rid of outdated stuff, and you will feel better and lighter online.
How Often Should You Update Your Website?
00:31:32 – Well, if you want to be found in Google, you should be doing something at least once a month and have activity on your social channels. Many people just don’t update their sites at all, and they’re going to be susceptible to things that happened to sites that you can’t always control without maintenance.
That was one of the things I know that MINT Social has been very good at. You would have taken a whole big burden off of me trying to stay ahead of all this stuff when I engaged MINT Social. I had a tremendous amount of confidence but, more importantly, from speaking with you guys regularly. You keep me current on the type of things that you’re doing but, more importantly, how we improve the performance and are taking a heck of a Burden off of me.
Even though I’m not intimately involved in the stuff, MINT Social helps make it understandable, which I really appreciate. Matthew is thinking about my business and how to grow it online. So it’s really I can’t say enough about how you were great in helping; you know an old dog with some new tricks here.
Start with a Fancy Website First?
00:33:42 We like to experiment, and often businesses are afraid to fail, but that’s what social media is great about. You can experiment with headlines on social media channels and see which one gets people’s attention and which ones don’t.
For building a website, we build what we think is important. The real test is what the customers do. You want to test your messaging before investing in a big website that may not get the attention you’re looking for.
Are you Faithfully tending to your responsibilities?
00:36:25 – We were fortunate to receive an award for our social networking and online media presence. In the end, it was our strategy here locally, in the Phoenix Marketplace, that helped us win. It was one of those things that it really was a result of our years in the past. I don’t think I’ve ever really called on my social network to do something that I felt really passionate about. I was in shock of the feedback and the response when asking genuinely and not actually overwhelming my social community for help. We won by a landslide due to this, and it really felt great to see and to believe that your social media can actually work social proof.
Anything that you want to share about MINT Social or anything that we talked about today?
I am very thankful to be a part of this show and what you guys are doing is really powerful. I look forward to helping to promote Faith Marketplace and to help to get the word out. Everybody is listening, and you have the responsibility to get the word out to grow the message and find and grow more faith-based.
Yes, I love that. Thank you, Matthew, and we want to do that.
We want to feature you and your stories and hear more from you. So, please visit our website FaithMarketplace.com and remember to connect with us on social media. Our number is 224-404-1988, including the word MINT Social and we’ll get to that assessment for your online business as well as message us because Bob and I’d love to hear from you. So make sure that you do that and we’ll be back next Saturday Noon to 1 Central.
Thanks for joining us for Faith Marketplace radio here to inspire, equip and encourage Chicagoland’s Christian business community. Faith Marketplaces is on every Saturday at noon right here on am 1160. Hope for your life. Listen/Download our past shows anytime online at Faithmarketplace.com.
About Faith Marketplace
From the start, Faith Marketplace was God’s calling.
Mission: Inspire | Equip | Encourage Christians in the Marketplace.
Vision: Through our talk radio program, Internet, and social media platform, God’s calling is to bring salt and light to those in the marketplace all over the world. We hope our mission and vision are pleasing to God and fulfill the great commission’s scripture by helping marketplace leaders demonstrate their faith through their walk and ministry at work.
- Inspire – by hearing Christian business leaders share their faith story, how coming to know Jesus has shaped their leadership.
- Equip – by learning how they’re living out their faith in the marketplace by leading where they are at, how they treat employees, customers, vendors, and colleagues by walking their faith.
- Encourage – by asking leaders to share tips, suggestions, and guidance on how others can lead by their walk.
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With over 20 years of experience in the digital media world, Matthew has worked for and with Fortune 500 businesses and has built companies from the start-up stage to exit strategy. He recently helped develop a data insight engine to bridge the gap between search, social, and mobile marketing to maximize the visibility, relevancy, and predictive success of online businesses. Matthew is the founder of MINT Social, an award-winning digital marketing company that accelerates online marketing results to help businesses get found and thrive online. Matthew has developed an educational curriculum for Universities on social media for businesses, is a founding board member of the Arizona Innovation Marketing Association (AZIMA), a board member of HeroZona Foundation and on the advisory board (Vinnies) for St. Vincent de Paul - Phoenix. Matthew is a mentor with ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, a speaker on social media and digital marketing, and is a subject matter expert with many online portals.