Peter King is on vacation until July 20, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Kim Pegula, president and co-owner (with husband Terry Pegula) of the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres.
The challenges of COVID-19 are fundamentally antithetical to the very nature of a football team. Football is a complex sport but at its core it’s very simple: There’s a routine, a camaraderie and above all a bond with teammates, coaches and your fan base. Those things are built by physically being together. When I talk to retired players, it’s that discipline that they miss, the collectivity of being in a locker room.
Last season ended with the same disappointment one always feels with the realization your season is done. We made the playoffs, great, but we lost in the wild-card round. So like many clubs, work begins again; improving on the previous season, thankful you’re not doing a coaching search, filling roster needs and digging into the upcoming draft class. Our quarterback Josh Allen was heading into his third season, so of course his continued development was a key priority. Now, it’s the beginning of July and our priorities haven’t shifted, because it’s always about the team. But amid the coronavirus pandemic this spring, our staff went remote, free agency came and went, our draft was virtual and our coaches tried to figure out how to bring together a new group of guys that in many ways hasn’t yet been able to connect.
We’re also part of a nationwide conversation on racial inequality and social injustice made acutely necessary by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota. People are angry, frustrated and both the city of Buffalo and the Bills are right there with them. My role as owner and president means that I must push for change at the league level while also making sure our own house is in order.
The pandemic hit all sports, and the industry is facing uncertain futures and timelines that have prompted some really tough decisions. I’m not guaranteeing we will be one of them, but I think the teams that are going to thrive this season are the ones that can use these challenges to become stronger.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned thus far through an extraordinary spring, and how I plan to make sure our organizations are positioned to come out better on the other side.
1. Just being in the game isn’t enough
As an Asian-American female owner in the NFL, I’ve always been very aware that I am a minority. I’ve also always thought of myself as a champion of diversity of some sort. In the NFL, I am a member of the Workplace Diversity Committee. In the NHL, I co-chair the Diversity and Inclusion Senior Leadership Council with commissioner Gary Bettman. I went to the meetings, I listened, I supported the initiatives. Since recent events, however, the word that resonated with me over the last month is “deliberate.” Was promoting diversity and fighting racism a deliberate priority for me as a leader of the organization? I’d have to say no, and I’d have to acknowledge that I failed there. Day-to-day demands—meetings, budgets, agendas—got in the way, and so it’s been a learning experience for me as a minority woman to realize I have so much further to go.
One of the most eye-opening areas has been in hiring and recruiting. I’ve long prioritized finding the best person for the job, regardless of background. Maybe I’d even fallen into the idea that I “don’t see color,” thinking that I was humanizing people by treating everyone equally. But I’ve realized that rather than humanizing, that approach minimizes them, flattens them, and fails to acknowledge that we are all from different backgrounds and as such face different challenges, with race being one of the biggest determining factors of those challenges. Our organization encouraged diversity. We’ve had female coaches and scouts and minority coaches. We just didn’t have a policy yet, but hey, we are trying. But I forgot trying is like coming in second. Good try, but you failed.
It’s a common sentiment I’ve heard: Well, of course I want to support diversity. Of course I’m not racist. But honestly how deliberate have you been in your actions to promote and live by those principles? That’s what a lot of people are seeking from leadership: how deliberate are you going to be to make change happen?
Last week, by videoconference, I participated in the Quarterback Coaching Summit hosted by the NFL and the Black College Football Hall of Fame and led a breakout session on interviewing for a head coach position with ownership. Our defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, and Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton presented to me as if they were applying for a head coaching job.
Everyone—college coaches, former NFL coaches, current position coaches in the league—watched on their screens as Frazier and Hamilton presented their football philosophy and their staffing plan and then had to answer my questions. How do you lead? What traits are your looking for in your staff? Give me an example of a difficult situation that tested your resolve? Why defense when offense has been more successful in recent years? The attendees were able to ask questions but most importantly sit back and watch the process. For so many, a head coaching job is the ultimate dream, and it’s incredibly nerve wracking to present to ownership and pursue that top spot. Demystifying that process, showing the kind of questions that ownership is likely to ask and helping make an increasingly diverse pipeline of candidates at ease with the experience, was a deliberate objective for me.
So why did these minority coaches get a conference just for them? Wouldn’t all coaches benefit? While the Rooney Rule has helped increase the number of minority head coaches in the NFL, it hasn’t been enough, and this year, only four of 32 head coaches are minorities. Identifying the issues of workplace diversity and providing opportunity to under-represented minorities is something we all should focus on.
2. Change starts at home
We heard from a lot of our Black players and employees that one of the most important things to do in the short term was to start having the conversation and acknowledge racism exists. In May, we held a town hall open to every employee across our organization called “Listen, Learn, Love.” The town hall featured Coach Frazier, recently retired linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, defensive end Jerry Hughes, director of player development Marlon Kerner and a pastor in our community. While the participants were all Black, they represented a diverse group. I was involved in planning the town hall and I kicked off the meeting to emphasize that this was a priority for ownership and that Terry and I are all in. I felt it was important that we spent the time for our own family, people we knew we could affect, and who were deserving of our time and effort on this topic.
The guys discussed who they were, where they came from and gave examples of racism they had experienced throughout their lives. Sometimes we see players, coaches and co-workers for what they can do. Win games, make plays, get a job done. We forget their human side. For many of our staff, including myself, this was the first time we had the opportunity to see them as simply people, as Black men from different backgrounds with diverse experiences, all of whom were very concerned with current racial injustices in our country.
We listened to stories of being singled out because of skin color and being wrongfully accused. I never had to have “the talk” with my kids, the talk in which you warn your kids about what you need to do if you get pulled over by the police because you’re a target. We learned why Black lives matter, why “all lives matter” isn’t enough. All of this just made us love them more and all it took was for us to be deliberate and take the time to listen.
I had staff asking tough questions about what the organization was doing. Why isn’t the organization commenting, why aren’t we posting videos on social media condemning racism? People wanted me to move faster, be a bigger leader during these times. But I didn’t have all the answers and I knew that being authentic and deliberate would move us forward more than a public relations speech. More importantly, we needed to start with our locker room, our staff, our co-workers and partners. We didn’t need to be first, we didn’t need to be the fastest. On this important topic we needed to be effective and that started with the people we cared about the most—our collective Buffalo family.
Speaking of starting with our own people: We signed cornerback Josh Norman in free agency in March, and because of COVID-19 restrictions, he had barely spent any time in the city. I hadn’t even met him personally. Yet he reached out independently to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to talk about changes that can be made in our city to improve law enforcement. He came to Buffalo on this day not to play or practice, but to take part in a press conference on changing policies for the police department. This is someone who hadn’t played a single down for us, but who made his involvement in our community a priority already. Often players who are signed in free agency keep their heads down until they get the lay of the land, but when Josh speaks on this topic, you can really feel both the passion and the positivity he has that change is possible. I texted him to let him know how much we appreciate someone who hasn’t physically been with our team yet taking on that leadership role, and I know how much that will resonate with his teammates and the staff.
We also have an active Social Justice Committee made up of a group of players. The work, resources and time they have put back into our community over the last several years can’t be overlooked either. These guys were out inspiring change when many weren’t even listening.
And also speaking of our own people: In early June, we dealt with the situation where a racially insensitive text message conversation surfaced involving one of our rookies, quarterback Jake Fromm. For me, this was an opportunity for us to practice what we preach—to listen, learn and love. This was a learning opportunity for him and us, and a chance for Jake to build better relationships going forward. I know he’s had multiple conversations with the team and individual players, and it will continue to be up to him to determine how he’s going to heal those wounds.
3. Change needs to be real and it’s not a competition
One of the biggest things I’ve learned leading through crisis is that true change takes time. I’ve heard from many in our organization demanding action, and yes, there are small things we can do in the short-term to improve racial equality. I think we can agree, it has taken too long for real change, but I don’t want to be in the same place five years from now after another killing or racial atrocity. This time, I wanted to focus on how we can make it deliberate, how we make it stick, how does it become the “norm.” One of the biggest challenges for myself and my staff has been to create not just a plan of action, but action that is deliberate and sustainable.
Looking outward at a league level, it’s comforting to know that when it comes to these issues, other teams aren’t your opponents. During a normal season, we feel the differences between ourselves and other clubs more than the similarities. But these issues—both social justice and the coronavirus pandemic—transgress across market size, club revenue, who won the Super Bowl and who didn’t. I think this realization has prompted a lot more communication and inter-club collaboration.
On the social justice front, I reached out to my friend Samantha Rapoport, senior director of football development at the NFL, who has been instrumental in working with me on improving women’s participation in football. A lot of people in our organization have been pushing for a diversity and inclusion committee within the Bills, but that comes with questions: What would be the committee’s parameters? What’s their funding? Who gets a role on that committee? Turns out the Vikings are one of the few teams with a dedicated diversity and inclusion role on their business side, and her name is Anne Doepner.
Sam connected me with Anne so I could pick her brain on best practices. What I learned from Anne was that she doesn’t have all the answers either and it’s an ever-evolving and fluid but deliberate action that makes the difference. One takeaway was that ownership needs to make it a priority and not a one-and-done initiative. Normally we wouldn’t get into these kinds of internal decisions with other clubs, but these issues transgress all our traditional metrics, and we have a lot to learn from one another. We are doing our homework, putting together a plan for our own committees and we approved four of our leaders to get additional diversity and inclusion certification. We have our next town hall meeting scheduled for later in July and looking forward to building something special.
4. The harder the decisions, the “softer” you need to be
When Terry and I took over ownership of the Bills in 2014, the franchise had only had one other owner, Ralph Wilson Jr. Much of my first six years as owner and the last two years as president were focused on learning the minutiae of the business. People expect you to deal with the hard and actionable to-do decisions, approving budgets, staffing changes, securing new partners, travel, financials and representing the club at the league. Those things haven’t gone anywhere; they still need to be done. But the “soft” leadership skills—making myself visible to our staff and providing clear, consistent communication, as well as acknowledging what I don’t know—are now at the forefront and just as important as the hard skills.
Not knowing what next season may look like, we decided to suspend bonuses, raises, overtime and put in a hiring freeze. That’s a hard message to send to a staff that made the playoffs. Along with our legal and HR teams, I had to decide, do we suspend vacation time? How long will we pay employees not able to work from home? Who is considered essential and what if they live with a healthcare worker? What if they have to take public transportation to work, do we not allow them in the building? What is the communication plan when someone tests positive? And of course, we were glued to the daily press conferences as information changed constantly.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all these hard decisions and questions being thrown at us, our newly formed COVID-19 Task Force started putting out a daily email newsletter to get people the information they desperately wanted and needed. We had no idea how long we were going to be working remotely, and staff needed to still feel like a part of a team.
We provided medical and staffing updates with links to government and CDC information. We knew this wasn’t enough, so we provided health and wellness tips and resources, guidance on how to set up a home office and other work-related advice for these times. But I also knew I needed a way to connect with employees on a deeper level since this pandemic was something we all were going through and I was tired of just communicating the bad news. So I started sharing more personal things like a favorite recipe with ingredients that are common around the house. I found interesting articles and recommended apps for distractions. I even did a 10-push-up challenge and tagged staff to join me.
I also gave out my phone number, because one of the things I like to do de-stress from the day is play phone games, word games, anagrams, that kind of thing. I actually did have a few employees text me and take me up on my offer to play against me. Even when things are normal, I don’t get to engage with all the staff at every level across all our entities. It was a great way for everyone to have some sense of access to me, to my family and to Terry in a way that was much needed during this time.
Terry and I have been married for 27 years and from the beginning we’ve always been a great balancing act. We are a true 50-50 partnership and we embrace the way our different skill sets and focuses complement one another. Some people may assume Terry is better at the hard skills and I’m the soft-skill type, but it’s probably the opposite. During this time, being “soft” is more important. The hard decisions will always be there waiting for you but honing your softer leadership skills like checking in with staff, being on Zoom meetings you weren’t on before and allowing people into your personal space goes a lot farther. That’s been an important learning point for me.
5. A pandemic doesn’t discriminate
Our family moved to Florida 13 years ago so that our daughter Jessica could continue her tennis training. Being a resident of Florida and having ties to Buffalo, people always comment on how lucky we are to be in Florida. While Florida has many advantages, I remind people that we miss the seasons, the people and that I would take a snowstorm over a hurricane any day. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. When this pandemic hit, it didn’t care if you were in the south, or the north. It didn’t care if you were in the sports industry or in the tech sector. Not only was football affected but so was every other business we were involved, including the Sabres of the National Hockey League.
The NHL went on a “pause” with 13 games left to go in our season. Seasons for our two National Lacrosse League teams and our American Hockey League team were both cancelled with games left to play. On May 26, the Sabres’ season officially ended with the announcement that hockey would return to play directly into an expanded playoff. Even in the expanded playoff, we were one of the seven teams that didn’t make the cut. This allowed us to re-examine ourselves once again.
Knowing next season wasn’t going to start on time, and that even the draft, usually held in June, was now going to be delayed, we decided to take this as an opportunity to change course. A change in the GM position is never easy; continuity is often an advantage, particularly during these tumultuous times. But when the hockey gods give you the rare gift of time—to be thoughtful and truly evaluate what is and isn’t working—you can’t waste that gift.
You start looking at all parts of the business, both financial and personnel. Lost revenues and potential future losses as a result by unknown fan attendance was a reality not just for us, but for all clubs. For smaller markets like Buffalo, local gate revenues are important and our whole community was struggling with bigger problems than next year’s season tickets. As a team we have been at the cap for years yet ended up with the same result. Maybe this pause could become an advantage. Shame on me if we didn’t make every effort to make it one.
While I don’t want to get into the specifics of why we parted ways with GM Jason Botterill, the pandemic certainly added another layer of complexity to a results-oriented business. We didn’t get the results we wanted last year and we knew with the delay of the hockey season, the uncertainty of hosting fans and Buffalo being hit hard economically, we had to think differently in order to move forward.
We needed to better utilize our resources such as video and analytics. We needed to become leaner and more agile to meet the challenges we knew were coming. We had already implemented salary reductions and furloughs throughout the rest of the organization in April and with the shortened season and uncertain future, the hockey department was not immune. In selecting Kevyn Adams as our new GM to replace Jason, and in an accompanying transformation to our hockey operations staff, we went with a different approach.
As a former player, assistant coach and business administrator, Kevyn brought a diverse perspective and plan. Plus, as a current employee in our organization, we know who he is as a person. In many ways, he’s been on a nine-year interview. Will it work? Only time will tell. But during a crisis the team that can adapt, foresee the problems, and has a solid foundation to be agile gives itself the best chance of survival. Maybe this unexpected opportunity for transformation can give us just that.
6. Engage with the issues and be clear on where you stand
At the height of player demonstrations during the anthem in 2016 and 2017, there was a sense that people didn’t want to come down definitively on either side, that if we waited long enough, it would go away. Here in 2020, I feel it’s essential that we’re transparent and that we engage with the issues, and that’s why I thought it was important to share my stance early.
I plan to stand during the anthem. Standing doesn’t mean that I don’t support Black lives or that I’m not invested in the causes players hope to draw attention, from systemic racism to police brutality to mass incarceration. People in our organization have very different viewpoints stemming from their own personal experiences. I support and encourage their right to act on those views. In return, I’d only ask that they respect my choices as well. Listen, learn and love at its core.
I was born in South Korea and adopted by Canadian parents who moved to Rochester, New York. My parents became American citizens in order to adopt me and bring me to the U.S., and I later became a naturalized American citizen. In November of 2019, I had the opportunity to return to South Korea and see the orphanage where I grew up. While a new building had been built, it was in the same spot, and the children living there were having an early childhood very similar to my own. To me, becoming a U.S. citizen involved an oath to the flag and the country, something deeply personal. I pledged allegiance to the flag and standing for the anthem is a tribute to the oath I took. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunities I’ve had, and I wouldn’t have had them if I hadn’t become a U.S. citizen.
Unfortunately, many people in this country have not shared those experiences and being a citizen of our country has not always been easy. Awareness of those differences has made me more respectful of individuals’ choices on how they will approach the anthem this season and has also given me the conviction to be clear about my intentions and what it means and doesn’t mean when I stand for the anthem.
7. Employees are more than their job
When you work with employees in an office setting, that’s how you see them. They’re in a role and they’re doing their job. Now that so much is happening on Zoom calls, we’re still talking about work, but I’m looking into people’s kitchens and I’m in their offices. Often kids will pop into frame or you’ll hear dogs barking. When an employee told me that it was snowing at his house in Buffalo, I could literally see through the window that his yard was full of snow. It’s absolutely softened me to see my staff in these different settings, there is more to them than the job.
On the football side, I’ve always known that the team is more than the players; their partners, their kids and their families are a huge part of things. But during the normal course of the day, you don’t see that part of their life in an office. This spring, one of our players, Jon Feliciano, was down in Miami with his pregnant wife Shannon. She was eager to get back to Buffalo to have the baby but was nervous about flying commercial in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel agent isn’t normally a role I play, but I helped set up and connect him with a private charter, identifying companies still working, gathering the cost estimates and ultimately placing the order so his family could get back to deliver their baby. In times like this, we all pitch in because life off the field is more important. They had a baby boy named Rafael, who is adorable, and everyone is doing well.
Connecting virtually is a challenge, and we have to seize on the few positives it provides. Terry and I wore T-shirts during a Zoom call with our full rookie class, just shooting the breeze. In a normal year, we’d usually interact with rookies with spontaneous one-offs passing each other in the cafeteria or practice field. Most years, I don’t even connect with all of them. Through virtual meetings during the rookie program, they were all familiar with each other and able to meet with us all collectively (if digitally). I think it broke down a lot of barriers and made it easier to connect.
Safety Garrett Taylor went to Penn State, my husband’s alma mater, where we had donated money for the Pegula Ice Arena. He said games in that arena were the first hockey games he ever watched. Another rookie, Brandon Walton, lived close by our office in Florida so we told him about our favorite sushi place. We found that despite being the rookies on the team and us being the owners, we were able to find something in common. They asked us lots of questions too, everything from what they should pack for Buffalo to how to prepare for life after football. This was less about football and more about life. It was a great exchange, and despite being apart we have to take the positives where we can.
8. Uncertainty is here to stay
As much as I do feel softened and more connected to everyone I work with, from our teams within the organization to my counterparts throughout the league, we still have a lot of work ahead of us while contending with omnipresent uncertainty. We still have budgets to do, and this year there was more than one. We were close to finalizing our financials for the season when the pandemic hit in earnest. I asked every department to go back and do a COVID-19-adjusted budget to consider how things would play out without spectators (we try never to say “no fans” because there will always be Bills fans, even if they’re not in-stadium).
Remember the COVID-19 task force I mentioned? We started meeting daily to prepare for the inevitable and the unpredictable and share best practices across different parts of the business, down to things as seemingly small as package handling. Despite not going into the office as usual, I found myself having to do more. How many fans can we get in the stadium with social distancing? What is the ticketing plan for full games, partial games, or delayed season? How do we meet our sponsors needs and concerns with assets getting taken away? Should we put in automatic faucets and automatic flushers in the bathrooms? What do post-game interviews look like if we can’t have in-person access to players? When can we tell the couple their wedding at the stadium is back on? We had to plan for all of this, knowing that everything could change at any point with updated information from the league or the government.
The uncertainty kept coming. Phase 1, Phase 2, CDC guidelines, New York state guidelines, league protocols. Who do we follow?
Is there a training camp? How many preseason games? When will players be able to come back? The only certainty was the uncertainty and the fact that change is here to stay for the foreseeable future. After almost four months of juggling multiple possibilities, we are still planning for all scenarios.
Just when we got protocols in place for return-to-work on the business side, the league came down with new regulations about player activities and returning to play. The biggest change in the near-term is staying at our practice facility instead of going away for training camp. We normally go to St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., and have never stayed in Orchard Park. Training camp is a different animal—bigger staff, more players, fan access and a time to get away and focus on the upcoming season. So just when I felt that we’d gotten into a good position with some of our return-to-work protocols, we got an enormous new challenge on the training camp front. Late June and early July would normally have been a quiet period for us, but now we’re deep in the process of implementing these league protocols, relocating office space, adding utilities for outdoor space and getting interns back. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, and even when I get answers, those answers just seem to lead to more questions.
9. We can do things we never thought possible
Amidst all that uncertainty, the teams across our organizations have proven themselves capable of so much more than I ever would have expected. If you had told me before coronavirus that we needed to get 500 employees out of the office and working from home, I would have said there was no way. I thought we needed to see each other, that we had to be in the office. Much like a football team itself, our business staff follows a schedule and a routine, and it took an unprecedented moment to push ourselves to be flexible.
In many ways, I think it was more challenging for the football staff than the business staff. On the business side, we’re used to using Microsoft Teams for conference calls, uploading files and existing virtually from time to time. Coaches are by nature regimented and used to having access to the club facilities with team meeting rooms, meals and technology all set up for them. Coaches are used to coming in early, when most of us are still asleep. Coaches have IT in the building ready to help with video or system glitches. Our IT department got the MVP award for the speed with which they got our coaching staff up and running on remote work. My husband will not be embarrassed by me admitting this, but he doesn’t have a computer. He takes great pride in that. He doesn’t do emails (although he does text). But he has an iPad, and he got set up on it to be able to watch tape and participate in Zoom calls so that he could be in on pre-draft meetings with the scouts. Who would have thought that football could have team meetings with players scattered across the country, do “virtual workouts,” hold a virtual draft, complete an offseason program and be on track to start the season?
No one is excluded from the changes we all had to make from the pandemic. Perhaps the best example of this flexibility came on draft night. I got an invitation to a call with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state leaders in sports and entertainment, scheduled for 5 p.m. on day one of the draft, three hours before the first round kicked off. He wanted to provide us with an update on the state’s coronavirus response and get input from our perspective in the industry. In a normal year, under normal circumstances, I would never have been able to make that work. To be honest, selfishly I was a little upset that he would schedule a call on draft night. I mean, we are the only NFL team in the state of New York. Knowing it was the governor, knowing the moment we were in, I made sure to clear my schedule, and when I logged onto the Zoom call, there was commissioner Roger Goodell also on the call. Obviously my role, compared to the on-air role the commissioner has, is very small. He did apologize to the group on the call for having to drop off early, but that was a moment that put things in perspective for me in terms of the ways in which everyone in this league, no matter who you are, was making new challenges work in unprecedented ways.
10. Find joy where you can. For me, that’s with family
With our daughter Jessica being a professional tennis player, we often joke that she was our first sports team. Tennis requires her to be gone for extended periods of time, so we don’t always get to see her even though she lives a few houses down from us. She was in California when her tournament was cancelled the night before it was scheduled to start. Our other kids had unexpectedly decided to come visit for spring break and ended up staying for three months. One of the few upsides of the pandemic has been the unprecedented amount of time our family has been able to spend together in one place.
At max capacity, we had nine adults that included a fiancée and a girlfriend along with the kids, my two grandchildren and 10 dogs at home with us, and we’ve spent time together in a way I truly don’t think we ever have before. The kids took turns cooking meals, grocery shopping and doing laundry during the day. At night, there were family meals like it was Thanksgiving. Then family tennis matches or board games would ensue along with a dog fight or two. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, or that you’ve been working all day, when you come home and your family is there, you’re still mom. I baked so many cookies for everyone that I joked I needed to figure out a shipping system to get them out of the house. And let’s not forget the homemade bread phase I went through along with the rest of the country.
During the draft, our GM, Brandon Beane, had the draft board at his house, so the family made our own replica draft with three large magnetic boards and little helmet emblems we made ourselves. A big part of the draft is always the food—there’s a lot of sitting around and a lot of eating while you’re waiting to get on the clock—so every day I would make a ton of food for our family and we watched the draft from our own war room. I missed the intensity and the energy of being with Brandon and Coach McDermott in-person, but it was fun to share this unconventional draft with the family.
The last several months have been a significant change of pace for Terry and me, who had gotten used to life as empty-nesters and were suddenly spending time watching Paw Patrol videos with my granddaughter or hosting a murder mystery dinner party for the whole family. We were able to celebrate Easter, the draft, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, three birthdays and Father’s Day all together, a feat that I doubt we will be able to duplicate. It’s a shame that a pandemic is what it took for all of us to come together like that, but it was a positive, and one for which I am hugely grateful.