Strong Teams, Big Leads, And More: The Next Level Strategies To Thrive In Real Estate With Lauren Hardy
Want to learn how to efficiently find leads, build a strong team and powerful network, and know how to thrive in where the market is going in the near future? Then this episode is for you! Join us as Lauren Hardy shares her real estate journey, the full flipping and wholesaling experience, and the valuable lessons and factors she learned that contribute to real success in the industry. Lauren is the Founder of TMF Real Estate, LCC and a real estate investor with a “people first” approach to business.
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Strong Teams, Big Leads, And More: The Next Level Strategies To Thrive In Real Estate With Lauren Hardy
In this episode, we sat down with Lauren Hardy. Lauren is a real estate investor with a people’s first approach to business. She’s invested in hundreds of properties all over the country throughout her career. She has the unique reputation of being a virtual investor because she doesn’t invest in the areas where she lives. Lauren is being able to preserve in many different markets by constantly following market changes, being flexible, and even willing to move markets when necessary. Lauren, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
We like to start with a difficult question here. What’s your favorite ice cream?
This is a tough one. I would say mint chip.
Why mint chocolate chip?
I don’t know. It’s delicious. Why not?
You are out in California, where I’m assuming they have a plethora of options for ice cream shops. If we are in Huntington Beach, where can we find the best ice cream shop?
I don’t know. I’m not the biggest ice cream person. There are many ice cream shops. I live in Huntington, by Main Street, so it’s the downtown total touristy area. There are a ton of ice cream shops everywhere. I will say my top five favorite things to do is to ride my bike with an ice cream cone in my hand.
Living out your best kid life.
If you’ve never done that, you probably last did that when you were eleven years old. I highly recommend trying it out. It’s great.
We typically ask if you are a bowl or cone person, but there’s only one way to do that, which would be with a cone.
Yes, cone. All the way.
Tell our readers, what’s the scoop? What do you do?
I’m a real estate investor, and I feel like that title evolves every year. It means something different every single year. Funny enough, I feel like I’m in a moment now where we are going to have another evolution. There’s going to be another version of Lauren reinventing herself yet again in this current market that we are in.
The market is changing. Now I’m looking at the opportunities around me, and I’m going, “What are we going to focus on in 2023? 2022 is almost over.” I am primarily virtual, so I live in Orange County, California. It’s a very expensive area to live in. It’s difficult to flip here. It’s more challenging to find deals. Years ago, I decided to try flipping deals out of state, flipping houses, and wholesaling houses out of state.
My first venture in that was Nashville, Tennessee, where I heard you live there. Lucky. I wish I lived there. I love Nashville. I started flipping out of state because it was so hard to find deals in California. I was struggling. I was struggling to find deals. I was spending a lot of money on seller marketing, and it wasn’t working. I went to a different state where prices weren’t as high, and I was able to find more motivated sellers, so I went where the deals were.
Now fast forward, I’ve flipped. I’ve wholesale hundreds of houses at this point. Now the market is shifting, and sellers are starting to say yes. I’m thinking of coming back to California. I’m going to be flipping in my backyard shortly. I’m literally putting a campaign together, figuring out like, “What am I going to do to target deals now?”
I’m interested to hear about the shift that you are seeing and also where you see the market going but before we get there, can you tell our listeners where did your real estate journey begin?
It began when I was about 25 years old. I was working full-time. I was working in corporate real estate. It was more on the commercial real estate side of things. I had an 8:00 to 5:00 job and wanted to be home with my kids. I wanted to find a way where could have some career flexibility, so I discovered house flipping and started flipping houses in my local market. I started with doing maybe two houses a year, and then the next year it was three houses a year, then the next year it was 3, and then 10. It kept building. That’s where the journey started. It was years ago, and to find a way to have more time freedom.
I’ve always wanted to ask somebody that has been in corporate real estate. Do you think that helped accelerate your investing journey or understand real estate a little bit better or is it like most of us? It’s another job. It’s what you do.
Not at all. Not even a little bit.
What were you doing at corporate real estate?
The last job I had was working for the Irvine Company, and it was in their construction management department for their office properties. I was working for an owner. Irvine Company owns the city of Irvine. They are the world’s biggest landlords. They have so much property. Their owner is one of the richest people in the United States. I worked for that company. It was not a very fulfilling job. It was a very easy job. I didn’t think I was going to be there forever. I knew I wanted to do something different. Before then, I worked in franchise sales for Subway restaurants, that was, finding locations for Subways like the $5 footlong.
What data do they have? There’s a Subway everywhere. Subway is the number one fast food location-wise in the world, so where does their data come from to find good locations?
We would drive around. That was my job. I would drive around at least one day a week, and I would scout out empty spaces in retail centers. You start networking with brokers and stuff. When there’s something available, they let you know.
You’ve done the corporate real estate thing and then decided to get into flipping and wholesaling. Why flipping and wholesaling? Why go residential? Why not continue the journey into commercial?
It was what fell on my lap. It was literally sitting at a barbecue, going, “I hate my full-time job. How do I get out of my full-time job?” Someone goes, “You should flip houses.” I’m like, “What’s that about?” It was my brother, and my brother started flipping houses a couple of years before me. He’s like, “You should try like flipping houses. You only have to do a few a year, and you will be able to be home with your kids, so you should try that out.” I was like, “Okay, show me how to do that,” and that’s what I did.
Was he already flipping homes then, I guess?
Yeah. He was maybe flipped 2 or 3 before me.
I understand the first market that you focused on was Nashville, and now you live in California. Why did you decide to go virtual? Talk us through that.
I was in California for four years, only doing California. I was acquiring deals through seller marketing and direct-to-seller marketing, like direct mail texting stuff like that. At that time, it was direct mail. I noticed that it was starting to get difficult to find a deal. For what I used to be able to spend on marketing, I would get a deal. Now it’s looking like I’m spending twice as much to get that deal.
I’m starting to get nervous and noticing that the market’s shifting. Sellers want way more than I feel comfortable offering for their homes. It got to where our profit margins, to stay competitive with the competition in my area, were starting to get really slim. I was starting to get nervous. For me, it felt like the right thing to do was to go to a different market where I wasn’t having to deal with such a cutthroat market environment.
Little did you land in one of the hottest real estate markets in the 2010s decade.
That I know, and that goes because I would say I blame my lack of experience in picking a market. At the time when I went virtual, I didn’t know how to pick a market. I thought Nashville sounded like a cool place to visit. Little did I know that I literally went from one California to another. It was a little bit easier but not that much. It got even more competitive as I was in it. There was that. What I ended up doing inevitably was finding a market that was more stable. That wasn’t going through any crazy growth period or anything. I ended up in Oklahoma City.
You didn’t have any reason why you picked Nashville other than it seemed a good city. You knew things were going on in the city, and you decided to land there.
Yeah, that was it. Literally, like, “This sounds like a cool place to visit.”
Do you remember what year that was?
2015 was when I bought the first home, and then they sold in 2016. I built some homes. I did what everybody was doing. You buy a house, knock it down, and build two in its place. I did that. I did three ground-up construction projects in Nashville, flipped some homes there, and then wholesaled a bunch of houses there.
Let’s talk about that, then. If you had been to Nashville but didn’t pick it for any real strategic reason, how were you able to build a team, find leads, and know if a good area was a good area or a bad area? Talk us through how you worked through that process.
You got to make a lot of friends. I made a lot of friends. I made realtor friends. I made contractor friends. Anybody that would be my friend. I was networking. That’s what ended up being my team. I got lucky finding that contractor. The first builder is who set me up the most. He pointed me to a lender. He pointed me to an architect, and then the architect pointed me to another person. It builds on. When you meet people, it builds. Everyone there’s those five degrees of separation. Everybody starts introducing you to someone else, and before you know it, you’ve got a person you can call for every one of your needs.Growing a network helps. Everybody starts introducing you to someone else. Before you know it, you've got a person you can call for every one of your needs. Click To Tweet
2015 was about the time when Nashville was starting to explode. I moved to Nashville in 2009, I think it was, and at that time it was, “Where did you go to high school? Who do you know?” If you weren’t from Nashville, you were banished off to the sidelines. 2015 was about the time when we started seeing an influx of people. To your point, around the five degrees of separation. It was a small town at that time where everybody knew each other.
Nonetheless, glad I got to do it. It was a fun experience, Nashville was starting to get too saturated, so I left.
I don’t know anybody that runs a scalable wholesaling business in Nashville successfully. Everybody is competing toward basically whatever the MLS is offering because it’s such a hot market now.
I’m glad you said that because I’ve always had this little question like, “Should I have stayed in Nashville?” I was like, “No, I can’t make money here anymore.” It wasn’t for me anymore. Even for the development projects, I wasn’t local, so it was hard to get the deals.
We are now to the point where we’ve got our first billion-dollar investment development going on downtown, so it’s one of those things. If you are a local contractor or if you are any developer, why would you go work to let me throw up 1 single house or 2 single houses when I could go work for these larger scale projects?
I guess the story I tell people that aren’t from here, too, is that I was in an Uber around 2015 or ‘16. It was when I first got exposed to real estate as an investment vehicle. The driver said, “I took around some Middle Eastern prince who basically gave me $15,000 for 48 hours and he said, ‘Show me all the best parts of Nashville because I’m only going to be here for 48 hours, and I’m going to try to invest as much money as I can.’” when you are competing with that kind of money, it’s hard to be successful.
I was feeling that. There are people from Europe and China. You are competing with so much. There’s no point. I might as well then do this in my backyard. At least in my backyard, I can be a little bit more competitive. Why don’t you find another market altogether? We all take different roads. I chose to keep virtual as part of my thing. Maybe there was something in that, knowing that’s what made me different. In the end, it turned into a coaching program, and I got into that side of real estate education, which is a whole different business, and I’ve learned so much on that side too. My journey and everything led me to where I am now, and I don’t have any regrets.
Where you are now is where you’re supposed to be. Now that you are wholes selling and doing virtually in OKC and a couple of other markets, who is on your team? Do you have business development people? Do you have marketing people who are on your team?
My team is pretty lean. In the market that we are going in, I want to be lean and mean. I want to focus more on buying for myself and buying flips because it’s interesting how there are a lot of people pulling out. The bad flippers are now being exposed, and they are getting out. They are like, “Nevermind. Flipping houses is not my thing. It sucks. You lose money.” Now it’s back to the fundamentals. I can buy off the fundamentals, buying property undervalued, making sure there’s enough room where we are safe, and sellers are starting to be realistic in that and less greedy. It is a small team.
I’ve got a couple of virtual assistants. One helps me with my coaching program and my social media stuff. I’ve got another virtual assistant that helps in our disposition work. When we get a property to wholesale, she’s helping with the back-end marketing of that property. I’ve got an employee that has been with me forever. He helps run a lot of my business, so I can be a little bit spread around. Small team. I’m happy with that. With where we are in the market, this is a good time to be leaner as a business owner.With where we are in the market, this is a good time to be leaner as a business owner. Click To Tweet
I was having this conversation earlier about fixed costs versus variable costs. One of the things I was talking about was the idea that variable cost gives you the ability to be flexible in lean times. To your point, We are going through lean times. Make your cost more variable. To your point about flipping, when the cost of capital goes from 0% to 4.5% overnight on top of what you are already paying, you start to see where bad behaviors are getting caught speeding.
I love that you said fixed cost versus variables. I did have a bigger team before. In 2022, I started seeing a trend, and I was going, “This isn’t looking good. I got to start tightening the belt,” so I let go of the fixed costs. I found ways to have a team but not be on the hook for a salary. Some of that is working with realtors and saying, “If this sells, I will give you a commission.” Being more creative. I had a full-time project manager, and he was managing some flips that were out of state, and I needed some project management but couldn’t think creatively enough at the time. When money is good, you are not that creative to save money.
I will hire a project manager, whatever. I started getting real sick of writing his hourly pay. “What is he doing?’ I found a realtor that was willing to project manage as long as they got the commission. They know I buy at least one a month. They are stoked. I started becoming more creative. When you are making money and are not creative about saving it, now is a good time to have that reminder.
That seems to be the theme on a lot of business and corporate podcasts that I listen to these days. There are a lot of zombie companies out there that survive only to pay for the debt, essentially. They are not adding any productivity. They are not adding any real value to the marketplace. Their valuations continue to go up because their revenue goes up. If you strip away and add a little bit of cost to capital, all of a sudden, they are no longer existing. To your project manager’s point, “What is this person doing?” I’m not having to be creative because money is flowing so freely.
In 2022, I was seeing we had a lot of wholesale deals that fell out. It was out of our control and I was like, “Something is going on in the market. This isn’t going well. It’s time to start slimming down.”
To that point, what’s working in your business now? How are you finding leads? How are you finding properties to buy and things like that?
Honestly, networking with agents and other wholesalers is working out pretty well for me. Seller marketing is great but I’m at a place where I have a lot of people in my network. I can take advantage of that. I’m trying to lean into partnerships like partnering with my previous students on deals and with people, letting them know, “We are good buyers. You can rely on us.” Now, when people are struggling to pay their bills or they want to sell a house fast, the first person they think to go to is the agent. In times like this, the agents control a lot of our inventory. I’m trying to focus a lot of our efforts more on networking with agents and other wholesalers.
I’ve seen the wholesaling community evolve over the years, helping each other dispo deals. What I specifically mean by that is there’s a contact that I have down at Chattanooga, and what he does is basically help other people dispo deals across the country. He’s not even wholesaling in his whole market. You find a deal, you send it to him, he dispos it for you, and you guys split the profit. Is that what you mean by working inside of your network?
I don’t do the nationwide thing because that then requires you to have a team to work dispo, and that’s fixed costs. I would rather use the same buyer’s list that I have because I already am in this area, and it’s free and dispo territory specific. I do a lot of territory-specific dispo. Also, being the buyer. I buy houses and flip houses too. Making sure I treat the wholesalers. Even if there’s a deal that I maybe regret, I’m not going to back out. I know that they will keep bringing me deals. You don’t want to let someone down on one and put them in that situation.
One of the things we have been talking about through this is how times are changing in 2022 and going into 2023. Where do you see the market going in 2023? If you had a crystal ball, what are you doing to adjust beyond continuing to flip deals? Are you buying deals now and holding them, BRRRR-ing them? Are you doing bigger commercial properties? It’s a two-part question. Where do you see us going in 2023, and then what are you doing to adjust?
The market is going to soften. I’m in that camp. It’s going to be more drastic in other areas. The areas that were already extremely overinflated in property values are going to get crushed like Southern California. There are some markets that had exponential growth out of nowhere, and it almost didn’t make any sense. They are not even that great cool places to live in the COVID times. There are markets like Phoenix and Boise. Those markets are going to get spanked, and they already are. We dispo deals in Boise. We’ve got a partner and work their dispo. Boise, there are so many price cuts. It looks like your screen is bleeding.
Certain markets are already getting crushed. It’s going to soften, and I plan on taking advantage of that. I plan on being a buyer, and I’ve got some good construction resources. My boyfriend is a general contractor. I have my own in-house construction, where I flip virtually. We’ve set that up for ourselves, so we can be competitive with construction and get these jobs done fast.
Another thing that we could talk about is construction now. It’s difficult to find a good contractor. All the good ones are taken, and you end up finding these guys that are not good. They are taking advantage of people. There are a lot of rehabbers now that is crying, like, “My contractor won’t finish my job. What am I doing? Why did I do this?” It’s a pretty interesting time. I’m interested in being a buyer because I have access to capital. I’ve got access to good construction resources, and there are going to be deals.
I want to say two things about that one. I tend to Boise hate too much. It’s not that I hate people from Boise or anything like that. When I look at markets, the first thing I look at is, “Is there organic growth or is it inorganic?” What I mean by organic is like Nashville, you see companies moving here. Amazon is hiring 25,000 people. They are going to get some of the New York since they decided not to go to New York. Some of those jobs as well could scale up to 50,000.
When you see that employment coming to an area, there’s sub-employment that happens because of that. There’s finance. There are restaurants, etc. I tend to pick on Boise because it feels to me like a lot of people from California, Washington, and Oregon, high-tax states, moved to Boise during the pandemic and said, “This is great. I’ve got some land. I’ve got some breathing room.” Now they are being called back into the office. That wasn’t natural organic growth. There was no job that came with that person, all those restaurant jobs and service industry jobs that looked like they were being created are now being cut. I smiled a little bit when you said Boise.
It’s like, “Why did people move to Boise? Why Phoenix?” You are seeing it. Those markets are getting crushed. I’m very optimistic. It has been a recent thing for us to hone in on construction. We’ve got my boyfriend’s construction expertise and resources. How could we use that to our benefit now? The most is keeping construction in-house and controlling that. The best way is coming back to where I live, so that’s why I have been like, “In 2023 we are going to be flipping houses in California again.”
A question about general contracting specifically. Is he or you starting to see more workers coming back into the labor force since benefit payments are being cut off and we are seeing inflationary pressures and things like that? Is it still hard to find good work? If it is, then why?
It’s still hard to find good work, and I don’t know why. I don’t follow the construction industry that closes. I don’t know if there are not enough construction workers and too many projects. There were a bunch of projects that got postponed, maybe because of COVID, and now they are starting back up. I talked to another guy. I was on the Investor Carrot Show, and they were complaining that they were having issues with their contractors, and apparently, this is an industry-wide problem that’s going to be for a very long time. There are not enough people in the business in that industry.
I also think it’s a little bit of supply and demand. Going back to if the cost of capital is zero and you could borrow $1 million at 0.05%, then you are probably going to build that building and then go look for workers. Whereas when the cost of capital is 5%, all of a sudden now, that million-dollar project doesn’t look as good, so those workers are now available for other projects. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for the next two years.
We will see. Interesting times.
Lauren, I don’t want to breeze over the fact that you built all of this while being a single mother, and that is truly an accomplishment in itself. I’ve said to anybody that I can that being a single mother is the hardest job in the world. How were you able to do that? I don’t know any other question to ask other than, “How are you able to do that?”
You don’t have a choice. You are backed against the wall. When life doesn’t go the way you would plan, which it often doesn’t, you’ve got two choices. You will give up or keep going, and I keep going. If you are looking for practical tips, time management is very important. I’m always looking at how to be more efficient in my day and how to be more effective. I’m obsessed with, “How can I be more effective in my day?”When life doesn't go the way you planned, which it often doesn't, you've got two choices: give up or keep going. Click To Tweet
One thing I love that I started doing about years ago, I wake up earlier now. I wake up at 5:30 AM. I never thought I could be that person. I struggled to wake up at 5:00 in the morning. Now, I wake up at 5:00 in the morning and get work done before they wake up. That golden hour when it’s quiet, and nobody is bothering me is an amazing time to be able to get that work done. You’ve got to be super effective with your time. I feel like that’s all you can do.
Let me ask this then because I know every mom has the mom checklist going on in their mind at all times. Do I have snacks? Do I have clothes? What are they wearing tomorrow? We have jersey day, and we have picture day, all this stuff. Do you do any list sorting for business and for personal? Talk us through how you are able to juggle that in your mind.
My calendar, everybody says, when they say my calendar, it gives them anxiety. I put a lot of things on my calendar. I color code, so I see all the kids’ stuff. Kids, they are yellow, so I’m reminded like, “I got something for my kids.” This is old school. Have you heard of the Franklin Covey planner?
This is old school. My mom used to use these. I used it in college. This is before everybody did stuff on their phones but up to three months ago, I would bullet journal. I had a little journal and write my lists every day. I would keep that journal everywhere I go and then that with my calendar at the same time. I remembered about the Franklin Covey Planner. They are still in business, and I bought one. I’m so excited. I love it.
You have a whole day, and it breaks down your day. You write your little to-do list in it and now I write everything in there. It has enough space where you can write notes for the day and stuff, so I do that. It’s a lot of writing things down. A lot of lists. Another great tool is Monday.com. I use Monday for my higher-level project management. Do you know how you are always juggling things? Give me an idea of what you’re juggling now, these little projects.
Flipping a home.
I don’t want to say project management for flipping a house per se, but you could definitely use it.
Planning a vacation.
Starting a campaign back in Southern California to flip houses. I got to think of how I’m going to do that like, “What’s the 1st thing I’m going to do and the 2nd thing and the 3rd thing?” I use Monday.com for higher-level company projects, and that is helpful. I love Monday for that. A lot of tools and keeping yourself organized.
A good project management tool will go a long way. I will give a shameless plug. Go search Building A Second Brain on YouTube, and that will talk a lot about how you get thoughts out of your head and into a systemized format. I use Notion for mine because it’s also a note-taking app too, and I can search it, reference it, and all that stuff. I’m not very proficient at it.
I’m learning but it’s fantastic once you get it. Some of these people out there have it masterfully done. I know you have some things coming up, so I want to be cognizant of your time. I will switch us now to our last round. We are calling this the Five Toppings. Our first one is, what is your favorite book or what is a book you’ve read recently that’s given you a paradigm shift?
It’s on Audible. I’m Audibling. I’m reading The Obstacle Is The Way By Ryan Holiday. I’m loving that. I had heard that stoicism is a good philosophy when you are an entrepreneur. It helps manage your emotions and stuff. I’m trying to learn more about stoicism now.
I read that book three times in 2020. These are good at breaking that down. Our second one is that I believe that the person you become ten years from now is directly correlated to the habits that you have and the things you do every day. What are some of the habits that you have?The person you become ten years from now is directly correlated to the habits that you have and the things you do every day. Click To Tweet
I wake up early. Getting up early, I try to go to the gym at least 4 days out of the week, then the 5th day is more of a run on the beach, hike or something more leisurely. Taking good care of my body is important to me. Your body affects your mind. If you are not healthy, I see that in my mind and my ability to focus and not get brain fog.
I’m careful about taking care of my body. I’ve got thyroid disease. I did see when my body was not doing well, how I was having a very difficult time making decisions and staying focused throughout my day, and being effective. My brain would not be working. It was because of my health. It had nothing to do with me wanting something or I didn’t have agency in it. My health wasn’t well, so I try to take care of myself.
As a long-distance runner, I’m surprised that you say running on the beach is leisurely. There’s nothing harder than running in the sand.
I don’t run probably as long as you. Not on the beach. We have a strand but I probably don’t run as long as you and not as fast.
It’s beautiful out there, I’m sure.
It’s pretty, though. Yeah.
Our third one is, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The advice of just don’t quit. Someone told me this story about Winston Churchill. I don’t know if you ever heard that story that he talked at a college, and all he said was, “Don’t quit,” and left. Something about that speech, like, “Just don’t quit. No matter what.” You are going to have bad days. I don’t have it all together.
It’s so funny in these shows. We always get interviewed as if everything is great. It’s like, “We don’t have it all together.” I have bad days. I had a bad day yesterday. I had a bad day last week.” We have challenging times. We go through challenging times in our businesses. We don’t always have it all figured out. As long as you don’t quit, you will make out of it. You only lose when you quit, then you already lost. If you say you lost a lot of money on a deal, if you keep buying deals, you keep going, you learn from your mistakes, and you are going to make it back. Don’t quit.
I had a friend one time who was chief of staff for a billionaire and I said, “What was that like?” She goes, “It’s basically your life where you don’t think you have it together, and you are working it day by day.” They are doing the exact same thing. They are doing it at a higher level and a little bit better at it than you are.
That’s so interesting. That’s crazy. My dog, by the way, chewed my shoe.
You need a new shoe.
I don’t have it together, guys.
Our fourth one is, what’s the thing you are most proud of in your life?
My girls, my daughters. They turned out so good. I had them young. I didn’t know what I was doing but I tried hard. I read parenting books and wanted them to grow up differently than I did. I’m amazed now that they are out of that crazy young stage and that they are so responsible and kind. They are good, nice kids, so I’m very proud of them.
Talk about how nobody knows what they are doing. No parent knows what they are doing. They are trying to do their best at the moment in a given time. Our last one is if you could sit down and eat a bowl of ice cream with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’m a big Darren Hardy fan.
Darren Hardy is no relation to me. He’s an author and was the Owner of Success Magazine. He does this cool daily email. You get this email video, and it’s called Darren Daily, and it’s this pump-you-up video. He gives such good advice. Every Darren Daily is like, you listen to it, and you are like, “I’m going to kick today’s you know what.” Very successful guy. He got his start in real estate, and he is motivational, so I would love to sit with Darren Hardy.
First time I’ve ever heard that on the show. Lauren, fantastic conversation. If our readers wanted to learn more about you or connect with you, where’s the best place we could point them?
You can always follow me on Instagram. I definitely post a lot there. My handle is @ThisMomFlips. If you are interested in coaching, I have a free wholesaling course. If you go to FreeCourseOnWholesaling.com that one will give you a little intro to the coaching program that I’ve got that teaches you how I invest virtually, so you can start there.
Lauren, thanks for coming on the show.
Thank you for having me. It was great.