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We’ll come to you.

I’m reading one of the most lucid business books I’ve come across in quite some time. It’s Out of Poverty by Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises. In it, Polak outlines a number of compelling reasons why businesses must consider the burgeoning market of the world’s other 90 percent – the percentage of the world’s population that is poor. I’d recommend reading the book to learn first-hand about the practical ideas he offers that I believe would present viable approaches for any business — from socially-directed organizations to corporate multinationals. In Out of Poverty, Polak identifies a "don’t bother" list, and I think this might be an effective idea for addressing all kinds of business challenges that we are faced with every day.

Remember, Polak focuses on increasing wealth for billions of the world’s poor, so imagine the list you could come up with that would help zoom in on what matters most at your business, organization, team, or family, for that matter. This approach brings what’s important into laser-like focus, and, I believe, elicits the emotion and passion that initiates action.

For example, if Human Resources tells you they can’t find the "right talent" or qualified "diversity" candidates to include in their recruitment outreach, tell them:

1.Don’t bother if you’re going to sit in your office making fruitless phone calls, instead of meeting with organizations, events, individuals, and generally being creative about identifying the highly talented folks that do in fact exist.

(On the "diversity" issue, for example, a simple conversation with any existing employee of color on staff, could easily offer a few avenues to pursue, or even actual names of several qualified candidates.)

Here’s another:

2. Don’t bother claiming "we value our customers" when calls to the "customer care" department gets me directed to endless press-this-or-that-number. Or after you’ve paid your hard-earned money in exchange for goods from a store, the check-out person waits for you to thank him or her.

3. Don’t bother telling me with your tag line "how much you appreciate my business," if you can’t even teach your front-line folks the basics of common courtesy. Hint: if this were done right, it might actually encourage me to return cheerfully to your store instead of one of your competitors, when given the choice.

If a design firm is thinking to rebrand itself while ignore its prevalent reputation of being too-cool-for-clients in the way the receptionist answers the phone (assuming you’re not sent to voice mail purgatory):

4. Don’t bother to rebrand if you don’t comprehend that clients’ first point-of-contact with your company is telling.

At ReBrand we were inspired to put together a list of 20 Mistakes Marketers Make When They Rebrand. It seems that calling out mistakes, similar to using a "don’t bother" list, gets more folks to pay attention and take action.

One of the suggestions within 20 Mistakes – number 6 — is navigate your own website, call your own call center, or have a friend do so. Sounds like basic common sense that would likely get a "yeah, yeah, we know" response, right? Well, you’d be absolutely shocked at how many NEVER do that – from the very bottom all the way up to the top. What an obvious way to learn about the agony and hoops we put the customers "we care about" through. It’s so difficult for me to believe that such inauthenticity exists among our great brands, that I coined the term brandcredible, to represent those that work hard to walk their talk.

And now, for one more "don’t bother." If a business claims that "employees are our most important assets":
5.Don’t bother if you never listen to what they have to say, and continue to practice top-down introduction of policies and decisions, then wonder why they aren’t aligned with the organizational mission.

The list could go on, but the point is that this type of list has magic in it. It sorts concepts into the concrete from the theoretical, and can lead us closer to breaking the business-as-usual quagmire.

Whatever business or industry you’re in, what would be on your "don’t bother list"? Let’s see if thinking this way helps in paying attention and being more "present" with your clients — a concept I borrowed from Bill Hill, chair of MetaDesign — and taking real actionable steps.

Anaezi Modu, Founder
ReBrand Now accepting entries for the 2009 ReBrand 100 Global Awards - deadline: September 24, 2008.
Recognizing the world's most effective brand transformations.