The 4 Way Test

Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor came up with the four simple precepts in 1932, when Club Aluminum Company, where he was president, was facing almost certain bankruptcy. In the depths of the Depression, no one was buying much aluminum. But Taylor thought that if he could convince his employees to do the right thing in every situation, they might at least win sales from their competitors. “So one morning, I leaned over my desk, rested my head in my hands. In a few moments, I reached for a white paper card and wrote down what had come to me-in 24 words.” Five years later, Club Aluminum was back in the black. Taylor always credited The Four-Way Test with its resurgence.

THE FOUR-WAY TEST… of the things we think, say or do

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Is it TRUTH?

“You could call it the sleep-at-night test,” says Allan Resnick, vice president of the Walgreens legal division. “I always tell people that at Walgreens, you don’t need to ask permission to do the right thing. You just do it.” For Resnick, and many of the people who use it in their daily business dealings, The Four-Way Test is much more than a guide to personal behavior. It’s a compelling business model that’s actually a powerful workforce management tool.

Resnick recalls how, after the sale of some property several years ago, the company’s real estate division received a “fairly large sum of money” that should have gone to the buyers instead. “The buyers wouldn’t have even known we had it,” he says. “Many companies would have just cashed the check. They were fairly astonished to receive the money from us.”

Is it FAIR to all concerned?

In Texas, Realtor and Rotarian Tony Weissgarber adopted The Four-Way Test and says he greatly prefers it to the National Association of Realtors’ nine-page “fine-print ethics statement.” “When I’m in front of a prospect, I just think, is this fair? That helps in all kinds of situations.”

Jim Landers, a photographer with 14 people working for him, who says the test “reinforced what I believed in all along, but it’s like a very fine paintbrush you use to paint in the details. It’s a philosophy I have in the background of my business all the time, helping me to provide a good role model.”


Kit Lindsay, owner of Lindsay Transmission in Warrensburg, Mo., was 24 years old when he received the Rotary Club of Warrenburg’s first Four-Way Test Award which is given to non-Rotarians. He was nominated after a Rotary officer visiting town needed to have his motor home repaired when it broke down. Another local shop had proposed a transmission replacement, but Lindsay fixed the problem for $200. “We have a saying at my business: We do what’s right.”

Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Rotary International Director-elect Lars Olof Fredriksson encourages the use of The Four-Way Test. Making profit is right, but doing it without ethical consciousness, moderation, and without responsibility for the consequences is indefensible,” he explains. “The tenets of truth, honesty, decency, and morality are now more complicated than before and create the often-used explanation, It all depends. But The Four-Way Test gives a bright, clear answer in any situation.”


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