The Four-Way Test
Way Test. First, the staff applied it to advertising. Words like "better," "best," "greatest" or "finest" were dropped from ads and replaced by factual descriptions of the product. Negative comments about competitors were removed from advertising and company literature.
The Test gradually became a guide for every aspect of the business, creating a climate of trust and goodwill among dealers, customers and employees. It became part of the corporate culture, and eventually helped improve Club Aluminum's reputation and finances.
One day, the sales manager announced a possible order for 50,000 utensils. Sales were low and the company was still struggling at the bankruptcy level. The senior managers certainly needed and wanted that sale, but there was a hitch. The sales manager learned that the potential customer intended to sell the products at cut-rate prices. "That wouldn't be fair to our regular dealers who have been advertising and promoting our product consistently," he said. In one of the toughest decisions the company made that year, the order was turned down. There was no question this transaction would have made a mockery out of The Four-Way Test the company professed to live by.
By 1937, Club Aluminum's indebtedness was paid off and during the next 15 years, the firm distributed more than $1 million in dividends to its stockholders. Its net worth climbed to more than $2 million.
Too idealistic for the real world? The Four-Way Test was born in the rough and tumble world of business, and put to the acid test of experience in one of the toughest times that the business community has ever known. It survived in the arena of practical commerce.
In 1942, Richard Vernor of Chicago, then a director of Rotary International, suggested that Rotary adopt the Test. The R.I. Board approved his proposal in January 1943 and made The Four-Way Test a component of the Vocational Service program, although today it is considered a vital element in all four Avenues of Service.
Herb Taylor transferred the copyright to Rotary International when he served as R.I. president in 1954-55, during the organization's golden anniversary.
Today, more than six decades since its creation, has the Test lost its usefulness in modern society, as some critics maintain? Is it sophisticated enough to guide business and professional men and women in these fast-paced times?
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