Looking for a good measure of business ethics? As a teenager, I was a Rotary International exchange student to Germany for a year. I still think Rotary’s Four-Way Test is a wonderful yardstick:
This “golden rule” of business conduct was created by Chicago Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 and still stands today as an organizational hallmark.
Is there a place for good ethics in business? According to a site on the history of Rotary, one attorney told Mr. Taylor, “If I followed your Test explicitly, I would starve to death.” Hmm. Can we really balance integrity and ambition?
Herb Taylor sure thought so. At his troubled company, Club Aluminum, in the 1930’s, everything was measured against the 4 Way Test. Words like “better, best, greatest, and finest” were dropped from ads and replaced by factual descriptions of the product. Negative comments about competitors were also removed.
This dovetails neatly with the the BBB Code of Advertising, which prohibits “puffery” and exaggerated claims. (The BBB was founded in 1912 by the former president of Coca-Cola, who was disturbed at his own lawyer’s claims during a lawsuit.)
The 4 Way Test worked for Mr. Taylor. The climate of trust and goodwill among dealers, customers, and employees that it created improved the company’s reputation and its finances. By 1937, the club’s debt was paid off and during the next 15 years, its net worth climbed to more than $2 million.
Trust. It’s priceless. To those who feel they can’t afford good business ethics, I say the opposite is true. You can’t afford NOT to do the right thing.
If you’re looking for an ethical company to do business with, Start With Trust by searching track records on www.bbb.org.