DESPITE THE HIGHLY PUBLICIZED PROBLEMS OF one winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award--Houston's Wallace Co., which went into Chapter 11--the efforts of implementing a quality program usually pay off, especially for investors. The 16 winners since 1988 have outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index by 3 to 1 in terms of return on investment (chart).

Even the 48 companies that didn't take home a Baldrige but made it to the final round of judging have bested the S&P 500 by 2 to 1, according to a recent study by the National Institute for Science & Technology, which each April invests an imaginary $1,000 in the winners and finalists of the Baldrige Quality Award competition.

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