If there were an award for winning awards, Multiplex Co. would certainly apply -- and it just might win. A $20-million manufacturer of beverage dispensers, the Ballwin, Mo., company has been named winner of the St. Louis Small Business Award as Best Privately Held Company (1987); Best Employer of the Handicapped in Missouri (1979); and Best Company to Work for in St. Louis (1985). Its management-information systems department won an award for a software program, and last year Multiplex received the President's "E" Certificate for excellence in exporting. Multiplex missed the 1988 Inc. 500, however.

Aside from the obvious PR benefits, CEO Walter Kisling claims the awards have helped the company attract strong job candidates and motivate the employees it has. While annual sales have risen 53% since 1983, the work force has grown just 13%. That amounts to a productivity increase of 24%.

"Outside recognition is a great way to find out how good a job you're really doing," says Kisling. "We're a pretty informal company. We don't have a lot of hard-and-fast rules for our employees because we don't want to take the wind out of their sails. Winning these awards reinforces the team spirit here and heightens the enthusiasm for doing good work."

-- Teri Lammers