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Purpose: This research aims to study the deployment and use of total quality management (TQM) approaches and tools for the systematic implementation of TQM, especially within companies that have been applicants for the National Quality Award - Slovenian Business Excellence Prize (SBEP), and its relation to tools and approaches regarding people involvement, external recognition, benchmarking and financial results. Methodology/Approach: The survey is based on the analysis of a sample of companies composed of the three subgroups: "top companies" (based on their financial performance), a randomly chosen control group, and a group consisting of SBEP applicants. The questionnaire was distributed to 500 companies in 2007. The research was done on the basis of 110 respondents. Factor analysis was used to narrow the initial number of items, ANOVA to obtain statistically significant differences between the three group means and discriminant analysis to classify the sample according their use of TQM tools and approaches. Findings: The results showed that the main differences between the three groups of companies in favour of the SBEP group were related to the importance of benchmarking, peer assessment, collaborating in national quality awards (NQA) and partly in financial results. Research limitations/implications: Research limitations of this study might be related to the size of the sample, which is rather small (110 companies), and the fact that the survey conducted in the year 2006 (before the economic crisis). There is every reason to believe that a repeated survey could provide additional perspectives about the development of the TQM and positive effects of SBEP on reached quality excellence level and business performance after the crisis. However, this paper discusses managerial and research implications and provides suggestions for future study. Originality/Value of paper: Based on the findings of this research, it can be concluded that, the companies that took part in the NQA have higher mean scores of observed variables as compared to the other two groups of companies. However, the current economical crisis could be additional impulse that level of TQM development in the companies in this region is rather behind to European level. Nevertheless, further studies should focus not only on implementation of TQM tools and approaches, but on management commitment, innovation and its impacts on successful TQM implementation in the companies.