For many companies, rising to become part of the S&P 500 represents the pinnacle of their achievement. Given the effort and business acumen necessary to take a small business and nurture it over the years to become a large-cap giant of its industry, the few companies that successfully make the journey all involve fascinating stories of overcoming challenges and capitalizing on opportunities.

To get a sense of what's involved in making the big leagues, let's take a look at the four newest members of the S&P 500. With all of these companies having just joined the index earlier this year -- and three of them within the past month -- they should be able to give clues about what the next S&P 500 inductees might look like.

PVH
PVH may have an unassuming name, but the high-fashion apparel-brand company includes some of the best-known clothes-makers in the business. PVH has become one of the 25 best companies in America by leveraging the value of brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as the Phillips-Van Heusen brand whose initials live on in the corporate name of the company. With recent moves to consolidate its command of key branding and consistently looking for new opportunities to boost the power of its marketing and distribution network, PVH is looking to take full advantage of worldwide growth to expand its reach.


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Regeneron just joined the S&P 500 at the beginning of May, but investors have already looked beyond that to the big potential that the biotech has with its promising drugs. In particular, the failure of rival Allergan in coming up with a viable competitor to Regeneron's Eylea treatment for macular degeneration helped push Regeneron shares up even further this month. Moreover, Regeneron's recently announced partnership with Sanofi to test its sarilumab rheumatoid arthritis drug could potentially produce a blockbuster in the space that could unseat well-established competitor Enbrel.

Macerich
Macerich isn't the flashiest of companies, but as a real estate investment trust specializing in shopping malls, it rewards investors with a strong dividend yield above 3% along with the promise of real-estate appreciation in its portfolio of properties. Even though it's a newcomer to the index, Macerich will actually be just the third-smallest REIT in the S&P 500. With so many major anchor-tenant retailers suffering big issues with keeping sales up, Macerich faces some significant challenges in keeping its own revenue high. But the company has gotten through tough times before, and a general rebound in commercial real estate has helped boost the stock to new highs recently.

Kansas City Southern
Railroad company Kansas City Southern is the newest member of the S&P, having joined the index just yesterday. Yet many analysts believe that its days in the index may be short-lived, not because of any problems or prospects of failure but rather because it represents an attractive takeover target. With the boom in the railroad industry lately, Kansas City Southern has a lucrative asset: cross-border operations that give the company access to the booming Mexican market. When you consider all the attention to rail-based transport of oil, the argument for consolidation gets even better.

What's next?
Of course, once a company makes it into the S&P 500, there are still higher aspirations it can strive for and more exclusive benchmarks to try to join. But no matter how high a company goes, the day on which it becomes part of the S&P 500 will always represent a major milestone in its corporate history.

The best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

The article Meet the 4 Newest Members of the S&P 500 originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on TwitterL @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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