I lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was only the third Category 5 storm to make landfall in the United States, and it was a doozy. I remember waiting for the deafening gusts to subside before venturing out to see the savage destruction the killer storm had caused. When it comes to windstorms, Category 5 is as intense as they get. When it comes to investing, growth stocks would be the market's equivalent.
Growth stocks are powerful, which can sometimes be a good thing. Find the right stock on the cusp of blowing apart the landscape, and you can go from being a modest investor to a rich one in the blink of a hurricane's eye. Think Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE ) just as the publishing software specialist was discovering its true calling in a Web-tethered world. Delve into Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN ) as its Neupogen and Epogen drugs first hit the market or Southwest Airlines as it reinvented air travel with its low-cost, frills-free service.
By the same token, growth stocks are volatile. I saw volatility when I stepped outside my home in 1992. You can see it, too, in a portfolio ravaged by the wrong growth stocks. Planet Hollywood? 3DO? They both blew my portfolio to pieces way back when.
Bracing for the big one
Snapping up the right growth stocks is the aim of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. Every month, David Gardner leads a team of analysts in unearthing a couple of ultimate growth stock ideas. When he's right, Category 5 investing can be a thing of beauty. Four of the 24 recommendations from 2005 have gone on to more than double. Two have more than tripled in value! When he's wrong, the damage can be brutal. Ten of last year's picks are sporting double-digit losses.
The key to aggressive growth stock investing is to let your winners run. If you land that 10-bagger, it means that nine other similar investments can go to zero and you'll still have broken even.
Taking chances has led the service to single out some pretty eclectic -- if not outright eccentric -- companies. SunTech Power (NYSE: STP ) has gone on to handily beat the market since being singled out last year with the growing popularity of its solar energy panels. Playboy (NYSE: PLA ) turned heads as a pick a few months ago, but David justified the pick as a play on the brand's revival in soft adult entertainment.
Earlier this year, the newsletter also landed a potential winner in fast-growing "fresh Mex" chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG ) . The company has been able to blow past analyst estimates with its emergence as the true star among quick-service eateries.
Buying into new technology, brand revivals, and speedy burrito rollers can be risky. That's OK. Disruptive technology may not disrupt overnight, but when it does, the upticks can come in a hurry.
I was fortunate enough to have been with The Motley Fool in the mid-1990s, when David was recommending the purchase of companies like America Online, PayPal, and Amazon. They seemed like radical investments at the time. AOL was battling it out in the cutthroat realm of dial-up online services. PayPal was battling established financial-services titans in the field of online micropayments. Amazon was trying to turn retail distribution upside down by shipping book orders placed online directly to the end user. AOL, PayPal, and online shopping took off, and so did David's real-money Rule Breakers portfolio.
Andrew, 15 years later
The storms keep coming. I still live in Miami, so I've had my share of windstorms come by in recent years. Two years ago, Katrina and Wilma came for a visit, and the alphabet is just getting started in 2007.
Storms continue, but so do investing ideas. I looked at investing styles and labeled them as hurricane categories this past summer.
Wrapping things up with the most powerful -- and sometimes dangerous -- basket of stocks makes sense. I'm part of the Rule Breakers team of analysts. I buy stocks in all shapes and flavors, though I'm always smitten by a good young growth stock with a great story to tell.
Oh, they do tell stories. It was easy to snuggle up to a company like iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT ) -- a Rule Breakers recommendation shortly after its IPO -- as the company revolutionized the home appliance industry with its robotic Roomba vacuum cleaner and Scooba floor scrubber. The company's bomb-sniffing automatons also make iRobot a compelling military play.
I don't mind the exotic. I don't fear Category 5 investing. I've seen David excel at it for nearly as long as I've been telling stories about how I made it through Hurricane Andrew.
Are you a Category 5 investor? Want to learn more to see if you are one? Give Rule Breakers a spin with a free 30-day pass to see if growth investing is right for you.
This article was originally published on July 21, 2006. It has been updated.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in taking chances to earn superior returns. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. Amazon and AOL parent Time Warner are active Stock Advisor picks. Chipotle is also a Hidden Gems pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.