The beautiful thing about our year long high-growth company study? The company most recommended by readers more than one year ago was Paychex (Nasdaq: PAYX). The company that we're now ready to buy, having reached this conclusion on our own, is Paychex. It topped forty-nine other contenders and emerged on top, right where it started.

It was important that we looked at all the companies on our list, though, and that we came to this conclusion ourselves. We're the investors who need to live with the decision for years, and if we didn't understand why we'd bought Paychex from the start, we'd never understand whether or not we should keep holding it.

We've studied Paychex since the spring (remember spring?). Our most recent column on the company suggested that Paychex traded at a decent valuation at $32, and that our goal of 15.5% returns may be, with some luck, reachable. Our several recent columns on the company, which can serve as a buy report, are:

Paychex vs. eBay
You might recall that eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) was the number-two contender for our investment money. Paychex won out because it has a fee-friendly dividend reinvestment plan, while eBay doesn't have a plan at all, meaning that we'd likely need to pay about $4 every time we bought it.

Paychex also won out because I believe at this point it has a more predictable business, with much more history behind it -- three decades as opposed to four years. eBay has a wonderful business model and great execution so far, but nobody knows how well it can continue growing over the next decade. Management anticipates 50% annualized growth through 2005, which is tremendous, but� is there a saturation point? When do new customers slow to a trickle? Will they? We don't know because we don't have history to guide us.

With Paychex, we have thirty-years of consistent growth, and we know that every year new businesses will need payroll services.

Additionally, Paychex presents a more palatable valuation with more likely consistent appreciation (he says, even as he owns eBay). eBay's valuation leaves little room for error, and though I believe its sustainable advantages will see it through and continue to grant it a premium price for years, I wouldn't want to bank the Drip Port's performance on it. It's much more of a Rule Breaker bet.

Paychex's $250 Drip
So, we're ready to buy Paychex except for some logistics and housekeeping. Paychex's Drip can be started directly with $250. We have $300 in cash in our portfolio, but $200 of that was sent to buy more Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Mellon (NYSE: MEL) when the market tanked. Hopefully we bought Intel around $21; I know we bought Mellon at $32 at the start of the month, but the money might not have arrived in time for Intel.

Anyway, this means we have $100 and in a week we'll add $100 more. We can dip into December's funding, too, and add $50 more, so we'll have enough to start the Paychex Drip -- $250 -- at the beginning of November. The only issue remaining, then, is the big elephant at the bottom of this page that we need to discuss: Our numbers and port tracking.

Drip Port's numbers
More than one month ago, the Fool switched portfolio quote and tracking providers. Since that switch, the Fool is working hard with its new data partner to make everything work correctly -- including portfolio returns. Eventually, these numbers will work. Yet, even when they do, right now the new portfolios don't have the functionality that Drip Port needs.

Mainly, the new portfolios don't allow for dividend reinvestment. Dividends are a capital gain that should be tracked as a "realized gain" from the start, as our old portfolios did. The new portfolios require us to add cash to the port (in the amount of the dividend) and buy the stock with that. Of course, that is far from the same thing. Essentially, that would ignore all of our dividend gains, and those gains are significant and are going to become much more so.

(Right now, I'm sitting on a $6.47 dividend payment that bought more J&J for us at $55.8 in early September. I can't enter it correctly in the port. I haven't entered our recent Mellon purchase either.)

Additionally, the new portfolios will no longer provide us -- at least for now -- a comparable S&P 500 return. We need the S&P 500's return when dollar-cost averaged since July 1997, when we launched. If we can't compare ourselves to the stock market like this, we don't know if we're winning or losing. We know our goal, 15.5% annualized returns, but we always want to know how we're doing against the S&P on an apples-to-apples basis. Currently, that isn't possible any longer.

These issues and others need to be worked out, and until they are, there's not much point in buying a new stock with real money because it can't be accurately tracked for all to see. So, we're ready to buy Paychex, but it isn't certain when we will. Optimistically this'll get worked out soon, or perhaps we'll find another port tracker to use if it comes to that, if one exists that meets our detailed needs. Take care, till next week.

Jeff Fischer owns the stocks in the Drip Port and also owns shares of eBay, though not of Paychex, as is shown on his profile. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.