One of the great things about investing is that there are thousands of companies to consider, helping investors build the portfolio they desire. But what if you could only buy three stocks right now? How would that change the calculus of a buying decision?

I put myself through this thought exercise and came up with three businesses that have track records of success and tailwinds for future growth. Let's take a look at why Amazon (AMZN -0.34%), Costco Wholesale (COST -0.15%), and Airbnb (ABNB 0.76%) are my picks.

Amazon

It might seem odd to choose a stock trading 45% off its recent high, but this falloff is due to short-term challenges the company has already acknowledged and taken steps to remedy.

In the recently released annual letter, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy reminded investors that over the past two years, Amazon doubled the footprint of its fulfillment center, which took 25 years to build. This was done to meet consumer demand at the height of the pandemic, but that demand has normalized. 

Now, Amazon is working through the inefficiencies that there wasn't time to worry about during the frantic buildout. The company is already seeing productivity gains and cost reductions as a result of this closer look at all aspects of the business.

If Amazon is able to achieve these improvements in efficiency, it should result in improved operating income, which fell by 51% in 2022, leading to a net loss of $2.7 billion for the year. 

Beyond the struggles with profitability, Amazon had a pretty strong fiscal 2022 with revenue increasing by 9%. Digging into that revenue number a little bit, there are some interesting trends. For example, advertising revenue increased by 21% to $37 billion and now accounts for 7.3% of revenue, up from 6.6% in 2021. If this can continue to grow, it could end up becoming a material part of Amazon's revenue stream.

Amazon still has to show it can walk the walk with many of the efficiencies it talks about putting in place. However, the shares currently trade for 2.1 times sales, a valuation near where it was 10 years ago. The risk/reward here is appealing.

Costco

Despite trailing the market over the last year, Costco has historically been a market-beating investment. Over the past three-, five-, and 10-year time frames, the stock has outpaced the S&P 500 handily. While past performance should not be the primary investing thesis for owning a stock, there's plenty of reason to like Costco moving forward.

When Q2 2023 results were reported in March, Costco showed why it's the third-largest retailer in the world. Revenue increased by 6%, operating income grew by 5%, and net income increased by 13%. More impressive is that these results were during a time of higher inflation when most retailers saw decreased operating income and profitability.

It's clear that Costco is still a go-to retail location for its members. Comp sales for Q2 increased by 5%, as did traffic. This makes sense as rising prices likely drove shoppers to lower-cost providers like Costco. This customer value proposition is evident in Costco's membership numbers. As of Q2, Costco had 68 million paid members and 123 million cardholders, both up 7% year over year. 

This customer momentum has proved resilient in all kinds of economic conditions, making Costco especially attractive now as recession fears mount.

Airbnb

With rising interest rates and inflation plaguing the economy throughout 2022, stocks took a hit regardless of whether they were impacted by these macro conditions or not. Airbnb was no exception, with shares currently trading 44% lower than their 2021 high.

However, the business results have been impressive. For 2022, revenue increased 40% while net income grew to $1.9 billion, representing a 23% net income margin and the company's first profitable year. Free cash flow also increased by 49% to $3.4 billion.

These strong results were driven by a 31% increase in nights and experiences booked, with growth coming in all regions. These results signal that whatever potential headwinds exist in the economy, they have yet to hit Airbnb's business. Strong results are expected to continue with Q1 revenue projected to be between $1.75 billion and $1.82 billion. This would represent a year-over-year increase between 16% and 21%. 

Airbnb has been actively improving its platform to make the experience better for both hosts and guests. For example, a new feature called Airbnb Setup pairs new hosts with Superhosts for one-on-one support and guidance as they start hosting. This attention to improving the platform is a good sign that management is focused on the right things for future growth.