At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." In our recurring column, "This Just In," we cover the most headline-worthy upgrades and downgrades, testing the analysts' logic and examining their records to help you decide whether they're worth listening to at all.

In "Get to Know a Guru," we go another route. Here, we use upgrade and downgrade news as a springboard to introduce you to some of the lesser-known names in analyst land. Up this week: Barrington Research.

Profiles in punditry
An unfamiliar name (to me, at least) popped up on MSN Money's tally of analyst downgrades last week, when Barrington Research initiated coverage on InnerWorkings (NASDAQ:INWK) with an "outperform" rating. And if you're wondering just who the heck "Barrington Research" is, you're not alone. Fortunately, that's the kind of question I aim to address in this column. So without further ado, let's...

Get to know this guru
Here's what TrackBarrington on CAPS has to say about the firm:

Located in Chicago, Illinois, Barrington Research is an investment firm that provides research, brokerage, investment banking and asset management services. Barrington conducts its research from a top-down and bottom-up perspective, meeting in the middle to identify potential investments. The top-down perspective assesses broad market trends while the bottom-up perspective assesses company fundamentals. With their research focusing on companies with above-average, sustainable growth rates, coverage tends to center around companies in the $100 million to $10 billion range.

100 and 10 -- Barrington seems to have a fondness for those numbers. Further inquiry on Barrington's website reveals that it focuses its research on "approximately 100 companies within 10 industries" at any one time, seeking out firms offering "strong management, above-average profitability and growth, leadership in a market niche, unique, proprietary products or services, financial strength, acquisition skills, consistent results, and an aggressive commitment to new product development." Its current favorite industries include: business services, consumer products, health care, industrial technology, and media and entertainment.

Are these guys any good?
So much for the firm's biography. What we really want to know about is its resume. When Barrington speaks, should investors listen?

Absolutely. Barrington has been picking stocks out of the air in the windy city for nearly a quarter of a century, and according to CAPS, Barrington's become one mighty fine stock picker. The firm boasts a sterling 92.61 CAPS rating and a record of getting its picks right more than 61% of the time. A few of its best ideas to date include:

Barrington Says:

CAPS Says:

Barrington 's Pick
Beating S&P by:

Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI)

Outperform

**

21 points

ITT Educational
(NYSE:ESI)

Outperform

***

57 points

Tribune (NYSE:TRB)

Underperform

*

15 points

Of course, even great investors make mistakes. Here are a few of Barrington's bigger blunders:

Barrington Says:

CAPS Says:

Barrington 's Pick
Lagging S&P by:

Time Warner Cable
(NYSE:TWC)

Outperform

***

27 points

Walgreen (NYSE:WAG)

Outperform

***

26 points

Fiserv (NASDAQ:FISV)

Outperform

***

3 points

Separating the analyst from the analyzed
As much as I admire Barrington's record, however, I'm less enthusiastic about the company it chose to endorse on Friday. "Print procurement" provider InnerWorkings has an interesting business -- basically, it hires itself out as a coordinator of outsourced printing jobs. But at 66 times trailing earnings, I find the stock's price considerably less appealing.

On the plus side, the company is growing fast, spreading like a wildfire (whether that's a good metaphor in a paper-intensive business is open to debate), with analysts projecting 38% annual profits growth over the next five years. Companies setting a blistering pace for growth are notoriously difficult to value and can grow quickly into their prices (Google, anyone?) On the minus side, the firm still isn't generating any cash profits. It may have earned nearly $12 million over the last 12 months as GAAP measures profits, but at the same time, it burned through $2.3 million in free cash flow. Until InnerWorkings turns that around and demonstrates an ability to produce real cash profits, I intend to sit this one out.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 4,986 out of more than 37,000 ranked players. The Fool has a disclosure policy.