If I asked you to describe the ideal company, what would you say? No, no, I'm not asking you to tick off your favorite members of the Fortune 500, nor some up-and-comer small cap that you've just discovered. I want you to think about the characteristics you'd give a company if you could dream it right into existence.

Would it be in a particular industry? Would it be services- or product-based? Would it have fat profit margins, or would it make its money by doing a huge volume?

We could spend all day going over the details of this Galatea of the business world, but I would guess that there is at least one aspect we'd all include in our creation: growth. All those other details are great, but how interesting can a business be if it's stagnating and lacks avenues for expansion?

Turning back to reality, I've dug up a handful of companies that actually exist, and which are expected to post significant growth in the years to come. These companies may not all be the picture of perfection, but I've also consulted the 135,000 members of the Motley Fool's CAPS community to get an idea of which are our best bets.


Expected Long-Term Growth

Price-to-Earnings Ratio (TTM)

CAPS rating
(out of 5)

Visa (NYSE:V)




Petrobras (NYSE:PBR)












Lockheed Martin




Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS. TTM = trailing 12 months.

While these aren't meant to be formal recommendations, they could be a great place to kick off further research. In fact, let's dig in a bit further on a favorite of the CAPS community, XTO Energy.

Fueling the growth
Being classified as an "independent oil and gas" company, like XTO, means that your approach to oil and natural gas is pretty simple -- you find it, you get it out of the ground, and you unload it. Unlike the major integrated oil and gas companies, like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX), the independent boys and girls don't concern themselves with turning crude into refined gasoline or jet fuel, nor do they worry about selling off their wares in dribs and drabs to small-time consumers like you and me.

But despite the fact that XTO sticks to its exploration and production area of expertise, it can't decouple itself from what's going on in the broader energy sector. Quite simply, when oil and gas prices are rocking and rolling, XTO sees its best days.

After the major nosedive last year, oil prices have been creeping back lately. However, natural gas -- which represents the larger part of XTO's business -- hasn't seen the same bounce. But natural gas may have its day in the sun again. Many energy industry experts, including T. Boone Pickens, think that natural gas could be a viable alternative to oil in many applications in the U.S.

Perfection or poser?
It's a pretty bold statement to award a stock the descriptor "perfect," but members of the CAPS community seem to think that XTO's stock at least comes close. To date, 2,255 members have logged their opinion on the stock, and 2,220 of those ratings have been "outperform."

To get a better idea as to why CAPS members have favored this stock, let's listen in on why CAPS All-Star sweetjames gave the stock a thumbs-up earlier this year:

XTO has excellent positions in both the Fort Worth and Arkoma basins. They are a leader in operational experience in the Arkoma for sure. XTO can currently afford to keep drilling in the Arkoma basin for the next year at least, because they already have the gas on contract. With regard to the Fort Worth basin, [Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK)] can barely afford to keep the lights on, and XTO, while maybe shedding a rig or two, is still drilling away.

I've already given XTO's stock a thumbs-up in my CAPS portfolio, so now I want to know what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments section below on this page, or, better still, head over to CAPS and share your opinion with the entire CAPS community.

Further Foolishness:

Costco Wholesale is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Chesapeake Energy and Costco Wholesale are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Petroleo Brasileiro is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool's disclosure policy thinks Matt reveals his immaturity when he snickers at the phrase "natural gas."