"In my experience, my best stocks are companies that have already risen heartily, to the point that most people would probably write them off and say, 'I missed it.' "
-- David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool

Who's the greatest of all time? In basketball, that's easy: Michael Jordan. Hockey is even easier: Wayne Gretzky. Baseball is a bit trickier. The numbers argue for Barry Bonds, but I'd go with Willie Mays. Unfortunately, determining the greatest company in America is not so easy. How do you define greatness? By innovation? Market cap? Sales? Values?

You can imagine the complications, but I'll answer the question anyway. All things considered, the greatest company in America right now is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). At Rule Breakers, we are committed to identifying the greatest companies of our generation, and Google is clearly the first among equals in this select group of visionary enterprises.

These Fools just don't get it
There they go again. Those Motley Fools are always blabbering on and on about Internet firms. Didn't they learn anything from the tech bubble that caused so much misery? How can this ill-informed hack prefer Google, with its revenues of approximately $3.2 billion, to GE (NYSE:GE), with revenues of $152 billion or better yet, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), with sales of $298 billion? If ever there were a stock that was overhyped, overblown, and overbought, it was Google. Greatest company in America? Please. Greatest short opportunity? Now you're talking.

Yeah, I would agree that this stock might be risky in the short term. If you are looking to make a quick couple of bucks in the next six months or a year, this company is not for you. But if you are looking to invest in an outstanding company for the next 20 years that has excellent growth prospects, a superior business model, talented employees, and a creative vision that surpasses its peers, I can't imagine doing better than Google. So sure, you could get clobbered with this stock in the next year or two. But over a 20-year time frame, I think you'd do rather well.

The thing I like best about Google is its focus. The company's not trying to be everything to everybody. Rather, the leaders there view themselves as a technology company that is working to provide the most efficient and rewarding search experience for its end users. The management actually has a mathematical shorthand for describing its priorities. It's called the "70-20-10" principle, and Sergey Brin, one of the company's founders, claims he can prove it with mathematical certainty. I believe him.

The company devotes 70% of its talent and capital to its core products, such as search advertising. It devotes another 20% to secondary products like Froogle or Gmail. And it devotes 10% of its energies to things that it believes in, like digitizing the world's great libraries, so that everyone can have access to the collections of Harvard and Stanford. By focusing like a laser on what it does best, the company stands to make considerable profits from what is called the "network effect." The network effect causes a company's products to have more value as the number of users increases. With Internet penetration still low in places such as China and India, there is nearly unlimited potential for this company.

Have you MSN'd anyone lately?
There's a good reason why the word google has become part of our lexicon: It's because it's the best search engine out there. I spend a lot of time on Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) site, for example, but I must confess that I'll go off-site if I need to make a search. I'm also aware that MSN is making a big push in the search area, but tell me honestly: Do you know anyone who uses MSN for a search? I thought not. The fact that Google is supreme in the search area is starting to pay off for the company. In the fourth quarter of 2004, the company obtained $1 billion in revenues, almost all of which came from advertising.

The ability to make money out of online advertising has been one of the company's greatest successes. Revenues from Google's own sites accounted for 51% of revenues in the fourth quarter of 2004, and sales generated from partner sites through the AdSense programs accounted for 48% of total revenues.

AdSense is an innovation that allows large and small businesses and content providers to reach their target markets and make additional profits. Basically, AdSense provides a business like Sony (NYSE:SNE) or a content provider like The New York Times with Google's search capability, in addition to providing a supply of willing advertisers to their sites. When someone clicks on an advertisement on, say, the Sony site, Google sends a check to Sony, and keeps a bit for itself. As Google expands into new markets and develops its new "local" search feature, AdSense will generate larger and larger amounts of revenue.

Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.
Our lead analyst at Rule Breakers, David Gardner, has pointed out that many of his best investments appeared overvalued when he bought them. AOL (NYSE:TWX) quadrupled the year and a half before he purchased it. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) both doubled before he bought them. It's difficult for greatness to remain anonymous, so often you will have to pay up for excellence. To paraphrase the new LeBron James ads, sometimes you have to believe the hype.

A prominent online investment pooh-bah recently declared that Google was a poor long-term investment. By long term, he meant five years. If you have the opportunity to become a shareholder/owner of one of the great companies of our generation, why not lengthen your investment horizon? Most things worth doing well -- like speaking a foreign language, perfecting your backswing, or learning to play the guitar -- take a lot longer than five years. Why are we so impatient with our investments?

We few, we happy few
Google is a classic Rule Breaker stock. It's the best at what it does. It profits from "network effects" that deliver enormous long-term benefits. It's an innovator and it does well by doing good.

Not everyone will be convinced. For value folks, this stock appears to be too expensive. For short-term investors, these shares seem to be too risky. For others, the tech meltdown of just a few years ago remains a haunting memory of what can go wrong.

But some of us are willing to take a chance on greatness. And it is for this select group that the Rule Breakers investment service was designed. If you would like to join our band of brothers who are committed to seeking out the greatest companies of our generation, then why not sign up for a free trial for 30 days.

John Reeves does not own any companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.