I'd like to thank the Gardner brothers, my accounting professor ...
Wait, I'm not winning this award?
Oh, right. You, the reader, get to decide who takes the crown for Overall Most Foolish. If you're new to this whole Foolishness thing, keep in mind our core values: honesty, optimism, teamwork, innovation, and winning.
The field has been narrowed to five companies, each boasting characteristics that'll warm a Foolish heart. The winner, however, depends on your vote.
And the nominees are:
Nominated last year in the social responsibility category, Costco has a sterling reputation for employee relations. That includes cross-training and promotion from within, which certainly boosts a sense of teamwork and belonging. The firm has also won awards for both customer satisfaction and its promotion of commuting alternatives.
Costco's winning ways are shining through in this brutal retail environment, prompting Kristin Graham to tap the firm in our Best Stock for 2009 contest. Brand loyalty, long-term vision, strong financials -- this firm is definitely a formidable contender.
Fool CEO Tom Gardner has been preaching Pixar lately, partly on account of its two fascinations. All employees are fascinated with either animation or storytelling. What better way to foster teamwork and a winning streak than to have everyone share a common passion?
The results speak for themselves. Wall-E was one of the year's best films -- animated or otherwise -- and it made a lot of the live-action fare look lifeless (and brainless) in comparison. Pixar's commitment to continuing education at work also aligns with our Foolish mission.
Prem Watsa, the man helming this insurance holding company, has already been identified as "reluctant CEO of the year" by one newspaper. While the Canadian has tended to shy away from publicity, Watsa was not shy when it came to defending against what he perceived to be a dangerous investing climate. Thanks in part to credit default swaps and other short bets, the company posted double-digit share price returns in 2008. Fairfax now has a massive cash pile to put to work. Lest you think Prem Watsa runs counter to our tenet of optimism, consider that he turned bullish and lifted his equity hedges in late November. Permabear, he ain't.
Ever since Google released its Owner's Manual back in 2004, we knew this company was special. That founding document spelled out several Foolish principles, such as a focus on long-term shareholder interests, not to mention the infamous "Don’t Be Evil" admonition. Google is easily the most innovative of the five nominees, judging by its search engine dominance.
The company, now twice-nominated in this category, finally garnered a formal recommendation from our Motley Fool Rule Breakers team in mid-2008. They see cloud computing as the next big step for Big Goo, and I'd offer up Google's moves in solar, geothermal, the smart grid, and plug-in hybrids as other promising pursuits.
Rounding out the group is a second insurer that we hold in high esteem. Crack open an annual report and you'll see a description of the Markel Style, a corporate culture that embraces every one of the Fool's core values, from honesty to winning, and requires a sense of humor to boot! Markel thus strikes many of us not only as a mini-Berkshire Hathaway
So, who gets your vote?
See the rest of our Fool Awards nominees.
Costco Wholesale and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Walt Disney, Costco Wholesale, and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Markel and Berkshire Hathaway. Award yourself with a free 30-day trial of any of our Foolish newsletters.