With a huge universe of thousands of stocks to choose from, many investors look for ways to pare down how many companies they have to research. But if you close yourself off from timely opportunities just because they're outside your comfort zone, you'll likely miss out on some of the most profitable investments available.

When you're first starting out as an investor, you might look at all sorts of companies. As you gain experience, though, you may find that the stocks that appeal to you most share certain traits you find particularly attractive. Eventually, you may just start identifying yourself as a certain type of investor -- and stop looking at other types of stocks.

I'll grant that there's no way you can follow every single company on the major stock exchanges. You have to make some arbitrary decisions about which stocks to follow and which to ignore. But if you get too comfortable with your tunnel vision, you won't see some great stocks that sit outside your particular niche.

Value and growth
Perhaps the most obvious example is how many investors classify themselves as either growth or value investors. You know the stereotypes well:

  • To a value investor, high growth stocks are all overpriced, overhyped companies that rely on the spotlight for their seemingly unsustainable, astronomical returns. Eventually, the investing world will get a clue, and then their shares will fall back to earth.
  • To a growth investor, value stocks are all boring, stagnant businesses without any future prospects whatsoever. Some may occasionally have some new ideas, but for the most part, the value realm is where stocks go to die.

This idea that value and growth stocks are mutually exclusive gets further support from the way people talk about investments. Morningstar, for instance, classifies mutual funds either as value or growth funds, with a "blend" category in the middle. The Russell indexes use a somewhat better system -- 70% of stocks are split between growth and value, with the middle 30% getting a proportional weight to both for purposes of style-based indexes.

Your chocolate's in my peanut butter!
In any event, trying to separate stocks into categories shouldn't make or break an investment decision. Since different investors define great stocks using two different sets of criteria, it makes far more sense to try to find companies that qualify under both. In other words, by mixing the two styles, you can find a select group of stocks that would appeal to everyone.

In the value-growth debate, the current market environment has given investors an unprecedented opportunity to buy into stocks that combine great value with strong growth prospects. Below are just a few of the companies that feature good arguments from both sides of the aisle:

Stock

P/E Ratio

Total Debt /Equity

5-Year Estimated Earnings Growth

Return on Equity

Accenture (NYSE:ACN)

11.8

0.00

11.5%

88.7%

Volcom (NASDAQ:VLCM)

6

0.00

19.4%

20.4%

Daktronics (NASDAQ:DAKT)

10.6

0.00

10%

17.7%

Fossil (NASDAQ:FOSL)

5.7

0.00

16.8%

19.6%

McDermott International (NYSE:MDR)

5.6

0.00

10%

42.5%

Administaff (NYSE:ASF)

10.8

0.00

15.8%

23.5%

Force Protection (NASDAQ:FRPT)

10.3

0.00

20%

17.8%

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Of course, even if you're just looking at a single set of characteristics, you might run into these stocks. But if you're focusing solely on cheap stocks, you'll probably find companies with more attractive valuations -- and if you want high-growth companies, you'll definitely find ones with better growth prospects.

Combining the two in a single package, however, makes stocks like these something special -- and worthy of further research. Ultimately, they may not pass the final test for other reasons, but they do make sure you go outside your particular investing niche.

As an investor, it's great to have a strong suit. But staying aware of what other investors are looking can give you additional insight as you go through your own lists. By digging deeper on a stock, you may find additional positive characteristics that tip the balance in your favor -- and help you choose a winner that you might otherwise have missed.

For more on finding great investments, read about:

At Motley Fool Rule Breakers, we believe the best values in the market defy conventional wisdom. Taking risk is unavoidable, but companies with the best growth prospects have the potential for explosive gains. Don't miss out -- take a look at our latest recommendations free with a 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is a value investor who occasionally breaks out and buys growth stocks. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Volcom and Fossil are Motley Fool Hidden Gems picks. Administaff and Accenture are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy goes where no one has gone before.