A stock's price follows its earnings, which in turn follow its sales. A company needs only to take care of its business for investors to profit in the long run.

With that in mind, examining companies whose revenues and profits are rising -- and that inspire analysts' confidence in continued growth -- should give us a fertile group of solid candidates for long-term outperformance.

The roaring 20s
Below are a handful of companies that have enjoyed 20% or more annual growth in sales and earnings over the past three years, and for which analysts forecast total growth of 20% or more over the next two years. We'll then pair up those predictions with the research at Motley Fool CAPS to learn which companies the 135,000-plus members think have the best chances of beating the market over the long haul.

Company

3-Year Past Revenue Annual Growth

3-Year Past EPS Annual Growth

Estimated 2-Year EPS Growth

Estimated 2-Year Revenue Growth

CAPS Rating

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

24.9%

41.1%

20.4%

28.2%

***

LHC Group (NASDAQ:LHCG)

37.4%

40.9%

38.7%

49.7%

***

NCI (NASDAQ:NCIT)

28.4%

33%

37.3%

27.9%

****

Open Text (NASDAQ:OTEX)

23.7%

200.1%

36%

21.1%

**

RRSat Global Communications Network (NASDAQ:RRST)

35.4%

27.9%

24%

41.8%

*****

Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's) and Motley Fool CAPS.

Just because an analyst predicts that a company has fantastic growth opportunities doesn't mean those predictions will become reality. But analysts' preferred picks do offer an excellent starting place for your own research into extreme buying opportunities, so let's see why some of these companies may or may not be held in high esteem by investors, considering they appear to be churning out the sales and profits.

Tippling at the speakeasy
Despite being an important player in enterprise content management (ECM), Open Text still has to contend with some pretty big dogs in the form of IBM (NYSE:IBM) and EMC (NYSE:EMC). It has also grown through acquisitions, so it had to be spot-on with the deals it made. More than one-third of its total assets are wrapped up in goodwill -- a potential source of losses if it has to begin writing that down. So far, it hasn't had to, suggesting Open Text hasn't overpaid for its purchases. But it's a potential risk that, when added to a valuation of 29 times earnings, might keep it from ranking higher with investors.

Open Text's customers need to keep track of enterprise content in case of lawsuits or for compliance with regulations, among other things. Fortunately, this keeps them seeking out its solutions. Then there's a partnership with Microsoft that gives it continuing opportunities for growth. Open Text has grown to become the No. 2 ECM provider, and CAPS member 88X88 likes what it has been doing.

Excellent products in a real growth area for software. They've been buying up much of the smaller competition to improve products and market share.

RRSat Global is a different kind of content manager in that it provides distribution services to the TV and radio broadcasting industries. It operates a lean, low-cost business by leasing -- rather than owning -- satellite and terrestrial fiber-optic transmission capacity, and because its teleports are based in Israel, it offers the unique advantage of transmitting via a single satellite connection to nearly anywhere in the world.

That helps explain why it has grown to more than 500 TV and radio channels covering more than 150 countries, and why polar opposites like Fox News and Al Jazeera use its services.

The stock price went into a freefall in May after company officials adjusted their expectations for revenue. However, CAPS member mopoff thinks the sell-off was ill-advised:

Very good growth rates in both the recent past and future estimates. Low P/E relative to industry. Significant insider ownership but low institutional ownership. Nice dividend. The stock price recently dropped by a third after the company announced on May 7, 2009 that it was lowering its Q3 '09 and 2009 annual revenue estimates by a tiny bit. This was an overreaction. RRSat is a solid company in a promising industry, and even its revised [earnings] estimates are significantly higher than last year.

No Great Depression
It pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made -- all from a stock's CAPS page. Why not head over to the completely free CAPS service and let us hear what you've got to say about these or any other stocks?

Open Text is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation, Apple is a Stock Advisor selection, and Microsoft is an Inside Value pick.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.