Recently, Dow Jones Industrial Average stalwart 3M (NYSE:MMM) recorded a strong increase in quarterly earnings, up 17% from the year before on a 7.6% rise in sales. Most of the mainstream financial press concentrated on the fact that 3M missed earnings expectations by a penny. The result: Shares of the stock dropped 5%.

Did investors overreact to this news? Is the financial press looking at the wrong story? I think so, because as usual they are focusing on the short term. For the first three quarters of the year, Triple M's profits were $2.27 billion, up 27% from $1.78 billion during the same period last year. Sales rose 10% to $14.92 billion from $13.51 billion a year ago. All this contributes to a profit margin of 15%. Here at the Fool, we love large profit margins.

Six of the company's seven units reported larger operating incomes this quarter. The only exception was the transportation division, where income was $105 million -- down $1 million from the year before. Read that last bit again, and you'll understand why 3M continues to be so successful. It has seven divisions pumping out products. Where other companies seek to grow via acquisitions, 3M just keeps making stuff. They've got thousands of products already, so imagination isn't something they lack.

Just looking around my house, I see the following 3M products: Scotch tape, tape dispenser, Scotch-Brite detergent (and pads), Oxy Carpet Cleaner, Post-It Notes, Scotchgard on my couch, Nexcare bandages, CD-ROMs, O-Cel-O Sponge cloth, Scotch Cassette Deck Head Cleaner, cushioned mailers, glue sticks, and Scotch micro-fiber cleaning cloth. And those are just the ones I know about. 3M has a presence in so many darn areas -- from security to electronics to health care to displays -- that I wouldn't be surprised if their cables ran under my home and their adhesives held my house together.

Finally, 3M's stock price has doubled over the past five years and quadrupled over the past 15 years. That's a nice, slow, steady return. Heck, it ain't Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), but nor does it carry the risk.

So how is it that a company that makes everything under the sun has not attracted the same attention as General Electric (NYSE:GE) or Tyco International (NYSE:TYC)? Maybe it's just because 3M is one of those boring companies that investors overlook. That's not such a bad thing, because sometimes slow and boring wins the race, especially if you're saving for your kids' future or ruling your retirement. If that's your case, consider opting for the 3M tortoise. It's likely to reach the finish line having caused you fewer heart palpitations than stocks belonging to Lepus europaeus species (that's "rabbit" to you and me).

Fool contributor Lawrence Meyers owns shares of General Electric but no other stocks mentioned in this article. However, he uses tons of 3M products.