Successful investing is about concentrating on the factors that really count.

For us Fools, few things are more important than finding honest management teams with a whole lot -- their reputations, their careers, and, preferably, a boatload of common stock -- riding on the success of the business. Looking for high levels of insider ownership in particular makes sense for a few reasons:

  • Insiders have a better sense of the prospects for their business and industry, so a high ownership stake is often a very positive signal.
  • And portfolios with a high average of insider ownership outperform the market over long periods of time.

Partners for profit
After all, billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are where they are today by betting on their own companies. And by winning their bet, they've also made millionaires out of thousands of investors.

So, with the goal of finding real insider-partners to go into business with, here are seven top stocks from our Motley Fool CAPS community. In addition to having insider ownership that exceeds 15%, these stocks have received a four- or five-star rating (out of five) in our database:

Company

% Owned by Insiders

Key Shareholder  

CAPS Rating

Waste Industries USA  (NASDAQ:WWIN)

53%

Founder/Chairman

*****

Bruker BioSciences (NASDAQ:BRKR)

52%

Chairman/President/CEO

*****

Rohm and Haas

29%

Member of the board

*****

Axsys Technologies (NASDAQ:AXYS)

19%

Chairman/President/CEO

*****

Morningstar

69%

Founder/Chairman/CEO

****

Natural Resource Partners (NYSE:NRP)

50%

Chairman/CEO

*****

Weyco Group (NASDAQ:WEYS)

19%

Chairman/CEO

****

Data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, and Motley Fool CAPS.

As always, don't view these stocks as formal recommendations. There are still plenty of risks involved with heavy insider ownership -- like the relative inability of outside, dissident shareholders to spur changes -- so due diligence is very much required.

The garbage man          
Part of being a great businessperson is having the ability to see things that others don't. For the vast majority of us, garbage represents nothing more than a smelly chore (or Oscar the Grouch's demented obsession). But to Lonnie Poole, founder of Waste Industries, a Southern-based waste disposal company, trash represents something far more important: A cash-generating business opportunity.

I've briefly touched on Waste Industries before, but it wasn't until I read about Poole and his family's huge stake in the company that I felt compelled to dive into this dumpster. Armed with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.B.A., Poole founded Waste Industries back in 1970, serving as the company's Chairman from day one. When Poole retired as the company's CEO in 2002, he had led Waste Industries to three consecutive decades of profitability. The current CEO, Jim Perry, has continued that streak ever since.

Of course, you don't have to look very hard to find Poole's motivation for delivering shareholder value over the years -- he's the biggest shareholder of them all. In fact, between Lonnie and his vice president son, Lonnie III, the two continue to own roughly 40% of Waste Industries' outstanding shares.

As far as the numbers go, it seems to be business as usual at WWIN. For the first half of 2007, the company reported a 37.5% increase in operating income and generated over $18 million in free cash flow. Additionally, some of the company's recent developments include the acquisition of assets from a residential company (W.A.D.E.) and a hauling company (Grand Strand Disposal) -- transactions estimated to contribute $8 million in annual revenues.

Naturally, the regional WWIN still has a long way to go before it ever reaches the scale (and associated efficiencies) of waste-hauling behemoths like Waste Management (NYSE:WMI) and Allied Waste (NYSE:AW). But when you consider Waste Industries' long track record of success -- not to mention the Pooles' continued involvement with, and heavy ownership of, the company -- it's pretty tough to trash WWIN.

Now, here's a real inside look at CAPS ...

  • CAPS All-Star hondo928 doesn't waste any time: "Waste Industries is the real deal. They put up the number to beat the street and pay a nice little dividend on top of that. Debt could be a bit of a problem, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. Half of the company is held by insiders, which I see as a huge positive. This company is anything but garbage."
  • Meanwhile, CAPS All-Star TMFLucky11 helps us sift through the trash: "What can I say? There's treasure in trash. I like Waste Industries' growth so far and its plans for the future. Plus, since waste collection's a necessity, the company will march on despite economic downturns. It's a small company with room to grow, and I'm always intrigued by such a matchup. The next Waste Management? We'll see."
  • Finally, CAPS All-Star mcornice follows a money master's stinky lead: "Stealing one from Peter Lynch's investment advice by investing in a dirty, disgusting business. Small-cap that pays a dividend -- which is a nice plus."

Now get inside, Fool
Buying a stock means becoming part-owner of that business. When the people you've essentially hired to run your company are also owners, the odds of profiting from their decisions increases dramatically. Remember: Finding dedicated partners is still the secret to outsized returns.

To get the inside scoop on the ideas mentioned above, or to find even more stocks with high insider ownership, join Motley Fool CAPS today. It's 100% free -- an insider's deal if ever I saw one.

Fool contributor Brian Pacampara owns no position in any of the companies mentioned. Waste Management is an Inside Value newsletter recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.