This economic environment may be oppressive, but it's not the end of the world. A few companies are still managing to see profitable growth. All you need is great management, a solid product portfolio, and about six flavors of diversification. Then you're ready to tangle with a tough crowd of competitors, no matter what.

Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN) has all of those ingredients, and it finished off its 2008 fiscal year with a bang. The speech-recognition and digital-image-conversion specialist reported $253 million of fourth-quarter revenue, 41% above the year-ago total. $0.09 of GAAP earnings per share put last year's $0.02 loss per share to shame.

Management gave credit for the strong performance to disciplined expense controls and to great diversity across "industries, solutions, geographies and customers." Let me tell you, that sort of balanced performance doesn't happen by accident -- and when it happens, you're usually looking at an undisputed leader in its field. Networking giant Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), for example, likes to shine a spotlight on its balanced diversity. So does IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) is easing into a similar slot.

Nuance is much smaller than any of the behemoths I just listed, of course, but it's the top dog in speech recognition nonetheless. The company has been the global distributor of IBM's ViaVoice product for several years, and the fact that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) ships Windows Vista with built-in voice recognition is clearly not stopping Nuance's growth.

The company acknowledged the tough economic environment and its effect on the enterprise software market, but because Nuance's products "offer significant cost savings and ROI," the company tends to do OK in hard times. The stock chart backs this up -- Nuance rebounded very quickly after the popping of the tech bubble in 2001.

I'm not saying that Nuance is perfect by any means. There's about $900 million of long-term debt on the balance sheet versus just around $261 million in cash, which is hardly ideal in the midst of a worldwide credit crunch. But this is still a well-run company with attractive products and a severely depressed share price that looks ripe for a massive rebound.

Further Foolishness:

Nuance Communications is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection, and Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.