We all know the tortoise beat the hare. Still, it's human nature to bet on the rabbit anyway. Burned investors who backed the bunny during the past few years should get acquainted with savvy value investor John Rogers and his outstanding ( ARGFX) Ariel fund. The firm's trademark is a turtle, its motto is "Slow and Steady Wins the Race," and its
Web site includes a link to Aesop's "Tortoise and the Hare" fable. Rogers, at the helm since the fund's 1986 inception, has racked up stellar performance: Its 10-year average annual return of 12.23% ranks in the top 17% among its peers, and the fund's three- and five-year rankings are good for the top 18% of all small-cap value funds, according to Morningstar. In today's 10 Questions, Rogers discusses where he finds bargains these days. In a bit of a surprise, the tortoise of investing sees a bargain in the highest-profile hare of the 1990s: Janus. What else is Rogers betting on? Read on. 1. Ariel's Web's site proudly displays a turtle icon with the motto, "Slow and Steady Wins the Race." How do you put that philosophy to work at your fund? We're long-term investors. We try to buy a company for the long term. We look for well-managed companies that have dynamic leadership, have demonstrated the ability to attract and retain good people, provide quality products for its customers. We also pay close attention for a strong balance sheet. We want to make sure they're in the right industry -- one that can allow a company to grow 12%-15% a year consistently. Finally, we want to make sure we buy the stock at the right value. We are looking for companies with low price-to-earnings multiples and a low price relative to their intrinsic value of the business. 2. How do you assess a management team? What are the hallmarks of a stellar executive suite? Well, it's hard to find. You want managements that communicate effectively. Where you can understand and get excited about their vision.