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Management 2850 - Business & Society Research Guide: Company Research

Company Research Strategies - Table of Contents

Identify Type of Company

When doing company research one should determine whether a company is publicly traded, privately held, or a subsidiary. Hoover's Online can aid you in determining this. If you are doing research on a local level where there are many small businesses, use a database like ReferenceUSA to make the determination. 

Public Company

If you have established that a company is publicly traded, you will be able to find many sources that provide financial summaries, investment analyst reports (such as those provided via ThomsonOne), as well as their 10-Ks or 20-Fs.  The sources in this section will help you find this type of information. 

10-Ks are the annual reports that U.S. public companies must submit to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).  20-Fs are the annual reports that foreign companies trading in the U.S. file to the SEC.  Another good source for the 10-Ks or other annual reports is the company's website.   These reports are usually located in the "Investor Relations" section of a company's website. 

Information and Tips for Conducting Private Company and Subsidiaries Research

In general you will not be able to find detailed financials for the majority of subsidiaries or private companies that exist in the U.S. However, PrivCo does have information for over 850,000 privately-held U.S. companies, and there are some subsidiaries that may be trading independently of the parent.  Here are some tips for private company and subsidiaries research:

  • Search PrivCo.
  • Use a database like ReferenceUSA which will provide estimated sales figures for these types of companies.
  • The Book of Lists is a good source when looking for top companies for an industry in a metro area like Denver and throughout the U.S.
  • Most companies have websites, so you should comb through them for information.
  • If the company is a subsidiary, identify the parent.  Then determine whether the parent is publicly traded or not. If the parent is trading publicly, information about the subsidiary may be provided in the 10-K, including revenue figures for two or three years.
  • Use databases like ABI/Inform Complete, or others that are identified in the Articles section of this guide, to find out if anything has been written about these companies in magazines, trade periodicals, or newspapers.
  • Another strategy would be to look at credit reports for these types of companies. Experian Powered Business reports provide the most recent credit information for companies and can be found in LexisNexis Academic.
  • Information about a private company or subsidiaries may be included in market research or industry reports, so be alert when looking at these types of sources. In addition, an annual report for a publicly-traded company may provide some information about privately-held competitors.
  • Use industry financial benchmarks.
  • If your company is from Europe, regardless of whether it is public, private, or subsidiary, use Orbis.

Databases for Private Company Research

Industry Financial Benchmarks

Since it is difficult to find financials for U.S. private companies and subsidiaries, what you can do is to apply industry financial benchmarks. Use Bizminer (see below for link), a library subscription database, to do this. Before going there, first determine the industry NAICS code for your company by going to the Census NAICS search page located at www.census.gov/eos/www/naics. Enter the name of the industry in the search box, not the name of a company.

Identify Competitors

These sources will help you identify competitors.  Hoovers Online and ReferenceUSA will also help you determine whether the competitor is public, private, or a subsidiary. 

ReferenceUSA is a strong source for identifying competitors on a local level. Book of Lists is helpful for U.S. metropolitan areas like Denver, Colorado.

SWOT

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunites, and Threats.

The sources below provide SWOTS for selected public and private companies; they tend to be the bigger corporations.  If your company is not listed, you will have to use articles and annual reports (if it is a public company), and/or the company's website to do the SWOT analysis.

Market Share and Rankings

Company rankings or market share is another strategy to includes when researching companies. This is often reported in trade journals and can be found in commercial databases as well as on the Internet. Some sources are provided below.

Tutorials

Historical Research