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Company Research Basics

Tips for finding public and private company information, histories, financials, stock reports, and news.

A screenshot of a company profile in Mergent Online. This guide  lists the most essential resources to use when performing company research. It is designed to get the business researcher started in the right direction, and provide information beyond just looking at the company's website.  

Please note that this guide is neither complete nor comprehensive  as new information will be added as necessary.  

Read through the entire guide or use the sidebar navigation to skip quickly to a topic. 

Factors that determine how much information is available

There are several factors that will determine the availability of company information. These are discussed below.

Is the company Public or Private?

Public Companies are companies that are traded on a stock exchange. Because public companies have stockholders, they have to provide information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the public at large. Private companies do not have publicly-traded stock, so they do not have to provide information to the SEC or to the general public.

As a result, there will generally be a great deal more information for public companies than private companies. In general, there is a wealth of information available for public companies, and private company information can be a bit more challenging to find. 

How large is the company?

The type and size of the company will determine how much information you will be able to find about a particular company. For example, it will be much easier to find information about a larger company such as Wal-mart, as opposed to a smaller company such as Bob’s Foodworld.

Where is the company located?

The location of a company will also play a part in how much information is available. As a general rule, it will be easier to find information about an American company as opposed to companies in other countries. This is basically a result of the fact that most of our business resources come from U.S. content providers. However, due to the global nature of business, more international company information is becoming more available. Also note that it will be easier to find information for international companies that are traded on an American stock exchange (NYSE, AMEX, etc) than for companies that are not.

Has the company been in the news?

Often the visibility of a company in the media will determine how much information is available. If a company has been in the news, either for positive or negative reasons, it is likely that many newspapers, journals, magazines, and trade publications may have articles about that company.

Insider Information

“Insider Information” refers to information that is pertinent to the internal workings of a company. Insider Information can include things such as corporate culture, employee satisfaction, benefits, workplace diversity, etc. It is often very difficult to find this type of information, because companies generally do not release this type of information. When companies do release this type of internal information, you should regard this information with caution. Any information that comes directly from a company may be very biased towards a positive image of the company.