Skip to Main Content

Company Research

How to research companies.


The Getting Started tab above will quickly walk you through best bests for databases to research a company and lead you through a five-step methodology for quickly researching large public and private companies. For more detail, use the Advanced Topics section on the left.

There are many resources you can use to research companies.  Answer these questions first using the Internet before jumping into research databases to efficiently search.

  1. What is the complete, official name of the company? (Disney is actually “The Walt Disney Company”)
  2. Is it a publicly-held or privately-held company? A publicly-held company is one that openly sells stock to the public on a stock exchange. Just because it’s big dosen’t mean it isn’t private. (Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms and Twix Bars, is private)

Start your research with Google, using as much of the company name as you know. Verify the full company name and whether the company is publicly owned (trades on a stock market) or privately-held. NetAdvantage and Mergent Online provide summaries of publicly traded companies (for private company information, see "Private Companies" tab above.) These summaries cover a company’s products and services, business segments, company executives, financial data list of competitors, sometimes stock information. U.S. public companies must file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission and can be found in Mergent Online or NetAdvantage. Private companies can sometimes be found in PrivCo, Nexis Uni (Company Dossier), and NetAdvantage. You can find annual reports, SEC filings, and stock reports in many of the library's company databases.

Articles published in business magazines and trade journals often provide added depth and insight into a company's operations, strategy and competition. Both ABI/INFORM and Business Source Complete index, abstract, and provide full-text for leading English language business and economics magazines and journals. Take advantage of the Library's subscriptions to Factiva and Nexis Uni to find both current news and business articles. More information is covered in the “Articles & Journal Databases” subject guide. You can also check any of the excellent business Websites devoted to business news such as Bloomberg, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance or Google Finance. Also look at the company’s website for more information.

Public companies issue annual and quarterly report cards containing income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements that reveal their financial soundness and profitability. The daily stock market reflects investors' collective opinion on publicly traded companies' current performance and future prospects. You can find fully exportable financial statements in Mergent Online. EDGAR (SEC) filings and standardized financials along with ratio comparisons are available through Factiva, Mergent Online and NetAdvantage. Mergent Online provides worldwide company reports, analytics and market data. Value Line Investment Survey Online provide quarterly summaries of the business, financial and market performance of public companies. Seeking Alpha and Yahoo! Finance offer free stock reports along with premium services. Check for additional sources in the "Business Data" Tab on the right.

U.S. Public Companies usually succinctly state their Business Strategy in "Item 1. Business" of their Form 10-K, which is the annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 10-Ks are included in EDGAR, Factiva, Mergent Online, Yahoo! Finance and many other Websites. For IPOs, look for the Registration Statements, S-1s, and their amendments in 424s. The Business overview in the 10-K provides a detailed discussion of the company's strategy, products and services, operations, marketing, distribution, international business, suppliers and government regulation as well as competitive conditions in the industry. Analysts at leading investment firms such as CreditSuisse, Deutsche Bank, and other firms regularly produce research reports on both U.S. and international publicly traded companies. These reports are written by industry specialists who follow and analyze all developments that impact a company's fortunes. You can often find reports or relevant sections of investment reports using Seeking Alpha.

No company operates alone. Each company is affected by industry conditions and the actions of its competitors. IBISWorld Industry Market Research reports features reports on U.S. industries. All IBISWorld reports use Michael Porter's Five Forces Framework. NetAdvantage’s "Industry Surveys" provide timely, sophisticated analyses of more than 50 major U.S. and Global industries. Nexis Uni enables you to create your own lists with criteria that you specify, such as total sales or number of employees. Mergent Intellect has industry overviews and First Research Industry Reports. Business Insights: Essentials combines industry essays with statistics, market share data and company ranking. BCC Research reports explore major economic, scientific, and technological developments in industrial, pharmaceutical, and high technology organizations. Industry analysis and market forecasts for advanced materials, high-tech systems and components, nanotechnology and novel processing methods are at the forefront of the company's expertise. The Value Line Investment Survey organizes its individual company reports by industry and includes a quarterly overview. Business Source Complete now features industry reports from Datamonitor and other sources. Search the Articles databases for both industry and competitor information. Be sure to check the “Industry Research” Tab on the left for a step-by-step tutorial on finding industry intelligence.

Now that you have gathered information about the company, industry, and competition, you can fully utilize it by taking advantage of a special feature in NetAdvantage's "Industry Surveys". Each survey has a section on how to analyze a company in that specific industry. This feature clues you into what special factors to consider when you evaluate the company and what to look for in the financial statements. First Research Industry Reports is a great tool for finding out what industry trends and problems are important to senior leadership in a company in that industry. Mergent Online allows you to build several different types of reports. Factiva also permits you to run a Custom Report in the Company section that pulls together a stock quote, profile, articles and financial statements for public companies. Templates to perform a SWOT analysis or Porter’s Five Forces are available in many places online.

Once you have discovered the company you are researching is private, research becomes more difficult. Private companies are not required to generally provide financials or company information. Subsidiaries or divisions are usually treated like private companies and can be very difficult to research. Private company profiles can sometimes be found in PrivCo, Nexis Uni (Company Dossier), and NetAdvantage, mainly based on size and importance. PrivCo is a database that is focused solely on tracking private company financial data, private market deals, and private investor profile for larger, 10M+ -privately-held companies. There are sometimes no profiles for privately-held companies. You can estimate some of their information by comparing them to larger publicly traded companies using ratios. Company summaries can cover the products and services, major company executives, some brief financial data, and sometimes a list of competitors. There are sometimes no profiles for privately-held companies. U.S. public companies must file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission and can be found in Mergent Online or NetAdvantage.

Private company information is sometimes found in trade and industry magazine articles and might be all that is available. The articles may be about anything from the company's new products and services to financial figures to the opening of a new location.  Business Source Complete or Regional Business News are good starting points. Using good Google search strategies can also be efficient. The information available will vary from company to company, but can be used to develop an impression of the company's financial condition. By using the information in NetAdvantage's "Industry Surveys" that has a section on how to analyze a company in that specific industry, you can use the private company information you have collected to compare to publicly traded companies that are of equivalent nature (sales, employee size, industry)

Business Librarian

Profile Photo
Trip Wyckoff
Room 0027k
Strozier Library
The Florida State University Libraries

© 2022 Florida State University Libraries | 116 Honors Way | Tallahassee, FL 32306 | (850) 644-2706