Public company information is fairly easy to find. Public companies are required to file certain disclosures with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) including financial statements and annual reports. Stock prices, market capitalization, and other financial ratios are readily available online. Several library databases include compiled company profiles.
Finding information about private companies, on the other hand, can be a difficult task. Some databases include private company profiles, but often researchers must compile information about private companies from a variety of sources. These sources include news and trade articles, company web sites, and legal filings.
When researching a company, there are a few initial questions you should ask:
Is the company public or private?
You will find much more information about public companies because they are required to file financial and other disclosures with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).
Is the company domestic or foreign?
That is, is the company based in the US or overseas? Knowing this will help you determine where to begin your research.
Is it a parent or a subsidiary?
Think of the parent company as the umbrella. Subsidiaries fall under the umbrella. Very often you will find information about the subsidiary by researching the parent.
Is it a company or a brand?
For example, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is a company while Tide is a P & G brand. You will want to research both the company and the brand.
Researchers and investors can get a good picture of where a public company has been and where it is heading in filings available from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These forms may be filed annually, quarterly, or periodically as required by the law.
The most common and useful forms for business researchers are the 10-K, 10-Q, 8-K, and the DEF-14A (proxy statement).
There are many places to find SEC filings. The two links below will help you get started.