Selected Core Resources


Sponsored by the BRASS Education Committee

Company and Industry Research

Maintained by
Leticia Camacho
Brigham Young University
leticia_camacho@byu.edu


Scope | Important Terms | Frequently Asked Questions

   


Seeking company information is the most common form of business research. It may involve obtaining a telephone number to make a consumer purchase or complaint, retrieving financial data to decide whether or not to invest in or do business with a company, or preparing for a job interview. The amount of information that you will be able to find will vary greatly. A wealth of information is available on public companies. (See also Core Competencies in Finance/Investment for additional sources of information on public companies, particularly if you are seeking investment information.) Conversely, it will be more difficult to find much data on private companies, especially very small private companies.

Once you find the company information you need, you may want to put the information into a larger perspective by obtaining information on the industry in which your company is involved. Seeking industry information, whether as part of company research or a research project on its own, is perhaps the second most common form of business research.

   


NAICS Code - The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) uses six-digit codes to identify an industry. The NAICS system is gradually replacing the SIC system. Many resources use these codes to identify a company’s activities, index companies by activity, and to define industry data and information. For more information on the history and structure of the NAICS, as well as to search for codes, visit the NAICS Association web site at http://www.naics.com/info.htm.

Private Company – A private company is one that is owned by an individual, family, or group of partners. The amount of information that private companies must report is limited, and much of that is confidential. Thus, it is often difficult to find much information on a private company.

Public Company – A public company is a company that issues securities or shares of stock for the public. Those who purchase these securities or shares become investors in and owners of the company. This process is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and public companies must file numerous financial and other reports with the SEC. Because these reports are public information, much data and information can be found when researching public companies. For more information, visit the SEC web site at http://www.sec.gov/index.htm.

SIC Code - Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are four-digit codes used to identify an industry. Many resources use these codes to identify a company’s activities, index companies by activity, and to define industry data and information. For information on the history of the SIC codes and information about its replacement, the NAICS, visit the NAICS Association web site at http://www.naics.com/info.htm. An excellent web site for a list of SIC codes and to search for a code is the OSHA site from the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.osha.gov/cgi-bin/sic/sicser5.

Subsidiary – A company which is owned in whole or in part by another company. When researching a subsidiary, it is often advantageous to also research the owning company or the parent company.

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    How do I quickly find a company’s address and phone number?

Many resources can be used to find a company’s address and phone number, including most of those mentioned elsewhere in this guide. Use any resources that are convenient for you. The resources listed here are chosen for their comprehensiveness.

Telephone Books:

Often overlooked when thinking of “business” resources. 

Internet Sites:

Numerous Internet sites are useful for finding companies including Switchboard at http://www.switchboard.com, and Verizon's SuperPages at http://www.superpages.com.

Subscription-Based Electronic Databases:

D&B International Business Locator (Dun & Bradstreet) - This database provides access to information on more than 31 million public and private companies around the globe. It provides basic facts in addition to address and phone number.

Hoover’s Online (Hoover’s Inc) - Includes company overview, history, products/operations on more than 18,500 public and private U.S. companies and international companies. Covers major industry trends, industry links, and IPO information.

Mint Global
(Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing)
- This database provides detailed financial statements for 150,000 private companies, 55,000 public companies, and 45 million companies worldwide. Users can build reports containing detailed standardized financial information or summary information, ownership details, graphics plus data from the other modules. Over 2,600 industry and 2,700 company profiles from Datamonitor. SEC filings, comprehensive shareholder and subsidiary info, stock data, dividend info, executive bios, SIC Code classification, 5-year forecast of earnings estimates.

ReferenceUSA
(InfoUSA, Inc.,) - Search for U.S. Company information using many criteria, including geographic location, SIC, size of company, etc. Perfect for searching local companies! Can download up to 25 records at a time in various formats and import into spreadsheets, etc.

Thomas Register of Manufacturers (Thomas Publishing Company) - Although limited to manufacuring companies, it is quite comprehensive. Available free at http://www.thomasnet.com/.

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    What are the best resources for finding key facts or a quick profile on a company?

These resources are ideal starting points when you are trying to find a quick snapshot of a company. Also, when you need extensive detail on a company, they provide the basic background upon which you can build your research. The basic facts include address and phone number, annual sales, number of employees, type of business, chief executives, and year founded. These three resources are well known, available in many libraries, and appear in a variety of formats. Each directory has unique entries and may provide different pieces of information, so be sure to check each one if available to you.

Mint Global (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing) – Provides information on over 40 million companies worldwide. Profiles on 2,600 industry and 2,700 company profiles from Datamonitor

D&B Million Dollar Directory: America's Leading Public & Private Companies (Dun & Bradstreet) - Profiles on 160,000 leading private and public U.S. companies.Standard & Poor's Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives (Standard & Poor's) - Profiles on over 75,000 corporations.

Ward's Business Directory of US Private & Public Companies (Gale Research) - Profiles on 110,000 companies.

In addition, try Hoover’s Online at http://www.hoovers.com/ for brief capsules on many public and private enterprises in the United States and around the world.

Also, many city and regional directories exist across the country that provide this information for most companies in the covered area. Check with your local library to see if one is available for your area.

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    I am on my way to a job interview. Where can I find a good summary of the company?


If it is a public company, go to the annual report to shareholders if available. The annual report is perhaps the best single source of information on a company, but keep in mind that it is written partially as a promotional tool by the company itself and is not an entirely unbiased source.

The following sources provide somewhat more detail than those listed in the “quick profile” section above, usually a one or two-page summary. If your company is not in these resources, check any regional resources that may be available, use the "quick profile" sources, or if there is time, look for news and magazine articles on the company.

EDGAR ( http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml ) - Financial reports, of U.S. corporations from reports submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Includes annual reports, quarterly reports, balance sheet, income statement, security activity and analysis and much more.

Hoover’s Handbooks (Hoover's Business Press) - This series of handbooks provides excellent in-depth profiles of major U.S. and international companies.

Mergent Manuals (Mergent FIS, Inc.) - Formerly known as Moody's Manuals and available online as Mergent Online, this series of publications provides background and financial data on public companies.

Mint Global (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing) - Provides financial data for over 40 million companies worldwide, users can build reports containing detailed financial information.

Standard & Poor's Corporation Records (Standard & Poor’s) - This source, available in a variety of different formats, provides financial data on public companies.

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    How do I find information on or a list of subsidiaries of a company?

Major subsidiaries are often included in sources listed above. Try them first. If the parent corporation is publicly traded, try the parent's annual report. Some companies provide information specific to subsidiaries or divisions in their annual report.

The following sources provide a more comprehensive list of subsidiaries and sometimes will provide basic facts on the subsidiary. They are also good sources for providing corporate structures with lists of divisions and subsidiaries.

Directory of Corporate Affiliations (National Register Publishing)
America's Corporate Families (Dun and Bradstreet)
Brands and Their Companies (Gale)
Thomas Register of American Manufacturers ( http://www.thomasnet.com/)
Mint Global (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing)

 

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    How do I find a company’s annual report?

Some libraries maintain a collection of paper copies of selected annual reports. Annual reports appear as parts of various database services, and many companies provide annual reports on their web sites or will send out paper copies on request. When you are on a company’s web site, look for a link labeled Investor Relations. The website “Annual Report Service” at http://www.annualreportservice.com/ allows you to access annual reports for free.

However, the best place to access annual reports is through a government database called EDGAR at http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml . All companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file registration statements, annual and quarterly reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) through EDGAR.

While annual report collections will contain reports from public companies, they rarely include reports from private companies. Private companies are not required to file annual reports, although some will publish reports as a promotional tool. These private company annual reports are virtually impossible to obtain except from the company itself, and all information in such a report must be treated cautiously.

Business directories provide basic information on private companies such as number of employees and annual sales estimates. Also, search local or regional newspapers for information on local and private companies.

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    How can I find a company’s history?

There are three key sources that provide company history information. Otherwise, look for published books if it was a major corporation or articles for other companies. The articles may be written as histories, or major news articles about key events often include a brief history.

International Directory of Company Histories (St. James Press) – Available through Gale. This multi-volume set provides extensive histories on over 5,000 companies. Most are public companies, but some private and non-profit corporations are included.

Notable Corporate Chronologies (Gale Research) - Lists key events by year.

Mergent Manuals (Mergent FIS, Inc.) - Formerly known as Moody's Manuals and available online as Mergent Online, this series of publications provides a history for each company. Only public companies are included, and some histories are extremely brief.

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    What are some key resources for international companies?

World Business Directory (Gale Research)

Hoover's Handbook of World Business (Hoover's Business Press)

Directory of Corporate Affiliations - International Volume (National Register Publishing)

Mergent International Manual (Mergent FIS, Inc.)

Mint Global (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing)

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    What if I am having trouble finding much, if any, information about my company?

Be sure you are researching the official name of the company. Many companies have popular names that may not be listed anywhere. For example, 3M is really Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.

If the company is a personal name or includes initials, e.g. Walt Disney or H. J. Heinz, look under each part of the name. Various sources are not consistent in how names are treated.

Companies can be very creative with spelling. So be creative in your search.

If you are researching a subsidiary, expand your research to include the parent corporation.

Very small or very new companies may not appear in the standard sources, particularly print sources. Look for news articles and a company web site. Use any regional or specialized industry directories which may be available.

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    What are key resources for industry overviews?

There are countless resources for finding information on industries. Some cover multiple industries while others cover a single, sometimes extremely specific, industry. They range from free information accessible via the Internet to printed reports which can cost thousands of dollars.

The resources listed here are a few which cover numerous industries and which are widely available in many libraries.

    Industry Classification:

Standard Industrial Classification Manual (SIC)
http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/sicsearch.html

Also called North American industry classification system. Many reference works organize industries by their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). A specific SIC is a four-digit code used to group similar types of businesses together. Not only are all the Census industry statistics arranged by this scheme, but it is widely used by many non government publications such as market guides, directories of companies, and indexes. You will often need to know the SIC for a particular type of business.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) has replaced the U.S. Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. NAICS was developed jointly by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to provide new comparability in statistics about business activity across North America.

Industry and Occupation Classification System
http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/ioindex/ioindex.html

The purpose of the classification systems used in these indexes is to organize and to make understandable the many thousands of industries and occupations. These systems group titles describing like industries or like occupations into homogeneous categories and assign a code to each category.

Industry Information:

Industry Surveys (Standard & Poor's). Available online through NetAdvantage.

County Business Patterns.
http://www.census.gov/epcd/cbp/index.html

County Business Patterns is an annual series that provides sub national economic data by industry. Businesses use the data for analyzing market potential, measuring the effectiveness of sales and advertising programs, setting sales quotas, and developing budgets.

Statistics of U.S. Business: 2001: All Industries
http://www.census.gov/epcd/susb/2001/us/US--.HTM

By detailed employment size, by year, by state and by industry

U.S. Industry & Trade Outlook 2000 (McGraw Hill Companies and U.S. Department of Commerce).

  Economic Census from the U.S. Census Bureau is available in print format or on the web at http://www.census.gov/econ/census02/.

Current Industrial Reports from the U.S. Census Bureau are available in print format or on the web at http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/cir/www.

Datamonitor Industry Market Research

Industry reports containing market overview and detail information about the competitive environment, pricing, market share, segmentation, volume, value, and market forecast. The material is written by a specialized team of industry experts who rely on data drawn from Gallup surveys, consumer panels, and in-depth trade interviews. Available through Business Source Premier (EBSCO), Business and Company Resource Center (Gale) , Business and Industry (Gale) and Mint Global (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing).

Gale Publications:

Gale Research publishes a large amount of industry information. This information appears in a number of different titles, series, and databases (including Gale’s Business & Company Resource Center and as e-Books in Gale Virtual Reference Library).
Listed here are examples of titles from two of their series.


Manufacturing U.S.A.
Service Industries U.S.A.
Wholesale and Retail Trade U.S.A.
Encyclopedia of American Industries
Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries
Encyclopedia of Global Industries

Economic Census from the U.S. Census Bureau is available in print format or on the web at http://www.census.gov/econ/census02/.

Current Industrial Reports from the U.S. Census Bureau are available in print format or on the web at http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/cir/www.

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    What are key resources for industry ratios?

Industry ratios are used to measure companies' or an industries' financial strengths and weaknesses. They are based on data found in balance sheets, income statements and sometimes based on share prices.

Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios

Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios

RMA Annual Statement Studies

Industry ratios are used to measure company's or an industry's financial strengths and weaknesses. They are based on data found in balance sheets, income statements and sometimes based on share prices.

Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios (Prentice-Hall) Print or CD available
Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios (Dun & Bradstreet) Available in print or electronic
RMA Annual Statement Studies (Risk Management Association) Available in print or electronic

Subscription-based Electronic Databases:

S&P NetAdvantage (Select the "industry" tab, then under "industry surveys" select your industry, the survey includes Profit Ratios, Balance Sheet Ratios and Equity Ratios).

Factiva (Search Key Financial Ratios (under Custom Reports) to view key financial ratios).

Value Line Research Center (industry reports include ratios)

Internet Sites:

Business Week’s Investment Outlook Scoreboard
http://bwnt.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/investment_outlook_07/index.asp
- Compiled annually, this free source on 24 industries is based on data compiled by Standard and Poor’s Compustat. Quarterly data is available through the toolbox (http://www.businessweek.com/common/tools.htm).

Yahoo! Finance http://biz.yahoo.com/p/sum_conameu.html - Includes about 100 industries with basic, up-to-date ratios, with data provided by Reuters.

MSN Money Key Ratios
http://moneycentral.msn.com/investor/invsub/results/compare.asp

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Last updated 3/12/09
Previously Maintained by:
Elisabeth Leonard, University of California - San Diego
Originally created by Dennis Smith, University of Pittsburgh


Sponsored by the BRASS Education Committee