Ticker symbols are letters used to uniquely identify a public company and can be used to make company research more effiicient. Many of the resources in this guide will identify ticker symbols, but one of the quickest way to find a ticker symbol is to use a free website like Yahoo Finance or MSNMoney.
Types of Companies
Information on companies varies greatly depending on the type of company. Use a directory to determine whether a company is public, private, non-profit or non-U.S.
Public - There is a great deal of information available on companies which trade on the stock market - SEC filings, annual reports, analysts' reports, news stories, books and case studies.
Private - Information on private companies is usually limited to brief information in directories, news stories, and sometimes books. All 50 states make some level of corporate and business filings available online, see Business Filings Databases for links to the states.
International- The amount of information on international companies varies. If the company trades on the U.S. exchanges it must file annual reports (20-F) with the SEC. Other information can be found in directories, databases, newspapers and magazines.
Non-Profit - Finances and other general information can be found in Form 990 which nonprofits must file with the IRS annually. Many are posted on the web at Guidestar.org. Some information can also be found in newspaper and journal articles.
10 Steps to Company Research
Ten Steps to Company Intelligence
Step 1: Identify the Company
First, find out who the company is and what it does. Good starting places are LexisNexis, Standard and Poor's NetAdvantage, and Plunkett Research Online. Determine whether the company is publicly-owned (stock trades) or privately-held. U.S. public companies must file reports with the SEC. You can usually find annual reports at the company's website, SEC filings (EDGAR), stock reports and brokerage-house reports for them through the library's resources. They are also more likely to make news and be covered in the business press. All of these source are discussed further in the following steps.
Step 2: Profile the Company
LexisNexis, excels at concisely summarizing a company's business. Their subscription Profiles are more detailed portraits that include a company overview, company history, sales, profits, number of employees, principle executives, multi-year financial statements, locations, products and services, brands, and key competitors. Standard and Poor's NetAdvantage is another excellent source for company profiles. Within Business Source Elite (EBSCO), MarketLine Reports features profiles for more than 10,000 public and private companies. If your company is not included in these databases you may be able to compile your own profile from sources listed in the next steps.
Step 3: Find Current News and In-depth Articles about the Company
Articles published in leading business magazines and trade journals often provide added depth and insight into a company's operations, strategy and competition. Business Source Elite (EBSCO) indexes, abstracts, and provides full-text for leading english language business and economics magazines and journals. Take advantage of the Library's subscriptions to LexisNexis to find both current news and business articles. You can also check any of the excellent business Web sites devoted to business news such as Bloomberg, CNNMoney, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance or Google Business News.
Step 4: Visit the Company's Web Site
Companies are savvy corporate communicators. They recognize the value of having informative Web sites where they can showcase their products and services and communicate their vision. Try searching Google directly by company name or try the Internet Public Library for some additional information. Company website addresses can be found in the main business sites as well.
Step 5: Examine the Company's Financials and Market Performance
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 EDGAR (SEC). Filings and standardized financials along with ratio Hoover's Online which is a component of LexisNexis. The Standard & Poor's Stock Reports provides quarterly summaries of the business, financial and market performance of public companies. Morningstar, Reuter's and Yahoo! Finance offer free stock reports along with premium subscription services.
Step 6: Clarify the Company's Strategy
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, Hoover's Online, Yahoo! Finance and many other Web sites. 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.
Step 7: Locate Investment Research Reports
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. Free investment reports are difficult to obtain, but Standard & Poor's, MarketLine Reports, and Plunkett Research Online all have analyses on stocks and industries.
Step 8: Survey the Industry and Competition
No company operates alone. Each company is affected by industry conditions and the actions of its competitors. Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys provide timely, sophisticated analyses of more than 50 major U.S. industries and a growing number of global industries. Plunkett Research Online researches and writes company and industry reports, statistics and articles from leading business publishers. Datamonitor within Business Source Elite has thousands of in-depth company and industry analyses including SWOT analyses. Hoover's Online has lists of competitors and industry overviews for each company it profiles.
Step 9: Learn How to Analyze a Company
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 Standard & Poor'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.
Step 10: Putting It All Together
When compiling your final company report, be sure you have looked at a variety of resources so that you are confident that the information you are presenting is current and accurate. Cite your sources in APA citation style so your readers can follow the citations back to the source!
The Official Board offers charts for "the world's 20,000 largest corporations."
CogMap is an organizational chart wiki for companies and organizations. Do note that the information is self-reported and almost anyone can edit the content.
A similar resource is the Corporate Org Chart Wiki from Forbes.com.
More detailed charts of large corporations are available for purchase from The Conference Board.