Availability of Company Information
How much information you can find about a company depends on these factors:
< less information ◊ more information >
- Sells shares to general public to raise capital
- Regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Required to disclose financial information to SEC and shareholders
- Listed on one of stock exchanges and has a ticker symbol
Private Company (privately-held, unlisted)
- May be owned by founders, employees , and large investors (venture capitalists)
- No disclosure of information is required
Company status may change over time. The easiest way to determine whether a company is public is to run a Google search for company name ticker since a public company has to have a ticker symbol, and then confirm the current status using SEC's EDGAR tool.
Sources of Company Information
Multiple free and subscription sources about companies are available:
- What the company tells you:
company websites, promotional materials, catalogs, price lists,and more
- What the company keeps confidential:
internal information, trade secrets, and more
- What the company has to disclose to the government:
10Q, 10K, other SEC forms, economic census, state filings, conference earning calls
- What others say about the company:
news, blogs, research articles, books, market research, analyst reports, government, industry and trade experts, and more
The ability to quickly and critically evalute your sources is an important research skill.
- Do you need current or historical data?
- When was the information created/updated? is it out of date?
- Any major events happened since the information was published?
- Is the information relevant to your topic and research goals?
R reliability (how)
- What are the sources?
- Are they credible?
- Are the methods of collecting information and analysis disclosed?
- Is the author qualified to write on a topic?
- What are his/her credentials?
B bias (why)
- Is there a discernible conflict of interest?
- Is the topic presented from alternative viewpoints?
Glossary: What's the Difference?
Multiple terms may be used to describe companies, each with a varying meaning and in different contexts.
Company: a business enterprise; an inclusive term for any type of business organization which can be a proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation.
Closely-held company: a publicly-traded or private company where a small group of shareholders controls the majority of shares.
Enterprise: a company, firm, or other commercial entity, whether private or public, for profit or nonprofit. Often applied to a newly formed venture. May consist of many physical locations, or establishments. The term is used by the U.S. Bureau of Census.
Establishment: a single physical location where business is conducted, or where services are performed. The term is used by the U.S. Bureau of Census for any business location that has one or more employees. Many businesses operate in multiple establishments. The establishment definition varies among industry groups because of differences in structure or standard practices.
Firm: a commercial partnership of two or more persons; the name or designation under which a company transacts business. Legally firm refers only to an non-incorporated business.
Franchise: an arrangement in which an independent business operates one or more establishments under license by the parent company, which may provide training, advertising, and financing.
Corporation: a legal entity created by state charter, endowed with specific powers and capable of surviving the deaths of its owners. May be profit and nonprofit (educational, scientific, charitable and religious). Stockholders and employees of a corporation cannot be held personally responsible for any debt or lawsuits faced by the company.
Partnership: an association of two or more people for the purpose of jointly owning a business.
Sole proprietorship: the simplest and most common form of business organization. The major legal requirement is that the founder register the business name with the local government where the company will reside.
Corporate Family Structure
(see more under under Corporate Family tab)
Parent Company: a company that controls or owns another company or companies.
Subsidiary: a corporation in which more than 50% of its voting stock is owned by another company. The subsidiary may have a different name than the controlling corporation.
Wholly owned subsidiary: 100 % of the firm's stock or assets have been acquired by the parent.
Advanced Google and Beyond
Try Advanced Google search and different search engines to locate business information.