It is easier to find information about public companies (those that sell stock to shareholders) than about private companies (those that are privately owned by an individual or a group). Public companies in the United States are required by law to file documents with the Securities and Exchange commission (SEC). These include the 10K (annual)and 10Q (quarterly) reports. In addition, public companies issue an annual report to shareholders.
When looking for information about a company, consider both information from the company itself (e.g., the company website, SEC filings, press releases, etc.) as well as information about the company written by others (e.g., newspaper articles, analyst reports, articles by professors, etc.).
Finding information about a company includes the following steps:
- Get an overview of the company, find out if it is public or private
- Find the company website and review it carefully, particularly the sections for investors or media/press.
- If the company is public, find relevant 10K and 10Q reports and annual reports to shareholders
- Search for news, magazine and other periodical articles for information. This may be the only way to find information on private companies.
- If the company is public, search for analyst and brokerage reports. These sometimes contain an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).
- Identify competitors.