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FIN 202/MGT 301 - Magnanelli: Company Research

This guide provides information about how to conduct company and industry research for Prof. Magnanelli's FIN 202 class. It also includes a tutorial of MarketLine database.

Company Research

Finding company information can be used in many different ways:

  • Market research: finding our which companies are the key players in an industry can be the first step towards a more analytic industry research

  • Consumer issues: finding company information about their products can help in collecting information about consumer behavior

  • Competitive intelligence: finding information about who's doing well and what's been done in a business sector can help in doing marketing research.

Job search and interview preparation: gathering information about companies who are hiring and active in sectors of interest can help put the finishing touches on interview preparation.

Company information in the Library

You can use the library databases to find company reports and profiles:

Types of Companies

When researching for company information, the first step is to determine if you are investigating an American company or an international company.

For American companies, a key point to consider is whether the company being researched is private or public. This largely determines the amount of information available, i.e. public companies must make their financial information publicly available, while private companies do not.

Annual Reports

If it is a public company, go to the annual report to shareholders. 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. Annual reports appear as parts of various database services, and many companies provide annual reports on their websites or will send out paper copies on request. When you are on a company’s website, look for a link labeled Investor Relations. 

 

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. Lastly, search local or regional newspapers for information on local and private companies.