A company profile or report is the best way to begin profiling a firm. Commercially published company reports have different strengths, some excel at providing financial analysis while others are best known for their pithy business descriptions. You should look at more than one company report to avoid biases and get as complete an overall picture as possible.
Database company coverage varies depending on the public vs private and domestic vs. foreign status of the firm.
Use the company profile as an initial source to identify relevant competitors and markets/industries in which the firm operates.
Annual reports or 10K's filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by public companies are essential reading. They are not only the source of audited financial reports but they also shed light on the overall business strategy as articulated by top management, logistics, the competitive environment, risk factors, and government regulation and legal proceedings.
To get the most recent 10K search SEC.gov EDGAR by company name or ticker symbol.
Alternately navigate from the company home page to the investor relations section where the 10K is typically posted.
Many company report databases such as Mergent, ReferenceUSA Onesource, Lexis-Nexis and Morningstar have links to the 10K.
Many company profiles provide links to recent news about the firm. Take advantage of this feature.
Be sure to distinguish between corporate press releases (which will always present news in a positive light) and articles written by journalists expected to adhere professional standards and op-ed or blogger pieces presenting unique points of view.
Seek out independent analysis and opinion by searching your Wall Street Journal and Financial Times subscriptions as well as the following news databases.
You can't assess your target firm in a vacuum. Context is essential to understanding a companies performance. Industry and market research reports provide a shortcut to the background needed to evaluate a firm. They typically define the industry, describe how it operates in terms of suppliers, technology, regulation and capital requirements, identifies competitors and the competitive landscape and discuss trends and provide forecasts.
S&P Capital IQ/Netadvantage reports have a section on How to Analyze a Company. Reading this section and applying it to your target company will make you sound like an industry insider. S&P Capital IQ defines industries broadly, so you many not find a tight fit between your target company and the industry. Use the best fit you can find!
Industry reports typically list relevant trade and professional associations. These organizations are often a rich source of information about current trends and industry regulations well worth your checking out.
Firm competitors are typically listed in company profiles, 10K's and industry reports. However if you need to identify competitors in a single business segment of your target firm you may need to search company directories, stock screeners or the trade news to identify close competitors.
Industry reports typically identify emerging technologies relevant to an industry.
For additional detail search general business article databases such as ABI Inform and Business Source Premier. Specialized articled databases that cover the industry may also be useful. For example PubMed or Medline would be relevant to pharmaceutical or healthcare businesses. For help identifying these contact Linda.Hauck@villanova.edu or another research librarian.Gartner Group Intraweb
Industry reports and 10K's typically identify the major regulatory agencies relevant to industries. Google the mentioned regulatory agencies and browse them to find out about the trending topics. Trade associations typically advocate for industries on the national and international level so browsing those sites us usually fruitful.
Searching the general business news in ABI Inform and Business Source Premier for your target company or industry and the keywords law or legal or regulatory or regulation or codes or rules may uncover additional areas of government oversight.
If government websites, trade associations and news are not enough, you may need to search the following legal databases. Legal research can be tricky so don't hesitate to ask for help.Lexis Nexis Academic
The demographics most relevant to the firm describe it's customer pool. For business to business industries, demographic information can most efficiently be gleaned by looking at demand industry reports and business surveys. For consumer goods and services, look to market research reports, surveys and polls or demographic and population census databases.