Basic information about a business is helpful in determining what information you will find and which resources to use. The most important two pieces of information about a company that have a direct impact on the availability of information about it are:
- Is the company publicly or privately owned?
- Is the company a subsidiary of a larger corporation?
Many resources only provide information about publicly-owned companies: those companies listed on one of the major stock exchanges. Public companies are required to submit reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These reports often are used as the basis for company descriptions in business reference sources. The full SEC reports themselves are available separately.
Privately-owned companies are not required to submit reports to the SEC and information about their financial and operational conditions is often difficult to find. Few business reference sources provide company profiles of privately-owned businesses beyond basic information. Information often must be pieced together from various news sources. Information from the Internet, used with careful evaluation, is often the best source for information about privately-owned companies.
Subsidiaries pose additional problems. It may be necessary to search for information on the larger corporation to find information about the subsidiary.
Financial information about the subsidiary many not be separated from its parent company.