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MBA Business Research: Company Research

The MBA Business Research was constructed to help students in MBA classes with basic business research methods - topics covered include: company data, country research, and marketing information resources.

What is a company

But first there are a couple of things that we need to know about company and company types. 

Sources to Consider: Profiling a Company                                          

  • Public companies issue stock that may be traded on one of the open exchanges. These companies are required to file financial information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the form of a 10-K report plus other documents. They also issue an annual report for their stockholders. In the US there are only around 20,000 public companies. That means that the rest of the companies are subsidiaries or privately held.
  • Private companies have a limited number of shareholders, do not issue stock, and do not have to publicly disclose financial information.
  • Subsidiaries are a part of a parent company. Separate financial information may or may not be available. 

NAICS Code (North American Industry Classification System) is a 6 number code provided by the government. Each code is linked to an industry. In most data resources, the primary code is the first code listed for a company. So as you start to look for the company of interest pay attention to that primary code. All other codes listed are secondary.

Finding corporate data

For this section we are going to use Business Insight and MorningStar to locate corporate data. Business Insight allows you to search for companies or industries and then link to financials, investment reports and narratives about the industry. MorningStar allows the researcher to search for companies and see stock, investments and other reports in real time. You can search for data on companies and also expand the search to bonds, mutual funds and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). 

Corporate Data

So open Business Insight and lets do a search. My company is Caterpillar. Please use a different company if you would like. I already know a lot about the company but I am searching for more information such as financial data along with ratio analysis. A ratio analysis will compare the performance of my company to the industry as a whole. 


I get this view when I opened the company record for Caterpillar. To do further research, all that I need to do is click on the many links on this page. Notice that first of all, there is a lot of information on this page. I can see company size, competitors and information about the industry as a whole. I can click on the link for company histories, for investment reports and even SWOT reports. You are welcome to explore but there are three links that are very important. By clicking on Financials I can see the balance sheet, the income statement and cash flows along with a link to the ratio analysis. I can also download the reports in excel or compare to another company. You should also click on the link to ratios. Ratios tell me how well my company is doing financially. Does the debt exceed the assets? Am I able to collect on money owed to the company? 

Finally a hard piece of data to find are quality industry reports. Searches on the web will find an industry report but usually you will have to pay for a full and detailed report. Business Insight allows you to access their industry reports - Industry Essays. To see these reports, return to the company profile screen, Caterpillar in my case, and click on the link of the Primary NAICS code in the right hand corner. On the next screen you will find industry reports - they look like this. Find a current report on your industry and have a quick look. Information such as players in the industry, outlook for the industry and other issues are what researchers look for within industry data. 

Next, we will search MorningStar but before we leave Business Insight you need to get the ticker symbol for your company. The ticker indicates that you have a public company and one that is traded on a stock exchange. MorningStar only profiles public companies so if you have a private company, you might want to chose a different company for this example. Business Insight on the other hand includes both public and private companies. The ticker symbol for Caterpillar is CAT

Like Business Insight, the searcher can stop at this point and simply click on the links along the bar at the top of the page. You can play through these headings when you like but several of them are important. For instance, the stock analysis comes from an investment expert and provides a thoughtful narrative. The Key ratios cover a broad time period and are very useful when looking at the productivity of the company. "Insiders" is fascinating since, as you know, companies have to file with the SEC when company executives buy or sell large blocks of stock. That information is covered in this tab.


Finally the tab for "filings" can be quite useful. SEC filings such as 10-ks, 8Qs and other documents are public information and this tab shows the searcher current filings by the company with links to the full-text of the documents.  Finally, you should take a minute to play with some of the other content. You can search for Mutual Funds and even research markets as a whole. The videos are also quite good and include topics such as mutual funds and building a portfolio. Here is the link