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Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Ask The Right Questions!
Liz Peoples, LexisNexis Librarian Relations Consultant
Having been a corporate librarian for thirteen years in the investment management sector of financial services, I have found that it is very important to start with some basic questions when beginning one’s research. Doing so ensures that you are focused in your approach—and helps you choose appropriate sources, locate targeted results, and present those results in a timely and professional manner. This strategy has helped me with domestic and international company and industry research questions and projects, and I think it is valuable advice to anyone doing business research.
The first question when doing any type of company research is to determine if the company is public or private. Making this distinction may seem rather simplistic, but it will help you to determine where to go for data, and it helps you set expectations for yourself and others regarding the amount of information that you will find on a company. When doing company research, I like to focus on three areas: news, numbers and documentation.
News about a public company can be found in many sources, depending, of course, on size and scope of the company. I like to use premier news sources such as The Wall Street Journal® (crucial for business research), as well as regional news and trade publications, to give me a more complete picture of the company. Running a single search where I can review my results from multiple sources gives me a chance to see the full spectrum of publications that picked up news on my targeted company. This also adds to my knowledge of knowing which news sources to choose for future research on company news. For more information about accessing news and business resources on the lexis.com® service, click here: News and Business on lexis.com
A public company will have reported stock prices, which is great information to determine the relative health of the company. I always look at who is providing the stock information to determine its reliability—and to check to see if it is available with both adjusted /non-adjusted formats. (Business researchers know that these formats can vary significantly, and frequently the researcher will want to consult both formats.) Another consideration is the ability to download this information into a spreadsheet—a straightforward download to a spreadsheet is an absolute necessity! You also need to determine if graphics, especially charts and graphs, are available. On lexis.com, there is an excellent source of Historical Stock Quotes from Sungard (formerly Tradeline). Of course, this premier stock data source has the reliability, content, and ease-of-use functionality that you’ve come to expect from the LexisNexis® services. Here is a link to further information: Historical Stock Quotes.
Public companies are required to file financial documents with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). There are many ways to access SEC documents, from the SEC Web site as well as from commercial and company Web sites and vendors. As sources for SEC documents are plentiful, one of the key value adds that I find is the ability to isolate exhibits and be able to search within documents so that you can find the type of document or language you are searching for within that document. (SEC documents can be large and just the printing of a document with all its exhibits alone can be costly in terms of time and resources!) The lexis.com SEC Group file has separated the exhibits into distinct files. This is a tremendous timesaver, allowing you to zero in on just the information you are looking for. By using the wide list of segments associated with this file, you can further pinpoint your SEC document research.
For a private company, news is often your only source of information. (Thank goodness you have access to the 22,000+ news and business sources on lexis.com!) It is best to combine national, regional and trade news sources when doing private company news searches. Why include this information? Because regional sources cover what is important to the region’s economy, and may contain a great deal of information on a private company, especially if it has a significant employee base in the area. And trade journals are a great place to look because a private company might contribute an article to a trade publication to be recognized as an up-and-coming company within its industry, especially if it has particularly innovative products and services.
A private company won’t have stock that is publicly traded, and therefore you will not be able to find a commercial source that provides you with this data. This is a good example of asking whether the company is public or private—seems obvious but it’s best not to assume.
Private companies are not required to file financial documents with the SEC. To find financial information on a private company, I like to use Dun & Bradstreet reports. A Dun & Bradstreet report will be provide company contact information, and financial data such as sales, employee numbers and income statement data as available. Regardless of the size of the company, I will always check to see if there is a company Web site to review if any financial data is available there. Checking with a trade association or a government agency to see if your company is included in any industry statistics is also valuable.
Doing company research is interesting and rewarding. As a librarian you have contributed to the research process in bringing a product or company to market, determining value of a company for merger or acquisition or tracking the stock performance of a company. Finding the company information that fulfills a part of this process doesn’t have to be difficult—if you start your research using lexis.com.
To me it is great to be able to work with—and promote—the incredible resources that are available through LexisNexis. As a corporate librarian, I relied upon a large number of sources for company research. Unfortunately, this often meant going to many different databases to get the information I needed. Now, the vast majority of them are available all in one place: lexis.com, making it even easier to shine. Whether you are doing company research for an attorney, professor or public official lexis.com provides you with premium content to fulfill all of your business research requirements!
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