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A guide for business databases, books, web resources, and more.

Identify the Company

Guidelines for Researching Private or Small Companies

First, identify your company and confirm if the company is publicly held or private by conducting a company search in LexisNexis Company Dossier

Researching private companies is more challenging since they are usually not required to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Therefore:

  • You usually will not find financial reports on private companies.
  • You may need to accept a revenue range or estimate, company ranking by revenue, or even inferred revenue based on information known or presumed.
  • There is usually less published about smaller companies than larger companies.

Ask Questions:

  • Determine what you really need to know. What questions do you need answered?
  • Consider which sources are most likely to have the information you need.  For example, Is there an association, government agency or think tank that focuses on the industry?
  • What you already know about the company/industry willl help you decide where to look for information (e.g., Does it have patents, emit pollutants, make consumer products, is it in a regulated industry?). 

Search Strategies for Private/Small Companies

  • Check the database, Privco for a company profile and financials. 

  • Company directories provide basic company information and some may provide estimated revenue. (Check Ward's Directory)

  • Check the databases, ABI/INFORM Complete and Company Dossier by Nexis Uni for articles on your company. Also, browse local media, such as local newspapers and magazines for information on your company in Nexis Uni.

  • Private companies may file some SEC reports depending on their circumstances such as for raising equity; in which case,  they would need to file Registration Statements (usually S Forms) and sometimes 10-Q Reports.

  • Small companies may have made an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or are in the process. If so, you can find information on this company. Check the NASDAQ's website for an IPO list. 

  • Visit the company's website and find the About page. Additionally, feel free to contact a private or small company and request a phone or in-person interview. 

Check Government Sources

The federal government regulates and investigates various company activities. Some of this data is available to the public. Examples: 

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (e.g., square footage of a plant, number of employees in the plant, types of machines used, etc., may be given from an investigation)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (e.g., plant inspection reports, filings for permits)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (has files on some products, firms and recalls).

You can use the U.S. Government Manual to locate agency contact information.

Try these local offices:

  • The state's office of economic development tries to attract companies to the state and keep exisitng companies. The California Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) provides resources for small businesses and contact information for GO-Biz staff and business specialist. 
  • The Office of the Secretary of State is where companies usually register and provide information about their operations such as articles of incorporation, a type of annual report, corporate name changes, location of operations, etc. Information available will vary in each state. Try the business search in the California Secretary of State.
  • Look for local government reports. Municipal and County governments keep track of what companies do in their area. Examples are tax assessors, pollution control boards, county clerk which has records of property owned.