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Important Terms

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) are numeric codes that identify industries. Companies are often associated with primary NAICS or SIC codes.  Knowledge of the codes a company identifies itself under can be very useful in identifying competitors.

Private Company
A company that does not permit the general public to buy and sell its shares.  

Public Company
A company whose stock can be bought and sold by the general public on a recognized stock exchange.  Public companies operating in the United States are required to file regular reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and to disclose financial information. 

A company that is owned or controlled by another company.  The controlling company is called the parent.

An analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) of a company, project, or business venture.  Strengths and Weaknesses are internal and Opportunities and Threats are external.  

Company Profiles

Company profiles provide background information on companies and an overview of that company: they often contain the history of the company and information on the company's products/lines of business and other information. You will find much more information on public companies than you will on private companies: see the "Note on Private Companies" box for some suggestions. 

Company Financials, SEC Filings, and Annual Reports

Company News

A Note on Private Companies

It can be VERY difficult to find substantial financial information on Private Companies, if it exists at all. Your best bet is to try searching for mentions of that company in the news using Business Source Complete or Academic LexisNexis. 

The "Company Dossier" feature in Academic LexisNexis is another place to try searching, as is the Private Companies database in Mergent Online's basic search. (By default this option is unchecked - check it before you begin your company search.)

Industry ratios may enable you to make an educated guess about a company's financials. Try searching for them using the following materials: