Fact Gathering and Analysis: Business Research Resources

Finding information about companies, such as financials, principles, employees, valuation, competitors, credit and financial health for publicly traded companies is possible if you don’t mind digging through SEC filings. For nonprofits, religious institutions and privately held companies it requires even more digging, and the information is not always easily available. Whether you are looking at helping with business development in an industry for a client, providing competitive intelligence, looking up information on a company that you are filing a suit against or for many other reasons, the following are free and fee company research resources to help with your search.

Don’t forget the public library!

Looking for company information for competitive intelligence or client development?  Old news stories?  Journals? Don’t forget about the local public library.  Many libraries now offer extensive online research databases that can be accessed from home or office with a library ID number.  The best part about these services is that they are free so may provide an economical start to research when the bottom line is a concern. Many of the databases listed below may be available for free from your library. The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center created a list of links to some local libraries.  It is by no means comprehensive so please contact your local library, or look for it online, to see what resources are available to you as a patron.

D&B Hoovers


Offering limited free information, this site offers pay-as-you-go and subscription services for business intelligence for mostly publicly traded companies. Free information includes an overview, executives, competitors, and financials for companies. Sample reports are available to see what information you will be purchasing.

BigCharts from Marketwatch


BigCharts is an easy-to-use investment research Web site, providing access to professional-level research tools such as interactive charts, quotes, industry analysis and intraday stock screeners, as well as market news and commentary. BigCharts is a free service supported entirely by site sponsors. For attorneys, one of the most interesting aspects is historical quotes, for probate and estate valuation purposes.

Dun & Bradstreet Company Reports

https://creditreports.dnb.com/ and http://bit.ly/JrfcAQ

Get background, corporate family tree, company profile, snapshot, or international company reports. Also credit searches to see the creditworthiness of companies. Search is free, reports cost vary. You can view a sample report to see the type of data provided. Private and publicly traded companies are included.

US Economic Census and Economic Indicators


The Economic Census is the U.S. Government’s official five-year measure of American business and the economy. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every five years, and response is required by law.

Forms go out to about 5 million businesses, including large, medium and small companies representing all U.S. locations and industries. Respondents are asked to provide a range of operational and performance data for their companies. Results for the 2002, 2007 and 2012 census are online in full. 2107 data will be released starting in September 2019. Economic indicators, such as new home sales for specific date ranges, geographic areas, etc. are available and results delivered in PDF or spreadsheet format.

Industry Information Resources


Industry Information Resources is a guide to industry information, research, and analysis for over 400 industries. Individual pages for each industry list resources and data available from trade associations, publications, and research firms which address subjects such as industry overview, issues, trends, and outlook, financial information and financial ratios, compensation and salary surveys, and business valuation resources. Individual industries are listed below by industry category and standard industrial classification (SIC) code. Some of the information from linked research reports are fee based.

PrivCo Private Company Financial Intelligence


While the NC Secretary of State’s online portal provides links to loads of resources about entities registered with the state, including registered agents, company officials, annual reports, etc. PrivCo is designed to provide research and track privately held companies. Reports include financials like revenue, employee productivity, funding and M&A Activity, as well as a business summary, competitors, and more. Pricing varies.

Vault Rankings & Reviews


For job seekers mainly, great intelligence on companies including law firms. For instance, learn all about industry outlook and trends and predictions for $20 for 3 month’s access (free for students). Much of the content, however, is free, including law firms ranked by Vault with key information including stats, employment contact, base salary, history, and representative cases/clients. To uncover more you’ll need to pay the $20, but you can’t be too prepared in an interview.

Guidestar by Candid


Looking for information on a religious group or nonprofit? Get access to 1.8 million IRS recognized tax exempt orgs, plus thousands of faith-based nonprofits that not required to register with the IRS. You can access Form 990, IRS data, financials, chief officers, membership #s, annual reports, board members and more. The profiles are free for program, financial and operations information. You can view IRS forms too, but for downloadable copies of Form 990 and more you will need to purchase a pro solution ($350 per month/$2,000 per year).

Catherine Sanders Reach is the Director of the North Carolina Center for Practice Management. NCBA members, click here to learn more about how the Center for Practice Management can help you. NCBA CPM: Practice Smart.