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Company and Industry Research

Library business resources for company and industry research

Characteristics of a private company

Private companies:

  • Do not publicly trade shares of stocks
  • May be family-owned businesses, although there are a number of multinational corporations that are privately held
  • Are not regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Are not required to file financial reports with the SEC or to make public any operational information

Approach to Private Business Research

The characteristics of privately-held companies, especially smaller companies, make researching them a real challenge.  A little creativity goes a long way, though, so be willing to think broadly. Keep these questions in mind as you conduct your research:

  • What do I need to know?  Consider the restrictions to getting information you think you need.  
  • Will estimates or projections work for this assignment?  Can this type of information be used to support your position or analysis?
  • Where should I look?
    • The first stop may be the company's website.  Pay particular interest to the About page.  Companies may post white papers, reports, press releases.  Be aware, however, that these documents will most likely show the organization at its best.  
  • Check various other sources to get a more balanced perspective.  Look for newspaper and magazine articles and blog posts
  • Who can I contact?  Consider sending an email inquiry, particularly if you have a specific question.  Don't expect the recipient to specifics. 
  • Check the SEC's EDGAR for financial information.  As a rule, private companies are not required to file, but there are exceptions, so check these sources as well.