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Researching: Industry Information
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There are ways to learn more about the industry and the company. 


I'm interested in pursuing an opportunity with a company but I know very little about it. How or where do I get more information?

I'm so glad you asked this. For quite some time, I've been alluding to the fact that one needs to research the company you're considering either before you apply or before the interview.

Not only do candidates need to know more about a company before they take the next step but businesses and recruiters would be prudent to do some research to determine whether the client they pursue is a favorable match.

And during reference and background checks, recruiters are wise to do some research on the company(ies) where the candidate has worked in order to gain some insight into how many employees, the company philosophy and history, the sales volume and, if publicly traded, it's historic trend, especially compared to the industry or the market.

Start With the Basics
There are some sites on the Web that are my favorite starting points for company research. Worldly Investor is one. The reasons are quite basic. It covers global stock news so if I want information that is global in nature, they have it.

If the company name is known but not its symbol, there's a "Get a Quote" tool on the front page that will allow you to look up the symbol. Once you have the symbol, there's a lot to get for your few seconds of input.

The search results they provide yield four to five pages, depending on how you count. On the Company Profile page, you're provided a short description of the company, a list of its top three officers, contact information, various performance breakdowns such as price and per share information, financial strength ratios, profitability and management strength data. That page also provides a miniscule graph of the company's 12-month stock performance.

But the big plus is a graph of the company's stock performance on the Quote and Chart page. You can view the company's performance over various time periods and compared with up to three other stocks and one of 10 different indexes in four different formats. The stock charts are powered by StockPoint so obviously, Worldly Investor did not corner the market on the charts. But they have them there and they are very useful for getting the financial picture of your prospect.

The third page they provide is the SEC Filings and Information, powered by EDGAR Online. While EDGAR does charge for many of their reports, what they provide for free here is quite sufficient for getting a feel for the top management and the reporting the company has done.

More Information
All of that information is really spiffy but I usually want to know more. I want to know things such as who the competitors are, what's the address, what's the press been saying about this company, what have the analysts been saying. Well that's when I go to this rather obscure site called Forbes. I plug in the symbol for the company (which I've gotten from Worldly Investor but can easily obtain here) and voila! I have all I want and more with regard to the company's profile.

Staying Up to Date
I used to take several newsletters that reported on industry conditions in a select number of industries. The InfoBeat Industry Reports cover 31 different industries with stock quotes on industry representative stocks and one or more news stories that report information about industry movement. When my mail reached more than 20MB per month, with a great deal of remorse, I dropped my subscriptions. However, you may want to stay up to date on your one industry, and one related one. so that you’ll have a better sense of what's going on, where and why. Then you can make some good choices.

Then There's the Obvious
You know, sometimes you spend a lot of time looking up one bit of information after another on a lot of different industry and stock sites and you come up with one picture. But sometimes you can get a very meaningful picture by simply going directly to the company's website.

Once you're there, take a look at their layout and what they emphasize on their web page. That will indicate in what direction the company is focusing. Consider how easy it is to find contact information, Careers at XYZ Company, links to other parts of the site. There may be information that the company wants a lot of people to know. Take note of that and the type of information they publicize.

Ask yourself if the company is emphasizing a public relations image as in the case of Phillip Morris. When I searched that company's pages last year, there were absolutely no pages that took me to the corporate information. Instead, they emphasized their philanthropic ventures. No links were available to their open positions. What that told me was the company was making a concerted effort to overcome a poor public image – so much so that they were willing to sacrifice hiring more people. What that also suggested was that they were low on interest to encourage deeper inquiry about their company.

Still Other Resources
These are just a few of the places where I look to learn more about a company. And these are just a few of the tools that I use. There are others that I also like and that provide extremely enlightening information.

And that's just the company profile. There's still the information that one can glean from those who are already there and in the trenches. But I'll save those insights for another day. For now, you've got an armload of tools to use and you'll come away with barrels of information.

You may also want to keep in mind that there are researchers out in the market who will do this type of research for companies, recruiters and candidates. However, the days of free lunches on the Internet are essentially over. These researchers charge for their time to research and the write up their reports. The time and dollars it saves your business (for you business owners and recruiters) to outsource this type of work while you stay focused on doing what you do best may be worth the cost of the report several times over.

Editor's Note: November 14, 2001
The Web is changing and the economy is changing the Web as well as who and what's on it. I just discovered some of my favorite and long-time financial newsletters and reports are no longer and their host is gone.

If you tried to reach StockPoint using the previous link in this article, no doubt you reached a page that didn't match the information in this article. StockPoint was acquired by Screaming Media in July 2001 and its investor news is now at a different url. Their link was updated today.

My apologies for any inconvenience.

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