The Private Company Challenge
Tuesday, 23rd October 2012
Librarians and information professionals are continuously up for the challenge of finding pertinent information. However there seems to be that one request that tests one's research expertise—locating private company information.
Librarians and information professionals are continuously up for the challenge of finding pertinent information. However there seems to be that one request that tests one’s research expertise—locating private company information. This request usually begins with “Can you find me some information on Company XYZ? I believe it is a local company. I know there’s something out there somewhere.”
To find such information could cause anxiety for some because of the lack of general information, financial data, and management structure available to the public. For others, adrenaline kicks in, and one mentally accepts the challenge to use their expertise and resources to uncover those hidden gems that help build a private company profile.
Just how big is the private company world? According to Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek, their private company directory has over 300,000 companies worldwide. Dun & Bradstreet has a database of the top 250,000 private companies. And, referring to a 2012 article in the CPA Magazine, there are about 28 million private companies in the US alone. Many of these companies are very small and have no financial reporting requirements other than filing yearly income tax returns. Many private companies like the autonomy of not filing financial statements or meeting the expectations of shareholders’ constraints.
Some may think it is a complex process to find relevant information or are confused on where to start looking for specific information. The search pattern can begin by using traditional resources such as filings from the US Secretary of State, US state Comptroller tax data and SEC filings for the US, Companies House in the UK and other government sources depending upon the country. Paid databases like S&P Capital IQ, CB Insights, Dun & Bradstreet and PrivCo also are filling the private company information gap. These databases are planned to supply specific private company criteria. FreePint covers many of these sources – Helen Clegg’s mini-review of PrivCo, Jenny Robertson’s review of Capital IQ and Perrin Kerravala’s mini-review of CB Insights being just a few recent examples.
In the search sequence, don’t forget the social media sites. In the past several years the Internet has opened new possibilities in finding much needed private company information. Most private companies now have a presence on the web in some format such as a website, blog, LinkedIn or Facebook profile, job listing, or a combination of formats. With the addition of these resources, it is important to check as many mediums as possible as not to miss any data from these emerging technologies. It could help fill the gaps in your research. As Aileen Marshall points out, mining information from social media formats has made some materials more readily available, but sometimes in a complicated fashion.
These complications can include lack of adequate search tools and data presentation. Repackaging the data into a quality usable deliverable format usually requires some creativity and time - time to examine and analyse the data to select the relevant information critical to one’s research. Remember, a small byte of information could be that “hidden gem”.
Never underestimate the data or information that companies publish on their own web sites, blogs and profiles. Some companies use their medium as elevated press releases, catalogues or brochures and should not be taken at face value. Careful analysis is required to assess the implications of such information. The quality of information varies from company to company.
The articles in this report highlight that private company research can be challenging or time consuming, but rewarding! Finding that “hidden gem” could increase one’s research knowledge and expertise in the information professional field.
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