When researching a company it is important to know if it is public, private, non-profit, a subsidiary or division of a larger company, or foreign-owned. Determining this basic information will help guide you to locate the appropriate type of sources.
Public companies are companies that sell stock to the general public and are legally required to meet public disclosure requirements of the federal government's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). There is a great deal of information available on public companies.
Ticker symbols are letters used to uniquely identify a publicly-traded company and are used to quickly locate the stock price and company information in business databases. You can look up ticker symbols on freely available websites or within actual business databases.
Private companies do not sell stock to the public and are usually owned by individuals. They are not legally required to release any information about their activities. Therefore, very little information is available on private companies.
Please look in local and state newspapers for private company information or visit the company's website.
Non-Profit organizations do not sell stock to the public and use their excess income to achieve the goals and mission of their organization’s cause. This is in contrast to public companies that distribute excess income to company shareholders. Guidestar.org is a great website to look for non-profit organizations.
Parent vs. Subsidiary. A parent company is a top-level organization unit and information on a parent company is easy to find. Subsidiaries and divisions are a smaller part of a parent company. Information for a subsidiary is usually folded into the parent's company's information. It is difficult to research subsidiaries.
Foreign-owned companies can be difficult to research. There are some large international companies that are traded on the U.S. stock exchange, but those without markets in the U.S. are more challenging to find information.