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Research Guide: Private Company Resources

Scope:  This guide is a selected list of resources that will be useful for locating information on U.S. private companies.  These resources include print materials available in the Stewart Library, and electronic resources, some of which may be available only to WSU students, faculty, and staff.  

Table of Contents

Directories

  • Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies  Reference Table 6  HG4057.A575 2003
  • Utah Directory of Business & Industry  Reference Table 6
    Provides basic directory information on small local companies.  Also includes sales range.
  • Hoover's Handbook of Private Companies    Reference Desk   HG4057.A1 H662 
    Covers over 600 of "the largest and most influential enterprises in the U.S." Each 2 page profile provides a brief description of the company, its history, 10 year table of basic financials, as well as a list of competitors. 
  • Directory of Corporate Affiliations  Reference Table 6  HG4057.A219 
    Provides basic directory information. Vol. IV provides "who owns whom" help in determining relationships between companies. 
  • Standard & Poor's register of corporations, directors and  executives  Reference Table 6  HG4057.S67 
    Lists more than 45,000 public and private companies. Information includes address, corporate officers, brief description of business, SICs, number of employees and annual sales figures. Biographical information on corporate officers in Vol. 2. Geographic, SIC and personal name access in Volume 3.
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe
    To locate the private company directory information, select the Business category, then Company Profiles.  At the search screen, select U.S. Private Companies as the Source.
  • Switchboard
    To locate persons or businesses.  Searchable by category or business name.
  • Thomas Register of Manufacturers
    Internet based Directory of American manufacturers. 
  • Corporateinformation.com
    A comprehensive set of links to private and public companies.  Registration is required.
  • Companies Online
    Access to over 100,000 public and private companies, by name, location or industry. Sites provide basic directory information and link to the company's home page.

 


Databases

  • ABI/Inform
    Covers U.S. and international business periodicals in the broad area of business and management. To find articles on a specific company, select the 'advanced search' tab, and choose the 'company' field to the right of the search box.
  • Business Source Premier
    To find articles on a specific company, select the 'advanced search' tab, and choose the 'company entity' field to the right of the search box.
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe
    Three subsections under the Business category, Company Profiles, Business News, and Industry & Market News, provide coverage of over 10 million companies, including basic directory information. Under the News category, select Wires to locate wire services focusing on corporate press releases; U.S. News for regional and state news sources; World News for international sources; and General News. 
  • Business & Industry
    Covers international business daily newspapers as well as the general US business press and leading trade magazines and newsletters. Good source for information on private companies, industries, products and markets for manufacturing and services. 
  • Business Dateline
    Great local and regional coverage, including private companies.  Selected fulltext. 1985 to present. Updated weekly.
  • Business Wire News
    Great local and regional coverage, including private companies.  To find articles on a specific company, select the 'advanced search' tab, and choose the 'company entity' field to the right of the search box.

Trade Journals

Trade magazines will often publish detailed articles on private companies.  These magazines are usually devoted to a particular industry.

  • American City Business Journals
    Access to local business journals that provide news stories from a local business area perspective. 
  • The Directory of Business Information Sources  Reference HF54.52 .U5 D567
    Includes associations, newsletters, magazines & journals, trade shows, directories & databases, and Web sites.
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe
    This database indexes tons of trade publications.  Select 'Business' from the main menu on the left hand side of the screen, and select 'Business News' from the menu provided.  


 

Associations

Associations and trade publications are potential sources of information on many private companies.  Many have Web pages.
  • Encyclopedia of Associations  Reference Desk
  • Encyclopedia of Associations (International Organizations) Reference Desk
  • Yearbook of International Organizations  JX1904 .A42
  • National trade and professional associations of the United States, 1999  Reference HD2425.N37 1999
  • The Directory of Business Information Sources  Reference HF54.52 .U5 D567 2000
    Includes associations, newsletters, magazines & journals, trade shows, directories & databases, and Web sites.
  • Associations on the Net (Internet Public Library)
    "A collection of over 2000 Internet sites providing information about a wide variety of professional and trade associations, cultural and art organizations, political parties and advocacy groups, labor unions, academic societies, and research institutions. Abstracts summarizing information about the association and its site are provided."

Business Periodical Special Issues & Company Lists

Some business periodicals have special issues dedicated to private company issues; most are company rankings. A few of these are listed below.  For others, consult the Directory of Business Periodical Special Issues.
  • Forbes Also available in print at Stewart Library (Periodical HF1. F692) and online in Business Source Premier (WSU ID required for off campus access)
    Forbes publishes an annual list of the 400 largest private companies ranked by sales, which usually appears in the December issues.
  • Inc.  Also available in print at Stewart Library (Periodical HD1. I36) and online in Business Source Premier (WSU ID required for off campus access)
    "The Inc. 500" is Inc. magazine's guide to the fasted growing privately held companies. 
  • The Forbes 500 Top Private Companies 
    Gives the top 500 private companies and their rankings.  Click on the company names to obtain a brief write-up on the firm.
  • The Forbes 200 Best Small Companies in America
  • Inc. 500 (via subscription)
    Inc.'s Annual List of America's Fastest-Growing Private Companies.  Each year in mid-October, Inc. magazine releases its Inc. 500 issue, which lists the fastest-growing privately held U.S. companies.
  • Price's List of Lists
    Many of these lists present information in the form of rankings of different people, organizations, companies, etc. Many of the links are industry categories.

Guides to the Literature

Guides to the literature are useful in leading you to many other sources that not listed in this guide.

  • Business Information Sources  Reference HF5351.D16 1993
  • Business Information: How to Find It: How to Use It  Reference Table 6  HF5356.L36 1992 
  • Encyclopedia of business information sources  Reference Z7164.C81E93 

Search Strategies & Tips

Researching private companies can be a complex process. Private companies are not required to submit financial data to the SEC, and as a result, information on these companies is not readily available.  

Private company stock is typically owned by the principles in the company (founders, family members key employees, etc.).  If a stockholder wishes to sell his stock, he may sell to anyone he chooses, but typically, it is offered to existing stockholders. There is no marketplace to buy and sell shares of private companies.  Financial disclosures of privately held companies do not have to be made to the public. These companies do not publish annual reports or share information about themselves to major business publishers. This is also true for subsidiaries of publicly held firms.  The parent company reports information as a whole, making information on the division or subsidiary harder to find.

Often, there is not much to distinguish a small private company from its owner.  It is a good idea to search not only the company name, but personal names as well (owners, employees, etc.).  A great place to name search is news sources (local newspapers, etc.).  Another way to find information on private companies is to look for other companies that they might be affiliated with and search these company names.

  • First, use a directory to verify company name, address, and phone number.  Some directories will include additional information such as company size, number of employees, sales, products and services, and SIC.  If you cannot find your company in one of the directories listed above, it may be because it is very small or a subsidiary of another company.
  • Search newspaper and journal indexes, especially those covering a company's hometown publications. See WSU's Business & Economics Databases page for a complete list, including information on contents, currency, coverage, and access.
  • Search trade journals and industry newsletters relevant to the company's line of business.
  • Look at the company homepage. Most companies have their own home pages. If you are trying to locate information about a company, use their name in the URL address. For example:   http://www.ford.com for Ford Motor Company 
  • Look at public company financial reports, especially those you think might be affiliated with your company. Disclosure documents (available in the Lexis-Nexis database) of these public firms sometimes mention private companies with which they do business. An easy way to identify whether your company is mentioned in a long financial report is to use the Edit command on your browser. In the pull-down menu, select 'Find in Page' and type in the company name in the blank. Click on 'Find Next' to highlight your company in the report. The Company page will contain sites to access financial reports. 
  • There are several Web sites that offer reports on private companies- for a fee.  These include Dun & Bradstreet and Experian (formerly TRW).

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Updated March 10, 2009 . Please send comments to Shaun Adamson.
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