Overcoming The Challenges Behind Private Company Research


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This article aims to cast a spotlight on the challenges associated private company research and possible solutions to overcome the challenges.

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Overcoming The Challenges Behind Private Company Research

  1. 1. Overcoming The Challenges Behind Private Company Research By Ian Smith, Intelegia, www.intelegia.com With the advent of the web, the growth of business research services and tools has increased. On a daily basis, numerous pages of free business content are available to analysts to make decisions. Furthermore, an increasing number of premium content providers are packaging information specifically for businesses to cater to their strategic needs. As a result, there is no shortage of sources for competitive intelligence researchers to find relevant information on public traded companies. Finding information on private companies is a different story. Is it impossible to conduct a successful search for private company research? Challenging, yes – impossible, no. Private company research is an expertise that takes years to perfect and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Few researchers have the resolve to take on a mandate to find information that may or may not be online. The first inclination of any researcher is to conduct a routine search on the web via Google or Bing utilizing the company’s name. This article aims to cast a spotlight on the challenges associated private company research and possible solutions to overcome the challenges. Challenge #1 – There is hardly any information on location of the offices of the private company in question. If this challenge is the hardest aspect of the research mandate, consider yourself very lucky. Overcoming this challenge entails selecting to go down one of the two possible avenues: i) Visiting local or province / state government offices – These levels of government hold incorporation information that will have the contact details of the head office of the company. ii) Website registry – A source such a Register.com will provide an address of the person that is registering the domain name. Eight times out of ten, the address used is the address of private company’s head office. In addition, accessing the white pages of the city that the company is located in is another option. Chances are there might be a version of the white pages on the web.
  2. 2. Challenge #2 - There is no way that I can find information on the company’s products. Not entirely true. If the company seeks to obtain a trademark or a patent, they must register with the federal government. Records for a trademark or patent will have a detail description of the product. Some will have drawings of inventions. Challenge #3 - The company had a website but it is no longer online. There was some useful information on the site, can I still access the page? A niffy tool called, “The WayBack Machine” can provide cached version of websites that are still online or have been removed. Some of the images used on the webpages may not be still online however the text remains intact. It should be noted that some of the websites are available courtesy of The WayBack Machine may contain broken links. The WayBack Machine Search Interface
  3. 3. Challenge #4 - Building profiles of the top executives is impossible to construct. This challenge is the most difficult hurdle jump over when it comes to private company research. If the information that is being sought does not exist, creating profiles can be a pipe dream. At this point, researchers should begin to get creative in terms of the sources that they can consult. If they wish to remain online, ZoomInfo is a great start. ZoomInfo is a summarization search engine that finds useful information about people on the Web. The tool has the ability to collect nuggets of information from pages that are not indexed by most search engines. Index Page of ZoomInfo Another option to consider is interviewing past employees of the private company. Past employees are often willing to provide the “inside scoop” regarding top management and past episodes that took place in individual’s offices. It is advised that an individual who has experience in elicitation techniques should carry out this interviewing option. Keep in mind that individuals maybe bound to a non-disclosure agreement that will disqualify them from the process. Challenge #5 – There is nobody available to talk to provide us with detailed information on the company. Not true. There are a number of group of individuals that can be consulted to provide information on the company. Obtaining interviews with the individuals can be the correct route to the following:
  4. 4. • Business reporters from the local press – Business reporters are likely to monitor the current developments on the local business scene. As a result, they should be able to provide some insights regarding private companies around the area. • Securities analysts – Securities analysts may be informed in terms of the financial status of the company in question. • Suppliers – Suppliers are very close to companies are very good candidates to interview. Details such as organization structure, financial status and pricing structures can be discovered. • Customers - Under the right circumstance, customers will share whatever they know about the company. Some will share information that researchers could not imagine finding online. If this mode of information collection is selected, be prepared for a very time intensive and costly task. Conclusion Private company research can be a frustrating task for an internet researcher. For those researchers who accept the task must provide themselves with a flexible framework in which they must ask the right questions to the right individuals or use tools that may not come to mind immediately. About Ian Smith: With his knowledge of business strategies used in today’s corporate world and internet searching methodologies, Ian has found his niche as an internet and competitive intelligence researcher in the past 10 years. Knowing what challenges that business professionals face everyday to find relevant information, Ian has written several articles on competitive intelligence research methodologies and analysis frameworks. In addition, he has authored articles dealing with internet searching applications for efficient research initiatives. You can read the blog that Ian contributes to, “Tools For Thought” at http://intelegia.com/mediacenter/tools_for_thought/