Home    Basics Search Strategies EResources Things to Try Contact

Introduction Company Identifiers SEDAR
SEDI EDGAR Google® Finance, et al.
Be Creative

Related documents:
Competitive Intelligence, Search Strategies and Design
Marketing Research, Search Strategies and Design

Related resources:
Business and Trade, Electronic Sources and Resources
Company Information, Electronic Sources and Resources
Marketing Research, Electronic Sources and Resources


There are many resources from which you can collect and derive business information. However, since we must begin our discussion, and our search, somewhere, let's start with the true basics for companies and for the people associated with them. A number of factors will influence just how much information you can retrieve quickly. They include:

Remember, these resources are just a few examples of the many available to you. If you cannot find what you want, you need more information, or you would like a little help, there is a librarian out there hoping you will ask.

Top of Page

Company Identifiers

Begin by collecting:

Gather this information from a variety of sources, including:

Corporations are creations of the state. Legally, they are similar to a person: they have a date of birth and death; they can sue and be sued. They can exist without assets, products, or employees. They can be grouped into two basic types: public and private.

Public companies (or publicly traded companies) sell stock (shares in the company) and may or may not be listed on a stock exchange. Those who are listed are referred to as publicly listed companies. Public companies produce an annual report -- often not very informative, though the footnotes are frequently useful -- written for the stock holders. By law in Canada and the United States, public companies are required to file periodic financial reports.

Private companies (or closely held companies) are generally exempt from detailed reporting, which may make finding unbiased, complete information somewhat difficult. In the United States, they do file annually in the state where they were incorporated and the Uniform Commercial Code requires that private companies file with the county clerk when they take out a major loan. They do not sell stock to the public.

After you have a gathered basic company information, you should know if the company is a public or private entity. If it is a North American public company, you should be able to find out a great deal about it. Public companies are required by law to disclose certain information such as: assets, liabilities, employees owning stock, balance sheets and income statements. As well, unscheduled events materially affecting stock prices must be reported. In Canada, they disclose this type of information to the Canadian Securities Administration; in the US, they must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both the CSA and the SEC offer free, public, electronic access to many of these disclosure documents through SEDAR and EDGAR, respectively.

New Brunswick companies may also be subject to various New Brunswick regulations and laws including: the Companies Act, C-13; the Corporations Act, C-24; the Business Corporations Act, B-9.1; and the like.

Top of Page


The System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) is the electronic filing system set up for disclosure of the documents of public companies and mutual funds in Canada. SEDAR was set up to:

SEDAR includes most of the documents which must be filed with the Canadian Security Administrators and many of the documents which must be filed with Canadian exchanges. Those documents include: the preliminary and final prospectus; annual information forms (including annual reports on Form 10K or Form 20F under the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934); continuous disclosure documents including interim financial statements, audited annual financial statements, management's discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations, information circulars and forms of proxy relating to proxy solicitation timely disclosure press releases and material change reports; and press releases and securities acquisition (early warning) reports.

The SEDAR web site makes documents available to the public as of the most recently completed business day. New filings are pulled together and can be accessed by type: all new public company filings; new annual reports of public companies; new financial statements of public companies; and so forth. The search engine is simple to use but documents may appear in a variety of formats (MS Word, WordPerfect, .pdf, etc.) which may make reading, downloading, and printing a bit of a chore.

SEDAR also offers basic company information -- addresses, contact information, stock exchange listings, etc. -- under Company Profiles.

Top of Page


SEDI, the System for Electronic Disclosure by Insiders, was set up in Canada to facilitate the filing of insider reports. Insiders are those who, under provincial law, are required to file such reports electronically, providing information about trading activities. Three types of material are available to the general public. Insider information offers profiles of directors, senior company officers, and significant stockholders who have filed with SEDI. Issuer information contains profiles of insider issuers and may include issuer event reports (share splits, etc.). The summary reports are summaries of insider and issuer information.

Top of Page


The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established because of the stock market crash early in the twentieth century and the belief that the public has the right to material information about public companies. Disclosure documents filed include: assets, liabilities, employees owning stock, balance sheets and income statements. The 10K report filed annually reveals the official financial report of the company (markets, products, distribution, estimated market share, ownership of subsidiaries, foreign ownership, names of very large customers). It is updated by the quarterly 10Q report. As well, unscheduled events materially affecting stock prices must be reported.

EDGAR, the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system, allows electronic access to submissions by public companies to the SEC as of 6 May 1996. Some of these submissions are required by law; some are done voluntarily. There are some exceptions, notably some items which are not permitted to be filed electronically. If the user knows a company name, the search engine is relatively straightforward and easy to use. Postings appear as straight text files making them easy to read, download or print. As well, EDGAR has developed several Special Purpose Searches, including a Current Events Analysis system which lets users pull forms filed in the previous week.

Top of Page

Google® Finance, et al.

Several non-governmental web sites offer financial and other company related information, "packaged" for the general user from publicly accessible information (stock markets, annual reports, news stories, government databases, etc.). These sites include:

Top of Page

Be Creative

Once you have the basics on the company and some of the people involved with it, be a little creative, especially with small and/or private companies. Cross-search the telephone numbers given, for example. Is the business operating out a person's home? Look at the the business' physical address. What kind of neighbourhood is it in? What types of businesses exist around it? How much does space cost in that area? Look at the owner's home address. Are there houses for sale nearby? What are the sales' prices like? This could tell you something about how well (or not) the business is doing.

Start building a collection of associated names, companies that are related. Milk the company's web site for as much information as possible and pay attention to names of directors and the like -- they too are searchable.

When gathering personal information, there is a need to establish an accurate and complete name along with any possibly relevant and/or useful dates (birth, graduation, joined company, previous terms of employment, etc.). The researcher must also recognize that it is unusual to discover complete information in a single source; it is more likely that you will have to piece information together from a variety of sources. One particular caution should be observed: the information provided by company press releases and public relations packages may not be objective and may not include all pertinent facts, although it will provide a starting point. Many biographic resources are organized around particular characteristics: gender; awards/achievements; occupation/hobbies; time period in which the subject flourished; country of origin/nationality/ethnicity. Determining these characteristics may make your search easier.

Gather this information from a variety of sources, including:

For some links to get you started, try: Electronic Sources and Resources: Business and Trade

The annual report should provide a wealth of information. In the report, you will discover company size (number of employees, profit, etc.), liquidity, financial management -- it is all there sandwiched between the nice, glossy pictures. Make sure to read the footnotes.

Other sources will help you confirm, reinforce or put a different spin on company provided information. EDGAR and SEDAR are only two of many government databases and other materials which contain business related information. For Canadian companies, for instance, a search of Industry Canada is a must. You can use the site's onboard search engine, or a web-based search engine depending on your patience and your preferences.

It is often fairly difficult to turn up a great deal of obvious information on private or family owned companies, though they may have to file certain reports in the province (or state) in which they are incorporated. See: Electronic Sources and Resources: Company Information for some links.

With basics in hand, look for a web site where a little exploration can go a long way. Look for an About or Contact Us file; there may be a lovely list of managers and department heads which, when the various titles are examined, can lead us to associated company names. A good internet search can turn up a few other interesting avenues. For example, you might try a search on the names of the President, CEO, and directors. You might try the names reversed and / or with or without any initials.

A search on the (truncated) company name limited to government web sites or a search on the (truncated) company name limited to a particular country code may turn up additional information. Depending on the information needed, it might be worth it to search particular web sites individually. For instance, a search of a New Brunswick company name restricted to the Government of New Brunswick site may turns up references to it in the Public Accounts or in the Royal Gazette. Similar searches could be conducted on any related companies.

Trade associations, self-regulating industry-related bodies, service organizations, and similar entities should also be mined for information. For instance, a private company might belong to the local Chamber of Commerce, a regional or national trade association (such as the Canadian Insurance Trade Association or the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network), and a national or international self-regulating industry-related body (such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau or the World Diamond Council Association). Frequently, these types of associations provide access to a wealth of data and information.

Top of Page


This page copyright, created and maintained by Linda Hansen.
Comments and suggestions to:
Created: 2001/09/06 Last updated: 2011/12/16
Terms of Copyright
This document: