Don’t Know Much About ‘Corporate’ History: Historical Company Research

Many times the type of company information we are seeking is current. Current information can be easier to locate because new strategies and innovative business models are written about extensively in the news, business journals, and on the web. Researching a company’s history requires a slightly different strategy. Below are some resources to help you locate historical company information.

A good starting point is in the International Directory of Company Histories. This e-book (also available in print) covers 11,000 companies. Each concise company profile is between four and six pages long and covers statistics, dates and key players, as well as other important information like expansions and company strategies. The information is gathered from reliable sources such as academic journals, books, magazines, annual reports, and the company’s archives.

Pages from jc penney annual report

Annual Reports are a good source for historical company information. The Management Discussion & Analysis (MD&A) section of the annual report provides an overview of the previous year’s operations and often includes a discussion on future prospects like goals and strategies for the upcoming year. Annual reports are available in several subscription databases. Use our Business FAQ “Where can I find current and historical annual reports?” for access. Also, take a look at our previous post, Gimmie that Old Time Financial Statement for a detailed overview on finding annual reports.

Applied Science & Business Periodicals Retrospective (1913-1983) covers a wide range of historical trade journals (e.g. Journal of Retailing) and business magazines (e.g. BusinessWeek, Fortune, etc.). Search within this database by company name. For a company like J.C. Penney, whose name often appears differently, search for variations on the spelling/punctuation (e.g. j.c. penney OR j. c. penney OR penney stores OR penney, j.c. etc.). Continue reading

Gimmie that Old Time Financial Statement: Annual Reports to Shareholders

Company annual reports provide stock owners and potential investors with information about company performance and plans. US Company Annual Reports have much more flexibility in format and content than do the annual 10K reports that are required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  10K reports, on the other hand, offer much more detailed information on company history, company description, and financial data.

Annual reports are not always easy to find on the Internet, take Ford’s 2001 Annual Report to Shareholders (ARS) as an example. Try a Google search for Ford 2001 annual report. Unless you want a report on Henry Ford Elementary School, this search is not successful. Ford’s website looks promising, but the archive only goes back to 2002. If we search the SEC filings, we’ll find that the ARS wasn’t filed with them at all (only required to file 10-K). This isn’t the end of our search. The Penn Libraries subscribe to a number of databases that cover annual reports, both current and historical. Keep reading to find out where we can find Ford’s 2001 ARS. Continue reading