An urgent request for intelligence on a company will mean that we are working against the clock. With limited time, one will usually rush into gathering information about the company. This, however, is not the smartest strategy! Here are some tips that we consider as key when profiling a company. These tips will help save time but also fully understand what is happening to the company.
Identifying the right company. Before starting your research, it should be clear which company you need to profile. It might seem silly, but it is very common for different companies to be named the same, even within the same industry and country!. For example, Merck & Co. is not the same company as Merck Group even though their business is very similar. In order to avoid any mistakes, you should ask your end client for the company’s website and the company’s legal name. On top of this, you should understand the company’s legal structure and ownership (e.g. Is it public or privately held? Is it a subsidiary? Is it a holding company?). Sometimes a company might have a number of subsidiaries with similar names but in different industries. For example, if you are after Mitsubishi USA, you first need to know if you are looking for a subsidiary with that name or if you are looking for all of Mitsubishi’s US operations. If you are looking at US operations, you must understand how many entities Mitsubishi has in the US as well as their hierarchy. You also have to understand how they fit within the Mitsubishi Group as a legal entity. Moreover, you have to find out how US operations fit under Mitsubishi’s business structure (i.e. Do US operations cover only one or more segments?)
Understanding its operations and industry. Before embarking on further research, you need to understand what the company does. If it is a retailer: does it own brick and mortar stores internationally? If it is in the oil & gas industry: is it present in downstream, upstream or both? You don’t need to be super specific, but you need to have a clear picture of where in the industry the company sits. Reading about the company’s segments helps! Secondly, you need to place the firm within the value chain: who are its suppliers, clients, competitors and substitutes. This is extremely important when profiling companies that are consumer-facing. We don’t need to understand this for a retailer but we do for a cloud computing firm, or a data center provider.
Considering the amount of information you will be dealing with. There are many sources of information when profiling both private and public companies. For big companies you will find a lot of information (press releases/articles, stock analysis, opinion, etc.) and you need to know how to handle all that. On the other hand, smaller firms tend to have much less information. So quickly identifying this, will help you think the best research approach to the project. Perhaps, if you are dealing with a large tech firm such as Alphabet you will better off only reading from ‘top sources’. If you are dealing with smaller private companies, the best approach might be to cover more sources including sector-specific magazines, interviews, or even look for information on the family that owns the company. Also, quickly scanning headline news will “paint a picture” of what you will come across with during your research.
If you follow these tips you will produce better and quicker company profiles so that your firm can target more clients.