If you are tasked with researching a specific supplier, realize that the amount of information you are able to find depends on many variables. First, it is important to know whether the supplier is a public or private company. Detailed financial information is generally more available for publicly held companies because they are required to disclose information, which is available to anyone interested.
In the U.S., a public company is a company that has issued securities that are now traded on the open market. Public companies are required to file reports and data on finances and operations. This information is filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the form of annual reports, 10-Ks and other filings. A company may be a parent or subsidiary of another corporation. This is important to note because financial information for a subsidiary is filed under the name of the parent company.
Private companies, as a general rule, are not required to reveal anything, thus making it more of a challenge to find information. Sources to use are local, regional, international and business newspapers, trade journals, press releases, executive interviews, directory information, research companies, credit reports, analysts, and social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. (A forthcoming blog will provide details and specific sources.)
Overall, you will find that more information is available on suppliers that are larger, publicly held, are more established, and/or operate in a regulated industry. Conversely, you will find less information on smaller, privately held, newer or emerging suppliers, and/or those who operate in non-regulated industries. The chart below helps visualize the availability of supplier information. The chart has been modified for supplier research. (Source: “Business Research Workshop.” MIT Libraries. Docstop. 2008 Fall. Web.)