Company records, often found via a company’s website or financial reports, can yield a bounty of information on a company's history and background, in addition to providing detailed financial information. While many companies offer fee-based access to corporate profiles, you can use government databases, libraries and other free resources to find a great deal of this information on your own.
Determine whether the company is public or private. Public companies sell stock to the general public, making them subject to a variety of government regulations. Individuals or small groups usually retain ownership of private companies, so they do not need to make their company records public.
Look at the company's website for information on its background. Both private and public companies often use their websites to showcase their history and highlight any important events. Public companies frequently offer an investor relations area with access to financial reports and filings and press releases of important events.
Examine the company's annual report (if available) for detailed information on its financial operations throughout the past year. If this is not available on its website, you can often contact the company's investor relations department and ask for a free copy.
Search the SEC's Edgar database for a variety of registration records, periodic reports and other important filings on publicly held domestic and foreign companies. You can find archival information on public companies dating back to 1996, the point at which companies were required to file electronically.
Call your local public library to find out whether it offers free access to subscription databases, such as the Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Directory, or to full-text databases such as Nexis or ABI-inform. Type in the company's name to search these directories or databases for news articles, press releases, corporate profiles, public filings and other sources of information that provide insight into its history and background.