Building a Company List - Trucking in Texas
Students should gain familiarity with the following elements of business information literacy and specific information resources.
- The distinction and relative advantages between information freely available on the Internet and information available at a price.
- How to use industry classification systems and cope with their limitations.
- How to evaluate the coverage, methodologies, sources, and functionality of resources for company information.
- The effect of company size, home nation, and whether it is publicly traded on the quantity and quality of information available.
- Two sources for company information that can be used to generate lists of companies meeting parameters of size, location, industry, etc.
This case takes a more focused look at a single type of information resource: "Your team is performing a competitive analysis for a freight trucking company headquartered in El Paso, Texas. Your current task is to create a list of local competitors and lists of top competitors across the United States and Mexico."
The limitations of Internet searches and online yellow pages can be demonstrated as part of a discussion about what kinds of information should be included in such a company list. Beyond company name and address, students will likely mention revenue, assets, number of employees, market capitalization, major shareholders, and so on. They may also mention industry-specific data, like operating territory and fleet size, which would provide an opportunity to discuss the limitations of general sources of company information and the potential for more industry-specific sources of information.
There are a number of databases with company information that can be used to create lists of companies that meet given search parameters. Examples include Hoover's, Reference USA, LexisNexis, and Bureau van Dijk's Mint Global database. The purpose of this case is to introduce students to two or three of these and allow them to compare and contrast the different tools.
In this case the first task may be to identify an appropriate industry code to use in searching the databases. The U.S. Census Bureau's North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) website is useful for this (http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/). Industry classification systems will be new to many students, and this is an opportunity to introduce concepts related to the organization of information, particularly because a wide variety of NAICS codes could be applied to this industry depending on how much granularity a researcher wants in their searches.
Brief demonstrations of the company databases can be followed by exercises in which students discover how many freight trucking companies each database lists for the El Paso region, the United States, and Mexico. The variance in the number each database reports leads to a discussion about how each database gathers data and the possible inclusion of branch locations, subsidiaries, and companies for whom freight trucking is only a secondary line of business. The variance can also lead to a discussion of the extent of each database's coverage of local, national, and international companies.
Students should compare entries for a specific company across each database, allowing for discussion of further differences in how each gathers and reports data. Entries for different types of companies should also be compared in order to trigger a discussion of the three factors that govern how much information is available on a company and how reliable it is: whether it is a public or private company, how large it is, and how transparent the financial systems are in the company's home nation.
Finally, the librarian can demonstrate additional screening criteria and features for company comparisons, analysis, and exporting, printing, or saving company lists.
The tight focus of this case allows for a deeper exploration of a specific kind of database, but it will likely leave students wondering where to turn for other kinds of related information. After reviewing the session's learning outcomes, the librarian can briefly outline the kinds of resources that might supply such related information. This overview can be accomplished more thoroughly through handouts.
Originally Submitted: February 9, 2009
- A copy of the handout created to accompany this case as conducted at Brigham Young University in September 2009 can be downloaded here.