How to find a SWOT Analysis

magnifying glass

We've talked before about Business Source Complete and how often we use it when doing business research. If you've been tasked with finding a SWOT analysis, BSC is your go-to resource. SWOT pic1First of all, what is a SWOT analysis? SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats. Our friends over at Investopedia and Wikipedia have  more detailed definitions as well as some historical/background information if you're interested in the details. For now, we'll just focus on how to find one when someone asks.

Most likely, you'll have access to Business Source Complete through your local public library and you can usually sign in from home with your library card. Once you're on the BSC site, click on "advanced search". Over on the right in the browse column, you'll see "SWOT Analyses" listed near the bottom.

Once you've click through, you'll see an A to Z list of companies to browse as well as a search box to look for specific companies (public companies). I'll use Apple Computer as my example. I can see that there are SWOTs listed back to 2008, but I chose to check out the most recent which is from July 2014. The entire report is about 10 pages and includes not only the SWOT itself but also a company overview and some key facts such as revenue, number of employees, stock ticker, etc. There will be an extended description of each strength, weakness, opportunity and threat, as well as the traditional 2x2 matrix which you can see below.

Apple SWOT

Using Investor Presentations for Energy Research

When researching publicly-traded energy companies, in addition to the usual resources like Dow Jones Factiva for current news events and Capital IQ for financial information, a good place to look is the website of the individual company – and in particular, its investor presentations.

Investor presentations hold a wealth of information, including specific energy metrics not found (or easily found) elsewhere in public documents or filings. Examples for an exploration and production company might include their area of operation, how much acreage the company has, the number of rigs it currently operates and what their net recoverable resources are. It might also have well economic data, for example, metrics like IP rates (initial production) or EURs (estimated ultimate recovery). If the company is currently operating in the Eagle Ford in South Texas, it might break down its production by oil, natural gas or natural gas liquids. A marine vessel operator for offshore construction projects might list all of its vessels, and an oilfield services company that manufactures ceramic and resin proppants might show how their products help improve recovery in the shales.

Investor presentations are generally found on the company’s website, under “Investor Relations”. Sometimes, investor presentations are also filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and may be accompanied by a press release (usually an 8K filing).

A few years ago, Petroleum Listing Service (PLS) in Houston introduced a new database called docFinder which collects and stores investor presentations. I believe at last count, they were almost at the one million mark! It’s important to note that at one time, energy companies would keep most of their presentations available on their website indefinitely but lately, it seems, they don’t keep nearly as many or for very long. That’s one advantage of having a database like docFinder. Another advantage is that if a company is acquired, like when Brigham Exploration was acquired by Statoil in October 2011, all of Brigham’s presentations went away once the deal was completed. Luckily, docFinder has all of Brigham Exploration’s presentations in its database, so notwithstanding the acquisition of the company, the presentations are still available in case historical research needs to be performed.

Bizologie Favorite Tools: IPOScoop

IPOScoop Logo

IPOScoop is a subscription service providing predictions for IPOs' performance on opening day. Founded by John E. Fitzgibbon Jr. in 2006, IPOScoop also has lots of useful, free information as well. The site has a running list of the most recent 100 IPOs. Initially sorted by date, you can also sort by return rates and industry. Additionally, each company listed links to a company profile showing the business description, number of employees, date founded, contact information and revenues. They've even got a link directly to the companies' SEC filings. You'll also find a great chart showing "IPOs priced in the last 12 months sorted by Industry":

IPO Scoop

You can also see upcoming IPOs and links out to their S-1s and a handy list of other helpful IPO links. We've added IPOScoop to our list of favorite resources. 

Aggressively and Passive-Aggressively Finding News You Need and Didn't Know You Needed

news and coffee

Most of my job as a Research Analyst involves answering direct questions on specific topics. But I also try to provide information proactively on topics I believe folks in my firm would like to hear about even if they don't realize it. To do this, I've set up several ways to passively monitor news and reports that may be of interest. Sometimes I have general topics I keep track of like "startups" and "venture capital". But other times, reports and articles come out that don't fall within my keyword parameters, but are large industry primers on some hot topic or another. How can I find great reports that even I didn't know I needed? Below you'll find a few of my tactics for keeping track of  everything all while making it look effortless.

1. I use HootSuite to monitor keyword streams. This way, the rest of the world looks for articles so I don't have to:

2. I personalize my Google News page to cover specific companies and topics:

3. To find newly published primers on a variety of topics, I use the Google search string: 2013 primer filetype:pdf. You can obviously make this search as specific as you like, but here I'm just trying to see if I hit gold when I'm not really trying:

I'll also use this tactic for big year end/new year reports on hot topics like social media or big data: social media 2013 filetype:pdf:

4. I've also got access to a couple of paid databases at work, so once a week I'll run a search showing every report over 100 pages published in the last 7 days. Or using my "primer" keyword, I'll have databases alert me every time a report has the word primer in the title. It's a great way to find in depth reports and it doesn't take much time or effort on my part.

How do you keep up with your research? Let us know on Twitter @bizologie!

bizologie Favorite Tools: Speek

We love the new conference call tool from Speek. Speek lets you customize a link for your conference call so that no one needs a pin code or special number. You can also easily see who has joined the call, who's currently speaking and share files between everyone on the call. And the best part? It's free, of course. We've added Speek to our Favorite Resources page where you'll find all of our favorite tools and sites for business research. To see Speek in action, check out the video below:



The Information Institute Presents: 21st Century Business Research Tactics And Sources

Information Institute

If you'll be in the Austin area this January and would like a crash course in competitive intelligence, check out this new course presented by The Information Institute from the University of Texas School of Information. The class is called "Boiling the Ocean: 21st Century Business Research Tactics And Sources". Presented by Yours Truly along with Claudia Chidester, Gary Hoover and Joel Lang, who will be sharing all our best business research secrets. This is a 3-Day course from January 7 - January 9, 2013. Check out the description below and you can register for the class here.

Boiling The Ocean: 21st Century Business Research Tactics And Sources: Understanding Difficult-to-Size Markets and their Competitive Landscapes

This is a hands on workshop with industry experts in entrepreneurship and business research that will teach industry standards and the latest tools in the practice. You will receive hands-on practice using resources you've likely never used before.

  • Are there any competitors to your new idea?
  • If anyone is making money in a particular space?
  • Is a particular private company growing or faltering?
  • Who your potential customers are?
  • How to set up a system of monitoring your competitors or customers and finding new competitors and customers?

Why is this course useful? You'll learn how to:

  • Save money: what resources are worth their cost and when is free good enough.
  • Save time: understand the 80/20 of research. Tips and tricks.
  • Network with other researchers

You will receive hands-on practice using resources you've likely never used before. Solutions like Capital IQ and other subscriptions at the University of Texas and Austin Public Library will be used to develop research strategies. Be sure to bring your own research problems to class—there will be free consultation on strategies.

Who should take this class? Entrepreneurs, legal researchers, development officers, corporate librarians, market researchers, and anyone who wants to learn how to gain a competitive advantage.

Topics Covered

  • Does market sizing matter? How the venture capitalists do it. Defining a thesis.
  • Where to start: Use what you know. Define what you don't know.
  • SEO tools: Compete, Alexa, comScore, Hitwise and Nielsen Online, crowdsourcing
  • Database tools: Capital IQ, Thompson One, Bizjournals, Special Issues, Census
  • People tools: Zoominfo, Linked-In, Associations
  • CI Knowledge management: keeping up to date: Sharepoint, Google products

bizologie Favorite Tools: 10 Minute Mail

Don't you hate when you have to register your email to download that perfect report or gain access to an article? Check out 10 Minute Mail. This free service will give you a temporary email for just such an occasion. "Any e-mails sent to that address will show up automatically on the web page. You can read them, click on links, and even reply to them. The e-mail address will expire after 10 minutes."  Providing a free service that reduces our spam earns 10 Minute Mail a spot on our Favorite Resources page.

Common Craft Explains: The U.S. Election Process

We love Common Craft and their great, simple explanations of complicated subjects. Today on Election Eve, we thought you might like a brief reminder of how our presidential election process works. You can check out other Common Craft explanations (e.g. big data, cloud computing, QR codes and much more) here.

Form D Free For All

FormDs Logo

Do business research for any length of time and you'll likely be called upon to locate Form Ds. And as we bizologists like to say, why not find them for free? First of all, what is a Form D? Our friends at Investopedia define it as "a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) required for companies that are selling securities in reliance on a Regulation D exemption or Section 4(6) exemption provisions." But for our purposes, let's use a simpler definition. Start-up companies file Form Ds when they raise money. And while there are a couple of paid subscription databases you can use to track down Form Ds, you can also find them on FormDs.com.

FormDs.com, founded by  former private equity firm investor Robert Hunt, offers a couple of paid services like monitoring or custom projects, but you can also get quite a bit of great information for free.

My favorite feature is their "Local FormDs" showing investments in a particular city. I simply click on my city of choice and I see a list of recently funded companies in my area which shows me the date and the amount of funding. Even better, once I click on a particular company, I can see their address, company directors and executives, a link to the actual Form D and, better still, a link to other companies in the same industry.

Speaking of industries, I can also filter by industry, location, amount and dates. And then display these results as a list or as a map. Below you'll see I've created a filter showing all the biotechnology companies recently funded in Texas.

FormDs.com definitely earns a spot on our Favorite Resources page.

Free Market Intelligence for Franchise-Heavy Industries

The other day, a client came to me with an interesting request: How many independent pizza restaurants operate in the US.  After consulting the usual library resources and pizza industry associations, I was still unable to fully answer this question (I had the total number of restaurants, market size etc, but I did not have the number of non-franchise establishments).  I turned to Google for answers and in the process found not only the answer to my question, but also an interesting free resource: Franchise Direct (http://www.franchisedirect.com/).  What is Franchise Direct?

Franchise direct is a site designed for people who are considering taking the plunge and opening up their own franchise, say a Starbucks, for example.  The site, as far as I can tell, makes money by directing interested parties to franchise opportunities.  To make the site more attractive to prospective franchise owners, Franchise Direct provides industry information for each franchise vertical it profiles, for example coffee houses or housecleaning services. 

How Can Librarians and Researchers Benefit from Franchise Direct?

The reports on Franchise Direct are actually pretty good and typically contain market sizing, demographic, and industry-trend data.  Their data and analysis are not de novo.  The information for their typical industry report comes from major research firms like NDP and Frost & Sullivan, in addition to data from industry associations etc.   Franchise direct also has data on the capital requirements for various franchises, which is an interesting data point in its own right.

Are there any Problems with the Site?

Franchise Direct does have some major drawbacks, though.  Consistency is a big problem for this site.  Some industries have very light industry profiles while others have no information at all.  Thus, mining Franchise Direct for market intelligence is something of a tossup.  You can rest assured that popular franchises like coffee houses or pizza restaurants will have good market reports, while less popular verticals, like courier franchises, will have less attention.  The site, which has been around for approximately 9 years, does not seem particularly interested in filling in these gaps. 

In any case, Franchise Direct is a great resource to keep in your back pocket.  It has very useful market information on consumer industries that have a multitude of franchising opportunities, not to mention details and data on starting a franchise.  Check it out here: http://www.franchisedirect.com/

Follow That Dollar!

wheresgeorge

I'll file this post under "Am I The Last To Know About This?".  Today I got a dollar stamped with "Track me at www.wheresgeorge.com". How could I resist? I went to the site and was greeted with a button saying "I found a WheresGeorge bill, and I want to see where it has been". So I typed in the serial number and found out that my bill  "has travelled 688 Miles in 177 Days, 1 Hr, 1 Min at an average of 3.9 Miles per day.  It is now 688 Miles from its starting location. "  It even came with a handy Google Map showing me its route. You can even set up an alert to keep track of where your bill goes after you spend it. Fun! According to their homepage, WheresGeorge is currently tracking 212,927,508 bills for a total of $1,145,953,996. They've also got a great page of links for interesting money facts as well as links to sites tracking bills in other countries, including the United Kingdom (www.whereslizzy.com), India (www.trackgandhi.com) and Germany (Wo ist Mein Geld (Where's My Money?) www.woistmeingeld.de) among others.

Free Email Address Verification

Quick Email Address Verification: The other day, I found myself in an interesting situation.  I wanted to get in touch with the VP of marketing of a local company and all I knew was that their company email addresses ended with @companyX.com.   I had a hunch that this person’s email address adhered to one or four common email-address conventions, but couldn’t be sure.  My experience has been that most company email addresses are built accordingly:

firstname.lastname@companyX.com

lastname.firstname@companyX.com

firstinitialLastname@companyX.com

firstnamelastname@companyX.com

To verify that I was correct, and to ensure that I wasn’t targeting the wrong person or sending my message blindly into the ether, I set out to find a good, free email verification tool.  There are actually several sites out there that allow users to validate emails for free.  Here is a breakdown of the free tools that have risen to the top of the search heap:

http://www.verifyemailaddress.org/

http://verify-email.org

http://my-addr.com

http://www.email-unlimited.com/tools/verify-email.aspx

The tests I ran on all of these programs yielded the same results.  However, there were some features that distinguished the good from the bad—namely the number of addresses you can validate in one sitting.

Of these programs, I liked www.verifyemailaddress.org the best.  These folks pay at least some attention to usability, allow you to verify lots of addresses (some sites only allow 5/hour), and don’t bombard users with ads.  All and all, not bad.  If you’re working in a company and want to scrub the email addresses in your database, this site also offers a bulk verification tool (not free).  Here is a screen shot to demonstrate the look and feel of the site:

 

Tools like these are incredibly useful for librarians, CI analysts, sales people, or anyone else who wants to reach out to an expert, potential client, or anyone with whom they are not immediately connected.  I suggest keeping verifyemailaddress.org in your back pocket, should the need to figure out someone’s email address ever arise. 

bizologie Favorite Tools: Bliss Control

So, so simple but so, so useful. Bliss Control helps you easily change settings on your social networks. Need to change 3rd Party Settings on your Facebook Account? Or recover your password for Pinterest? It's always a pain to remember where such things are located on all our different social networks. Bliss Control handles it for you. Simply click one box for the feature you'd like to change and the second box for the social network that needs changing. BlissControl then takes you straight to the page on that social network. So convenient. No signing up or logging in, just click go and you've got what you need. You can keep up with all of our favorite resources and tools here.

Knoema: Build & Explore Datasets

knoema

Earlier this month we had the opportunity to attend the "60 Sites in 60 Minutes" presentation at the Special Libraries Association's Annual Conference in Chicago. One site we loved was Knoema. Knoema lets you explore, build and share datasets. They currently have 835 datasets on a range of different subjects including things like: economics, demographics, energy, government debt, mortality, urbanization and lots and lots more. You can search their datasets by topic, source, name or publication date. All their content is ready to share via Facebook and Twitter or you can download to excel or embed into your own website. They've also got a great World Data Atlas which includes Country Profiles, Maps, Country Rankings, and Commodities. The Country Profiles are especially helpful with links to all kinds of datasets for demographics, economy, energy and more. Here's an example of all the datasets you'll see in a Country Profile:

For more about what you can do with Knoema, check out their intro video:

Two Free Tools to Play with Big Data

The Pew Internet & American Life project opened a recent report on the future of big data with the following line: “We swim in a sea of data…and the sea level is rising rapidly.”  Just how quickly are humans creating data?  According to IBM, humans create an incomprehensible 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day and 90% of extant data has been created in just the past two years!  This rising tide of data is particularly daunting for businesses that now must capture, store and analyze terabytes and petabytes instead of kilobytes and gigabytes of data. One unsurprising consequence of this trend is that data analyst jobs are hot.  A simple search on indeed.com for “data analy*” (jobs that include both data analysis and data analyst) reveals over 275 thousand unique opportunities in the U.S., nearly half of which pay in excess of $70K/year.  Many of these jobs require knowledge of statistics and typically some enterprise data-analysis software such as SPSS.

On potential barrier to entry for students wanting to compete in the data economy is the cost of access to proprietary data analysis software systems, which begs the question: are there any robust, open-source alternatives to programs like SPSS?  There are indeed, and in this post, I would like to profile two of the most common and powerful open-source statistical software packages: R and PSPP.

R:

R is a statistical computing language and environment that allows users to conduct statistical analysis on large data sets and generate publication quality visualizations.  While R has limits to the amount of data it can analyze, it can handle substantially more data than Excel, which can only deal with 6500 rows of data.

R operates on a Spartan Graphic User Interface (GUI) that looks very similar to Unix—that is, users typically type lines of code directly into a console.  Programming novices, like your author, need not worry, though.  R has enough built in functions to spare users from writing too much code.  Folks with programming skills, on the other hand, will find some similarities to the C programming language and will likely be writing their own functions in relatively short order.

R Pros:

  • Robust set of statistical functions
  • Creates publication-quality statistical plots with ease
  • Huge community of developers and tons of freely available practice data sets to play with

R Cons:

  • Users must conquer their fear of the command line

PSPP:

PSPP is open-source statistical computing software for the analysis of sampled data.  It looks almost identical to SPSS and, like R, allows users to perform a variety of statistical tests on huge data sets (over 1 billion variables and over 1 billion cases!).  Unlike R, PSPP can be operated from either directly from the command line or on a more user-friendly GUI (PSPP’s GUI is a dead ringer for SPSS).

PSPP is great for students who want to get SPSS experience, but don’t have access to the proprietary software.  This is no small point.  Searching Linkedin, Simply Hired and Indeed.com for jobs that require SPSS proficiency yields thousands of opportunities in a wide variety of industries.  Furthermore, PSPP’s GUI might prove less intimidating for users who are uncomfortable working from a command line.

PSPP Pros:

  • Can crunch numbers in ridiculously big datasets
  • Has a user-friendly GUI
  • Is basically a free version of SPSS

PSPP Cons:

  • PSPP graphics are not as slick as those in R

How to get R and PSPP

Download R HERE

Download PSPP HERE

5 Free Resources for Venture Capital & Private Equity Research

There are any number of subscription databases for researching venture capital and private equity, but as you know, our goal at bizologie is to help you find free information. To that end, we've compiled a list of 5 of our favorite free resources that provide great information for venture capital and private equity. 1. PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree Report--Here you'll find investments by region, industry and deal stage as well as historical trend data and definitions. They've also got a great report called "Roadmap for an IPO: A guide to going public".

2. Prequin--Here you'll find information on fundraising and deals. They also publish The Preqin Quarterly which "outlines the latest developments in the Private Equity,Real Estate and Infrastructure industries over the most recent quarter-year period."

3. National Venture Capital Association--NVCA has a great "Stats & Research" page where you'll find fund raising, performance and exit data. Near the bottom of the page you'll see recent studies which includes the "NVCA Yearbook." Their yearbook "details the state of the venture capital industry and detailed industry statistics for the past twenty years, including commitments, disbursements, IPOs, acquisitions and performance (most recent data is full year 2010)." At a whopping 122 pages, you won't find a better free resource for all things venture capital.

4. Wall Street Journal's Venture Capital Dispatch--"Produced by the editors of Dow Jones VentureWire, Venture Capital Dispatch tracks the fast-moving developments at the intersection of high-tech innovation and venture capital finance. Featuring the VentureWire reporting team in the Silicon Valley, New York, Boston and Shanghai tech centers, Venture Capital Dispatch provides insight into the newest start-ups and latest trends in venture capital investing."  This is a cool, one-stop place for daily VC happenings.

5. New York Times DealBook--"DealBook is a financial news service reporting on mergers, acquisitions, venture capital and hedge funds and is produced by The New York Times."

You'll find links to these on our Favorite Resources page. Have a business research topic you'd like us to cover? Let us know on Twitter @bizologie or on our Facebook page.

Introducing Our First Infographic: Researching Private Companies

Since the world has become obsessed with infographics, we decided to try building one ourselves. There are several different services you can use and after reading about them here, we decided to give Piktochart a try. Take a look and let us know what you think. Have you built an infographic yourself? We'd love to hear about your experience. Tweet us @bizologie or join us on Facebook.

bizologie Favorite Tools: Retirement Planning

piggy bank

Dreaming of retiring to that nice condo at the beach? Or maybe you'll use some of those golden years traveling the globe.  Either way, it's time to start planning. Well, it was probably time to start planning as soon as you finished high school, but let's not dwell on that. Let's continue imagining ourselves at the beach and start being smart about how to get there. Here are a couple of tools we love for making sure you're on track with your retirement plans:

  • While Social Security certainly isn't going to allow you to live in the lap of luxury, it's still a good idea to understand what your benefits will be. In the past, the Social Security Administration sent out statements showing your expected benefits. They no longer mail out statements, but now you can set up an account on their website to keep track of everything. Once you've created your account, you'll be able to see your estimated benefits based on retirement age. You can create your account here.
  • Next you'll want to use a retirement calculator to see if you're on target. We like the one at Principal Financial Group because it's easy to use and at the end gives you a nice PDF showing where you stand and some "what ifs" to help you meet your goal. Their calculator allows you to include your 401K, IRAs, social security benefits and any other accounts you have to give a prediction for where you'll be based on when you want to retire. It's a good idea to run several scenarios for retiring at different ages. I ran 6 or 7 different ones showing outcomes for ages 60, 65 and 70 as well as a few different contribution amounts. You'll find their calculator here and below you'll see an example of a retirement goal with their suggestion to help reach your goal.

  • We've talked about Mint before as part of our 50 Apps in 50 Minutes presentation. It's a great way to keep up with your finances and they've got a nice little tool for setting goals. You can set goals for things like vacations, paying down credit card debt and saving for retirement. The retirement goal lets you add in your 401K or IRA accounts and set a date so you can tell quickly if you're on track.

Researching the Housing Market

real estate logo

The housing market has been in the news pretty regularly over the past few years, so today we thought we'd take a look at a few of our favorite resources for researching the housing market.

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury produce a monthly scorecard for the nation's housing market. These reports cover all kinds of things including new and existing home sales, mortgage rates and refinancing statistics, housing supply, number of mortgage delinquency rates and more. In addition to the monthly scorecards, they also produce spotlight reports on specific cities.
  • Since 1997, Harvard University has been releasing "The State of the Nation's Housing". This is an amazing amount of information on the housing market put together by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies."The Joint Center uses current data from the US Census Bureau, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Pew Research Center, the Conference Board, the Energy Information Administration, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Reserve, CoreLogic, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Moody’s Economy. com, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, MPF Research, the National Association of Realtors®, the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Multi Housing Council, Standard and Poor’s, Lender Processing Services, and Zillow.com to develop its findings." What a great one-stop-shop. Convenient and free!
  • The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University offers  market reports for all 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in Texas and covers "census data, employment and unemployment, major industries, business climate, education, transportation and infrastructure issues, growth patterns and much more."  It's pretty common for universities to offer this type of information, so a quick Google search for your home state's universities would probably yield similar results.
  • The National Association of Realtors has a great Research & Statistics page with a quick reference Housing Indicators section as well as a more in depth Market Intelligence section which includes Local Market Reports for several big cities, state employment trends, home price monitors and more.
  • We love Wolfram Alpha for all kinds of research as you can see here, so it's no surprise that they're a great resource for information on the housing market. In addition to offering demographic zip code information you can also see median home prices for the city of your choice or use it to compare cities.