Essential Tips to Learn About Business
"If you empty your purse into your head, no one can take it from you. An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return." - Benjamin Franklin
BREAKING NEWS: Sabre (NYSE: SBR) will acquire the only surviving branch of Dunder Mifflin! Who is Sabre? Who is Robert California? Is Jo Bennet a good boss?
There must be a way to learn about Sabre and its plans without getting bogged down into the details. Well there is!
Often, my learners are interested in applying their business acumen to learn more about potential clients, competitors, industry leaders, and others in a marketplace. With some business acumen, curiosity, and a few tools, it's pretty straight forward to learn more about what's happening at these companies. You may even be able to predict their pending liquidation!
Publicly traded companies put out a great deal of information on a regular basis. Anyone who's interested can find useful information that can provide context for their business decisions, strategies, and plans for growth. You can do the same with private companies, but it may be a bit trickier.
Publicly traded companies will prepare a presentation and a "road show" for Sell Side analysts and related firms to help them provide regular research reports to the firms clients. The company's leaders may present at investor conferences, where many analysts attend at the same time. These analysts use these and other data to form opinions, financial estimates, and other recommendations as to the stock's expected performance.
The good news, is these investor presentations are posted for public consumption on the company's Investor Relations page. The better news is that they are brief, to the point, clearly written, and full of useful information about where management is taking the company, and why.
Here's a great example from Oshkosh Corporation.
This is always my first stop when learning about a company.
The Form 10-K is an annual report required by the SEC that gives a comprehensive summary of the company's financial performance. It can be an overwhelming document, but please don't let that intimidate you. You don't have to read the whole thing to find it useful.
Go directly to Item 1 "The Business." Here you'll find a plainly worded three or four page summary of what the company does to make money, where it does it, and how it sees its way forward. Often, they include risk factors to their business which can tip off where they see opportunities or threats.
If you're brave, and I know you are, you can also skip forward to Item 6 Consolidated Financial Data. Here you'll see their Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Statement of Cash Flows. All these things are explained in Item 7, Management's Discussion and Analysis. Here you'll see insights into the thinking of management.
Online financial aggregators and curators are extremely helpful in learning more about your target company. Sites like www.morningstar.com, https://finance.yahoo.com, or www.Fool.com provide analysts' opinions, news releases, and standard, simplified financial information. They also glean key performance ratios and other stock and performance information from publicly available sources. This is really handy for comparisons to benchmarks and industry standards.
Don't underestimate an old-fashioned internet search. Fire up your favorite search tool (Google, Bing, or something else) and search for things like, "XXX company merger" or "Sabre dividend" or "Jo Bennet Sabre Liquidation." You'll find press releases, newspaper articles, or even company publications related to the news. Very useful.
Uses and Applications
You can use this information to evaluate a potential employer. You can learn about their business to impress them with your questions during the interview.
As a business learning consultant, I use this information to provide context for leadership development, talent management, business strategies, and opportunities to growth. All of this is helpful in my work.
You can evaluate a potential investment. You can do some homework on a firm before entering into an agreement with them.
With a bit of curiosity, and a plan, you can learn a lot about a company in a short time. With this knowledge, you can feel much more confident in your decisions and your assessment. How the turntables!