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Doing Company Research: A Resource Guide

Rankings & Lists

numbers one to threeMany people find ranking lists helpful to understand a company. Sometimes, it is because of what or how the list is ranking companies, other times it is just because of the information included.

Some of the most helpful ranking lists can be found in trade publications because they publish lists of "the top" or "the best" that are most appropriate for their readers. These lists can be helpful for understanding the overall landscape of the industry as well as identifying competitors. Often these lists present information and data that can't be found elsewhere because they know their readers' needs and what their readers expect.

Since there are so many of these types of lists they cannot all be included here, but a few of the more notable ones have been included as examples.

Many full-text databases include articles from industry-specific magazines that contain lists/rankings. For example, Gale's Business Insights: Global, which focuses on large public companies and is often found in public libraries, includes a link to various rankings from their Business Rankings Annual where that particular company is mentioned.

Beyond those ranking lists created by publications, there are ways to create a more customized list in many of the databases that provide company data. Many rankings and lists of companies within a certain industry or geographic area can be created in databases which allow researchers to choose which items they want to search. For instance, a researcher can choose a particular industry by using NAICS/SIC codes and limit that list to a state or states. Then the resulting list can be sorted on sales.

General Rankings

There are ranking lists that are not specific to any particular industry - two of the most obvious are from Fortune and Forbes. Some focus on a particular geography others on specific themes. They can be useful for those trying to understand the nature of a company and tell you information not always evident but are often helpful just as general background. For example:

  • BloombergBusinessWeek has published many different lists including Best 50 Performers and the Global 1000.
  • Fast Company is a publication that looks to focus on "the world's most interesting and innovative companies." They publish the "Most Creative People in Business."
  • Forbes publishes many lists though it is most known for the Forbes 500 which began in 1959. They also publish America's Best Small Companies, Global 2000 Leading Companies, and America's Largest Private Companies. You can find current and some past lists in a tab titled Lists.
  • Fortune is most known for the Fortune 500 which first published in 1955, however, they also publish other lists including the Global 500, 100 Fastest Growing Companies, Small Business 100, Americas Most Admired, Global Most Admired, and 100 Best to Work for. Their current lists (and some historical) can be found on the Fortune Rankings page.
  • Financial Times publishes the Global 500 - a list of the world's biggest companies in Europe, the UK, US, Japan and Asia Pacific. The list is only available to subscribers.
  • Inc. publishes the 500/5000 - a list on America's Fastest Growing Companies.
  • InformationWeek publishes the InformationWeek 500 that tracks the technology, strategies, investments and administrative practices of some of the best-known organizations in the country.

Industry Specific Rankings

Various trade publications and associations often publish special ranking lists that are particular to their industry. This is important because they are produced by people who have knowledge of the industry and for people in the industry and what they want to see. They rank in ways that are appropriate for that industry and often include information that is relevant for, and specific to that industry.  That can be helpful for those looking to understand the company within the industry. Many have an internet presence though it varies what is made available for free. Here are a few examples - though they may have changed names, focus, etc.:

  • American City Business Journals publishes the local City Business Journals mentioned in Private Company Research. Each issue generally contains a list or lists. At the end of the year these are compiled into a single publication called the Book of Lists. Regular subscribers get the book as part of their subscription, however, they can be purchased separately.
  • Air Transport World  publishes the World Airline Report.
  • Airline Business has profiles for airlines and airports.
  • Chain Store Age is a publication with a long history and the Resource Center on their web page has various reports like the "2012 Annual Store Construction & Outfitting Survey" and white papers.
  • Industry Week  publishes the Industry Week 1000, an annual ranking of the world's largest public manufacturers, by revenue. Among the financials captured in the database are revenue, net income, profit margin, revenue growth, total equity, debt/equity ratio, and earnings per share. Sorting on industry is also possible. Previous years going back to 1999 are available on their web site. This magazine also publishes the IndustryWeek U.S. 500 which is IW's exclusive annual ranking of America's largest public manufacturers, the 50 Best U.S. Manufacturers, and the Best.
  • National Retail Federation publishes a trade publication called STORES. Under their Annual Retailer Lists link you can find lists of Top 100 Retailers, Hot 100 Retailers, and Top 250 Global Retailers.
  • CFRA took over the S&P Industry Surveys. Those surveys are good for understanding the industry the company operates n but also determining the biggest players. Here are a few of the sectors. Keep in mind that several industries like banking, retail, energy, insurance, and healthcare are covered in multiple surveys. Aerospace & Defense, Airlines, Automobile Manufacturers, Several for Banking, Biotechnology, Electronic Equipment, Instruments & Components, Hotels, Gaming & Leisure, IT Consulting & Other Services, Insurance, Media & Entertainment, Metals & Mining, Pharmaceuticals, Restaurants, Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment, Software, Technology Hardware, Storage & Peripherals, Telecommunications, Textiles, Apparel & Luxury Goods, Utilities, etc.
  • CRN includes a number of lists under the Lists link. At one time the produced the "VAR500" - published an annual ranking of the top solution provider organizations (online the list is 2007-2011, but this was produced in the print version of VAR Business back to the mid 1990's).

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.