Negotiating in Life, Negotiation Strategies, Planning for Negotiations March 4, 2011

Annual reports: sources for company research

Part of your business negotiation preparation is to research the other party: market, product and company background. An excellent place to start is the company’s annual report. All publicly traded companies are required to produce one, and many privately-held companies do so as well.

Annual reports provide a wealth of information. As Investopedia.com describes, annual reports typically have the following sections:

  • Financial Highlights
  • Letter to the Shareholders
  • Narrative Text, Graphics and Photos
  • Management's Discussion and Analysis
  • Financial Statements
  • Notes to Financial Statements
  • Auditor's Report
  • Summary Financial Data
  • Corporate Information

These types of data and information are valuable to a negotiator. However, you may have difficulty tracking down annual reports if you are not a stockholder. According to the Ask Matt column in USA Today:

Annual reports are increasingly going online, with much of the data they contain being delivered electronically. So, your first step would be to determine if you really need to dig out the actual annual report at all. If you're just looking for historical financial data, such as revenue and earnings, you might be better served getting those data from an online service.

(…)

If you still think you want the old annual report, start at the investor relations section of the company's website. Most companies keep an archive of annual reports there.
If you can't find the annual report, the next place to look is with the chief regulator: The Securities and Exchange Commission. The official version of the annual report is called the 10-K.

Having this information at your fingertips is a good way to understand the other party’s financial and corporate structure.

What are your main resources for pre-negotiation competitive research?

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