Public companies (companies authorized to sell stock to the general public) are legally required to file financial statements with the SEC and share information with their shareholders. Private companies do not publish much information about themselves as a key competitive strategy.
Public vs. Private Companies: How Do They Differ? (Yahoo! Small Business Advisor)
What's the difference between publicly- and privately-held companies? (Investopedia.com)
Combine keywords with boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
If your research involves a company, search by the ticker symbol of that company, if available.
If you are doing industry research, search by industry code when possible.
Business-specific databases that provide articles and some non-journal content.
Many small businesses are either family owned or owned by one or a few partners. They are usually private companies who do not sell stock. Only the companies that are traded on the stock market make information about their organizations available to the public. Private businesses do not share financial, personnel, or sales data information.
There are other ways to analyze your competition and get the information you need--or at least come up with viable estimates.
How to find your competitors in a local market
Search yellow pages and directories
Search the local Chamber of Commerce and/or Economic Development websites for business directories. These resources also contain an abundance of information and data on the local industries.
Search Census information as a map, report, or data tables.
There are over 100,000 Ebooks in Library's collection. Ebooks can be used 24/7 from any computer with an internet connection.
Companies sometimes provide a lot of information via their virtual storefront or webpage including financial statements, product information, company history, and news releases. Aspects of the corporate culture may also be ascertained by website design, and the way the company and its products are advertised.
Along with the company name, add search terms such as "investor relations" or "annual report."