For those of you who’ve read my earlier post about visualizing data I commented on some free resources and tools available to retrieve visual representations of demographic information.
While those tools continue to be great resources, McGill Library recently subcribed to a product called SimplyMap. As this is a paid resource, it’s a lot more powerful than some of the free tools I mentioned previously.
SimplyMap takes its data from three sources: Canadian census, Survey of Household Spending, and the Dun & Bradstreet Canadian Business Directory. The power of this tools is the number of variables you can choose from and the ability to layer data points. For example, if you were considering opening a children’s clothing store in Montreal, you could get visual representation of the number of children age 0-4 in a particular area. Then you could choose to layer the location of children’s clothing stores in Montreal. In addition to having more variables to choose from, SimplyMap is also just a lot more user-friendly than some of the free tools out there.
Before accessing SimplyMap you must first register for an account using your McGill email. Note also that access is limited to five users/time.
While you’re taking a study break why not check out some movies from our DVD collection?
If you want to stay on task subject-wise may I suggest:
Good luck with your exams and happy holidays!
Have you heard about the National Household Survey? It’s been popping up frequently in the news lately (mostly in a negative way…).
When the Government of Canada decided to do away with the mandatory long form census in 2010, the data points which were collected changed. Some of the pieces of information that used to be collected via the long form were income and ethnocultural diversity.
To make up for this loss on the long form, Statistics Canada introduced the National Household Survey instead. There are several key differences between the NHS and the census. One of them primarily being that, as a survey, the NHS is sent out to fewer people than as would occur with a census. It is also not mandatory to complete the survey. This has led some to refute the usefulness of any data collected via the NHS, particularly for certain communities with lower response rates.
Statistics Canada’s chief statistician has rebuked these claims but I would ask readers to pause and reflect on the debate.
To me it seems as if the whole dynamic of locating demographic information via Statistics Canada has changed. To take a look at the NHS yourself, you can view the product on Statistics Canada’s website.
A couple of weeks ago we saw a hotbed of merger activity, particularly north of the border with the announcement that HBC would be acquiring Saks Incorporated.
What if you wanted to know what other mergers got announced that day? Or what if you wanted to screen for all mergers and acquisitions in Canada in the retail trade in the last three years?
A Google search will retrieve results on the basics of any merger however if you wanted to go more indepth or locate information on an older deal, the library has some resources available to you:
Mergerstat - database of merger annoucements and information. Good commentary and overview. Allows you to screen by date, industry, geography etc.
Bloomberg- find news and deal information. In-library use only.
SDC Platinum – filter for deals by industry, company, deal size etc. Not for the faint of heart. Please see a librarian for assistance. In-library use only.
FP Infomart – Good for a summary of mergers and acquisitions involving Canadian firms. I mentioned it in my last post as a good place to learn about changes during a company’s history. Click ‘mergers and acquisitions’ on the left.
While we’re on the topic of find things from the past, I wanted to devote this post to locating historical information about public companies. With business information typically focused on what’s happening today (or tomorrow!) sometimes our research chops for finding historical information are a little weak.
Technically anything that’s in the past qualifies as ‘historical’ when you’re talking to people in the finance industry but I’m going to use it more in the traditional sense. That is, finding information from 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 80 years etc. This typically includes researching things like old company financials and annual reports.
My first stop if it’s a Canadian company is to start in FP Infomart. It’s no surprise that companies often change their names and this can make doing historical research difficult. FP Infomart contains a section called ‘Predecessor & Defunct’. If you search your company name in there you’ll get a brief overview of its name change history. It will also typically include information related to share prices and shareholders should the company cease to exist (for those of you who located an old stock certificate up in your grandma’s attic).
Once you’ve located the company’s name throughout the years you can start diving in.
Although McGill has a fairly extensive collection of Canadian annual reports, the collections at Western University and University of Alberta are also noteworthy.
Although financial statements can be located within an annual report, if you can’t find an annual report for your company, their financials can sometimes be located in one of these resources:
Every now and then I’ll get a question about locating advertisements. Sometimes people want to to look at a certain product or product type and see how it was treated in advertisements over the years. On the flip side, sometimes people want to see the ads in context, for example, what kind of advertisements appeared in Maclean’s in the 1980s etc.
For the first (finding ads on a particular product, company, etc), you don’t have an easy fight ahead. Since advertisements are copyrighted, most ads that have been put up online or made available through databases are pre-1950s. Anything after that period is usually only available through the advertising agency itself (at a cost). I’ve created a handy list of free online collections of old advertisements. One of the best I’ve located is through Duke University called Ad*Access. This one is particularly good because it lets you search by company, product, audience, and subject.
For the second type of search (finding ads in a particular magazine/journal), life is *sometimes* easier. This will depend on two things: does McGill own the item in print or online? If we own it online, were the advertisements digitized?
If we still own the magazine/journal in print, then you’ve got a lot of page flipping ahead of you but at least you know that the advertisements are there. Sometimes when journals/magazines are put up online, the advertisements don’t make the cut. This is really on a case by case basis, depending on the company who did the digitization. A example of a magazine that got it right is Vogue. They digitized their advertisements and you can search by keywords across the database back to 1892. In the advanced search, you can tick ‘advertisements’ specifically to narrow your search.
I should start by saying how much I love the SME Benchmarking Tool. I think everyone who owns a small business or is an entrepreneur should know about this resource. I love it. It’s free, it’s intuitive, and it’s SO useful.
So what is it? The SME Benchmarking Tool allows you to see how your company stacks up against industry averages using data collected via Revenue Canada tax returns (T1, T2) for both incorporated and unincorporated businesses operating in the country. It has information on over 600 industries.
Why is this important? If you’re operating a business, wouldn’t it be nice to know what percentage of revenues in your industry go to rent, insurance, salaries etc.? This allows you to benchmark your company against your competitors. If for example, the average % of revenue that goes to rent in your industry is 5% but your company is paying closer to 15%, then you might want to reevaluate your location. Or, acknowledge that higher rent prices are being compensated for somewhere else in your financials.
How does it work? It’s pretty easy to use, simply click ‘create a report’ to begin. The hardest part of the process is determining your industry code (or NAICS – North American Industry Classification System). The search engine they have on the website is ok but I find the Statistics Canada search engine is a bit more robust. The thing you will need to remember is that you might not get an EXACT match for what you perceive to be your industry. What matters the most is that the industry you’re using matches yours in terms of its cost structure. For example, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a karate instructor or an aerobics instructor, the cost structure of the athletic instruction (NAICS: 611620) are similar.
There’s a really good glossary attached to the tool which you’ll find helpful when interpreting the report. There’s a nice overview.
There are similar resources available for American industries. At McGill we subscribe to Annual Statement Studies which works in a similar fashion.
Students have often lamented to me that they wish they could find on their own the answers to their questions. The library is so confusing it’s hard to know where to start etc.
In response, we’ve created a business FAQ. Inside this knowledge-base are close to 300 commonly-asked business questions and their answers. The best way to use the knowledge-base is ask about the core of your question. That is, it won’t be able to tell you the answer to “What was Apple’s balance sheet in 2008″. However, if the core of what you’re looking for is where to find balance sheets or financial statements, ask “where do I find a company’s financial statements” and that should pull up your answer.
You can also submit a question to be answered via the FAQ as well.
Have you ever found an article in an EBSCO database, grabbed the link from the URL bar only to discover days later that the link in broken (and that perfect article you found irrevocably lost)? Perhaps you thought you’d figured it all out when you click ‘permalink’ but then that still didn’t seem to work. You just want to send a link to yourself to look at later, why is the world making this so hard?
Although we’re not able to make it any easier for you (maybe just save the PDF if you can), we now at least have a video explaining how to properly make links work. Although this video is intended for your professors (so when they want to share a link to an article with you, you sponge of knowledge, they can), the first half of the video is applicable to everyone.
The main thing to keep in mind is that they need an authentication tag or else they won’t work off-campus. Take a look at our video here:
For ease of cutting and pasting, I’ve included the the links mentioned in the video here:
Happy (belated) new year! I’ve gotten some questions recently about researching failed brands. These are some of my favourite questions because I get to learn about all these crazy products (my favourite one to date is Pepsi AM–coffee has caffeine….Pepsi has caffeine…well I think you can see where that led to).
However researching why a brand failed can be tricky — particularly if the brand bombed before the mid-1990s. It’s hard to imagine a time when everything wasn’t online (and it’s hard to imagine now that not everything is) but articles on brand failures typically are of their time. That is, if a product failed in 1992, lots of articles would be published in 1992-1994 but thereafter it would become a bit of a footnote (unless it was a HUGE failure like the new Coke). Why the mid-90s cut-off matters is that prior to then, most articles haven’t been digitized. You may be able to locate the abstract/summary of an article but not the entire article. As such, you’ll then have to use our catalogue to figure out if McGill owns the PHYSICAL copy of that journal (crazy I know!). Often times Advertising Age will come up in these searches and you’ll be pleased to know that we own the entire physical run of Advertising Age back to 1970. At least you won’t have to battle with microfiche.
Typically the resources I’ve been suggesting for locating articles have been Business Source Complete and ABI Inform. I’ve also pointed out that the company’s annual reports might have interesting commentary (usually the company will announce new products in their annual reports). Once again the mid-90s cut-off is important. If the brand was launched post-1997, Mergent Online should have all the company’s annual reports. If it was launched prior to that though, check out Proquest Historical Annual Reports.