It may be surprising that despite having over 3 million business in the United States, it is not always easy to find an "industry" for a firm that you want to focus on!
It is an unfortunate fact of life, that business & economic analyses tend to be easier to find, when there are large numbers of analysts, all dissecting the same types of businesses. And most analysts find it easieer to focus on large scale busineses & capital intensive industries, rather spending time analyzing small sized cottage industries.
Barber shops, nail salons, insurance agencies, real estate brokers, dry cleaners, fast food joints, butcher shops, farm stands, organic bakeries, coffee wagons -- all are small sized facilities, each of which has only a handful of employers at any location. Most of these operate out of only 1 facility. Most are not linked under any national franchise, logo or mascot. Hopefully, these millions of small business have names that unique in their local community, but those same names might simultaneously show up in hundreds spots in the countryside (how many bars and eateries are named "Dew Drop In" or "Mel's Place"?).
But when a single discount merchant literally takes up the space of several football fields, or when a car manufacturer has a thousand workers under a single roof, then even a blindfolded person would be able to detect & analyze economic activity, based solely on the sounds at that one economic dense site -- The comings & goings of employees, suppliers, outbound product shipments and garbage hauling trucks!
Rather than hiring acoustical engineers to gauge the economic impact of a single firm, or an industry, there are some ways that you can re-route your request, to get meaningful information about an industry.
Try Looking for a Bigger Fish!
Can you change your perspective?
Can you find a related industry that tends to have bigger players? Instead of corner fuel stations, can you identify larger sized companies that pump crude oil, or refine petroleum products, or that distribute fuel to several states of the country?
Typically, industries that are dominated by publicly traded corporations tend to have a lot more industry analyses that are widely available, than other industries which are dominated by small sized private firms.
if you are looking for information about nonprofits or government agencies, then you also need to switch gears, because the "normal" sources for business information simply carry a lot less volume of articles when the focus is either Government or Nonprofits.
Luckily, I already have a subject guide to finding resources about nonprofits!
If you were assigned to work with a specific real life business, and cannot find info about that particular industry, can you expand your scope, for similar or allied businesses?
One year, an AGSM class was asked to work with a local business that wanted to expand the use of its cherry harvest, into freeze dried cherries. But there was no information available on "freeze dred cherries". Students decided to expand their search, and compare the potential business with similar exisiting markets, supply & demand for other dried fruits: Raisins, dried apricots, dried plums, dried peaches, dried mango. Although the client did not specify it, students were able to find a fair amount of information about dried organic fruits, and their growing appearance at Costco stores. Other research indicated that dried fruits are key ingredients in identifying flavoring agents used to cover up the nasty tastes of medicines. And with each newly discovered medicine, there is a need for new flavors that do not diminish the medicinal functions of those new drugs. The business librarian gave them access to the detail laden 10-K report of a dried fruits processor that recently decided to shut down its operations, rather than expand!
Did you try looking in other places for experts on your industry? There is a trade association or professional society for almost every subject on earth!
There literally are trade associations in the United States for almost every type of industry, product, service or historical item, as well as professional societies, special interest groups, hobby enthusiast groups, and lobbying groups.
From butchers, to bakers, and even candlestick makers:
The unique resource that can find these kinds of organizations is the Hatfield Library's subscription to the Encyclopedia of Associations.
What to do next, after you find a Trade Association or Professional Society?
First of all, the Encyclopedia of Associations will always give you a thumbnail description of each group. If there are several groups identified, with similar focus, then you should use the directory's contents to sort out which group serves more members.
Which group has a focus that is more closely aligned with your needs. There are several groups that focus on meat processing... do you want wholesale butchering? Or are you looking for the local corner store, who customizes the meat cutting for special needs? Or do you want to focus on creative uses of meat in recipes for restaurants & caterers?
Entries from this directory also will tell you if the organization has a website, publishes a magazine or journal, and if they have national conferences. The entries will also tell you if the group's membership is open only to individuals or mabye only to corporations!
You can also use these directory descriptions to sort out the organizations based on their size -- groups are asked to list their total annual operting budget in dollars, as well as the number of their full time staff. Typically, you can also find the organization's general email address, phone number, and who the lead executive is. They also provide the URL of their website!
What can you find on the website of a Trade Association or Professional Society?
Most of the larger sized organizations will post recent editions of their member newsletter, magazine or journal. Many organizations will have a place within their website displaying the names of all of their pubications (whether free or fee, as well as print or online). Larger organizations will typically have a tab for "research" or "library" or a clearinghouse of previously compiled statistics, analytical reports, or academic journal articles about their industry.
Some of these organizations give away a lot of their in house data, others put a price tag on everything if you are not a current dues paying member.
If you can find the citation to a report or document that appears to fulfill your needs, just because you do not want to pay their price tag, does not mean that you are blocked from getting your hands on that valuable report.
Run that document's title through GOOGLE's search engine. If that fails, then you need to run a separate search through GOOGLE SCHOLAR. Check to see if you can find it through the library's WorldCat database, where you can submit an online request to get documents from other libraries, by filling out an Inter Library Loan Request Form.
Hatfield Library does not charge you to submit ILL request forms. If an item is available from participating libraries in Oregon, Washington or Idaho, then the typical turnaround time is about a week. If the nearest library that owns the item is located elsewhere, it can take several weeks for that document to be sent on your behalf to the Hatfield Library.
If the item that you are seeking was actually published as an article in a newsletter, magazine or journal, then the turnaround time for fhose formats is usually under a week!
Lather, Rinse, Revise, and then Repeat if Necessary
Once you have the name of a trade association or professional society, you should then jot down that group's name, and its nickname.
Also go through that group's website, and see what specific jargon or abbreviations they use to describe their own industry.
Now take that expanded "shopping list", of alternative keywords that are used with your industry, and plug those in as search terms into some business oriented databases that can be found on the subject guide pages for "Industry insight, Company data and Trade magazines" that was compiled specifically for AGSM students.
Don't Fret if you Need Some Help
That is why the Hatfield Library has a full time reference librarian specializing in the information needs for AGSM students.
Gary Klein is an expert business researcher with hands on experience in many different aspects of researching industries, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies.
His job is to help you get the information you need, into your hands.
"When you are looking for information,
turn to a librarian first,
and it will be the last place that you go to!"