How to Check Up On Your Company's Performance Using Public Filings

Do you ever wonder how the company you work for is really doing? It can be difficult to see through those company update emails that management sends every once in awhile. You know the ones. They use vague language and always assure that your company is performing well. Sometimes that might be true, but for others, it’s far from the case. 

There are, though, many ways to check up on how your company is performing.

If you work at a publicly traded company, you have easy access to their financial records. Not sure if your company is public? Search its name on Yahoo! Finance; if a chart comes up, you’re in business. 

If you can’t find it on Yahoo! Finance, double check that your company doesn’t have a parent company. If it does, you may be able to find that parent company’s filings, and then search for your own company’s performance within their public filings. 

Your employer may also be owned by a private entity, like a private-equity firm. Though their performance isn’t public, you can sometimes get an idea of their strategy by looking at the information they post online.

But for those who work for publicly traded companies, here’s a quick guide.

  1. Go to Edgar, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s company search page. Type in either the company’s name in the left box, or the symbol you found on Yahoo! Finance (called a ticker in the finance world) into the right box. 
  2. Once you find your company, look for the most recent filing labeled either 10-K (a yearly report) or 10-Q (a quarterly report). Open that file. Sometimes a list of documents will pop up -- click the one labeled 10-K or 10-Q. 
  3. You’re now looking at an earnings statement. This shows where a company’s money is being spent, how much debt and assets they have and some information on the company’s strategy. 
  4. Embrace using CNTRL + F. This will allow you to quickly find what you want to see in the report.
  5. Start by searching for assets or liabilities. Assets include all of the property your company owns. Liabilities involve any sort of debt your company is holding. What you find will look like the image below. I pulled the latest 10-Q for the Gap, which is the parent company of Gap, Old Navy and J. Crew, and trades under the ticker GPS.
  6. You can use this information to determine whether a company is deeply in debt (their liabilities column far exceeds their assets column). While that doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad, companies do have to pay off debt at some point.
  7. Consider searching for the term “employee” next. Here is where you’ll be able to find information that directly impacts you. By searching “employee” in the Gap earnings statement, I found that Gap is working to improve its employee share-based payments. Translation: the company is trying to pay their employees who own stock in the company.
  8. Other interesting things to search could be “strategic alternatives” or “strategic options.” These terms indicate that a company is exploring selling itself to another company or even an investor.
  9. Want to dig in more? Investopedia has a useful guide to really getting into an earnings statement. You can also simply listen into your company’s quarterly earnings calls (the schedule for these will be listed on your company’s Investor Relations page on its website).

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #19