Build a profile of a company with Business Insights or Mergent Online.
Find a stock profile of the company with ValueLine and S&P NetAdvantage.
Companies typically define their business in the opening section of their 10-K report. In this report you can expect to find:
The best place to find a short company history is in this collection: International Directory of Company Histories
You can find it online in this database:
A mission statement is a company blueprint that defines the core values of the firm.
Many companies have a written mission statement that they post on their website.
If you don't see a link to the mission statement on the company homepage or their "About Us" page, do a Google search that looks for the word "mission" or the word "values" or the word "vision" on the company website. For example, type this mission site:ibm.com in the Google search box if you are looking for IBM's mission statement. IBM's mission statement is found in a page that outlines "Our Values at Work."
If the company doesn't have a formal mission statement, look for an interview with the CEO that articulates the company's goals.
Read interviews with the company CEO to gain an understanding of the company's core values and current strategy.
Read the CEO's "Letter to the Shareholders" in the company's latest annual report.
Watch the CEO and other officers or read the transcripts of quarterly conference calls (earnings calls) found on the company's website.