Study Competitors Using Public Filings

  In this episode of competitive intelligence, Michael Sandman gives you some examples of what you can learn about your competition from government filings.

What can you
learn about businesses in your marketplace or your intended marketplace from government filings? I’m Mike Sandman and I’m going to be showing you a couple of examples of how you can learn very useful and detailed information about businesses simply by going to the website of the municipality in which the business is located.

The View from Above

So let’s take a look at the view from from 10,000 feet or maybe 1 million feet. You can get satellite images from Google, from, from other web resources, but you can actually get much closer looks at business properties and businesses from the municipalities website, because almost all municipalities that have significant business districts have gone to global mapping systems, GIS mapping systems, that are accompanied by aerial images. So here’s an aerial image of the business, Brookline Animal Hospital, in a suburb of Boston. It’s located on a busy street as you can see on the left, and you can see the outline the property itself on the screen. If you then take the address of that property, and you go to the assessor’s database for the tax records, you can see how many square feet there are and what the tax is that is levied and paid by the landlord.

Do the Research

So if you’re wondering for example how big Brookline Animal Hospital is, well that’s easy to calculate because the number is going to be on the assessor’s database. If you wanted about how much rent they pay, go back to the assessor’s database, find out what the tax base is, what what percentage of rent is charged in tax by the municipality, and you can calculate within about 10% how much rent they’re paying. So there are some very useful tools beyond this that you can explore yourself as you look at municipal information, and a lot of this information is collected locally, it’s available on municipal websites – make good use of it, and you can learn a great deal about the way businesses work in the particular market that you’re interested in.

About Michael Sandman

Michael Sandman is Executive Director and founder of IFCIP, the International Fellowship of Competitive Intelligence Professionals.  Prior to forming IFCIP, he was Senior Vice President of Fuld & Company, preceded by a career of over twenty years as a senior operations manager of the composites industry, industrial textiles, and industrial process control systems. Mr. Sandman also has an extensive background in international business, including the transfer of technology to licensees and joint venture partners in the Pacific Rim, Switzerland, England, Mexico and Brazil.

Mr. Sandman started his career with a privately held composites manufacturer, and he subsequently became chief operating officer of a division of the Dexter Corporation, a multinational producer of specialty materials. At Dexter, he had responsibility for operations in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim. He joined Fuld & Company in 1991, where he  was the managing partner until his retirement in 2014. In addition to his current role at IFCIP, he continues to do consulting in the field of competitive intelligence.

He is an adjunct faculty member at University of California-Irvine’s Paul Merage Business School and he has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University Business School’s advanced management program for senior executives, the University of Wisconsin’s Management Institute, the Boston University School of Management and Harvard Business School.  Mr. Sandman developed CI 101® and CI 202®, the courses he taught and were sponsored by the Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). He has served on the peer review board of the Competitor Intelligence Review, and he is the author of the chapter on competitive intelligence analysis for Millennium Intelligence, edited by Professor Jerry Miller and published in 2000. He was elected to be a Fellow of the Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals and received the prestigious Society’s Faye Brill Award in 2012.

Mr. Sandman received his B.S. (Economics) from Clark University in Worcester, MA and a M.B.A. from the Johnson School of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.