Researching a business plan using free sources

This page was created for District 3 or D3 in Montréal Canada for a training seminar on May 6th 2020.


  • Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
  • Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada and other providers
  • Develop a healthy information diet


  1. How to frame your business environment: industries, markets, competition and regulation… think before you Google.
  2. Using Google for business research: trade associations & governments
  3. Statistic Canada for entrepreneurs
  4. Resources from your local library: industry/market research and trade/research articles

1. Think before you Google or figuring out your business environment

Entrepreneurs are called upon to seek out misaligned flows of money. Be it capital expenditures, spending or untapped markets, the keen eye will spot opportunities to launch a new business. Before you spend all night frantically googling the web for insight, here are some key points to consider.

Googling means missing out. Yes, there is a lot of great stuff out there, that’s why we’ll talk about using the Google search engine as our next point. But, there is a lot of information on the free web that’s not indexed by web crawlers used by search engines to compile their index, most notably datasets from Statistic Canada. Similarly, search engines like Google may crawl and index pages which are behind a paywall. This happens often in Google Scholar. Either you fork out your hard earned cash, either you let your local library pay for digital access. That’s what we do at Concordia, with our Business Research portal, as well as McGill’s Library for their students and the Grande Bibliothèque for anyone in Québec. We’ll talk about library resources later.

Google means popular. Google’s algorithms uses many variables to determine the relative value of a page, given a specific set of keywords. For many reasons, such as search engine optimization (SEO) strategies or past behavior online, this process can fail you. Seeking out valuable and authoritative business insight sometimes just does not fit with what’s popular on the Web. You seek authority and the algorithm is set up to promote popular stuff.

Google as a tool. You should learn how to use the tool in light of its limitations. You should also look for other tools that complement it. Pro tip: this involves obscure websites and the library. Let’s dig a little deeper…

The Internet as linked documents from people and organisations. Creating any document requires effort: tweets, YouTube videos, blog posts… but also market reports, industry statistics, newspaper and trade articles. These documents were created by people and organisations. Why would someone release invaluable and authoritative insight for free on the Internet?

There are a set of usual suspects who regularly create valuable and authoritative documents: governments; trade/lobby or consumer organisations; corporations; market/industry analysts; and journalists and researchers. Some of them want to monetize their efforts, so their documents are not posted online for free. Also, sometimes they post their material online, but it doesn’t make it to the top results because they are not concerned with popularity.

So, to Google or not to Google? My answer is in three parts: better googling, in addition to seeking out obscure websites such as Statistic Canada’s Data and using Library resources.

2. Better Googling

Government agencies exist to ensure compliance with regulations and the safety of our communities. Any time a corporation needs a permit, a government agency is usually somewhere in the background looking and thinking about what they do. Government services rely on and supplement markets and corporations. This symbiotic relationship means that governments have a lot of reports and data you can use, in addition to Statistic Canada, which we will cover later.

Here is an example. Industry Canada, the federal agency curating Canada’s business environment, posts average financial statements and business ratios of small business by province. The database uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to organize industries. Find your NAICS code to get financials and ratios for your business idea, while being mindful of these tricky NAICS codes for high-tech sectors.

Trade associations are organizations where industry leaders converge to share concerns, advocate to governments and media, as well as organize events such as trade shows. They provide lists of their members, write white papers, publish news and trade journals, list job postings… all of these documents provide insight and authoritative information – but only if you take a moment to think about what they mean. Google can’t help you think.

The first two videos from this playlist covers my points:

3. Statistic Canada

Google only indexes a few sections from the Statistic Canada domain. Most of the juicy stuff is located in obscure sections, most notably the Data portal and the census. Here are two videos on each of these topics.

You can also watch a video on getting a demographic profile of a neighborhood from Statistic Canada.

If you are looking for information on another country, find their national statistical agency, it will have a census as well as a data portal. Some examples include: Census data from the USA, Eurostat for the European Union and UN Data’s Explorer for most countries worldwide.

Pro tip: don’t look for what you think you need, try to use what you find.

4. Library subscribed industry/market research

IBISWorld provides industry reports for Canada, US and China.

Passport by Euromonitor covers worldwide consumer data and reports, including Canada. Vividata is a data reporting tool from a yearly survey of Canadian consumers. SympliAnalytics Canada allows the creation of custom maps based on the Census.

ProQuest Business Databases covers articles from news, trade and scholarly journals. provides articles from Québec.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 2020-06-22 à 3:05 pm.