Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to dissect balance sheets, income, and cash flow statements. This is the first step in getting your feet wet in the investment world.
But it doesn't stop there. If we were to base investing decisions solely on what we read in these statements, that would be akin to picking a significant other based solely on their Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) profile -- to many, it just doesn't make sense to avoid real-life interaction.
Investigating these "soft" aspects of a company is important for investors. And although we can't capture all of the intangibles of a company in one article, Glassdoor.com -- a website that collects employee sentiment for companies across the world -- recently came out with a list that could help: the Top CEOs of 2013.
Over the past few days, I've covered CEOs 25 through 9. Today, I'm going to introduce you to the company with the 8th-highest-rated CEO, give you some background on the company, and at the end, I'll offer up access to a special premium report that covers the biggest name in tech.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG )
You might be wondering how a company as big as Google -- there are over 50,000 employees at the Big G -- could have a CEO that so many admire and approve of (95%, to be exact). That'd be a fair question, but accomplishing something like this speaks volumes about what CEO Larry Page.
This is actually Page's second stint as CEO, with the first occurring from 1998 to 2001. Page co-founded Google along with Sergey Brin, and the two have been helping run day-to-day operations throughout the life of the company.
From 2001 until 2011, the duo brought on Eric Schmidt as CEO, as he brought the type of corporate experience in technology necessary to help the company grow. Having learned from Schmidt's leadership, Page took over again two years ago, and the company has continued its impressive streak of innovation.
From a strictly numbers standpoint, what Google has accomplished as a public company is mind-boggling: 44% revenue growth and 51% earnings growth per year!
Against heavy competition, innovation rules
What's even more impressive about Google's story is that it wasn't the first-mover in the Internet search business. Yahoo! got there first.
But before Google arrived on the scene, Yahoo! was simply producing search results based on its web directory. That meant that results were both incomplete and somewhat randomized. Google flipped this on its head by creating an iterative algorithm that could produce more complete and accurate results. Since then, the company has grown to capture 83% of the global search market, with Yahoo! coming in second, at 8%.
More recently, the company has taken on other big names -- most notably Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) and its iOS operating system for mobile devices. In an attempt to make Google the default search option of your smartphone, the company produced the Android operating platform as a free, open-source system.
In the United States alone, Android has opened up an eight-percentage point lead over Apple's iOS among mobile devices (51% to 43%). Globally, the number is even bigger, with Android capturing about 70% of smartphone operating systems in 2012. Part of the reason is that Apple's iPhone has a price tag that makes it prohibitive for people in many countries.
Google has even gone after Facebook with its Google Plus social website. Though it has over 500 million registered users, it's tough to say if Google will win this battle, as users are only spending an average of 3.3 minutes per month on Google Plus, compared to 7.5 hours for Facebook.
But the point of all this is that Google has been able to be the David winning against several Goliaths, and a big part of that is due to the culture that Page and Brin have infused in the company. Most notably, they instituted "20% time," where employees have the freedom to explore any Google project they want that doesn't directly have to do with their job responsibilities. Almost half of Google's innovations have been a product of this 20% time.
And when it comes to innovation, Page isn't looking for little tweaks; he wants employees to shoot for the moon. As Wired magazine wrote earlier this year: "Larry Page lives by the gospel of 10x. ... Thousand-percent improvement requires rethinking problems entirely, exploring the edges of what's technically possible, and having a lot more fun in the process."
That also probably helps explain why Google was rated the 6th best place to work in 2013 by Glassdoor.
Got Google? Get smart.
As one of the most dominant Internet companies ever, Google has made a habit of driving strong returns for its shareholders. However, like many other web companies, it's also struggling to adapt to an increasingly mobile world. Despite gaining an enviable lead with its Android operating system, the market isn't sold. That's why it's more important than ever to understand each piece of Google's sprawling empire. In The Motley Fool's new premium research report on Google, we break down the risks and potential rewards for Google investors. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this invaluable resource.