Investing is about far more than just numbers -- at The Motley Fool, in fact, we are more focused on investing in excellence. But if you are a retail investor trying to gauge whether a stock belongs in your portfolio, statistics (however complicated the data may be to parse) can be a bit easier to come by than clarity about what a company is really trying to accomplish strategically.

In this segment of the Market Foolery podcast, host Chris Hill and senior analyst Andy Cross reply to a listener looking for that type of information and suggest three excellent places to find it.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Oct. 17, 2018.

Chris Hill: Question from Jason Long, who writes, "Your analysts do extensive research on companies, and there are plenty of resources out there to get information. I'm wondering, where would you recommend that I look if I wanted to find information about a public company's specific initiatives, future plans, or overarching goals during a certain time period? That is to say, how do I figure out the most important things the business is working on this year?" That's a great question!

Andy Cross: It's a great question! I would say three very direct places. First, I would check out the company's website. So many companies now are offering up their strategic plans or their thinking or focus. You can get a good feel from what the website is talking about, what the business is talking about. So, first, there. Part of that website experience tends to be an investor relations area. You can go there to have a perspective on what they are talking about from the business. Netflix's investor relations area is extremely good, and they're very transparent with how they talk about their initiatives, including a whole section on long-term investments that they're making. So, I would say, the website; part of that is the investor relations department.

Second, the annual report. You can look up the annual report typically from the website. They all now list the annual reports, so you can look at the initiatives they're talking about in the business. I would say the annual report's a great spot.

Third, if you want to go look at the quarterly conference calls that sometimes are published on The Motley Fool's website and other websites, sometimes the companies publish them themselves. Sometimes you can access them, listen to them. Most companies now open those up.

Among those three areas, Chris, I think you get a very good feel of what management is talking about when it comes to the strategic initiatives that they're working on, what their expectations are, and how much progress they've made at those over the years.

Hill: Particularly on the conference calls. As you said, does this, there are other sites that do this, publish the transcripts. Jason Moser, from time to time, will just go to a conference call transcript and he'll just search for a particular word or phrase to see like, "I'm looking at this company and I'm curious to find out what they're doing in this one particular area. How many times are they talking about it? How many times are they asked? What sort of answers are they offering up."

Cross: Yeah, that's a great point. It allows regular investors, people who want to know more, to use the conference call transcript as a way to search for things very specifically. There's been fun stories about the growth on people and executives using terms like AI, or using cloud computing, and how that has just exploded, no matter what business you're in. You can be a floor manufacturing business now and they're talking about AI and cloud computing. Sometimes, you get a good sense, especially if you read those from quarter to quarter or look at them, of how to sniff out, let's just say a little bit of horse manure from what is actually true sometimes. That is one factor we do love to see in management teams -- they state what they're going to do, and they actually go out and deliver it, or they exceed that. That's been so impressive with the likes of Netflix over the last three to four years, when they've faced those doubters. Reed has been very bold out there talking about what they want to do from the content side, as well as the distribution side, and they've actually backed that up with deliverables.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.