Ask Colin

How can an individual get time with the management of a company?

With difficulty, but it depends on the company.

If it is a big company it will have an investor relations manager, and you will not get far past him or her. However, they can be very useful if you approach them properly and are luck to find a good one.

If it is a small company, you can often get to the company secretary and he or she will often be very knowledgeable and may go to a lot of trouble to help you if you approach them properly. Sometimes you can also get the attention of the CEO or other line management.

The problem in both cases is that they cannot legally tell you anything that has not been announced to the market and is price sensitive. However, there is nothing to stop you asking them to explain what the announced data means. Data has no value per se - its value lies in what it throws before it in terms of expectations. Also sometimes it is not what it appears.

The other thing to remember is that most companies are far more willing to talk about their competitors than about themselves. Customers and suppliers can also be useful. Even academics can help sometimes. Read Philip Fisher's brilliant books on this approach.