The term business has a number of formal, colloquial and legal definitions, all of which are revolve around one of the most critical pursuits that sustains societies worldwide: the producing of goods or providing of services to individuals, organizations, governments and other parties.
As defined in most economic systems, a business is the representative entity that delivers goods or services to consumers. Used in this context, the word business is synonymous with company, firm or enterprise. Like any organization, businesses can be large or small. A freelance writer or an independent piano teacher is a business just like Microsoft and PepsiCo are businesses. Likewise, businesses can garner a large amount of revenue, have little income or even make no money at all and still be considered a business. When it comes to defining a business as an entity, success is no measure—rather, intention is what matters.
Businesses can be organized and structured in a variety of forms. Businesses typically take the form of a sole proprietorship, partnership, co-operative or corporation. When a business is incorporated or organized into one of these entities, it takes on ownership and liability for all of its business activities.
The word business is also used to refer to the activity of owning, managing, operating and investing in companies and enterprises. While the natures of businesses vary widely, there are a number of attributes, responsibilities and legal implications that are common to money-making ventures in any market sector, economic system or geographic location. A non-profit church organization or independent natural grocer require knowledge of accounting, staffing and tax preparation just like a commercial farm or international airline does. Likewise, business planning, marketing and legal advice are equally as vital for the success of an online crafts store as they are for a private military contractor. In this way, the profitability and success of any given venture is as much dependent on skillful and astute business administration as it is on a quality product or talented employees. Because of this, business administration has become one of the most popular fields of academic study in higher learning institutions.
Applied even more broadly, business can refer to an entire industry or market sector at large. For example, when someone mentions the “music business” or the “insurance business,” they are collectively referring to all the activity that comprises the buying, selling, consumption and support of making music or insuring assets. Business in this context is also an area of intense scrutiny and ongoing study. Understanding the trends and movements of any given business sector is crucial for government officials, legislators, consumers and business owners. Being able to accurately predict future market movements is crucial for regulators considering enacting new policies, financiers investing in a business or sector and proprietors planning their marketing strategies.
It’s no mistake or coincidence that the word business was derived from “busy.” In its literal form, business equates to busyness—the state of being occupied, engaged in activity or, in short, working. In this way, business is an apt term that has evolved to describe all facets of making a living in human society. Working in a field, meeting with fellow executives, auditing balance sheets and adjusting federal interest rates can all be accurately described as “conducting business.” And, of course, the more you understand business—whether it’s the business of dealing with customers face-to-face or the business of developing technology to compete rival carmakers worldwide—the better you can become at doing business, so to speak. And that’s precisely the type of empowering knowledge that our business links, resources, articles and websites provides. Whether you’re looking for guides and tutorials to help you run your own business better or are looking for consultants and business-to-business services that can help you get an edge, you’ll find it within these pages.