A business (also called a firm or an enterprise) is a legally recognized organization designed to provide goods and/or services to consumers, governments or other businesses. A business needs a market. A consumer is an essential part of a business. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, most being privately owned and formed to earn profit to increase the wealth of owners. The owners and operators of a business have as one of their main objectives the receipt or generation of a financial return in exchange for work and acceptance of risk. Notable exceptions include cooperative businesses and state-owned enterprises. Socialist systems involve either government agencies, public, or worker ownership of most sizable businesses.
The etymology of "business" relates to the state of being busy either as an individual or society as a whole, doing commercially viable and profitable work. The term "business" has at least three usages, depending on the scope — the singular usage (above) to mean a particular company or corporation, the generalized usage to refer to a particular market sector, such as "the music business" and compound forms such as agribusiness, or the broadest meaning to include all activity by the community of suppliers of goods and services. However, the exact definition of business, like much else in the philosophy of business, is a matter of debate.
Business Studies, the study of the management of individuals to maintain collective productivity in order to accomplish particular creative and productive goals (usually to generate profit), is taught as an academic subject in many schools.
Basic forms of ownership
Cooperative: Often referred to as a "co-op business" or "co-op", a cooperative is a for-profit, limited liability entity that differs from a corporation in that it has members, as opposed to shareholders, who share decision-making authority. Cooperatives are typically classified as either consumer cooperatives or worker cooperatives. Cooperatives are fundamental to the ideology of economic democracy.
Corporation: A business corporation is a for-profit, limited liability entity that has a separate legal personality from its members. A corporation is owned by multiple shareholders and is overseen by a board of directors, which hires the business's managerial staff.
Partnership: A partnership is a form of business in which two or more people operate for the common goal of making profit. Each partner has total and unlimited personal liability of the debts incurred by the partnership. There are three typical classifications of partnerships: general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships.
Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person. The owner may operate on his or her own or may employ others. The owner of the business has total and unlimited personal liability of the debts incurred by the business.
There are many types of businesses, and, as a result, businesses are classified in many ways. One of the most common focuses on the primary profit-generating activities of a business:
* Agriculture and mining businesses are concerned with the production of raw material, such as plants or minerals.
* Financial businesses include banks and other companies that generate profit through investment and management of capital.
* Information businesses generate profits primarily from the resale of intellectual property and include movie studios, publishers and packaged software companies.
* Manufacturers produce products, from raw materials or component parts, which they then sell at a profit. Companies that make physical goods, such as cars or pipes, are considered manufacturers.
* Real estate businesses generate profit from the selling, renting, and development of properties, homes, and buildings.
* Retailers and Distributors act as middle-men in getting goods produced by manufacturers to the intended consumer, generating a profit as a result of providing sales or distribution services. Most consumer-oriented stores and catalogue companies are distributors or retailers. See also: Franchising
* Service businesses offer intangible goods or services and typically generate a profit by charging for labor or other services provided to government, other businesses or consumers. Organizations ranging from house decorators to consulting firms to restaurants and even to entertainers are types of service businesses.
* Transportation businesses deliver goods and individuals from location to location, generating a profit on the transportation costs
* Utilities produce public services, such as heat, electricity, or sewage treatment, and are usually government chartered.
There are many other divisions and subdivisions of businesses. The authoritative list of business types for North America is generally considered to be the North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS. The equivalent European Union list is the NACE.
Organizing a business
The major factors affecting how a business is organized are usually:
* The size and scope of the business, and its anticipated management and ownership. Generally a smaller business is more flexible, while larger businesses, or those with wider ownership or more formal structures, will usually tend to be organized as partnerships or (more commonly) corporations. In addition a business which wishes to raise money on a stock market or to be owned by a wide range of people will often be required to adopt a specific legal form to do so.
* The sector and country. Private profit making businesses are different from government owned bodies. In some countries, certain businesses are legally obliged to be organized certain ways.
* Limited liability. Corporations, limited liability partnerships, and other specific types of business organizations protect their owners from business failure by doing business under a separate legal entity with certain legal protections. In contrast, unincorporated businesses or persons working on their own are usually not so protected.
* Tax advantages. Different structures are treated differently in tax law, and may have advantages for this reason.
* Disclosure and compliance requirements. Different business structures may be required to make more or less information public (or reported to relevant authorities), and may be bound to comply with different rules and regulations.
Many businesses are operated through a separate entity such as a corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company. Most legal jurisdictions allow people to organize such an entity by filing certain charter documents with the relevant Secretary of State or equivalent and complying with certain other ongoing obligations. The relationships and legal rights of shareholders, limited partners, or members are governed partly by the charter documents and partly by the law of the jurisdiction where the entity is organized. Generally speaking, shareholders in a corporation, limited partners in a limited partnership, and members in a limited liability company are shielded from personal liability for the debts and obligations of the entity, which is legally treated as a separate "person." This means that unless there is misconduct, the owner's own possessions are strongly protected in law, if the business does not succeed.