Business is the activity of making one’s living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (goods and services).Simply put, it is “any activity or enterprise entered into for profit. It does not mean it is a company, a corporation, partnership, or have any such formal organization, but it can range from a street peddler to General Motors.” The term is also often used colloquially (but not by lawyers or public officials) to refer to a company, but this article will not deal with that sense of the word.
- Anyone carrying on an activity that earns them a profit is doing business or running a business, and perhaps this is why there is a misconception that business and company is the same thing.
- A business name structure does not separate the business entity from the owner, which means that the owner of the business is responsible and liable for all debts incurred by the business. If the business acquires debts, the creditors can go after the owner’s personal possessions.
Forms of business ownership vary by jurisdiction, but several common entities exist:
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- Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship, also known as a sole trader, is owned by one person and operates for their benefit. The owner operates the business alone and may hire employees. A sole proprietor has unlimited liability for all obligations incurred by the business, whether from operating costs or judgments against the business. All assets of the business belong to a sole proprietor, including, for example, computer infrastructure, any inventory, manufacturing equipment, or retail fixtures, as well as any real property owned by the sole proprietor.
- Partnership: A partnership is a business owned by two or more people. In most forms of partnerships, each partner has unlimited liability for the debts incurred by the business. The three most prevalent types of for-profit partnerships are: general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships.
- Corporation: The owners of a corporation have limited liability and the business has a separate legal personality from its owners. Corporations can be either government-owned or privately owned. They can organize either for profit or as nonprofit organizations. A privately owned, for-profit corporation is owned by its shareholders, who elect a board of directors to direct the corporation and hire its managerial staff. A privately owned, for-profit corporation can be either privately held by a small group of individuals, or publicly held, with publicly traded shares listed on a stock exchange.
- Cooperative: Often referred to as a “co-op”, a cooperative is a limited-liability business that can organize as for-profit or not-for-profit. A cooperative differs from a corporation in that it has members, not shareholders, and they share decision-making authority. Cooperatives are typically classified as either consumer cooperatives or worker cooperatives. Cooperatives are fundamental to the ideology of economic democracy.
- Limited liability companies (LL C), limited liability partnerships, and other specific types of business organization protect their owners or shareholders 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 as protected.
- Franchises: A franchise is a system in which entrepreneurs purchase the rights to open and run a business from a larger corporation. Franchising in the United States is widespread and is a major economic powerhouse. One out of twelve retail businesses in the United States are franchised and 8 million people are employed in a franchised business.
- A company limited by guarantee. Commonly used where companies are formed for noncommercial purposes, such as clubs or charities. The members guarantee the payment of certain (usually nominal) amounts if the company goes into insolvent liquidation, but otherwise, they have no economic rights in relation to the company. This type of company is common in England. A company limited by guarantee may be with or without having share capital.
- A company limited by shares. The most common form of the company used for business ventures. Specifically, a limited company is a “company in which the liability of each shareholder is limited to the amount individually invested” with corporations being “the most common example of a limited company.” This type of company is common in England and many English-speaking countries. A company limited by shares may be a