A business, also known as an enterprise or a firm, is an organization involved in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers.
Businesses are prevalent in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and provide goods and services to customers for profit.
Businesses may also be not-for-profit or state-owned.
A business owned by multiple individuals may be referred to as a company, although that term also has a more precise meaning.
The etymology of "business" stems from the state of being busy, and implies commercially viable and profitable work.
The term "business" has at least three usages, depending on the scope in which it is used.
A business can mean a particular organization, while a more generalized usage refers to a particular market sector, i.e. "the music business."
Compound forms such as agribusiness represent subsets of the word's the broadest meaning, which encompasses all activity by all suppliers of goods and services.
Forms of business ownership vary by jurisdiction, but several common forms exist:
Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is owned by one person and operates for profit.
The owner may operate the business alone or employ other people.
A sole proprietor has unlimited liability for all obligations incurred by the business, whether from operating costs or judgements against the business.
All assets of the business belong to a sole proprietor, including, for example, computer infrastructure, any inventory, manufacturing equipment and/or retail fixtures, as well as any real property owned by the business.
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 owned by individuals.
They can organize either for profit or as not-for-profit organizations.
A non-government 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 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.