What Is a Business? Understanding Different Types and Company Sizes (2023)

What Is a Business?

The term business refers to an organization or enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activities. The purpose of a business is to organize some sort of economic production (of goods or services). Businesses can be for-profit entities or non-profit organizations fulfilling a charitable mission or furthering a social cause.Businesses range in scale and scope from sole proprietorships to large, international corporations.

Business also refers to the efforts and activities undertaken by individuals to produce and sell goods and services for profit.

Key Takeaways

  • A business is defined as an organization or enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activities.
  • Businesses can be for-profit entities or non-profit organizations.
  • Business types range from limited liability companies to sole proprietorships, corporations, and partnerships.
  • Some businesses run as small operations in a single industry while others are large operations that spread across many industries around the world.
  • Apple and Walmart are two examples of well-known, successful businesses.



Understanding Business

The term business often refers to an entity that operates for commercial, industrial, or professional reasons. The concept begins with an idea and a name, and extensive market research may be required to determine how feasible it is to turn the idea into a business.

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Businesses often require business plans before operations begin. A business plan is a formal document that outlines the company's goals and objectives and lists the strategies and plans to achieve these goals and objectives.Business plans are essential when you want to borrow capital to begin operations.

Determining the legal structure of the business is an important factor to consider, since business owners may need to secure permits and licenses and follow registration requirements to begin legal operations. Corporations are considered to be juridical persons in many countries, meaning that the business can own property, take on debt, and be sued in court.

Most businesses operate to generate a profit, commonly called for-profit. However, some businesses that have a goal to advance a certain cause without profit are referred to as not-for-profit or nonprofit. These entities may operate as charities, arts, culture, educational, and recreational enterprises, political and advocacy groups, or social services organizations.

Business activities often include the sale and purchase of goods and services. Business activity can take place anywhere, whether that's in a physical storefront, online, or on a roadside. Anyone who conducts business activity with financial earnings must report this income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

A company often defines its business by the industry in which it operates. For example, the real estate business, advertising business, or mattress production business are examples of industries. Business is a term often used to indicate transactions regarding an underlying product or service. For example, ExxonMobil conducts its business by providing oil.

A good name is often one of the most valuable assets of a business, so it's important that business owners choose their name wisely.

Business Types

There are many ways to organize a business, and there are various legal and taxation structures that correspond with these. Among others, businesses are commonly classified and generally structured as:

  • Sole proprietorships: As the name suggests, a sole proprietorship is owned and operated by a single person.There is no legal separation between the business and the owner, which means the tax and legal liabilities of the business are the responsibility of the owner.
  • Partnerships: A partnership is a business relationship between two or more people who together conduct business.Each partner contributes resources and money to the business and shares in the profits and losses of the business.The shared profits and losses are recorded on each partner's tax return.
  • Corporations: A corporation is a business in which a group of people acts as a single entity. Owners are commonly referred to as shareholders who exchange consideration for the corporation's common stock. Incorporating a business releases owners of the financial liability of business obligations. A corporation comes with unfavorable taxation rules for the owners of the business.
  • Limited liability companies (LLCs): This is a relatively new business structure and was first available in Wyoming in 1977 and in other states in the 1990s. A limited liability company combines the pass-through taxation benefits of a partnership with the limited liability benefits of a corporation.

Business Sizes

Small Businesses

Small owner-operated companies are called small businesses. Commonly managed by one person or a small group of people with less than 100 employees, these companies include family restaurants, home-based companies, clothing, books, and publishing companies, and small manufacturers. As of 2021, 32.5 million small businesses with 61.2 million employees were operating in the United States.

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The Small Business Administration (SBA) uses the number of employees working at a company and its annual revenue to formally define a small business. For 229 industry sectors, from engineering and manufacturing to food service and real estate, the SBA sets sizing standards every five years.

Businesses that meet the standards of the SBA can qualify for loans, grants, and "small business set-asides," contracts where the federal government limits competition to help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

Mid-Sized Enterprises

There is no definitive specification in the U.S. to define a mid-sized or medium-sized company. However, when large U.S. cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston evaluate the landscape of operating businesses, a medium-sized company is defined as one with 100 to 499 employees or $10 million to less than $50 million in annual gross sales.

Large Businesses

Large businesses commonly have more than 1000 employees and garner $50 million or more in gross receipts.They may issue corporate stock to finance operations as a publicly-traded company.

Large enterprises may be based in one country with international operations. They are often organized by departments, such as human resources, finance, marketing, sales, and research and development. Unlike small and mid-sized enterprises, owned by a person or group of people, large organizations often separate their tax burden from their owners, who usually do not manage their companies but instead, an elected board of directors enacts most business decisions.

Examples of Well-Known Businesses


Apple is known for its innovative products, including its personal computers, smart devices, and music and video streaming services.

Founded in 1977 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple became the first publicly-traded company whose value hit $1 trillion. The company's stock trades under the ticker symbol AAPL on the Nasdaq. Intraday trading as of June 7, 2022, hovered around $148 per share, while the market capitalization for the company hit $2.41 trillion.

The company employs more than two million people, including 80,000 individuals who work as direct Apple employees. The remaining jobs include suppliers, manufacturers, and others who are supported through the Apple store. The company reported net sales of $297.3 billion in 2021, driven primarily by its product segment.

Apple's key to success lies in its family of products and its ability to innovate. The company focuses on design and quality—two key elements that were a key part of Jobs' corporate vision. The products that Apple creates and markets can be used under the same operating system, which allows consumers to sync them together, thus lowering corporate costs. Apple's ability to create, develop, and market new products and services also put it ahead of its competition.


Walmart is one of the world's largest retailers and operates as a multinational corporation. The company was founded in 1962 by Sam Walton in Arkansas. It has more than 10,500 locations in more than 24 different countries and employs over 2.3 million people.


The company went public in 1970 and trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol WMT. As of June 7, 2022, Walmart stock traded around $123.37 per share and its market cap was $337.38 billion.

Walmart earned $559 billion in revenue for the full year of 2021. This figure was driven by online sales through its e-commerce segment and international sales, which were primarily recorded in Mexico and Canada.

Walmart's success can be attributed to several factors, including its brand name, pricing, diversification (especially with the addition of its online marketplace), efficient supply chain management, and its financial strength.

How Do You Start a Business?

There are several steps you need to hurdle to start a business. This includes conducting market research, developing a business plan, seeking capital or other forms of funding, choosing a location and business structure, picking the right name, submitting registration paperwork, obtaining tax documents (employer and taxpayer IDs), and pulling permits and licenses. It's also a good idea to set up a bank account with a financial institution to facilitate your everyday banking needs.

How Do You Launch an Online Business?

Starting an online business involves some of the same steps as a traditional business, with a few exceptions.

You still need to do your market research and develop a business plan before anything else. Once that's done, choose a name and structure for your business, then file any paperwork to register your organization.

Rather than finding a physical location, choose a platform and design your website. Before launching your business, you should find a way to build up your target market, whether that's through traditional marketing means or more creative ways like social media.

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How Do You Come Up With a Business Name?

Your business name should fit the type of organization you plan to run and it should be catchy—something that people will gravitate toward and remember, not to mention associate with you as well as the products and services you plan to sell. Originality is key. And most importantly, it should be a name that isn't already in use by someone else. Go online and do a business name search to see if it's available or already registered.

How Do You Write a Business Plan?

Business plans are essential to running your business and can help you secure the funding you need to start your operations. You can choose between a traditional or a lean business plan.

A traditional business plan is very comprehensive with a lot of details. This includes a summary of the company and the ways it will succeed. It also includes information about your market, management, products and services, marketing, and sales projections.

Lean formats are shorter but still contain very useful information such as partnership details, outlines of the business activities and customer relationships, cost structures, and revenue streams.

You can find templates online or come up with your business plan document.

How Do You Get a Business Loan?

Necessary funding for a business often comes via a loan. A traditional lender or a government-backed loan, such as those offered through the Small Business Administration are two options. Prospective lenders want to see business details, especially for new start-ups. Make sure you have your business plan ready, including outlines of costs and revenue streams, and ensure you have a good credit score. You may need to put down some collateral to secure the loan if you're approved.

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The Bottom Line

Businesses are the backbone of an economy. They provide products and services that can be purchased by individuals and other companies.

Businesses range in size from small to large and operate in many different industries. Business structures also vary from sole partnerships to major corporations that provide shareholder equity to their owners.

When starting a business, do your research and develop a business plan. This allows you to raise the money you need to start your operation.


What do you understand by business and types of business? ›

A business is defined as an organization or enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activities. Businesses can be for-profit entities or non-profit organizations. Business types range from limited liability companies to sole proprietorships, corporations, and partnerships.

What are the type and size of the business? ›

Micro-sized business: less than 10 employees. Small-sized business: 10-49 employees. Medium business: 50-249 employees. Large-sized business: more than 250 employees.

What can be used to understand the size of the business? ›

The capital employed by shareholders in the form of share capital, reserves, and surplus (net worth) determines the size of the business. It is mainly used to compare two firms or more that are producing similar or differentiated products.

What is business in your own understanding? ›

Business generally refers to organizations that seek profits by providing goods or services in exchange for payment. However, businesses don't need to turn a profit to be considered a business. The pursuit of profit, in and of itself, makes an organization a business.

What is the size of company? ›

Small companies are companies with 10-99 employees. Medium-sized companies have 100-499 employees and large companies have more than 500 employees.

How many types of company are there? ›

There are 7 types of entities recognized under the Indian Law namely Private Limited Company, Public Company, Sole Proprietorship, One Person Company, Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).

What is the definition of a company? ›

A company is a legal entity formed by a group of individuals to engage in and operate a business—commercial or industrial—enterprise. A company may be organized in various ways for tax and financial liability purposes depending on the corporate law of its jurisdiction.

Why is the size of a company important? ›

Allow you to specialize more in your field of study. Provide a more structured environment. Offer a formal career path to management or different positions. Increased stability within the organization.

How does the size of a business help it be successful? ›

The motives for increasing in size can include: Greater sales lead to greater profit, making the firm more attractive to shareholders. Successful, growing firms are likely to increase salaries/pay bonuses to managers. Increasing output enables economies of scale, greater efficiency and lower average costs.

Why is it important to classify business in terms of size? ›

While all businesses in the United States contribute to the same economy, they do so in all different shapes and sizes. Functionality, leadership, and mission statement are all important, but classifying the size of your business should not be overlooked, as it helps correctly measure impact and success.

What is a business simple answer? ›

Business refers to an enterprising entity or organization that carries out professional activities. They can be commercial, industrial, or others. For-profit business entities do business to earn a profit, while non-profit ones do it for a charitable mission.

What are the 4 different types of company? ›

The four main types of business structures are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company (LLC).

What are the 3 business types explain each of them briefly? ›

There are three common types of businesses—sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation—and each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here's a rundown of what you need to know about each one. In a sole proprietorship, you're the sole owner of the business.

What is business and why is it important? ›

Business is the source of employment. It creates employment opportunities for a large number of people in any country. Various types of employees are required both in management and technical jobs of business. The development of industry and commerce is helping to solve the employment problems of the nation.

What are different types of business activities give examples of each? ›

There are three main types of business activities: operating, investing, and financing. The cash flows used and created by each of these activities are listed in the cash flow statement. The cash flow statement is meant to be a reconciliation of net income on an accrual basis to cash flow.

How do you measure a company's size? ›

Researchers can use some alternative size proxies such as enterprise value (market capitalization plus net debt), the number of employees, total profits, or net assets (total assets minus total liabilities) when the main measures are not available or irrelevant (e.g., market cap for private firms and total sales for ...

What is the size of a small business? ›

It defines small business by firm revenue (ranging from $1 million to over $40 million) and by employment (from 100 to over 1,500 employees). For example, according to the SBA definition, a roofing contractor is defined as a small business if it has annual revenues of $16.5 million or less.

What is the biggest factor determining the size of a business? ›

1. Entrepreneurial Skill 2. Managerial Ability 3. Availability of Finance 4.

What is the difference between business and company? ›

The best way to think of a company is a collection of individuals doing business. Whereas a business can theoretically be run by a single person, a company by definition must have multiple people with ownership stakes in the business.

What is your definition of a good company? ›

DEFINITIONS1. someone who people enjoy spending time with. Jane is such good company. Synonyms and related words. People who are happy, hopeful and friendly.

What is company in a sentence? ›

Noun He runs his own trucking company. She joined the company last year. The company is based in Paris.

Does the size matter in a organization? ›

So to answer the question, size doesn't really matter, but a company's management style and culture does – in the end, that's what makes or breaks a business.

What is meant by organization size? ›

Organizational size is defined as the number of employees at any given geographical location. This would include the total corporate organization if it is in one geographical location or a division of a decentralized corporation.

How does size affect structure? ›

There is significant research supporting the idea that organizational structure is impacted by the size of the organization in question. Large organizations tend to have more work specialization, more vertical levels, rules, regulations, and so on. So they tend to be more mechanistic in nature.

What 3 things make a business successful? ›

You've given some thought to the three things that make a business successful, or at least what many people agree those three things are: filling an important need or want among customers, operating efficiently and making a profit.

What is considered a successful business? ›

Successful businesses are concerned with making long-term profits and generating sustainable growth, rather than achieving short-term gains. Successful companies effectively meet the changing needs of their customers by developing new products or services that will make people happy.

How does the size of the business affect the business? ›

The size of the business generally matters when it comes to economies of scale. The larger the business, the more the cost savings. Economies of scale can be both internal and external. Internal economies of scale are based on management decisions, while external ones have to do with outside factors.

What is business to business answer in one sentence? ›

Business-to-business (B2B), also called B-to-B, is a form of transaction between businesses, such as one involving a manufacturer and wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer. Business-to-business refers to business that is conducted between companies, rather than between a company and individual consumer.

What is our business answer the question? ›

Drucker believes that asking the question “What is our business?” is synonymous with asking “What is our mission?” An enduring statement of purpose that distinguishes one organization from other similar enterprises, the mission statement is a declaration of an organization's “reason for being.” It answers the pivotal ...

What is the most common type of business? ›

The sole proprietorship is the most common form of business organization. One person conducts business for him or herself. A sole proprietorship is not a legal entity. It has no life of its own separate and apart from the owner of the business.

What are the three classification of businesses according to size *? ›

SMEs are further subdivided into micro enterprises (fewer than 10 employees), small enterprises (10 to 49 employees), medium-sized enterprises (50 to 249 employees). Large enterprises employ 250 or more people.

What are the 4 main types of businesses? ›

The most common forms of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation.

How many types of business are there? ›

Typically, there are four main types of businesses: Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies (LLC), and Corporations. Before creating a business, entrepreneurs should carefully consider which type of business structure is best suited to their enterprise.

What are 3 main types of business? ›

There are three common types of businesses—sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation—and each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here's a rundown of what you need to know about each one.

What is the most important part of a business? ›

1. Strategy. This important area is, in a sense, the "brain" of your business operation. All potential business operators should create vision and mission statements so they understand what they want to do, why they want to do it and how they will do it.

How do you describe a business structure? ›

A business structure refers to the type of setup a business should have to carry out its daily operations smoothly and effectively. Sole proprietorship, partnership, corporations, S-corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC) are the main types of business structures.

What is a business one sentence? ›

Your one-sentence business statement is a clear and concise description of what your business does, who you do it for, why you do it, and what sets you apart from your competition. Here are 10 different ways this can be useful for you: You can add this to your business plan. You can use this as an elevator pitch.


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