Basic forms of ownershipBusiness can refer to a particular organization or to an entire market sector, e.g. “the music business”. Compound forms such as agribusiness represent subsets of the word’s broader meaning, which encompasses all activity by suppliers of goods and services. The goal is for sales to be more than expenditures resulting in a profit.
Forms of business ownership vary by jurisdiction, but several common forms exist:
- Sole proprietorship
- A sole proprietorship, also known as a sole trader, is owned by one person and operates for their benefit. The owner may operate the business alone or with other people. A sole proprietor has unlimited liability for all obligations incurred by the business, whether from operating costs or judgements against the business.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Restructuring state enterprisesIn recent decades, various states modeled some of their assets and enterprises after business enterprises. In 2003, for example, the People’s Republic of China modeled 80% of its state-owned enterprises on a company-type management system. Many state institutions and enterprises in China and Russia have transformed into joint-stock companies, with part of their shares being listed on public stock markets.
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.Steve JobsBusiness process management (BPM) is a holistic management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients. It promotes business effectiveness and efficiency while striving for innovation, flexibility, and integration with technology. BPM attempts to improve processes continuously. It can therefore be described as a “process optimization process.”
Organization and government regulationMany businesses are operated through a separate entity such as a corporation or a partnership (either formed with or without limited liability). 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. 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.
Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.John D. RockefellerWhere two or more individuals own a business together but have failed to organize a more specialized form of vehicle, they will be treated as a general partnership. The terms of a partnership are partly governed by a partnership agreement if one is created, and partly by the law of the jurisdiction where the partnership is located.