Characteristics of corporations, enterprises, companies, and businesses

The terms corporation, enterprise, company, and business are often used interchangeably; however, they have distinct meanings. In law, only individuals as natural persons and corporations are legal entities. A juristic person is a group of natural persons behaving as if they are a single group as a partnership, limited liability company, or corporation, and can exist for many reasons. An enterprise is either a sole proprietorship associated with a natural person, or a juristic person. A business can exist to earn revenue from customers in order to generate a profit for its owners regardless of legal form.

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A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners. In the United States, corporations are organized under state law according to articles of incorporation. However, both the Federal and state governments may form corporations for commercial and governmental activities. Federally chartered banks are designated as national associations or national trust and savings associations. According to law, there must be some indication in the name of the corporation that it is incorporated. For example, “The Business Leadership Development Corporation” and “Javazona Cafes, Incorporated” (abbreviated to “Javazona Cafes, Inc.”) are two incorporated legal entities.

An enterprise is a group of activities intended to produce income for profit as a business, as a not-for-profit association, or as a government agency. An enterprise can consist of one or more legal entities.
In its simplest form, a company is a group of individuals who are associates or companions, as opposed to a group of individuals assembled with no distinct purpose. A team is a tightly coupled group working coherently with mutual accountability. In effect, a company is set of teams working together with common purpose.

The term “company” is used in the theatrical profession to describe a group of actors with their accompanying equipment. The term is also used to describe a group of individuals operating a business as employees and owners as juristic persons, regardless of legal form. In the United States, the term “company” can be associated with partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations. A limited liability company that has a single owner is “disregarded” by the Internal Revenue Service if the owner elects that the entity be taxed as a sole proprietorship. However, in some states and countries, the term “company” is synonymous with “corporation” – meaning that it has a legal form separate from its owners. Hence, “American Express Company” and “Ford Motor Company” are corporations. In some countries, the term “associates (and company)” is synonymous with “partnership,” and “anonymous society” is synonymous with “corporation.”

The earliest forms of companies were unincorporated associations, followed later by partnerships. Individual corporations were initially established by governmental charter. However, the concept of a joint stock company was created over time, which had individual owners with unlimited liability. A joint stock company was similar to a partnership, but had certain rights distinct from the individual owners. A modern corporation is in effect a joint stock company with limited liability of the individual owners.

A tradename is often used to establish a brand separate from the legal name of a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. For example, “BLD” is a tradename of The Business Leadership Development Corporation; “Achieve Plan B” and “Vitaprise” are tradenames of Nigel A.L. Brooks. Tradenames are common in franchise and licensee systems, where different legal entities are part of the same system, and thus share a common identity, such as Enterprise Rent-A-Truck, Holiday Inn, McDonald’s, and Subway. The tradename is owned by the franchisor or licensor, but can be used by the franchisees and licensees. However, whenever business is done in a name other than a legal name, it is fictitious and must be registered as a certified “doing business name” in whatever jurisdictions are required under state law. For example, if Nigel A.L. Brooks is doing business as “Vitaprise,” that name must be registered as fictitious in each jurisdiction where it is used.

A business is formed to earn a profit from revenues from commissions, dividends, fees, interest, rents, royalties, and sales less expenses from costs of revenue and operating items, and capital gains from investments. An entity such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation may be formed, organized, or incorporated for the purpose of conducting business before revenue is earned. As such the entity is separate from but related to the business enterprise. A venture is a start-up or early stage enterprise (as opposed to a hobby), which may be classified as a “development stage entity” because it has little or no income. Its future may be uncertain until the business concept has been proven.

The business becomes established when there is a commitment from the owners to earning revenue as an ongoing concern, and predictable patterns among the constituencies start to appear. Thus a business enterprise can be established much later than when the holding entity for it was formed. The entity can be changed as conditions dictate, without changing the nature of the business enterprise. For example, the initial business entity may be a limited liability company organized in Arizona, but later changed to a corporation incorporated in Delaware. Assets of the enterprise and associated revenue streams can be sold separately from the entity, or the entire entity itself can be sold. Similarly, assets and revenue streams, and entire entities can be acquired.

Regardless of the marketing efforts of the management of an enterprise and its legal form, its fate is ultimately determined by the frequency, recency, location, and value of the transactions of its customers based upon their needs and wants. Such transactions are in turn are influenced by the behaviors of employees, regulators, competitors, and market trends in general.

Operating enterprises is an enterpriship (entrepreneurship, leadership, and management) competency.

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