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A business organization is frequently referred to as a business entity. A business entity is any business organization that exists as an economic unit.Business entities can be grouped according to the type of business activity they perform.

1. Service companies perform services for a fee. This group includes companies such as accounting firms, law firms, repair shops, and many others.

2. Merchandising companies purchase goods that are ready for sale and sell them to customers. They include such companies as auto dealerships, clothing stores, and supermarkets.

3. Manufacturing companies buy materials, convert them into products, and then sell the products to the companies or to the final customer. Examples are steel miles, auto manufacturers, and so on.

The business entity concept applies to all forms of businesses – single proprietorship, a partnership, and a corporation.

A single (sole) proprietorship is business owned by an individual and often managed by that same individual. Single proprietors include physicians, lawyers, electricians, and other people who are ‘in business for themselves’. In a single proprietorship, the owner is responsible for all debts of the business. Operating as a proprietorship is the easiest way to get started in a business activity. Other than the possibility of needing a local license, there are not any prerequisites to beginning operations.

A partnership is a business owned by two or more persons associated as partners. Partnerships are created by an agreement. Included in the agreement are such terms as the initial investment of each partner, the duties of each partner, the means of dividing profits or losses between the partners each year, and the settlement to be made upon the death or withdrawal of a partner. Accountants, attorneys, and other professionals frequently operate their firms as partnerships.

A corporation is a business owned by a few persons or by thousands of persons. The owners of the corporation are called shareholders or stockholders. They buy shares of stock. If the corporation fails, the owners lose only the amount they paid for their stock. The personal assets of the owner are protected from the creditors of the corporation. The stockholders do not directly manage the corporation; they elect a board of directors to represent their interests. The board of directors select the president and vice president, who manage the corporation for the stockholders.


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An individual, like Henry Ford, might want to begin a small enterprise and personally retain total responsibility and liability, but once it starts to grow, a partnership or a "company"—such as Ford Motor Company—would need to be formed. The key factor in owning any company is the guarantee called limited liability: the owners of a company never have to pay more than they have invested in the company. Their liabilities are limited. When a company goes bank­rupt, the owners can never be required to pay its unpaid bills.

The worst that can happen to investors in a limited liability com­pany is losing their initial investment if the company fails. By limiting the downside risk for shareholders, companies are able to attract equity investors and raise large amounts of funds called equity capital through sales of shares rather than by borrowing money at potentially high interest rates.

The names of companies around the world reflect this guarantee of limited liability. The abbreviations "GmbH" in Germany, "Inc." in the United States, or "Ltd." in most other English-speaking coun­tries indicate that the firm is a limited liability company and investors have nothing more to lose than the money invested in their shares. The "S.A." in French- and Spanish-speaking countries also refers to limited liability by defining shareholders as "anonymous." Since the identity of shareholders can be kept secret, the creditors of a bankrupt company have no right to pursue them for the company's unpaid debts.

Many countries make a clear distinction between public and pri­vate companies, with separate designations, such as AG and GmbH in Germany, or Plc and Ltd. in Britain. Generally, "public" companies are those large enough to have their shares traded on stock exchanges, while smaller unquoted companies are said to be "private," even though their shares can be held by the public at large. In some coun­tries, a large company is said to be privately owned if its shares are not available to the general public. In the United States, where little distinction is made between public and private companies, most com­panies simply bear the title "Incorporated."


1. What do the names of companies around the world reflect?



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