DICTIONARY OF BUSINESS TERMS
Account: A record of a business transaction. A contract arrangement, written or unwritten, to purchase and take delivery with payment to be made later as arranged.
Account balance: The difference between the debit and the credit sides of an account.
Accountant: One who is skilled at keeping business records. Usually, a highly trained professional rather than one who keeps books. An accountant can set up the books needed for a business to operate and help the owner understand them.
Accounting period: A time interval at the end of which an analysis is made of the information contained in the bookkeeping records. Also the period of time covered by the profit and loss statement.
Accounts payable: Money which you owe to an individual or business for goods or services that have been received but not yet paid for.
Accounts receivable: Money owed to your business for goods or services that have been delivered but not yet paid for.
Accrual basis: A method of keeping accounts that shows expenses incurred and income earned for a given fiscal period, even though such expenses and income have not been actually paid or received in cash.
Actuary: A professional expert in pension and life insurance matters, particularly trained in mathematical, statistical, and accounting methods and procedures, and in insurance probabilities.
Administrative expense: Expenses chargeable to the managerial, general administrative and policy phases of a business in contrast to sales, manufacturing, or cost of goods expense.
Advertising: The practice of bringing to the public’s notice the good qualities of something in order to induce the public to buy or invest in it.
Agent: A person who is authorized to act for or represent another person in dealing with a third party.
Amortization: To liquidate on an installment basis; the process of gradually paying off a liability over a period of time.
Analysis: Breaking an idea or problem down into its parts; a thorough examination of the parts of anything.
Annual report: The yearly report made by a company at the close of the fiscal year, stating the company’s receipts and disbursements, assets and liabilities.
Appraisal: Evaluation of a specific piece of personal or real property. The value placed on the property evaluated.
Appreciation: The increase in the value of an asset in excess of its depreciable cost due to economic and other conditions, as distinguished from increases in value due to improvements or additions made to it.
Arrears: Amounts past due and unpaid.
Articles of Incorporation: A legal document filed with the state that sets forth the purposes and regulations for a corporation. Each state has different regulations.
Assets: Anything of worth that is owned. Accounts receivable are an asset.
Audiotaping: The act of recording onto an audiotape.
Audit: An examination of accounting documents and of supporting evidence for the purpose of reaching an informed opinion concerning their propriety.
Bad debts: Money owed to you that you cannot collect.
Balance: The amount of money remaining in an account.
Balance sheet: An itemized statement that lists the total assets and total liabilities of a given business to portray its net worth at a given moment in time.
Bank statement: A monthly statement of account which a bank renders to each of its depositors.
Benchmarking: Rating your company’s products, services and practices against those of the front-runners in the industry.
Bill of lading: A document issued by a railroad or other carrier. It acknowledges the receipt of specified goods for transportation to a certain place, it sets forth the contract between the shipper and the carrier, and it provides for proper delivery of the goods.
Bill of sale: Formal legal document that conveys title to or interest in specific property from the seller to the buyer.
Board of directors: Those individuals elected by the stockholders of a corporation to manage the business.
Bookkeeping: The process of recording business transactions into the accounting records. The “books” are the documents in which the records of transactions are kept.
Bottom line: The figure that reflects company profitability on the income statement. The bottom line is the profit after all expenses and taxes have been paid.
Brand: A design, mark, symbol or other device that distinguishes one line or type of goods from those of a competitor.
Brand name: A term, symbol, design or combination thereof that identifies and differentiates a seller’s products or service.
Break-even: The point of business activity when total revenue equals total expenses. Above the break-even point, the business is making a profit. Below the break-even point, the business is incurring a loss.
Budget: An estimate of the income and expenditures for a future period of time, usually one year.
Business venture: Taking financial risks in a commercial enterprise
Capital: Money available to invest or the total of accumulated assets available for production.
Capital equipment: Equipment that you use to manufacture a product, provide a service or use to sell, store and deliver merchandise. Such equipment will not be sold in the normal course of business, but will be used and worn out or consumed in the course of business.
Capital gains (and losses): The difference between purchase price and selling price in the sale of assets.
Cash: Money in hand or readily available.
Cash discount: A deduction that is given for prompt payment of a bill.
Cash flow: The actual movement of cash within a business; the analysis of how much cash is needed and when that money is required by a business within a period of time.
Cash receipts: The money received by a business from customers.
Certified Public Accountant: An accountant to whom a state has given a certificate showing that he has met prescribed requirements designed to insure competence on the part of the public practitioner in accounting and that he is permitted to use the designation Certified Public Accountant, commonly abbreviated as CPA.
Chamber of Commerce: An organization of business people designed to advance the interests of its members. There are three levels: national, state and local.
Choice: A decision to purchase that is based on an evaluation of alternatives.
Co-signers: Joint signers of a loan agreement who pledge to meet the obligations of a business in case of default.
Collateral: Something of value given or held as a pledge that a debt or obligation will be fulfilled.
Commission: A percentage of the principal or of the income that an agent receives as compensation for services.
Contract: An agreement regarding mutual responsibilities between two or more parties.
Controllable expenses: Those expenses that can be controlled or restrained by the business person.
Corporation: A voluntary organization of persons, either actual individuals or legal entities, legally bound together to form a business enterprise; an artificial legal entity created by government grant and treated by law as an individual entity.
Cost of goods sold: The direct cost to the business owner of those items which will be sold to customers.
Credit: Another word for debt. Credit is given to customers when they are allowed to make a purchase with the promise to pay later. A bank gives credit when it lends money.
Credit line: The maximum amount of credit or money a financial institution or trade firm will extend to a customer.
Current assets: Valuable resources or property owned by a company that will be turned into cash within one year or used up in the operations of the company within one year. Generally includes cash, accounts receivable, inventory and prepaid expenses.
Current liabilities: Amounts owned that will ordinarily be paid by a company within one year. Generally includes accounts payable, current portion of long-term debt, interest and dividends payable.
Debt: That which is owed. Debt refers to borrowed funds and is generally secured by collateral or a co-signer.
Debt capital: The part of the investment capital that must be borrowed. Default: The failure to pay a debt or meet an obligation.
Deficit: The excess of liabilities over assets; a negative net worth.
Depreciation: A decrease in value through age, wear or deterioration. Depreciation is a normal expense of doing business that must be taken into account. There are laws and regulations governing the manner and time periods that may be used for depreciation.
Desktop publishing: Commonly used term for computer-generated printed materials such as newsletters and brochures.
Differentiated marketing: Selecting and developing a number of offerings to meet the needs of a number of specific market segments.
Direct mail: Marketing goods or services directly to the consumer through the mall.
Direct selling: The process whereby the producer sells to the user, ultimate consumer or retailer without intervening middlemen.
Discount: A deduction from the stated or list price of a product or service.
Distribution channel: All of the individuals and organizations involved in the process of moving products from producer to consumer. The route a product follows as it moves from the original grower, producer or importer to the ultimate consumer.
Distributor: Middleman, wholesaler, agent or company distributing goods to dealers or companies.
Downsize: Term currently used to indicate employee reassignment, layoffs and restructuring in order to make a business more competitive, efficient, and/or cost-effective.
Entrepreneur: An innovator of business enterprise who recognizes opportunities to introduce a new product, a new process or an improved organization, and who raises the necessary money, assembles the factors for production and organizes an operation to exploit the opportunity.
Equipment: Physical property of a more or less permanent nature ordinarily useful in carrying on operations, other than land, buildings or improvements to either of them. Examples are machinery, tools, tracks, cars, ships, furniture and furnishings.
Equity: A financial investment in a business. An equity investment carries with it a share of ownership of the business, a stake in the profits and a say in how it is managed. Equity is calculated by subtracting the liabilities of the business from the assets of the business.
Equity capital: Money furnished by owners of the business.
Exchange: The process by which two or more parties give something of value to one another to satisfy needs and wants.
Facsimile machine (FAX): Machine capable of transmitting written input via telephone lines.
Financial statements: Documents that show your financial situation.
Fixed expenses: Those costs which don’t vary from one period to the next. Generally, these expenses are not affected by the volume of business.
Fixed expenses are the basic costs that every business will have each month.
Franchise: Business that requires three elements: Franchise fee, common trade name and continuous relationship with the parent company.
Fundraising: Events staged to raise revenue.
Gross profit: The difference between the selling price and the cost of an item. Gross profit is calculated by subtracting cost of goods sold from net sales.
Guarantee: A pledge by a third party to repay a loan in the event that the borrower cannot.
Home page: The “table of contents” to a Web site, detailing what pages are on a particular site. The first page one sees when accessing a Web site.
Income statement: A financial document that shows how much money (revenue) came in and how much money (expense) was paid out.
Interest: The cost of borrowing money.
Internet: The vast collection in inter-connected networks that provide electronic mail and access to the World Wide Web.
Inventory: A list of assets being held for sale.
Invest: To lay out money for any purpose from which a profit is expected.
Keystone: Setting a retail price at twice the wholesale price.
Lead: The name and address of a possible customer.
Lease: A long term rental agreement.
Liability insurance: Risk protection for actions for which a business is liable.
License: Formal permission to conduct business.
Lifestyle: A pattern of living that comprises an individual’s activities, interests and opinions.
Limited partnership: A legal partnership where some owners are allowed to assume responsibility only up to the amount invested.
Liquidity: The ability of a business to meet its financial responsibilities. The degree of readiness with which assets can be converted into cash without loss.
Loan agreement: A document that states what a business can and cannot do as long as it owes money to the lender.
Loan: Money lent with interest.
Long-term liabilities: The liabilities (expenses) that will not mature within the next year.
Management: The art of conducting and supervising a business.
Market: A set of potential or real buyers or a place in which there is a demand for products or services. Actual or potential buyers of a product or service.
Market demand: Total volume purchased in a specific geographic area by a specific customer group in a specified time period under a specified marketing program.
Market forecast: An anticipated demand that results from a planned marketing expenditure.
Market niche: A well-defined group of customers for which what you have to offer is particularly suitable.
Market positioning: Finding a market niche that emphasizes the strengths of a product or service in relation to the weaknesses of the competition.
Market share: A company’s percentage share of total sales within a given market.
Market targeting: Choosing a marketing strategy in terms of competitive strengths and marketplace realities.
Marketing mix: The set of product, place, promotion, price and packaging variables, which a marketing manager controls and orchestrates to bring a product or service into the marketplace.
Marketing research: The systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data regarding a specific marketing situation.
Mass marketing: Selecting and developing a single offering for an entire market.
Merchandise: Goods bought and sold in a business. “Merchandise” or stock is a part of inventory.
Microbusiness: An owner-operated business with few employees and less than $250,000 in annual sales.
Middleman: A person or company that performs functions or renders services involved in the purchase and/or sale of goods in their flow from producer to consumer.
Multilevel sales: Also known as network marketing. Rather than hiring sales staff, multilevel sales companies sell their products through thousands of independent distributors. Multilevel sales companies offer distributors commissions on both retail sales and the sales of their “down-line” (the network of other distributors they sponsor).
Need: A state of perceived deprivation.
Net: What is left after deducting all expenses from the gross.
Net worth: The total value of a business in financial terms. Net worth is calculated by subtracting total liabilities from total assets.
Niche: A well-defined group of customers for which what you have to offer is particularly suitable.
Nonrecurring: One time, not repeating. “Nonrecurring” expenses are those involved in starting a business, and which only have to be paid once and will not occur again.
Note: A document that is recognized as legal evidence of a debt.
Operating costs: Expenditures arising out of current business activities. The costs incurred to do business such as salaries, electricity, rental. Also may be called “overhead.”
Organizational market: A marketplace made up of producers, trade industries, governments and institutions.
Outsourcing: Term used in business to identify the process of sub-con-tracting work to outside vendors.
Overhead: A general term for costs of materials and services not directly adding to or readily identifiable with the product or service being sold.
Partnership: A legal business relationship of two or more people who share responsibilities, resources, profits and liabilities.
Payable: Ready to be paid. One of the standard accounts kept by a bookkeeper is “accounts payable.” This is a list of those bills that are current and due to be paid.
Perception: The process of selecting, organizing and interpreting information received through the senses.
Prepaid expenses: Expenditures that are paid in advance for items not yet received.
Price: The exchange value of a product or service from the perspective of both the buyer and the seller.
Price ceiling: The highest amount a customer will pay for a product or a service based upon perceived value.
Price floor: The lowest amount a business owner can charge for a product or service and still meet all expenses.
Price planning: The systematic process for establishing pricing objectives and policies.
Principal: The amount of money borrowed in a debt agreement and the amount upon which interest is calculated.
Pro forma: A projection or estimate of what may result in the future from actions in the present. A pro forma financial statement is one that shows how the actual operations of the business will turn out if certain assumptions are achieved.
Producers: The components of the organizational market that acquire products, services that enter into the production of products and services that are sold or supplied to others.
Product: Anything capable of satisfying needs, including tangible items, services and ideas.
Product life cycle (PLC): The stages of development and decline through which a successful product typically moves.
Product line: A group of products related to each other by marketing, technical or end-use considerations.
Product mix: All of the products in a seller’s total product line.
Profit and Loss Statement: A list of the total amount of sales (revenues) and total costs (expenses). The difference between revenues and expenses is your profit or loss.
Profit: Financial gain, returns over expenditures.
Profit margin: The difference between your selling price and all of your costs.
Promotion: The communication of information by a seller to influence the attitudes and behavior of potential buyers.
Promotional pricing: Temporarily pricing a product or service below list price or below cost in order to attract customers.
Psychographics: The system of explaining market behavior in terms of attitudes and life styles.
Publicity: Any non-paid, news-oriented presentation of a product, service or business entity in a mass media format.
Quantitative forecasts: Forecasts that are based on measurements of numerical quantities.
Questionnaire: A data-gathering form used to collect information by a personal interview, with a telephone survey or through the mail.
Ratio: The relationship of one thing to another. A “ratio” is a short-cut way of comparing things, which can be expressed as numbers or degrees.
Receivable: Ready for payment. When you sell on credit, you keep an “accounts receivable” ledger as a record of what is owed to you and who owes it. In accounting, a receivable is an asset.
Retail: Selling directly to the consumer.
Retailing: Businesses and individuals engaged in the activity of selling products to final consumers.
Revenue: Total sales during a stated period.
Sales potential: A company’s expected share of a market as marketing expenditures increase in relation to the competition.
Sales promotion: Marketing activities that stimulate consumer purchasing in the short term.
Sales representative: An independent salesperson who directs efforts to selling your products or service to others but is not an employee of your company. Sales reps often represent more than one product line from more than one company and usually work on commission.
Sample: A limited portion of the whole of a group.
Security: Collateral that is promised to a lender as protection in case the borrower defaults on a loan.
Service business: A retail business that deals in activities for the benefit of others.
Share: One of the equal parts into which the ownership of a corporation is divided. A “share” represents part ownership in a corporation.
Short-term notes: Loans that come due in one year or less.
Sole proprietorship: Business legal structure in which one individual owns the business.
Stock: An ownership share in a corporation; another name for a share. Another definition would be accumulated merchandise.
Suppliers: Individuals or businesses that provide resources needed by a company in order to produce goods and services.
Survey: A research method in which people are asked questions.
Takeover: The acquisition of one company by another.
Target market: The specific individuals, distinguished by socio-eco-nomic, demographic and interest characteristics, who are the most likely potential customers for the goods and services of a business.
Target marketing: Selecting and developing a number of offerings to meet the needs of a number of specific market segments.
Telemarketing: Marketing goods or services directly to the consumer via the telephone.
Terms of sale: The conditions concerning payment for a purchase.
Trade credit: Permission to buy from suppliers on open account.
Undifferentiated marketing: Selecting and developing one offering for an entire market.
Venture capital: Money invested in enterprises that do not have access to traditional sources of capital.
Volume: An amount or quantity of business; the volume of a business is the total it sells over a period of time.
Wholesaling: Businesses and individuals engaged in the activity of selling products to retailers, organizational users or other wholesalers. Selling for resale.
Working capital: The excess of current assets over current liabilities. The cash needed to keep the business running from day to day.