Starting Up: What is a business, anyway?

You want to start a startup, bust out a side hustle, launch a business… excellent!

But what, exactly, does it entail?

What, exactly, is a business?

Easy… It's the simplest most complicated thing in the world.

Business with a capital B is nothing more complicated than the exchange of goods and services for money. The way that sellers and buyers meet. The art of mutually beneficial transaction. The romance of commerce!

A business is the hardware and software that makes that possible:

  • the market need or want to fulfill
  • the research & development
  • the product
  • the marketing
  • the infrastructure
  • the sales & distribution
  • the support  
  • the record-keeping and management
  • the human capital to create, manage, and run all of the above

It can be as simple as lemon, sugar, water, and ice in a cup, sold at a little cardboard stand by a couple of kids with a bucket for quarters.

It can be as complex as a globe-spanning infrastructure for instantly trading the latest high-risk financialized debt product. Or… perhaps something even more complex; I feel here I need to admit that I never finished my PhD in The World's Most Complex Businesses.

But all businesses, no matter how tiny or gargantuan, how simple or complex, have all the same parts.

That's not an accident. It's because a business is a lot like a building: something that, throughout time and across cultures, will always be recognizable for what it is because it's made by humans, for use by humans, to complete human tasks.

Starting your first business takes a lot more than a good idea, but it's not as difficult as you think.

Sumerian ox merchants did it, and you can too.