We regularly visit local universities to give guest lectures and run workshops on everything from getting a career in IT to what makes for good digital innovation. At the end of last year, we headed to the University of Salford, where our Chief Exec Craig delivered a lecture to Business and Finance students on the differences between a company and a business.
A business is an organisation that trades in return for revenue. To put it simply, it operates to make a profit. The definition of ‘company’, on the other hand, is a collection of people. Companies are defined by their employees and the values those employees share. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are in fact very different.
The motivations and perspectives of a business differ markedly to those of a company. Businesses focus on increasing profit and maximising ownership within the organisation to make it effective. Companies focus instead on stewardship and encourage their employees to think about how they can contribute to the organisation.
A helpful analogy here is how we perceive a gardener. It’s possible to think about a gardener as someone who benefits from their position as they get to take home the plants and vegetables. This is the perspective of a business, as it focuses on what the gardener gains from their position.
Alternatively, we can think of a gardener as someone who looks after the garden and helps the plants and vegetables to thrive. This is the perspective of a company, as it emphasises what the gardener contributes. Both have the same outcome – a nice garden with some vegetables – but the viewpoints are very different. Businesses focus on what you can get out of something, companies focus on what you can put in.
This disparity in perspectives and values shouldn’t be underestimated. When it comes to looking for a job, you shouldn’t just be thinking about whether an organisation wants you as an employee. You should take the time to think about your own principles and whether the organisation in question shares them.
Ultimately, you will be happier in a workplace where you’re surrounded by people with similar principles.