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This article was published on January 4, 2011

Are you a business or a company?

Are you a business or a company?
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

I’m reading a book titled ‘Return to the Little Kingdom‘ which is a great read for any entrepreneur because it describes in fine detail how the company grew from garage project into a huge company and how that affected employees, founders and investors.

I’m not going to write a full review but lets just say the transition went less than smooth. Apple has this aura of perfection and focus but when you read the book it becomes clear that their way to the top was just as tumultuous as any other start-up.

There have been countless moments where Apple could have just as well have failed. From Woz getting job offers from HP in the early days, and almost accepting, to Steve Jobs wanting to become a Buddhist monk instead of staying the CEO. Think your life or company is in chaos? Think again.

One of the chapters starts with the following line:

“Apple Computer started life as a business, not a company”

I highlighted the quote (on my iPad, of course) and it kept popping up in my head over the past few days. The reason for that is because it is such  a hugely important thing to think about when it comes to your company. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between a business and a company. Easy to discard. Its just semantics! But when you think about it there are lots of companies that can be easily filed in either category.

Sometimes someone finds something that other people want. They will start selling it, get more orders, hire an assistant, do some marketing and slowly grow. Thats a business turning into a company.

The other option is someone with a grand idea, who raises some money, writes a plan, finds partners, starts building, grows his company and then his business. Thats a company with a business.

Both are fine. There isn’t just one way to do things. Both have their challenges, risks and advantages. What is important is to know what kind of entrepreneur you are, if you have an opportunity that starts as a business or that needs a company. A lot of Internet start-ups are started as companies. The company motto seems to be ‘Build it and they will come’. And of course as soon as ‘they’ show up you might be able to sell some ads or products, or a membership. There are some exceptions where entrepreneurs start offering something which turns out to be very popular and profitable, right from the start. But those are the exceptions.

So, the questions is; are you a business or a company?

And, once you have answered that question; how does that impact your plans?

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