Small Business Glossary: C
C corporation: A form of business structure that establishes a business as an entity separate from its owners, basically treating it as an individual that exists regardless of who owns it and that ceases to exist only if it is dissolved through a defined legal process. C corporations pay federal and state income tax on annual taxable income, and their stockholders or owners also pay tax on income received from the corporation’s profit distributions, unlike the profits of an S corporation, which are only taxed once.
cafeteria plan; a flexible benefits plan: An employee benefit plan that allows individuals to customize benefits by selecting from a menu of benefit choices, including options for purchasing benefits with tax advantages. When referred to as a Section 125 plan in association with the Internal Revenue Service code that allows such plans.
call to action: The portion of a marketing message that urges the audience to take a desired action, whether that’s to write, call, click, take a survey, or make a purchase, often accompanied by a consumer incentive in order to attain measurable results from a promotional effort.
campaign: A series of organized, planned actions for a particular purpose, such as promoting a business through advertising.
candidate: A person who seeks a particular job; a job applicant.
CAN-SPAM Act: The commonly used name for U.S. federal law S.877, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, which penalizes businesses that fail to clearly label commercial electronic communications as advertising, to provide a legitimate return e-mail address and valid physical address, to provide a working opt-out option, and to process opt-out requests within 10 business days.
capital: The ratio of your business's debt to assets or equity.
capital expenditure: Money spent to replace and improve business facilities, not for operating expenses.
capital expense; capital cost: Money invested in purchasing, renovating, and maintaining fixed assets (also called capital assets) such as buildings, equipment, vehicles, computers, furnishings, and fixtures, with expenses deducted from business earnings over the years of the assets’ productive life through depreciation, rather than entirely during the year the cost is incurred.
capital gain: The difference between the amount realized from the sale of a stock, bond, mutual fund or other major investment and the cost basis, or initial price, paid to acquire the asset.
capital gains tax: Federal and state tax due upon the sale of a capital or long-term asset, applied to the positive difference between the sale price and the purchase price, or the cost basis, of the asset and taxed at varying rates depending on how long the asset was owned.
capital investment: Funds invested in a business for the purpose of purchasing fixed assets rather than funding day-to-day operations.
cash accounting; cash-basis bookkeeping: A bookkeeping approach that uses single-entry bookkeeping to report each financial transaction once, entering income when it’s received and expenses when they’re paid, similar to how one keeps a personal checkbook. This approach differs from the double-entry bookkeeping approach used in accrual accounting, which records financial transactions as they’re incurred, regardless of whether money flows in or out at that time.
cash disbursement: The transfer of funds from a central account to diverse accounts to effect more efficient cash management.
cash flow: Funds that flow in and out of a business over a specified time period, summarized on a cash flow statement that details all movement of money, followed by resulting changes in cash position.
cash flow statement: A financial statement that details how money flowed in and out of a business over a specified time period and how assets and cash position changed as a result. By summarizing actual cash generated over a specified time period, the cash flow statement is an important complement to other statements prepared using accrual accounting, since other reports reflect costs and liabilities that have been incurred but not necessarily realized, while the cash flow statement shows actual cash condition as a result of collections and expenditures.
cash position: The value of short-term assets owned by a business at a specified time, including cash on hand or highly liquid investments that can be easily converted to cash; a key indicator of liquidity.
cash register software: 1. Software that replaces a traditional cash register with a computerized system that can record and track purchases, process credit and debit cards, and manage inventory. Also called point-of-sale software. 2. Software used in e-commerce and by etailers to enable online purchases by allowing users to select merchandise, make and modify purchase requests, and finalize purchase transactions. Also called shopping cart software.
caste: Distinct, hereditary Hindu social classes, each traditionally (but no longer officially) excluded from social dealings with the others.
cause marketing; cause-related marketing; cause-driven marketing: A promotion strategy that directs a portion of sales revenue to a charity or cause with the aim of benefiting both the marketer, which uses the promotion to enhance its perception as a socially responsible business while also attracting purchases from customers who support the related cause, and the selected cause, which receives unsolicited and unrestricted donations.
cell phone: Short for cellular phone; a kind of mobile radio telephone.
Certified Management Accountant; CMA: A designation of professional accounting achievement sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), which isn't regulated by the government.
certified public accountant (CPA): An accounting professional who has passed examinations certified by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and received state certification to practice accounting.
change order: Written instructions documenting the nature and cost of client-authorized adjustments to a previously agreed-upon purchase order or contract, usually signed by both the client and the service provider or contractor to confirm the amendment.
channel marketing: Efforts to increase sales of product by adding, enhancing, or promoting new distribution routes, either by expanding direct distribution approaches (for example, by adding direct mail or Internet channels) or by enhancing indirect distribution by involving new intermediaries such as distributors, wholesalers, and resellers in order to increase sales.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy: Provides a means for a business to reorganize and refinance debts in order to avoid final insolvency, keep the business functional, and devise and implement a plan to pay creditors over a long period of time and often only a portion of what they were otherwise owed. Similar to Chapter 13, but applies to businesses instead of individuals.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Provides a means for an individual to reorganize and refinance debts in order to avoid final insolvency by working out a schedule to pay creditors over a long period of time and often only a portion of what they were otherwise owed. Similar to Chapter 11, but applies to individuals instead of businesses.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy: The most common form of bankruptcy, which is either declared by an individual or business unable to pay debts or requested by creditors in an attempt to obtain at least part of what they are owed through a process that involves the collection and sale (called liquidation) of all nonexempt property of the debtor, with proceeds divided among creditors.
chat room: A site on the Internet where multiple users can communicate in real time, usually about a particular subject.
chief executive officer (CEO): Along with the president and the chairman of the board, one of the highest-ranking individuals in the management of a business or organization, often hired by a board of directors and reporting to the chairman of the board, and usually responsible for overall strategic direction and organization and accountable for the success or failure of the enterprise.
chief financial officer (CFO): An executive with financial authority who is responsibility for fiscal planning and recordkeeping, financial reporting, and management of the financial risks of a business or organization, usually reporting to the chief executive officer (CEO).
chief information officer (CIO): A title for the senior executive responsible for all information technology and processing functions in an organization, including planning, designing, and managing policies and computer systems and often reporting directly to the chief executive officer (CEO).
chief technology officer (CTO): A title for the senior executive responsible for an organization’s technical systems and operations, often including scientific and technical research and development.
classify: To organize a balance sheet's assets and liabilities into basic classes, or groups, for external reporting.
clicks and mortar: A term describing a business that conducts sales and service both online and in a traditional physical establishment.
clickstream: A record of the route a Web site visitor takes to navigate to, through, and away from a Web site, indicated by the user’s series of mouse clicks which are collected and analyzed to help develop site adjustments that improve the user’s experience while also prompting desired marketing or purchasing actions.
click-through: A computer user’s voluntary click on an online ad to reach an advertiser’s Web site, often used as a measurement of the ad’s success and the basis for how much the advertiser pays to the site for hosting the ad placement.
click-through rate (CTR): The number of times an online ad is clicked divided by the total number of impressions, or times the ad appeared online, resulting in a measurement of the ad’s success.
closing: In sales, the final phase of the selling process, which usually begins when the customer issues verbal or nonverbal buying signals and the salesperson asks for the order or purchase commitment, followed by the completion of the transaction.
coaching: In business, a training approach through which an experienced, impartial third party provides guidance, motivation, and performance-monitoring to an individual or group seeking to accomplish a defined outcome. Similar to mentoring, but with a greater emphasis on short-term outcomes than on general support.
cobranding: An alliance between two or more complementary brands to market a single product that bears the brands’ identities and leverages the brand esteem of all partnering brands that, ideally, have equally positive reputations within the target audience.
cold call: Unsolicited contact with a prospective customer, usually for sales purposes and by phone or in person, without prior introduction or referral by a mutual acquaintance.
collaboration: The act of working jointly with mutual commitment to achieve a common goal.
collateral: 1. When referring to marketing materials, the term for brochures, fliers, sales folders, posters, and other sales literature that carry the name, brand identity, and message of a marketer into the marketplace. 2. When referring to financial assets, the term for valuable owned items, often called security, pledged by a borrower to a lender, who can seize the items as recourse should the borrower not make payments as promised.
collection policy: The formal steps a company puts in place to ensure it gets paid for its goods and services in a timely fashion, often set forth in a terms and conditions document that defines steps to be taken in the case of delinquent or non-occurring payment and presented to customers as part of an agreement to do business.
commercial line of credit: Authorization granted to a business to borrow from a lender up to a predetermined limit, with funds available upon request to pay for operations up to the maximum allowable amount, after which borrowed funds are repaid and made available to draw upon again for the duration of the pre-negotiated term.
commercial loan: A loan made by a bank to a business, usually for a short-term period to fund approved operational expenses or a specific capital expenditure, which often serves as the loan’s security or collateral.
commission: In business, a term defining a fee paid to or charged by an agent for services rendered to facilitate a transaction, usually based on a percentage or portion of the transaction value and commonly used in the sales of securities, real estate, and advertising, as well as in other sales.
commitment letter; loan commitment letter: A formal document provided by a lender to a borrower confirming a loan commitment and outlining the terms by which the loan will be made, often used as proof of financing in real estate and other investment dealings.
commodity: 1. Bulk goods and raw materials used to produce consumer products that are priced based on supply and demand and purchased for cash or traded in future markets. 2. A produced good that is indistinguishable by consumers from similar offerings because all seem to serve the same need, solve the same problem, and deliver the same value, and therefore one is selected only if it is the least expensive or most available at the desired time of purchase.
company overview: A statement summarizing the profile of a business, including descriptions of such information as the firm’s mission and vision, size, history, products and services, unique points of difference, organizational and management structures, reputation, and current and anticipated market performance. Often included in executive summaries of business documents and as a concluding portion of materials distributed to media outlets.
company strategy: The approach a business takes to deploy its resources and direct its capabilities to seize opportunity. The company strategy is usually formed by assessing the business environment, analyzing business capabilities including strengths and weaknesses, and developing a plan that adjusts practices and redirects resources to achieve desired growth and long-term goals.
comparable sales method of pricing; market-based valuation: An approach used primarily in setting the asking price for real estate property including houses and businesses by identifying the selling prices of similar recently-sold offerings.
competition: The contest between businesses to offer the most attractive products and favorable sales terms in order to win the most customers and sales.
competitive advantage; competitive edge: What a business possesses when it consistently earns higher profits than similar competing businesses due either to a cost advantage that allows the business to deliver like-quality offerings at a lower, and therefore more attractive, price to customers, or due to a point-of-difference advantage that allows a business to charge a higher price for what customers perceive to be offerings of distinctly higher value.
competitive niche: Achieving market dominance by focusing specifically on the specialized interests of consumers that comprise an overlooked or narrow segment of the overall market, whether selected by geographic or unique needs, often allowing a business to incur lower operating and marketing costs and follow a premium pricing strategy.
concierge: A hotel employee who assists guests with activities such as booking theater reservations or arranging for transportation.
conference: A formal meeting of a number of people to discuss or consult on a specific agenda.
conference call; teleconference: A meeting over a phone line in which all participants can talk and hear each other.
confidentiality agreement; nondisclosure agreement: A contract designed to protect confidential or proprietary information, often used by companies negotiating partnerships or alliances in order to outline specifically what information, knowledge, processes, or materials can be revealed to whom and what information is off limits to other parties, and also used to restrict the use or dissemination of confidential information by employees.
conflict of interest: A situation or condition where responsibilities and loyalties of a individual to an established relationship or business dealing may affect ability to act impartially in other dealings; for example, a judge would be faced with a conflict of interest in a case involving a relative or friend.
conflict resolution; dispute resolution: Broad description of the range of methods used to ease or eliminate a source of a conflict, often involving negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or diplomacy.
consensus: Agreement by all parties involved in a negotiation or decision-making process.
Consumer Price Index (CPI): A measurement of price changes from the consumer’s perspective, published by the U.S. Commerce Department to reflect the rate of inflation for consumer goods.
consumer review and rating sites: Web sites that provide comparisons of features and prices of various products in a category, often accompanied by input from site visitors whose opinions greatly influence site readers, making the sites of great interest to marketers and business owners.
contact-relationship management (CRM): 1. An information technology-enabled strategy used by businesses to consolidate, manage, and develop interactions and relationships with prospective and established customers in an organized manner that increases effectiveness. 2. Software and applications that collect and organize customer information and interactions throughout the selling, fulfillment, customer support, and loyalty development phases.
content: Information contained in media, including visuals, video and audio material, text, or script.
contingent worker: An employee who works in your business for a temporary basis.
contract: A legally binding and enforceable agreement between two or more parties, usually describing an offer, an acceptance, and terms of the rights and responsibilities of participating parties and usually subject to court action and damage awards if one of the contract parties fails to meet the agreed-upon obligations.
contract amendment: A written, mutually agreed-upon change to an established contract.
contract employee: An individual hired through a staffing agency that contracts its employees to various businesses, usually on a temporary basis and under an arrangement where the staffing agency pays the salary, provides benefits, and withholds taxes for work performed under direction of the third-party business.
contract termination clause: The part of a contract that gives one or both parties the right to terminate the agreement under certain and carefully defined circumstances which vary from contract to contract but typically describe how a party may exit the contract, what notice is required, and how assets and responsibilities will be apportioned in the event of termination.
controller: The chief accounting officer of a business or organization, sometimes also the chief financial officer (CFO).
cooperative; co-op: 1. A business designed so that customers who purchase from it actually own a portion of the business. 2. An agreement in which many suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors of various major products and goods offer advertising money to their retailers.
copy: Text prepared for printing or to be read as a script, usually to sell, promote, or raise awareness. In online contexts, copy is often referred to as content, and usually includes not only text but also graphics presented to build awareness and prompt discussion.
copyright: The exclusive right of authors or producers of writings, music, and works of art to control reproduction of their creations once the work is produced in tangible form, with protection strengthened by including in the work a line that carries the word copyright (or the symbol ), followed by the date of first publication and the name of the copyright holder. Copyrights can also be registered through the U.S. Copyright Office.
core business: The primary focus or purpose of a business that best capitalizes on the company’s capabilities and expertise and that contributes most significantly to its success.
corporation: A business structure that establishes the business as a separate legal entity, which protects its owners' personal assets from claims against the corporation.
cost: The amount of money and resources needed to create or obtain something.
cost accounting: The process of itemizing, establishing a budget for, and tracking all costs involved in producing a good, delivering a service, or operating a part or all of a business.
cost basis: A total of the complete investment in an asset, including purchase price, commissions, and other costs, including costs for improvements, less any depreciation expenses; used for tax purposes upon sale of the asset, at which time cost basis is subtracted from sale price to arrive at the total capital gain, upon which the capital gains tax is calculated.
cost estimate: The approximation of all fees and expenses necessary to produce a product or deliver a service; used for internal planning and budgeting, for presentation of estimated costs for customer consideration, or for inclusion in a contract that also defines the scope of service covered by the estimate and how overages will be addressed through change orders or other approaches.
cost of sales; cost of goods sold (COG): The category on financial statements that includes all expenses involved to purchase materials or fund other necessary costs involved with producing goods for sale by a business.
cost per click (CPC): The price an advertiser pays each time its online ad is clicked by a Web user, which varies depending on the search engine through which the ad is purchased and the keyword query to which the ad placement is linked; popular keywords are in higher demand and therefore priced at a higher price per click (PPC). Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter are the largest PPC ad providers.
cost per thousand impressions (CPM): A means used to compare the cost of impressions made by the same ad placement in various media outlets by using a formula that divides the cost of each ad placement by the number of impressions made and then multiplied by 1,000 to arrive at what’s called the CPM (the M represents the Roman numeral for 1,000).
cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): An increase in wages, retirement, or government payments to offset the negative effects of inflation on consumers, workers, retirees, and persons with disabilities, usually made at a rate that corresponds to changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
counteroffer: An offer made in response to an initial offer, reflecting rejection of the initial offer and replacement with an alternative offer that either becomes a point of negotiation or a final offer.
coupon: A discount or add-on offer that a customer can redeem at the time of purchase, traditionally distributed for free by marketers and more recently sold through online daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social.
cover letter: A letter attached to the front of a resume that offers the applicant's contact information and a brief message about his or her reasons for applying to the job and what he or she can offer.
credit: An accounting entry that increases liabilities or income, and decreases assets or expenses.
credit report: A record provided by a bank or credit reporting agency that presents a summary of the borrowing and repayment history of an individual or business, often compiled into a credit score used by a bank or lender when assessing an applicant’s ability to assume and repay debt.
creditor: A person or business that is owed money or another debt, which may or may not be secured by assets pledged by the borrower should repayment not occur as promised.
creditworthiness: A measure of the ability of an individual or business to borrow and repay money, based on a demonstration over time of financial accountability and prudence and verified by a review of credit reports and reference checks.
crisis management: A pre-planned set of steps that a business can quickly activate in the event of a natural or manmade disaster or an accident that threatens either consumers or the reputation of the business. Examples may include a lapse in social responsibility, a breach of corporate standards or law, inappropriate behavior by a top executive or spokesperson, sudden death or departure of a high-profile leader, or a product failure.
cross promotion: 1. A time-sensitive event or marketing campaign that involves two or more advertisers who jointly provide marketing funds, consumer incentives, and staff energy to generate attention and inspire action by consumers who fit the target-audience profile of all involved advertisers. 2. Generating interest in or traffic to a media outlet through communications in other media outlets that are often owned by the same entity.
cross training: A means to improve overall staff performance by teaching employees to perform different tasks or skills so they may be used interchangeably in the performance of required work tasks across the organization.
crowdsourcing: Activities that invite widespread consumer input into business decisions that aim to result in programs, projects, or products that benefit those who helped make the resulting decisions or innovations possible.
cult brand: A brand that consumers have adopted, taking ownership of that brand, and its product or service.
culture: 1. The environment in which your employees work (as in "the company culture"). 2. The ideas, customs, skills, arts, and so on of a group that are passed along through generations.
cumulative audience; cume, cumulative reach; unduplicated audience: Used by advertisers, media outlets, and researchers to describe the number of unduplicated individuals or households reached by a print or broadcast medium over a specified period of time, with higher numbers indicating larger audiences.
current assets: A balance sheet category that shows the sum of all cash, cash equivalents, accounts receivable, inventory, work in process, and other assets that can be quickly converted to cash, and doesn’t show fixed or long-term assets, which may take a longer time to liquidate for cash.
current liabilities; accounts payable; current debt: A balance sheet category that shows the sum of all money owed by a business and due within one year.
current ratio: A formula used to test the ability of a business to pay its debts over the next 12 months by dividing total current assets by total current liabilities, with a ratio of 2:1 considered the sign of a business in good short-term financial health.
customer: One who purchases the goods and services of a business. This individual may or may not be the end-user or consumer of the purchase. Sometimes referred to as the client.
customer base: The portion of the entire customer list of a business that can be most reliably counted on for future purchases based on a history of repeat business and demonstrated loyalty. Individuals within the customer base usually share common characteristics that form a profile of the ideal customer of the business.
customer demographics: A factual description of the characteristics of a business’s customers, including their gender, age, household composition, education, income level, occupations, religions, and ethnicity, which, when complemented by geographic and psychographic descriptions, create a customer profile used for marketing purposes.
customer empowerment: A new trend facilitated by social media networks through which customers share concerns, interests, and demands with others, initiating marketplace conversations and, sometimes, uprisings that result in changes to a marketer’s products, services, advertising, pricing, and promotions.
customer engagement: Repeated interaction that takes place between customers and a business or brand, often through social media networks, resulting in increased business responsiveness to customer concerns, interests, and demands and, as a result, increased customer communication, emotional attachment, and loyalty.
customer geodemographics: Facts about customers that businesses use to target marketing efforts in specific geographic areas, called clusters, that are selected because the demographic profiles and psychographic or lifestyle tendencies of residents make them a geographically concentrated audience of likely buyers of the products or services of the business.
customer geographics: A factual description of the geographic location of the customers of a business, whether they’re consolidated within a local area or spread throughout a statewide, regional, national, or international area, with findings complemented by demographic and psychographic descriptions to create a customer profile used for marketing purposes.
customer lifetime value: A term used by marketers to define the importance of a customer to a business not based on a single purchase but on the value of all purchases made and proceeds realized as a result of establishing and maintaining an ongoing, long-term customer relationship.
customer profile: A description of the characteristics of the customer of a business, including factual information, called demographics; information about the person’s location, called geographics; and personality characteristics including beliefs, values, and attitudes that affect lifestyle and purchasing behavior and patterns, called psychographics.
customer psychographics: A description of personality characteristics of the customer of a business, including such information as beliefs, values, and attitudes that affect purchasing behavior and patterns.
customer research: Collection and analysis of information about customers and prospective customers gathered to understand needs, desires, and purchase motives and preferences based on input obtained through direct observation, surveys, interviews, and available studies and data with the intent to test interest, understand buying behaviors, improve products or processes, or develop competitive marketing strategies.
customer service: Activities undertaken by a business to optimize, ease, and enhance a customer’s experience throughout the sales, product use, repeat business, and service and support stages of interaction, usually supported by staff training, complaint resolution, and loyalty development programs aimed to result in strong customer relationships.
customer service cycle: Activities undertaken to establish and fortify relationships between a business and its customers from the point of first contact through the rapport-building and product presentation stages, the sales transaction, product delivery, and after-sale follow-up, including monitoring and confirming of customer satisfaction and future purchases.
cybermarketing: Any marketing effort that uses Internet-based communications to spread promotional messages, whether through a company’s own Web site, e-mail, social media networks, postings on bulletin boards or blogs, or inclusion in online stories or on any site customers can access to reach information about the products or services of a business.