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Small Business Glossary - All You Need To Know From A - Z

Welcome to our A to Z of business terms. I’ve compiled simple and straightforward definitions for all the business words and phrases you might come across when managing your own company or improving your business and financial savvy. Whether you’re looking for a quick business dictionary explainer or for the lowdown on more complex financial terms, we’ve got you covered.

And here we go!...

Accounting period

The time for which profits are being calculated, normally months, quarters or years.


Businesses are obligated to produce an annual set of accounts. If they are listed on the stock exchange, they must also show half-year profits (information regarding profits six months into the financial year).

Accounts payable

Amounts of money owed by your company to external suppliers.

Accounts receivable

Money owed to your company by customers.


The purchase of one company or resources by another.


There are two meanings relating to this word in business.

(1) The organisation and running of a business.

(2) A business going into administration, meaning that a business has gone bankrupt and its creditors can get in touch to try and claim any money they are owed.

Affiliate marketing

A retailer or service provider advertising its goods or services via a third party in return for a commission on any sales.

Annual equivalent rate (AER)

A quote of what interest paid on savings and investments would be. It is calculated by adding each interest payment to the original deposit, then working out the next interest payment, compounding the interest.

Annual percentage rate (APR)

This is the rate of interest you agree to pay on money borrowed. The higher the amount, the more you will pay.


This is a type of insurance policy. Upon retirement a lump sum is paid into it and the insurance company then provide a regular income.


The process by which a person or business takes advantage of the difference in price of a share or a currency.


Property that has value owned by a company.


An official inspection of a company’s, or individual’s, accounts.


Business to business.


Business to consumer.

Balance sheet

A ‘snapshot’ of a company’s assets, liabilities and capital at a particular point in time.

Base rate

Set each month by the Bank of England, this is the country’s base rate of interest. This influences financial products and services when they set their own cost of borrowing.


Checking your company’s standards by comparing them with certain criteria, e.g. a competitor’s activities.

Bid-offer spread

The buying (offer) and selling (bid) price of shares, bonds or currency. The ‘spread’ is the difference between those two prices.

Black swan

Financial events that are difficult to predict. It is called this because before people ventured to Australia, swans were assumed to only be white. No one had seen a black one until then.

Blue chip

This term originates from poker as blue chips are traditionally the highest-valued. Therefore, a blue-chip company is one that is large and considered to be safe or prestigious.


An agreement made when money is borrowed from an investor at a set rate of interest. It is repaid over a set period of time. Bonds are rated from the safest (AAA) to the riskiest (D), also known as 'junk bonds'.


(1) Building a start-up company with very little money, often relying on personal savings and pushing for the lowest possible operating costs, while implementing cost-saving systems such as fast inventory turnaround.

(2) Making a forecast beyond a certain period by using the forecasted data for that period.

Break-even point

The point in time when you will have paid back all your debts, or when revenues exactly match expenses.

Bridging loan

This loan is taken out by people who need access to finance while their property is being sold.

Business angel

Also known as an angel investor. An individual who provides capital for a business start-up in return for a stake in the company.

Business cycle

The tendency for economies to experience peaks and troughs that follows a cyclical pattern – known colloquially as ‘boom and bust’. Governments are tasked with smoothing the peaks and troughs and limiting the effect of these cycles on consumers and businesses.


Money invested into a company or project by its owners.

Capital expenditure (CAPEX)

Money spent to create future benefits. Capital expenditure is money spent by a company either to buy fixed assets or to add to the value of existing fixed assets with a useful life that extends beyond the taxable year. With regard to tax, capital expenditure cannot be deducted in the year the money is paid. Compare with operating expenditure (OPEX), which refers to ongoing costs to run a product, service or system.

Cash flow

The movement of cash into and out of a business.


Collateral is something lenders can use to give security against a loan. Often this is a major asset such as a house.


This is any item which can be freely bought and sold. Examples include gold, food products and coffee beans.


The exclusive legal right, owned by the individual or group who created a work, or by an individual or group assigned by the originator, to use certain material and to allow others the right to use the material.

Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a form of self-regulation, where companies integrate social, environmental and ethical policies into their overall business strategy. Companies embracing CSR should take responsibility for their actions and take a proactive approach to having a minimal negative impact on the world.


A person or firm that has lent your business money or to whom you owe money.

Critical success factor

A critical success factor is an element that must occur in order for a business to achieve its ultimate goal.


A person or firm that owes money to you or your business.


The reduction in value of assets over time, usually due to wear and tear.


When new products, services, customers or markets are added to your company’s portfolio. Diversification usually occurs as a risk reduction strategy.


Money paid regularly by a company to its shareholders.

Economic growth

This is the term used to describe an increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the county, known as gross domestic product (GDP).

Economies of scale

The cost advantages obtained by a business when buying an item in bulk. The price of an item usually decreases as the amount bought increases.

Enterprise value

This is the market value of a business. It is calculated by market capitalisation times current share price, minus cash, plus debt.


Equity is used by analysts to work out how financially “healthy” a company is. It also represents what would be left if all of a businesses’ assets were liquidated and the debt paid off.

Ethical investment

Investments made in companies that are specifically chosen for their environmental or moral credentials. Defence contractors, or companies known to use contentious labour practices, will generally be avoided by ethical investors.

Ethical trade

Ethical trade can refer to many different things but is most often used as an umbrella term for any business practices that promote socially and/or environmentally responsible trading.

Exit strategy

A plan to enable you to leave your business, either after achieving your goal or deciding you would like to move on to do something else while recouping any capital you invested when starting the company.


Selling your goods or services overseas.


An organised movement enabling producers in developing countries to receive a fair price for the items they produce. Fairtrade certification is becoming much more common in many sectors, particularly food, with several large brands now stating that their products are ‘certified Fairtrade’ on their packaging.

Financial management

Planning, analysing, monitoring, organising, reviewing and controlling an organisation’s monetary resources. Responsibility for financial management often falls to the finance director, and by extension the financial department.

Fiscal year

Also known as a financial year, the fiscal year is a set period used to calculate financial statements. The period used differs between countries and between businesses, although in the UK the year between 6th April and 5th April is most often used for personal taxation. The ‘official’ period for corporation tax runs from 1st April to 31st March, however companies can adopt any yearly period for corporation tax.

Fixed cost

Any cost that remains the same in the short-term, despite changes in volume. Fixed costs usually include, for example, rent, interest and salaries.

FTSE 100 index

This list is made up of the 100 most highly capitalised blue-chip companies on the London Stock Exchange.


These are financial contracts that secure a predetermined future date and price for an asset. The assets used in futures contracts include commodities, stocks, and