What is business?

What is business? It’s a question I asked when I was about 16 or 17. I lived in a small town where most people had jobs in the natural resources, government, health care, education or retail. "Just what is business?" I asked my parents, upon seeing it listed as a potential major in the university catalogue. No one I asked could really explain. And so I majored in English, a subject I knew and understood.

For many people, "business" sounds intimidating. (For what it’s worth, business just really means commerce and trade.) If you’re a freelance or consultant, you may feel a bit shy about saying you own a "business". But, really, if you can separate your business from yourself, you may find you’re in a better situation. It’s much easier to make decisions about a business than about yourself. For example, for the first several years I was a consultant, I ran things under my own name. At the time, I  felt that it was my credibility I was putting on the line and that I was what people were buying. And, really, using my own name gave me a lot of mileage in terms of building my reputation and leveraging my contacts. Eventually, I gave my business a name, but that was more to create some personal distance between me and the business. I rarely told anyone about the business name. In mid-2009, I completely rebranded, creating Vancouver marketing consultant company Trustmode Marketing. The new brand and business help to put firm lines around myself and my business.

Really, as a consultant, if you’re only selling yourself, you’re not in a great position to leverage your investment in your business. That’s because, if you remove yourself from the business, there’s nothing left to sell. So an accident, illness, life change, retirement, vacation or similar situation can have a very real and negative impact on your business. And it’s hard to subcontract and involve other people if your business is simply you.

How comfortable are you calling what you do "a business"? Do you avoid the term or embrace it? How have you chosen to brand your business?