Do you have a business or just a product or service?

by Michele on May 31, 2012

Do you have a business or just a product or service?  What’s the difference?Do you have a full business or just something you sell?

I have this conversation often with people in one form or another.  One of the biggest misconceptions about starting a business is that all you have to do is be great at making your product or delivering your service and you will have a profitable business.  If you’ve had your business for more than a few months, you already know this isn’t true.  Granted, having a great product or service is probably the single most important part of having a successful business but it is far from the only part.  Since I began my business, I’ve changed how I describe what I do because I began to realize that most non-business owners don’t know that there is a lot to do to build a business that has nothing to do with the product or service you offer.

A business is an organization or structure dedicated to selling one or more products or services.  A product or service is what a business sells.

Example: A person could be a dog walker, and offer only that service to whomever happens to find them.  In contrast, a person could have an entire business built around the basic service of walking dogs.  They could have business cards, a brochure and website.  They have various packages and payment options.  They could promote by speaking, exhibiting at events and by posting on social media.

A business has lots of parts that work together.  There are people, areas of knowledge, equipment, physical places, and intangibles like brands or expertise.  Early economists called these factors of production, which consisted of land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship.

A business has processes and ways of doing things.

Example: How are new customers signed up?  How are customers billed?  How are the finances monitored?

A business has various roles people play, even if the roles are all played by one person in a solopreneur business.

Example: In the dog walking business, there is the person or people who actually walk the dogs, the person who does the scheduling, the person who books the appointments, the person who handles paperwork and bookkeeping and the person who promotes the service.

A business engages in promotion and marketing in order to sell the product(s) or service(s) it provides.  Part of this promtion is educating customers so they can decide if they want to buy.

A business has proprietary knowledge about how it does things that distinguish it from other businesses that sell the same things.  If this is relevant to customers, the business must make sure customers know about it.

Example: I saw an ad recently for a guy who takes small groups of dogs on hikes into nearby nature areas.  Technically, he is a “dog walker,” since his basic service is picking the dogs up and getting them out of the house for an outing, but his way of doing it is very different than the typical dog walker and his marketing materials show this difference clearly.

Which do you have: a business or just a product or service?  If you see yourself as having just a product or service but want to move up to a full-fledged business, contact me for more information.


  1. Don Talbert says:

    Great article. Many people go into “business”, because they have a talent or skill. However, that can be one dimensional and not really a business. I like the way you point out differences for those who need to know there is a choice.

    1. Michele says:

      Thanks Don! I think not developing the skills of business owner can doom a talented person to fail even if the product or service is great.

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