Company types and structures

Company types and structures

Types of company

Here is a simplified list of the different types of legal structures for a business.

· Sole trader (BrE)/Sole proprietor (AmE). This is a one person business. The person may describe themselves
as self-employed’ (eg the owner of a small shop), or as a freelancer’ if they are a professional who works
for different clients (eg a photographer).

· Partnership. A group of people who work together as equals (eg a firm of lawyers or architects). They
share the risks and the profits.

· Private company. The shares of the company are privately owned, usually by a small number of
people. These shareholders typically include the founder of the company, possibly some close family
members, and perhaps a few business associates who provided money for the company.

· Public company (BrE)/Corporation (AmE). These are the large companies that are listed on stock
exchanges like Germany’s DAX, France’s CAC or the UK’s FTSE. They are called public because
anyone can buy their share
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· Production might also include Purchasing and Quality Assurance (QA).

· Operations refers to all the internal processes of a company and might include, for example, Logistics.

· Sales might also include Business Development.

· Customer Services might include Technical Support.

· Marketing might include Market Research.

· Communications refers to all promotional activities including a strong focus on Public Relations (PR).

· Finance has many subdivisions, such as Financial Control, Treasury, Accounts and Payroll (= managing
salary payments).

· Human Resources (HR).

· Information Technology (IT).

· Research and Development (R&D).

· Legal.

As well as departments, an international company may also have divisions organized according to geographical area or
·major product lines.

Individuals within the structure

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) runs the company.
The level below CEO is Chief Officer, for example Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
The CFO is part of the senior management team.
The CFO reports to the CEO (= has the CEO as their boss).
The CFO is in charge of (= responsible for) all the financial side of the business.

The next level down might be country level for a large international organization, or departmental level. A job
title here might be Sales Director or Head of Sales or VP (= Vice President) Sales.
The Sales Director for Sweden liaises closely with (= talks to in order to work better with) the Chief Marketing
Officer at Head Office in the States.
Below this are people with job titles like Manager, Officer, Coordinator, etc. The words Assistant or Deputy
may also occur at any level.
I’m the Business Development Officer for Sweden.
My line manager (= person directly above me/person who I report to) is the Sales Director.
The Sales Director delegates (= gives) a lot of the work to me.
We say
senior people at a higher level
junior people at a lower level

Company culture
The structure of a company is often closely connected to its culture. In a small company it’s easier to be
dynamic and innovative, whereas in a large company things are often slow-moving and bureaucratic.
Similarly, if the company is hierarchical (many levels), then people at the bottom aren’t allowed to take
initiatives without permission from their seniors; decision-making and communication are top-down.
If the structure is flat (few levels), then the flow of information can be more bottom-up.
In all cases you hope that the company culture is honest, open and transparent (= not trying to keep
things secret).
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