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What Is Big Business?

Big businesses often have tremendous social influence in communities, regions, or countries.
Big business is often criticized by people who think that it has become too powerful.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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Big business is a term which describes companies which do business on a large scale. People may use it to refer to a specific company or to companies which are considered major as a general group. There are also a number of related terms such as “big oil” and “big agriculture." Collectively, major companies around the world have a profound influence on society and there is subsequently a great deal of interest in big business.

What makes a company “big” is not very clearly defined. People usually think of companies which generate very large annual profits, do business internationally, make a large assortment of products, and control numerous subsidiaries when they think of big business. It may also involve a company which dominates an industry. Usually such companies have an extremely large workforce to meet their labor needs, from janitors to corporate officers, and these companies utilize a great deal of energy, raw resources, and other commodities in order to function.

The origins of big business are often credited to the late 1800s, when a number of companies began merging with each other, creating extremely large corporations which dominated the business world. This was a departure from business models in which a number of smaller companies competed for market share. However, some examples are much older than the 1800s; many companies established to exploit natural resources in European colonies, for example, could be considered big business.

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In addition to being large, big business also has tremendous clout. These companies have political influence as a result of funding campaigns, paying lobbyists, and underwriting large advertising campaigns. Big business also usually has social influence. Many of these companies, for example, are household names. They can comprise a major part of the economy and in some communities it may be hard to find residents who are not linked with big business in some way, either as employees of companies which do business in their communities, or owners of smaller companies which rely on big business for customers.

Sometimes big business is criticized by people who are afraid that it has become too powerful. It can be difficult for smaller companies to enter some areas of the market as a result of domination by larger ones, for example. Some critics also argue that the sheer size of such companies leads to questionable environmental and labor practices which occur when companies try to cut costs and operate on a larger level.

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Discuss this Article

jessiwan
Post 3

@Ivan83: Have you considered the possibility that if these big businesses didn't exist, market shares as well as business opportunities would then spring up for smaller, mom-and-pop-owned companies? We would have more players in any given field, and more people would become independent financially?

ZsaZsa56
Post 2

How big does a business need to be before it is considered a big business? I have heard different numbers quoted, everything from 500 employees to 30,000. Other people measure it by annual revenue or market share.

Is there a set definition of big business or is this debatable?

Ivan83
Post 1

It's interesting the way the word big business gets used in the culture. Usually it is seen as a negative. Small business are good and virtuous while big businesses are evil and faceless.

But even though everyone seems to believe this, we all rely on and appreciate big businesses. Every week people go to Costco. Apple has sold tens of millions of its products. We all wear shoes made by huge clothing companies. Our cars come from industrial giants.

My point is that big business provide a lot of the products that are integral to our lives. And the fact of their size means that they can sell them everywhere and for a low price. So before we demonize big businesses across the board lets be realistic about how much we rely on them.

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