Business Dictionary – B

Back-End Load

    A fee or commission paid by an individual when they sell their shares in an investment fund.

Backlog

    List of orders not yet filled the buildup of unfulfilled orders for a product or process that is behind schedule. A backlog can result from bad scheduling, production delays, an unanticipated demand for a product or process, or where the capacity of the process is not able to keep up with demand. Some large products, for example, aircraft and ships, have to be built to a backlog of orders, as it is not feasible to supply them on demand.

Back Office

    Staff without direct dealings with customers the administrative staff of a company who do not have face-to-face contact with the company’s customers.

Back Shift

    A group of workers or the period worked from late afternoon until late at night in an industry or occupation where there is also a day shift and a night shift.

Backscratching

    Informal term for reciprocity or returning favours, as in the term ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

Back-To-Back Loan

    A loan in which two companies in separate countries borrow each other’s money at the same time for a specific period at an agreed upon interest rate.

Bait-and-Switch

    In retail sales, when customers are lured by advertisements for a product at a low price, then find that the product is not available but a more expensive substitute is.

Bancassurance

    The selling of both insurance and banking services, usually by a major bank.

Bandwidth

    Rate at which electronic signals can travel through a medium, such as a wire, cable, or channel. Bandwidth may be thought of as the width of the ‘pipe’ through which data travels: greater the width, larger the amount of data that can flow through it.

    Technically, it means the difference between two frequencies. In analog transmission (such as of voice signals over copper telephone lines) bandwidth is measured in cycles per second (or Hertz); for example, a telephone conversation requires about 4,000 Hertz (4KHz) of bandwidth. In digital transmission (such as of data from one computer to another) bandwidth is measured in bits per second (BPS); for example, modern modems can send and receive data at 56,000 bps (56 Kbps) over ordinary telephone lines.

Bankers Hours

    A short working day, often with a long lunch break.

Bank Run

    Lots of sudden and heavy cash withdrawals at the same time from a bank or banks, because customers believe the banks may become insolvent.

Base 2

    Also known as the binary system, which is the basis of computer logic. Normal counting is based on 0-9. Binary just has 0-1, which means a new column is started after two, not nine. Binary counting does not go 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. It goes 0, 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, etc. Other than for computing it’s not very practical.

Batch Production

    Producing goods in groups through individual stages a production system in which a process is broken down into distinct operations that are completed on a batch or group of products before moving to the next production stage. As batch sizes can vary from very small to extremely large quantities, batch production offers greater flexibility than other production systems.

Bathtub Curve

    A long horizontal U-shaped graph – resembling a bathtub – representing high incidence at the beginning and finish (far left and far right of graph) of a life-cycle or lifetime, with much lower incidence over a relatively long middle period (middle of graph), for example when measuring engineering failures in a product over time, in which early development teething problems produce high failure rates, tending to reduce to lower failure rates due to uncommon random faults, with failure rates again peaking at the end of product life, due to natural ‘wear and tear’/exhaustion/erosion of components and construction. See also ‘bell curve’ below.

Bean Counter

    An informal derogatory term for an accountant, especially one who is perceived or suggested to be overly concerned about expenditure detail.

Bear Market

    In the stock market a period of declining prices in which investors continue selling shares, expecting the prices to fall further.

Bear Raid

    The practice, in the stock market, of attempting to push the price of a stock lower by selling in large numbers and often spreading unfavourable rumours about the company concerned.

Behemoth

    A large and powerful organisation. (originally from Hebrew, behemot – beast)

Bell Curve

    Survey/sample distribution term. ‘Bell curve’ is the common informal term for a graph with a large rounded peak in the middle, sloping sharply to the right and left and then tapering more gently at the extreme ends of the graph. It’s a bell-shape, hence the name. The term ‘bell curve’ refers also to this sort of statistical distribution, even if it is not actually graphed. Technically in probability theory, mathematics and marketing, etc., the ‘bell curve’ is ‘normal’ distribution or Gaussian distribution (after German mathematician ohann Carl Friedrich Gauss).

    The bell curve is very commonly exhibited in sampling and surveys, where the vast majority of results/subjects/data tend to concentrate towards the average score, with incidence of variation above and below the average (shown graphically right and left) being roughly equal to each other, and much less than the incidence/results towards the average and majority. Business people often refer to a ‘bell curve’ when anticipating/explaining a situation where the vast majority of members of an audience or market are very similar, and only a very small minority is outside of the ‘norm’ or average.

    This terminology is helpful in emphasizing the needs or tendencies of the big majority, and avoiding distraction by or over-estimating the effect of minority interests/needs, which can cause projects to be distorted unnecessarily. There is a broad correlation between the notion of a ‘bell curve’ and Pareto theory, also known as the ’80-20 Rule’, i.e., both concepts highlight the significance of concentration and distribution when assessing opportunity, risk, effectiveness, and the targeting of communications, resources, etc. (Separately note for interest, the contrast between ‘bell curve’ and ‘bathtub curve’ graphs and what they mean)

Bells and Whistles

    Extra features added often more for show than function, especially on computers, cameras, etc., to make the product more attractive to buyers.

Below The Line – BTL

    Describes marketing which has a short-term duration, such as non-media advertising, direct-mail, e-mail, exhibitions, incentives, brochures, etc., which is targeted directly at the consumer/customer. Often used by companies on a limited budget.

Benchmark

    Standard used for measuring performance a point of reference or standard against which to measure performance. Originally used for a set of computer programs to measure the performance of a computer against similar models, benchmark is now used more generally to describe a measure identified in the context of a benchmarking program against which to evaluate an organization’s performance in a specific area.

Benefit Principle

    A taxation principle which states that those who benefit more from government expenditure, financed by taxes, should pay more tax for the product or service than those who benefit less.

Benefits Realisation

    Also Benefits Realisation Management, or if you prefer the US English it would be Benefits Realization. This refers to the translation of projects into real and perceived positive effects, seemingly a concept devised originally in the field of IT and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) project management, where projects are notoriously difficult to manage successfully and generate clear end-user appreciation. The term, abbreviated to BRM, is increasingly applied more widely to change management and project management of all sorts, representing an additional final stage of project management process, for which a manager is sometimes specifically responsible.

Best-In-Class

    Leading in best practice leading a market or industrial sector in efficiency. A best-in-class organization exhibits exemplary best practice. Such an organization is clearly singled out from the pack and is recognized as a leader for its procedures for dealing with the acquisition and processing of materials and the delivery of end products or services to its customers. The concept of best in class is closely allied with total quality management, and one tool that can help in achieving this status is benchmarking.

Best Practice

    Most effective way of doing something the most effective and efficient method of achieving any objective or task. What constitutes best practice can be determined through a process of benchmarking. An organization can move toward achieving best practice, either across the whole organization or in a specific area, through continuous improvement. In production-based organizations, world class manufacturing is a related concept. More generally, a market or sector leader may be described as best-in-class.

Beta Test

    The second test of a product, such as computer hardware, software, or even a website, under actual usage conditions, before the final version is used by or sold to the public.

Bid

    1.General: Indication of willingness to buy or sell goods or services or to undertake a task, at a specific price and within a specific timeframe.
    2.Contracting: Complete proposal (submitted in competition with other bidders) to execute specified job(s) within prescribed time, and not exceeding a proposed amount (that usually includes labor, equipment, and materials).
    3.Financial markets: Highest price at which prospective buyers are willing to buy commodities, foreign exchange, or securities.

Bid Bond

    A sum agreed to be paid by a company that wins a contract if the work is not carried out.

Big Picture

    Overview of situation and context a broad perspective on an issue that encompasses its surrounding context and long-term implications

Big Bang

    Occurred (UK) on 27th October 1986, when major technology changes took place on the London Stock Exchange chiefly to replace manual systems with electronic processes.

The Big Board

    An informal name for the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.

The Big Three

    The three largest credit ratings agencies: Standard and Poor’s; Moody’s, and Fitch. There are hundreds of smaller credit rating agencies, but historically 95% of the market is served/controlled by these three companies. As at 2013 their ownership is all American, except 50% of Fitch in French ownership. These companies have an enormous and controversial influence over corporate and international debt and the workings of credit and debt markets, banking, investments, etc., and consequently also on economies and societies around the world.

    ‘The Big Three’ are particularly controversial because of their considerable market dominance, considered by most commentators to be monopolistic (or at least a duopoly, given S&P/Moody’s 80% market share), together with potential for conflict of interest in the way that the credit ratings industry operates: Credit rating agencies provide extensive high-value advisory services to the same markets/clients that are subject to the ratings issued by the agencies.

    Despite the heavy reliance on their assessments and pronouncements, the Big Three agencies failed to identify the toxic nature of the mortgage and related derivative debt ‘products’ prior to and regarded central to the 2008 global financial collapse, and in some cases awarded very positive ratings for these debts which subequently proved largely valueless and irrecoverable.

Bilateral

    Agreement or involvement or action by two parties, people, companies, countries, etc.

Bill of Lading

    Document acknowledging shipment of goods a document prepared by a consignor by which a carrier acknowledges the receipt of goods and which serves as a document of title to the goods consigned.

Bill of Entry

    Statement about imports or exports for customs a statement of the nature and value of goods to be imported or exported, prepared by the shipper and presented to a customhouse.

BIN

    International number identifying individual bank bank identification number: an internationally agreed six-digit number that identifies a bank for credit card purposes.

Biometrics

    The biological identification of human features, such as eyes, voices and hands, increasingly used to identify individuals, e.g., in laptop computers, entry systems and passports.

Black Economy

    Money earned in private cash transactions, which is untraceable, and therefore untaxable.

Black Knight

    A company which makes a hostile takeover bid for another company that does not want to be bought.

Black Swan/Black Swan Theory

    A ‘black swan’ refers to a random unpredictable and highly influential event (upon economics, society, politics, life, etc) whose potential/significance is generally only appreciated after it has happened, and even then is commonly rationalized (by commentators and leaders, etc) to have been predictable and part of a predictable pattern of some sort, which actually is not so, or it would have been. The tendency for many people to be in denial as to the true nature of black swan event unpredictability and impact is an important part of the black swan theory itself.

    Examples of ‘black swans’ are events such as the September 11 attacks on the US by al-Qaeda; the 1986 Chernobyl disaster; and the 2008 global financial/credit collapse. Black swans can instead be of a more positive nature, for example, the invention of the internet, or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The black swan term/theory was introduced by Nassim Taleb, a highly regarded Lebanese-American professor, author and theorist, in his best-selling 2001 book Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, and reinforced by his follow-up 2007 best seller The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The ‘black swan’ metaphor alludes to both to the rareness of black swans, and to early beliefs that the creatures did not exist – which relates to general attitudes towards the real nature of ‘black swan’ events. The word ‘black’ also suggests negative consequences, which commonly result from black swan events. ‘Grey swan’ is a related expression, also coined by Nassim Taleb in his books, which refers to a predicted or known event which has uncertain outcomes.

Blame Culture

    Group’s tendency to blame others for mistakes a set of attitudes, for example, within a business or organization, characterized by an unwillingness to take risks or accept responsibility for mistakes because of a fear of criticism or prosecution.

Blamestorming

    Portmanteau term contrived from Brainstorming and Blame, referring to meetings or discussions seeking to allocate responsibility for a failure or disaster. Popularised in the late 1990s by viral emails which listed amusing office terminology.

Blatherskite

    A person who talks at great length without saying anything useful. Originally a Scottish 16thC expression adopted into American slang from the song Maggie Lauder during the US War of Independence.

Blind Test

    Research method in which people are asked to try a number of similar products which are not identified by brand name, to decide which product is the best.

Blind Trial

    A trial, with two groups of people, to test the effect of a new product, especially in medicine. One group is given the real product while the other group is given a placebo or ‘sugar pill’, which does not contain any medication.

Bloatware

    In computing, software that needs so much computer memory that it takes a long time to load and therefore does not function properly.

Blue Chip

    On the stock market, shares of a large company with a good reputation, whose value and dividends are considered to be safe and reliable.

Blue-Sky Law

    In the US, a law designed to protect the public from buying fraudulent securities.

Blue-Sky Thinking

    Open-minded, original and creative thinking, not restricted by convention.

Bluetooth

    Wireless technology which allows data to be transferred over short distances between laptop computers, mobile phones, digital cameras, etc.

Boilerplate

    A section of standard text, especially a contract clause, inserted into legal documents, or instead increasingly referring to a standard section of code inserted into computer programs or other digital applications. The main sense of the ‘boilerplate’ meaning is that the text/code is already existing and available to use, is quite fixed, needing little or no alteration, and by implication has a proven and trusted validity or suitability, and is therefore an aid to saving effort and cost compared with originating an equivalent clause or section of code from nothing.

    Usage and origins of the term boilerplate have become varied and confused, which perhaps helped popularize the term itself because this has made its meanings more flexible and widely applicable. The term ‘boiler plate’ or ‘boiler-plate’ seems to have two main original meanings: Firstly, plates of pre-cut/pre-formed metal used in constructing industrial boilers, and scondly, a much smaller plate or metal label attached to a boiler to identify the maker and other important details about the boiler.

Bona Fides

    Credentials showing someone’s true identity. (Latin – with good faith)

Bond

    The financial meaning of a bond is normally a debt/investment instrument issued by a company or country for a period of more than a year, with fixed interest rates and a firm and full repayment date. Typically a bond will pay a stipulated rate of interest at fixed times, and the debt is repaid at a specified time, i.e., the investor is guaranteed to be repaid the amount loaned/invested in full. More loosely the word bond can refer to a mortgage in some parts of the world, for example South Africa. A bond may also refer to a legal deed or agreement by which one person or party is bound to make payments to another; or to an insurance contract; or (notably in the US) to a sum of money paid as bail. The specific and more general meanings of bond logically derive from the older and original sense of bond, meaning fasten together, or the tie/festening itself.

Bonded Warehouse

    A warehouse in which imported goods are stored under bond, until the import taxes are paid on them.

Boomlet

    A small period of rapid growth in trade and economic activity.

Bootstrapping

    Starting a business from scratch and building it up with minimum outside investment.

Bottleneck

    A limiting factor on the rate of an operation. A workstation operating at its maximum capacity becomes a bottleneck if the rate of production elsewhere in the plant increases but throughput at that workstation cannot be increased to meet demand. An understanding of bottlenecks is important if the efficiency and capacity of an assembly line are to be increased. The techniques of fishbone charts, flow charts, and Pareto charts can be used to identify where and why bottlenecks occur.

Bottom Fishing

    Buying the cheapest investments available which are unlikely to fall much further in value.

Bottom-up Approach

    Used to describe a consultative leadership style that promotes employee participation at all levels in decision making and problem solving. A bottom-up approach to leadership is associated with flat organizations and the empowerment of employees. It can encourage creativity and flexibility.

Boutique

    A small shop or outlet typically selling fashionable and expensive items such as clothing. The term ’boutique’ is also now increasingly applied as a descriptive word in various other sectors and products to denote an outlet/supplier of small-scale, highly individual, bohemian, quirky, or hand-made quality.

BPR

    Review and change to benefit organization business process reengineering: the initiation and control of the change of processes within an organization, in order to derive competitive advantage from improvement in the quality of products. Business process reengineering requires a review and imaginative analysis of the processes currently used by the organization.

    BPR, therefore, has similarities to benchmarking, as this review of processes can reveal critical points where significant improvements in quality can be made. Business process reengineering was at the height of its popularity in the early to mid-1990s. It has been criticized as one of the root causes of the bouts of downsizing and delayering that have affected many parts of industry. It has also received a negative press because few BPR projects have delivered the benefits expected of them.

Bracket Creep

    Slowly moving into a higher tax bracket with small pay increases over a period of time.

Brain Drain

    The loss of highly skilled people to another region, country or industry, where they can work in a better environment and/or earn more money.

Bread and Butter

    The main source of income of a company or an individual.

Brinkmanship

    The practice of pursuing a tactic or method to the point of danger or damage, typically employed in competitive situations in which it is felt that the tactic will unsettle or cause the withdrawal of the adversary/ies. Dervies from the word brink, meaning the edge of a cliff or other dangerously high point.

Brownfield

    Previously developed land, either commercial or industrial, which has been cleared for redevelopment.

Brown Goods

    Household electrical entertainment appliances such as televisions, radios and music systems.

Brown-noser

    Insulting slang term for a sychophant, originally 1930s US military slang (brown-nose). Brown-nosing describes crawling or creeping to please a boss; an amusingly disturbing interpretation of various expressions which juxtapose the head of the follower with the backside of the boss, as in the rude slang metaphors: kissing arse/ass, arse-licking, bum-licker, etc.

Bubble Economy

    An unstable boom when the economy experiences an unusually rapid growth, with rising share prices and increased employment.

Built To Flip

    Companies which have been sold soon after they have been created, so that money can be made quickly.

Bullet Point

    A symbol, e.g. a dot or a square, printed at the beginning of each item on a list.

Bureaucracy

    A system of administration distinguished by its (1) clear hierarchy of authority, (2) rigid division of labor, (3) written and inflexible rules, regulations, and procedures, and (4) impersonal relationships. Once instituted, bureaucracies are difficult to dislodge or change.

Business Angel

    Also known as Private Investor. A, usually wealthy, individual who invests money in developing (often high risk) companies, and who provides their advice, skills, knowledge and contacts in return for an equity share of the business.

Business Model

    Description of business operations a description of the way in which a specific business or type of business operates, including its structure, policies, products, services, customers, and market strategies.

Business Objective

    Organization’s goal as basis for operational policies a goal that an organization sets for itself, for example, profitability, sales growth, or return on investment. These goals are the foundation upon which the strategic and operational policies adopted by the organization are based.

Business Plan

    A written document which sets out a business’s plans and objectives, and how it will achieve them, e.g. by marketing, development, production, etc.

Business Process Reengineering

    See BPR.

Business Unit

    Distinct part of business organization a part of an organization that operates as a distinct function, department, division, or stand-alone business. Business units are usually treated as a separate profit center within the overall business.

Buy or Make

    Choice between making or buying needed item a decision on whether to produce goods internally or to buy them in from outside the organization. The goal of buy or make is to secure needed items at the best possible cost, while making optimum use of the resources of the organization. Factors influencing the decision may include: cost, spare capacity within the organization, the need for tight quality and scheduling control, flexibility, the enhancement of skills that can then be used in other ways, volume and economies of scale, utilization of existing personnel, the need for secrecy, capital and financing requirements, and the potential reliability of supply.

Buy-in

    Purchase of a company where outside investors buy more than 50% of the shares, so they can take over the company.

Buyout

    Buying and taking over of business the purchase and takeover of an ongoing business. It is more formally known as an acquisition. If a business is purchased by managers or staff, it is known as a management buyout.

Buzzword

    A word or phrase which has become fashionable or popular, or sounds technical or important and is used to impress people.