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Economy - Sectors of the Economy

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

External Environment: Economic sectors

Business activity is the process of transforming inputs into outputs by adding value. There are three main sectors of business activity:

Primary sector Involves the extraction and production of raw materials, such as coal, wood and steel. A coal miner and a fisherman would be workers in the primary sector.

Secondary sector Involves the transformation of raw materials into goods e.g. manufacturing steel into cars. A builder and a dressmaker would be workers in the secondary sector.

Tertiary sector Involves the provision of services to consumers and businesses, such as cinema and banking. A shopkeeper and an accountant would be workers in the tertiary sector.

Goods move through a “chain of production”. The chain of production follows the construction of a good from its extraction as a raw material through to its final sale to the consumer. So a piece of wood is cut from a felled tree (primary sector), made into a table by a carpenter (secondary) and finally sold in a shop (tertiary).

Some businesses have elements of all sectors in their chain of production. Others businesses choose to specialise. Specialisation occurs when a producer concentrates on making a small number of products, or on providing a narrowly defined service.

Examples of specialisation:

  • Baker only baking bread
  • Machinery that only cuts sheet metal
  • Lawyer dealing only with criminal law

Advantages of specialisation

Producer becomes more efficient because they learn the best way (all the short cuts) to produce at the lowest cost

A producer may be able to charge a higher price from a customer – the customer is prepared to pay more for expert/specialist knowledge (e.g. a cosmetic surgeon)

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Starting a Business

Sources of Finance for a Startup
Cash Flow Forecasting for a Startup
Creating & Protecting Business Ideas
Startups and Understanding the Market
Market Research for a Startup
Locating the Startup Business
Choosing a Legal Structure for a Startup
Employing People in a Startup
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making


Breakeven Basics
Costs, Revenues and Profits
Business Costs
Using Budgets
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making
Investment Appraisal Basics
Financial Strategies
Measuring and Improving Profit
Improving Cash Flow
Working Capital
Balance Sheet
Income Statement
Financial Efficiency Ratios
Profitability Ratios and ROCE
Liquidity Ratios


Products & Brands
Place (Distribution)
Price Elasticity of Demand

Business Organisation

Basics of Business Growth
Business Activities
Legal Structure Basics
Sole Traders and Partnerships
Limited Companies
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Organisational Structures


Working in Teams
Communication Basics
Communication Methods
Workforce Planning
Recruitment, Selection & Training
Employee Motivation
Organisational Structures


Operational Objectives
Critical Path Analysis
Scale and Resource Mix
Lean Production
Capacity Management
Customer Service Basics
Managing Quality
Operational Decision-making
Using Technology in Operations
Working with Suppliers

Economic Environment

Economic Sectors
Government Spending & Taxation
Interest Rates & Monetary Policy

Business Strategy

Leadership styles
Business Culture
Change Management

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