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5.1 Reasons to Expand an Enterprise

Businesses usually sell multiple products or services, and they alter the collection of goods and services provided over time. Several factors motivate changes in this composition and can result in decisions either to expand an enterprise by increasing the range of goods and services offered or to contract the enterprise by suspending production and sale of some goods and services. In this section, we will list some key motivations for expanding the range of an enterprise. Bear in mind that when these motivations are absent or reversed, the same considerations can lead to decisions to contract the range of the enterprise.

  1. Earlier, in Chapter 4 "Cost and Production", we discussed the concepts of economies of scale (cost per unit decreases as volume increases) and economies of scope (costs per unit of different goods can be reduced by producing multiple products using the same production resources). Businesses often expand to exploit these economies.
  2. As we will see in Chapter 7 "Firm Competition and Market Structure", in markets with few sellers that each provide a large fraction of the goods or services available, the sellers possess an advantage over buyers in commanding higher prices. Businesses will often either buy out competitors or increase production with the intent to drive competitors out of the seller market in order to gain market power.
  3. Many businesses sell products that are intermediate, rather than final, goods. Their customers are other businesses that take the goods or services they purchase and combine or enhance them to provide other goods and services. As a result, the profit that is earned in the production of a final product will be distributed across several firms that contributed to the creation of that good. However, the profit may not be evenly distributed across the contributing firms or proportional to their costs. Sometimes a firm will recognize the higher profit potential of the firms that supply them or the firms to which they are suppliers and will decide to participate in those more lucrative production stages.
  4. Due to the considerable uncertainties of future costs, revenues, and profits and the need for firms to commit resources before these uncertainties are resolved, business is a risky prospect. Just as investors can mitigate the inherent risk of owning stocks by purchasing shares in different firms across somewhat unrelated industries, large firms can reduce some of their risk by producing unrelated products or services. Additionally, there may be increased efficiencies in movement of resources between different production operations when done by the same company.