For Missouri business, chocolate brings sweet success
COLUMBIA, Mo. – If chocolate is the way to a woman's heart, Alan Patric McClure thinks that path to love should be a little more refined.
McClure is the brains behind Patric Chocolate, a mid-Missouri business experiment that brought the gospel of better sweets to mouths across the U.S. and small business success to the community.
"Don't think of what we do as chocolate in the way you are familiar with chocolate, but rather think about it as something like coffee, something like craft beer, something entirely different," McClure said. "It's something where a lot of care is put into it, where quality is of foremost importance to us."
That commitment to a better artisanal chocolate bar transformed his business from a one-man operation into one that sold a quarter of a million dollars worth of chocolate in 2011, doubling his sales from 2010.
The University of Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) helped McClure build a business framework to set realistic goals and make accurate financial projections.
"When Alan came to our center and I started working with him he knew about chocolate, but he didn't know much about business," said Virginia Wilson, a counselor with MU Extension's SBTDC. "We help small businesses like Patric Chocolate with one-to-one counseling, take them through the process of writing a business plan, look at the financial start-up costs, and estimate sales and expense projections to decide whether a business can be profitable."
Read this complete story with additional photos.
Someone once said, "Customer complaints are the schoolbooks from which we learn."
No matter which type of business you own, there will be times when things go wrong and your customers complain. How can you successfully deal with customer complaints? Here are a few suggestions.
- Listen carefully. Many customers have valid complaints and some customers just want you to listen to them. They want you and your employees to know they were not satisfied with the level of service at your company or the quality of the products. Show sincere interest in what they have to say. They may be doing you a favor. Something may be wrong in your company that needs to be quickly resolved before you have a large amount of unsatisfied customers.
- Consider the customer's point of view. Put yourself in the customer's situation and try to understand why the customer is angry or dissatisfied. What if you were the customer and had this same negative experience. How would you feel about the situation? This may help you to remain polite and calm as the customer relays his or her frustration.
If you're a small business owner or a self-employed individual who needs answers to tax questions or tax tools to help you run your business, check out the IRS's Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.
This one-stop shop offers extensive resources and online tools to help small business owners and self-employed persons by providing resources such as:
- Small business forms and publications
- Online applications for an Employer Identification Number
- Employment tax information - federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes, FUTA and self-employment tax
- Tax-related news that could affect your business
- Small business educational events
- IRS videos for small businesses
- An A-Z index for business, a fast way to find information
The site provides important federal tax information for all stages of owning a business, whether you're starting, operating or closing a business.
Other resources available on the IRS website include:
The IRS Video Portal:
Tax questions? Learn about tax topics through video and audio presentations on the IRS Video Portal. The video portal (Small Business Video and Audio Presentations) contains archived video of live panel discussions and audio from national phone forums, as well as other webinars and video clips.
IRS Audits Video Series:
"Your Guide to an IRS Audit" takes the viewer through the steps of an audit from notification to closing. The video series is composed of scenarios that demonstrate the stages of each type of audit: correspondence, office and field. The scenarios address issues that are common to audits of small businesses.
Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop:
The IRS Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop is an interactive resource to help small business owners learn about their federal tax rights and responsibilities. The workshop contains nine stand-alone lessons that can be selected and viewed in any sequence. The Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop is available online 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any computer. It can also be ordered on CD.
Tax Calendar for Small Business Taxpayers:
The Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed — Publication 1518 — is available online or as a printable PDF file. This 12-month calendar is filled with information on general business taxes, IRS and Social Security Administration customer assistance, electronic filing and paying options, retirement plans, business publications and forms, and common tax filing dates. Each page highlights different tax issues and tips that may be relevant to small-business owners, with room on each month to add notes, state tax dates or business appointments. You can also download the tax events into your calendar or subscribe to the tax calendar events. The Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed provides small business owners with a ready resource for meeting their tax obligations.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Internal Revenue Service released on Feb. 9, the guidance and forms that employers can use to claim the newly-expanded tax credit for hiring veterans. The IRS also announced that employers will have more time to file the required certification form for employees hired on or after Nov. 22, 2011, and before May 22, 2012. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, enacted Nov. 21, 2011, provides an expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit to businesses that hire eligible unemployed veterans and for the first time also makes the credit available to certain tax-exempt organizations.
The credit can be as high as $9,600 per veteran for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 for tax-exempt organizations. The amount of the credit depends on a number of factors, including the length of the veteran's unemployment before hire, hours a veteran works and the amount of first-year wages paid. Employers who hire veterans with service-related disabilities may be eligible for the maximum credit.
Normally, an eligible employer must file Form 8850 with the state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins work. But according to the current IRS guidance, employers have until June 19, 2012, to complete and file this newly-revised form for veterans hired on or after Nov. 22, 2011, and before May 22, 2012. The 28-day rule will again apply to eligible veterans hired on or after May 22, 2012.
In an effort to streamline the certification requirements, the IRS has clarified and expanded upon 2002 guidance to facilitate employers' use of electronic signatures when gathering the Form 8850 for transmission to state workforce agencies. The guidance confirms that employers can transmit the Form 8850 electronically, and also allows employers to transmit the Form 8850 via fax, subject to the ability of the state workforce agencies to accept submissions in those formats. The IRS expects the Department of Labor to issue additional guidance providing further clarification to state workforce agencies.
This credit is also available to certain tax-exempt organizations by filing Form 5884-C. The guidance released Feb. 9, also provides instructions and a new set of forms for tax-exempt organizations to claim the credit. For more information, including how to claim the credit, go to IRS.gov.
In 2009, there were 27.5 million businesses in the United States, according to SBA's Office of Advocacy estimates.
The latest available U.S. Census data show that in 2008 there were 5.9 million firms with employees and 21.4 million without employees. Small firms with fewer than 500 employees represent 99.9 percent of the total (employers and non-employers), as the most recent data show there were 18,469 large businesses in 2008.
Accredited Member of the ASBDC
Association of Small Business Development Centers.
Representing America's SBDC Network
Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
Visit www.missouribusiness.net/newsletter to read previous newsletters archived on our website.
Subscribe to this newsletter at www.missouribusiness.net/newsletter_sign_up.asp. Unsubscribe information is found at the bottom of each eNews letter. We will never share or sell your e-mail address to others.
Missouri Business eNews is published monthly by the
University of Missouri's Business Development Program.
W1051 Lafferre Hall
Columbia, MO 65211