I read once that if you can come up with 10 ideas for getting “unstuck,” at least one of them will work, so here is a list of 10 resources to help you determine your next move:
1. Find a mentor. It's easier than you might think to find one. I recommend SCORE, a volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration that is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. I recently learned that SCORE will work with businesses that are growing--not just start-ups--and businesses trying to figure out how to solve a problem. SCORE is not a bank and does not have any money to give out, but each chapter has mentors who can help.
To find your local SCORE chapter, go to http://www.score.org/mentors.
In Bangor, Maine, try:
- SCORE: bangor.score.org
- Eastern Maine Development Corporation: http://www.emdc.org/landing.php
- Women, Work, and Community: http://womenworkandcommunity.org/
The Small Business Administration has a calendar that lets you search for events in your area, but also make a list of organizations that offer workshops and get on their mailing lists so that you can receive notices.
3. Go to Camp. Literally. Find a business boot camp, pack a bag, and take a few days to plan your next moves.
4. Decide whether you really want to grow? What does it mean to stay small? Staying a specific size has some benefits. Know what it means for you to stay small. In some cases, you may intend to stay small, but continue to grow anyway. Be prepared for that.
5. Can’t start because you’re still working? Start-while-working. Check out Launch While Working for some camaraderie and tips.
6. Need to patent an idea before you launch a start-up? If you need a patent, start at the USPTO's site for inventors. I had the opportunity to talk with one of the representatives from the USPTO's Inventor's Assistance office, and the USPTO really wants to be a resource for inventors who do not have a corporation backing them (read: lots of money).
Also look for patent programs in your state. Maine has the Maine Patent Program, which helps inventors in multiple ways, including with research. Kansas has Invent Kansas, an association with resources to help inventors.
What I'm trying to say is that if you need a patent, resources exist for free or low-cost help; take advantage of these programs.
7. Incubate. Business incubators are located all over the U.S. Incubators offer businesses a place to set up shop until the business can hold its own. Look for those associated with local universities and cities. If you want to know more about incubators, try this article from Entrepreneur.com.
8. Celebrate. You don’t need to rent the local museum and throw a lavish event. You could. I mean, don’t let me stop you, and perhaps you should. Really, though, try to find ways to celebrate customers. Ashley Neal recommends celebrating customer's birthdays, and she offers a bunch of ways to do this.
9. Give your knowledge away. No, don’t give your super-secret-not-yet-patented idea away (see #6), but Patrick Lencioni says to just jump in and start helping. Try being a speaker at an event or offering advice. You might find a new client, an emerging partnership, or someone who becomes a resource partner for your business. My favorite book about management consulting is: Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty (J-B Lencioni Series)
2013 is right around the corner. Use it as a year to grow.