Foster 'Bottom-Up Creativity' and 4 More Business Tips From the Week The best tips of the week from Entrepreneur.com, from how to write off business meals to sparking creativity among your staff.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
A roundup of the best tips of the week from Entrepreneur.com.
There is more than one type of creativity that fuels innovation. Companies such as Google use a cutting-edge technique: encouraging their employees to think big and make connections that others might not see between seemingly unrelated data points.
This creative process, called bottom-up creativity by scientists, involves the classic "Aha" moment, the "light bulb in the back of the head," says Arne Dietrich, a neuroscientist at the American University of Beirut. Self-motivated employees tend to be particularly strong in this type of thinking, and it happens best when you allow them to work alone. But you should maintain a balance. "The crazy thinkers come up with stuff but can't necessarily implement it," says Dietrich. For that, you need employees who are more logical and linear. More: Creativity: Inspiration vs. Perspiration
Deduct meals on your taxes, but not too liberally.
Small business owners are free to deduct any dining expenses incurred in the course of doing business. So think back to the meetings you had last year with potential clients, partners, customers and mentors. Look over old bank statements and receipts. Then write off the cost of all those dinners and cocktails. One caveat: If your business isn't making much money, be conservative in the size of your dining deduction. More: 5 Questions to Ask Before Filing Your Taxes
Don't make handshake deals. Not even with family.
When borrowing money from family and friends to build your business, beware of verbal agreements and handshake deals. "Keep [a loan] simple, but make sure it's all documented," says Brian Fox, whose online auditing company, Confirmation, depended on loans from family members for its first three years. Without documentation of how much equity belongs to whom, future potential investors will steer clear. But don't be shy about asking your loved ones for help. If you believe in your business, it's a good bet that you can make the people closest to you believe in it too -- enough to help make it happen. More: 5 Personal Finance Tips for Cash-Strapped Entrepreneurs
Draft an employee development and retention plan early.
Hiring a full-time employee for your startup means entering into a mutual commitment with that person. "It moves you toward being an employer rather than an entrepreneur," says Gregory Bier, director of the University of Missouri's Entrepreneurship Alliance. "You are responsible for someone else's motivation, pay, safety, training -- and drama." Before making your first hire, you should create a plan to figure out how you will provide the employee with income and learning opportunities for at least the foreseeable future. More: 10 Questions to Ask Before Making Your First Hire
Establish yourself, and then diversify.
People with a wide variety of interests often find it hard to settle down and focus on growth in a single area. If you're one of these individuals, take a lesson from celebrity entrepreneurs such as Jay-Z and Gordon Ramsay, who have turned themselves into diversified personal brands. Make your name in one arena, and then use that success as a platform for expanding into others. More: How Jay-Z Went From Music Mogul to Sports Agent