Guest blog: I get by with a little help from my friends

GoCarShare.com's Drummond Gilbert on why support from his peers is vital.

I am just like you: I am risking potential bankruptcy and possible humiliation by starting my own business.

In my case living the dream involves setting up a car sharing website that has big aspirations to shake up the travel industry by making more people share car journeys.

I am entering an industry that a few months ago I knew virtually nothing about and am doing so with limited funds. The one thing I have quickly learnt is while I'm starting up on my own, I'm definitely not alone.

When you're first starting-up, some people believe if you reveal anything about your business idea it'll be copied and you'll be exploited, but I take the view you are better off talking to people, bouncing ideas off them and benefiting from their expertise.

Maybe it's my natural optimism but I've rooted for the latter. I'll happily bore anyone who will listen about gocarshare. With any good idea you need to accept there are plenty of people thinking about it. Your ability to succeed lies in how you choose to implement the idea and your persistence to actually do it.  

I ask people for feedback at every opportunity. I setup an online questionnaire at surveymonkey.com and posted the link on my Facebook page. As a result I realised not enough people would pay to use car sharing and the website must be free for individual users - a costly mistake averted.

I've also asked for feedback on a competition I'm running to design a logo for gocarshare on 99designs.com, where friends and contacts have been able to comment on the entries to help me decide which is best.

Facebook and Twitter are great for instantaneous feedback on ideas, but I think to really benefit from social media you need to start looking further afield. I am setting up a group on Xing that will allow the potential users of my site to have their say on how the website is built. This provides a double benefit, the website will be well designed as it will incorporate customers' needs and it builds up demand for the service before we've launched.

Once we're live I believe it is key people are still able to easily and openly voice their opinion. Why? 'Reputation capital'. People in online communities are driven in part by the respect for their peers; they love to impart knowledge and demonstrate they are an expert in a certain field.

This is proved all the more so by the success of the recent Secret London website where people share lesser known, exciting places they have discovered in London. In my mind, secrets are all well and good but sometime sharing ideas and collaborating is better.

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