30/04/2013 11:41 BST | Updated 30/06/2013 06:12 BST

Why Sharing Is Caring

We've known for a while that the sharing economy is likely to play an increasingly important role in the way businesses grow.

Small, agile, fast-moving start-up businesses are increasingly looking to collaborate, share assets and hire in expertise. They are tearing up the rules and starting again. It's the way forward.

New research from pay-as-you-drive car network Zipcar, conducted with national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain and Ashridge Business School, shows the extent of how today's start-ups are shaking up the status quo, and employing new and innovative ways to do business and forge success.

Launched this week, Zipcar's new report 'Smarter Business Blueprint: Insights from SME Trailblazers, makes for a fascinating read.

From vehicles by the hour to office space by the day, 48 percent of start-ups are already sharing one or more physical assets, with 31 percent taking this a step further and sharing elements of their workforce.

Rather than a reaction to the current economic stagnation we find ourselves in, start-ups are not just sharing in response to tough economic times. Sixty-five percent of the start-ups we surveyed said they believed this was a new way of working, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to austerity. Sharing resources is being built into their business plan from the outset.

Thanks to technology, finding a like-minded business that might have an asset, a skill, or expertise that you need has never been easier. Many businesses in fact say that sharing saves them not only money, but time and brings with it huge convenience.

Having held a number of focus groups with successful entrepreneurs, Zipcar's report lays out a six point blueprint, pulling together some of the common themes employed by today's most successful start-ups. The blueprint highlights that today's successful entrepreneurs are moving swiftly. They aren't waiting to gather all the funding or even waiting until they are sure they've got everything right: 60 percent are starting out in less than six months from having the initial idea and growing organically -- whilst intrinsically accepting that making a mistake along the way is part of the path.

That's a culture change.

Gut instinct, not extensive market research is the king here. Recruiting, the blueprint says, relies on finding people who share your vision -- not those looking for a safe, regular pay check.

And customers are not just people who buy stuff -- they are brand supporters and for this approach to work, they need to love you and want to see where you're going to take them.

Jonathan Brenner, co-founder of Lawyers on Demand claims to have 'disrupted' the established 400-year-old career path in British law to create a new way of working for his start-up.

"We played a hunch. We thought a revolution in law was just around the corner because we had clients telling us that they wanted to work in a different way and lawyers telling us they were sick of being in the office for 12 hours a day."

He added: "We are always in Beta mode. We never, ever tell ourselves that this is the finished product and that we've done everything we can. It's a counter-intuitive business model, but it keeps us nimble."

And they're adaptable. Many of the businesses profiled say it's important to listen to ideas and create a culture where everyone might have an idea that is at the very least, trialled.

Simon Prockter, CEO of home-delivered takeaway business Housebites said: "I encourage an atmosphere in which ideas are allowed to flourish. Everyone is encouraged to suggest changes and if an idea is easy to introduce we just do it -- whether the rest of us agree or not -- and see whether it works."

It shows the growing gap between the record numbers of start-ups we're seeing each year and the way big businesses operate.

It's not all about saving money, but it's clear that businesses are thinking about buying less, moving forward quickly without the baggage of ownership. Collaboration evens out risk and ensures people get proper use out of their assets, with less waste. The great benefit is that you get to meet and work with like-minded individuals and unsustainable, heaving over-consumption reduces.

Like I say, sharing really is caring.