Guest Post: How to Be a Good Listener by StashMetrics

_MG_5098At StashMetrics we talk a lot about how to be a good listener. Our company is set up to help brands listen to social media data, to understand the value of what they can hear and to turn that in to valuable insight - and so it was fascinating turning this on ourselves during the collision phase. Each startup will be writing a guest blog to share the highs and lows that come with being an early stage startup. This is your chance to get a sneaky peek into what it is like to be part of Collider and even grab a chunk of wisdom on the way.

This week’s is written by Sam Oakley, the co-founder at StashMetrics.

In this case it wasn’t listing to social data but the same principles apply, in the context of Collider this trying to understand the value of listening to all the advice and support we’ve been offered, to prioritize.

The truth is that, just as not all insight is good insight, not all advice is good advice (my Collider mentors excluded of course). As a startup, learning to “listen well” is so fundamentally important - I cannot overstate it – because you sure as hell can’t listen to everyone. In the three-month collision phase I’ve had advice of one sort or the other from at least 60 people, there’s gold in there, stuff that has fundamentally changed our business but there’s also a huge amount of potential distractions.

If I had any advice to startups considering Collider I’d say three things when it comes to listening:

1.     Work out what your assumptions you’ve made in your business model early on - test these and these alone. Test them in a way that is repeatable so that you can compare the answers you get later on in the programme with those from early on. We were late working this out and spent at least three weeks in Jan asking people questions to which we already knew the answers. (And keep a log of you spoke to, when and what they said).

2.     Don’t listen to the first person who questions your business model, (listen to the 3rd if all 3 agree). You were picked from god-knows-how-many entrants so you probably have an idea that’s sound enough. The Collider coaches are smart and experienced, if it’s clear that you need to pivot they’ll make you listen.

3.     The feedback you get early-on is incredibly valuable but you have to “listen smart.” We worked this out late on in month one and started a spreadsheet combining the advice given with the competencies of the person giving it. You get patterns pretty quickly and once you have a pattern you have insight. I reckon ours has shaved weeks off our tech development plan, valuable weeks.

In the end it comes down to the same mantra we use with brands, listening is brilliant, you can (and will) learn things that change your business but you need to know why you’re doing it and you need keep tabs on the context, otherwise things can get very noisy very quickly.