Meet The Gurus Who Cut The BS From Startups To Get Them Growing

XGAP founders Mark Bragg (L) and Martin West

What happens when you bring together an ex-RAAF fighter pilot and a former NBL coach – an execution team ready to cut the BS from your business.

Combining their powers nine years ago, Martin West and Mark Bragg launched their management consultancy company, XGAP, to help businesses execute on company goals and strategic plans.

The company’s helped 425 local and international clients, from the world’s largest companies such as Pfizer, and BHP Billiton to smaller successful startups like DesignCrowd and Nitro.

“The thing about both Mark and I is we came from careers that didn’t tolerate much BS or fluff. We help the client strip away anything that isn’t helping them to succeed.”

“As a fighter pilot there is one thing I grew up with that we do introduce to every client. We called it ‘the nameless and rankles debrief’. Basically you strip all ego out of the room, re-evaluate what’s happened and why, and what we have to do next. To me that was everyday, every mission,” West said.

When they turned to their business careers both men realised small businesses didn’t function with the same strict execution and goal setting they were used to, and saw an opportunity to be made from a gap in the market.

“I was young when I joined [the Air Force] I didn’t know there was another way of doing things. But once I started working with clients I realised there was,” he said and by the sound of his voice this wasn’t a good thing. “I thought ‘I think we can work here.'”

Combining the disciplines they had been taught in their former elite roles, the pair have devised an execution strategy to enable even the smallest startup to scale up quickly.

XGAP shared their checklist for getting a startups off the ground and growing with Business Insider. Here are the tips West described as ‘disarmingly simple.’

1. Know your business strategy.

Ask the founder: ‘What is your business strategy in one sentence?’
“If a founder can’t do it they’re in trouble.”

2. Make sure everyone knows what’s next.

Ask the leadership team: ‘What’s next?’
Once you have an answer ask “Does everyone else know this and are they working on it?”
This often identifies that people aren’t adequately informed or positioned to best utilise their skills or time.

“It’s just connecting the leadership team with the rest of the staff,” said West.
“When you are busy raising capital, talking to investors and customers, sometimes a founder forgets to do that… and people are left out of the loop. It’s about harmonising. This removes a lot of problems.”

3. Execute your business plan.

“Have the discipline to debrief, set goals, and regularly adjust. The plan is rarely going to work out the way you thought it would so why not talk about it so that you can make a adjustments,” says West. “Execution is about the wisest use of resources; not wasting days, not wasting efforts, not wasting people spending time on the wrong things.”

4. Re-evaluate your situation.

West says the golden rule is a business “can’t go for more than two weeks without asking ‘How far are we from where we thought we would be, and did we get done what we said we’d get done’.”
He says doing this means you are keeping up with the development and needs of your company. Once a gap between what you expected would happen and what is actually happening starts to exist, it can often be hard to come back from that says West.
“You can go for just six months and then find yourself in a completely different situation than what you imagined.”

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