As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a great time to put thought into planning for 2018. If you are a successful business owner, you’ve likely already started, but if you haven’t, a great way to effectively prepare and strategize for the coming year is to conduct a SWOT analysis with your team.

SWOT Analysis MustangSWOT, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, is an analytical framework that can help your company face it’s greatest challenges and find its new markets. Do a SWOT analysis based on your 2017 numbers. What went well? Where does your business need to make improvements?

Hopefully none of this information about the year’s hits and misses will be news to you, but now you are looking with an eye for making future moves. Make a plan to build on your successes. Map out how you will refine or totally rethink approaches that aren’t working.

The SWOT analysis leads to business awareness and is the cornerstone of any successful strategic plan.

In Mustang The Story, Bill Higgs illustrates Mustang Engineering’s SWOT at the end of each section of the book. Higgs believes, “your team should objectively agree on the top 5 strengths and weaknesses internally, then do the same looking externally at opportunities and threats. Now you have topics to discuss what needs to be done to stay healthy in 2018.”

Planning is the key to success on every level of an organization, but plans mean nothing if they don’t spur action and direct hard work.

After you defined your career aspirations and goals, you can also use a SWOT to understand more about yourself and set personal goals. Here is a great post about How to Conduct a Personal SWOT.

How do you plan for the coming year? Let us know – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

We wish all Mustangers great success in 2018 and a very Happy New Year!

So you don’t work at a company that has a strong culture, or you worked at Mustang Engineering, but now it has morphed, so what! You don’t have to work at “Mustang” to be a Mustanger.

“If you are not happy with the culture around you and want to re-define it, start with defining your own culture and transforming yourself.”

Create the culture you want to be part of. Nobody says “thank you” to you? Start saying “thank you” to others. Consider the people you work with. Who can you proactively say “thank you” to in a meaningful, personal and specific way? What’s stopping you?

An effective business relies heavily on the willingness of employees to work together and promote a positive brand and image.

Here are a few important things to remember when working to instill a culture for success.

Live Your Values

One of the primary elements of fostering a positive company culture is to stay true to the company’s values. As part of the company, evaluate and assess your mission statement and values to determine if you are leading in respect to what is expected and encouraged by management.

Leadership is Key

How you communicate and lead employees can drastically impact the company culture. But even if you are not in a management role, you are a leader. Take a close look at the team around you. Recognize that each of your co-workers has unique personality characteristics and work ethics. Accommodate your communication strategies to improve overall outlook and performance with your team.

Lead by Example

Be a team player to improve and develop the company culture. If you want a more cohesive workplace environment that relies on teamwork, jump in and do your part. Form teams that are diverse, yet complement each other. Pair individuals together who can build on each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and cross-fertilize – what Bill Higgs refers to as “bust communication silos” by joining teams outside of your own department as well.


Does culture really matter? Are successful businesses intentional about the culture they create? Come listen to a successful entrepreneur who with two partners and $15,000 built a business they sold twenty years later for $1 Billion.

Charlotte Business Exchange is pleased to host a discussion facilitated by Randy Mitchell with Bill Higgs, Co-Founder of Mustang Engineering. Bill will share his insights and experiences about the importance of company culture and other aspects of business leadership. Bring your questions and join business owners and professionals for another engaging CBEX Speaker Series Event.

Bill Higgs is the author of Mustang, The Story, is a West Point Graduate, top 5% of his class, runner up for a Rhodes scholarship and anchored the Army soccer team’s defense through an undefeated season. He left the Army as a Captain after commanding a Combat Engineering Company. He founded Mustang in 1987 with two partners. Mustang was the fastest growing engineering firm in the USA per Inc. Magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing companies in America. Mustang won the Innovate Houston Award for being the most “People Oriented” company in Houston. An Eagle Scout, Bill also has received the Silver Beaver and Distinguished Eagle awards for service. He received the ECC Lifetime Achievement Award for “Visionary Leadership in the Process Industries” And…he is passionate about people and teams!!

Randy Mitchell will lead the discussion and audience questions are expected! Randy is a full-time real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty and enjoys career coaching and facilitating group problem-solving.

This event is open to the public. To purchase tickets to the event please visit: Bill Higgs – CBEX

Whether you are a start-up or a seasoned business owner, you’ve likely spent time trying to figure out how to be better than your competitor. Stop tying to be better and dare to be different.

Mustang Engineering went from zero to $1 billion in revenue in 12 years — not because they followed the industry standards, but because they rebelled against them.

“Being rebellious aids creativity”

Upon Mustang Engineering’s inception, co-founders Felix, Paul and Bill looked hard at their industry and talked about what they liked and didn’t like in the companies where they had previously worked. They talked about their competition, and what they believed was working in their favor, and what was worthy of replication.

In Mustang The Story, Higgs wrote, “Paul, Felix and I were bothered by the treatment of project people in Houston. Top management at engineering and construction companies seemed comfortable with a “plug and play” mentality towards engineers, drafters and support people on their projects. They felt the ebb and flow of project people was mandated by the vagaries of winning bids, compounded by capricious industry cycles. There was nothing they could do to create continuity of work for more than a core team.”

They recognized early on that their careers would depend on their core values and ability to support each other through the severe pressures of a startup. Mustang dared to be different because they focused on people and projects. They built an industry leading culture that took care of “Mustangers” (employees) and made heroes of clients and vendors. Because they dared to be different, Mustang created reimbursable contracts (essentially getting a blank check from a client) instead of the industry standard lump sum bids.

Do you have the courage to be different? Need help figuring out how? Higgs is full of inspiration and shares Mustang’s secrets to success in his team building talks.

Book him today through Haven Creative. Contact Jeni Bukolt, 704-256-4008.

In an ideal world, we all want to be Yes-Men! That is, we want to be everything to everyone, particularly a client whom we’re trying to win-over or maintain the best working relationship possible. However, this results in inherent problems for all involved, which is why the art of saying “no” to a client is of the utmost importance.

Essentially, saying yes to one thing is saying no to another. Each commitment you make is an opportunity cost, and in some cases are worth it, and in some cases, not.

Fstopper contributor Peter House recounts, “The more things I said yes to, the more I had on my plate. I was busy, very busy in fact, but it was not the right kind of busy. I was stretching myself thin making promises all over the board. I would cave to client requests and soon I found myself falling short on a lot of my promises…I filled my time with so many things that I was soon over committed to everyone. I could not fulfill my tasks in the time frames I had promised nor could I deliver the kind of results I truly wanted.”

The key to saying no while still winning over clients is to make them feel like you’re actually saying yes. Solid communication and compassion for their plight are cornerstone strategies to employ. At the most basic level, having a willingness to problem solve with your client, regardless of whether or not you take on the actual tasks in question, is typically perceived as a sign of good faith and support to their cause.

When client-facing, it’s critical to avoid over-commitment and learn to identify reasonable requests. And while “reasonable” is a relative term, the more you understand your own core competencies and endgame, the more likely you’ll be able to pushback when something leads you away from it.

To learn more ways to foster client service, schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – jeni @


As it is said, the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. In business, each employee is a representative of not only a company’s collective service offerings, but also, its brand. And for this reason, when a manager recognizes an ill fit, they need to be the one to take action – swiftly and respectfully. Essentially, there IS a right way to fire someone, and we’ve identified three ways to let an employee go gracefully:

  • Document. Document. Keep a log of evaluations and/or feedback in reference to the employee in question. If you think termination is a possibility, utilize any time you have to build-in warning discussions and/or specific goal developments. According to Mustang Founder Bill Higgs, many managers try to avoid talking to the employee in question. However, he encourages three documented counseling sessions to force communication. If productivity is more the issue vs. behavior, then enable the employee the time to achieve very specific and identified metrics that either justify their place in, or dismissal from the organization. “I’ve seen people turn it around or actively find another slot in the company,” says Higgs.
  • Be respectful of timing. Try to avoid already stressful times of year, such as the holidays, but transparency is really what’s at the core of this point. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong says, “The first thing you want to do is give them as much predictability as possible. Firing someone without warning and on the spot sometimes happens, but good bosses are quicker to give people warning.” give them as much understanding as possible. There are studies that show that people who are told why it’s necessary [to let them go] are less stressed about it.”
  • Offer to Help. If at all feasible, offer up a lead to a different opportunity or perhaps constructive criticism on what sort of role might be a better fit. If an employee can leave with some understanding of why the decision to fire them was made, they might have better odds of finding success at their next landing spot.

The act of firing an employee is never welcomed or easy. And for a manager, it takes a certain amount of skill and finesse to do right by themselves and those they must let go.




Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned business owner with a reliable reputation, how you represent yourself and those you hire to do the same will, ultimately, be the cornerstone of your success. It’s for this reason that having a process in place to hire the right people for your organization is of the utmost importance.

Here are three steps on how to hire the right people for your organization:

  • Define the job. What skillset does it require and how can you best find a candidate to match? The Balance (@thebalancecom) Contributor Susan M. Heathfield says, “Employee job descriptions provide an opportunity to clearly communicate your company direction and they tell the employee where he or she fits inside of the big picture…Alignment of the people you employ with your goals, vision, and missionspells success for your organization. As a leader, you assure the inter-functioning of all of the different positions and roles needed to get the job done for the customer.”
  • Plan your recruiting strategy. Strategize to be proactive, not reactive, to give yourself ample time to seek out the talent and personality that best fits your goals. At Mustang, Co-Founder Bill Higgs coined the term “Operation Horsethief” to identify the “Mustangers” in other companies and go out and get them. Essentially, identify the top performers among your competition and/or industry and keep them at the forefronts of people’s minds, while fostering positive professional relationships. After all, good people know good people.
  • Interview, Interview, Interview. In the office, out of the office, one-on-one, panel format – utilize them all to get a 360-degree assessment of your candidate. Ask problem-solving questions to understand how someone employs logic and reason to come to a conclusion. Ask behavioral questions to see how they would handle themselves in potential scenarios that may arise in the context of the job. And finally, observe them…How do they treat those around them — from the colleagues they meet with and greet throughout the day; the administrative assistant who essentially holds the “keys to the kingdom”; and even spouse on the other end of a call.

At the end of the day, and as the adage goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Consequently, take the time upfront to hire the right people that can help you achieve your goals!

For more tips to optimize workplace dynamics, schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – jeni @

Buy Mustang The Story on Amazon – HERE.

If the fastest route from A to B is a straight line, then it should be stated that businesses on the same page, internally, stand to reach their destination – a winning proposal or sale — the quickest. And it’s for this reason that tackling any potential or mounting strife at the onset is the key to success. We’ve come up with the three steps to resolving issues in the workplace:

  1. IDENTIFY: Clearly identify the real issue because the stated problem is rarely the real one. Forbes contributor Glenn Llopis (@glennllopisgroup) agrees, stating, “Leaders who lack this wisdom approach problems with linear vision – thus only seeing the problem that lies directly in front of them and blocking the possibilities that lie within the problem. As such, they never see the totality of what the problem represents; that it can actually serve as an enabler to improve existing best practices, protocols and standard operating procedures for growing and competing in the marketplace. They never realize that, in the end, all problems are the same – just packaged differently.”
  2. COMMUNICATE: As Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs often says, “All problems are communication problems.” Part of Higgs’ philosophy on avoiding communications problems  is “busting silos” — getting people to communicate across departments to solve issues. Reach across the spoken and unspoken lines of an organization, recognizing that communication can be bridged at any and all points along the chain of command. When the team meets to discuss an issue, stay focused on the task at hand, avoid tangents, and don’t be afraid to suggest solutions.
  3. SOLVE: Solving issues takes time, but if you have a clear vision and value system for your organization you will find that solving them is easier and more efficient. Three types of resolutions usually emerge when meeting to solve a problem – immediate action to solve it, the issue is merely awareness and the conclusion is that everyone concurs with that awareness. And the third is that an issue may need more research to a follow up meeting to understand what is really happening.

For more tips to optimize workplace dynamics, schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – jeni @




Rollercoasters are often tempting — the exhilarating highs coupled with the crashing lows — and for the entrepreneur, this is all too often a way of life. However, in business, an arguably more welcomed operational strategy is to just be steady – steady work for steady people.

“Steady” isn’t so easily attained, however! It’s awfully appealing to take those high risks for the potentially heavy returns, but often, it’s the moderate risks, resulting in similar returns that keep things chugging along.

From a startup perspective, entrepreneur at @drinkamara Greg Connolly says, “Remember that when you expand you must do it at a manageable speed, so you can support your product with marketing campaigns, boots on the ground and the proper support for your partners.”

And even once a business is off the ground running, keeping things in check – both in your investments and your people – will reap immeasurable benefits.

Bill Higgs advises, “In order to make decisions in a fast-paced environment and gain long term success, we need to understand the larger picture. We need to review the vision, goals and course of action that took us through the tough times and figure out how to “stay the course” in a time of plentiful work.”

People aim to work at a company that can sustain itself across a constantly fluctuating economy and/or industry. The company that can hire and maintain steady players that can communicate effectively and stick around to pass along their best practices to newcomers will reap the rewards in the marathon of business operations. These steady players are what, ultimately, will take all areas of the company to a new level!

For more advice on building your business, purchase a copy of Mustang The Story – HERE.

Or on Amazon, HERE.


Getting and staying organized arguably might be the holy grail of business (er…life) success! And while what works for some may not work for others, the implementation of a process is critical.

Howard Tullman, CEO of digital startup strategy company 1871 imparts, “So much in the business world happens on a schedule…I’m not talking about just one central calendar that’s critical to this task; I’m talking about developing a consistent “discovery and triage” process, updated quarterly throughout each year, to identify and incorporate the events, activities and opportunities found in all of the calendars that bear on your business.”

For Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs, a coincidentally relevant junk mail message about professional planning developer, Planner Pad® (@plannerpads), provided the process he needed to manage his endless task list with a functional user interface. Across the top were seven columns for weekly lists of activities by categories; perfect for someone wearing many hats. The middle section of the pages had the days of the week with dates and space to list daily things to do. The bottom section had time slots by day for appointments from 7am to 8pm. The far right column had space for notes and calls, expenses and small calendars showing the previous month, this month and the next month.

“From 1991 to 1993, my Planner Pads® had many blank weeks, sometimes for a whole month as I worked to train myself into the habit of using it correctly. By 1994 and 1995 I was an expert and could really manage a lot of tasks. Whenever I fell off in the upkeep of the Planner Pad® I could feel my performance slipping. Things were so crazy in 1995 that the Planner Pad® really got used and I became a big believer in Sunday evening planning for the week and daily revisions to the plan each morning,” remembers Higgs.
The best way to implement a Planner Pad® type system is to pair up with others and meet twice a week to review use. Otherwise it will not become a habit and will fall by the wayside.

As a business owner, research the options available to you to best optimize your resources! And to learn more about the tools Mustang used for planning success, purchase a copy of Mustang The Story, now on Amazon!