A study reported in the Washington Post speculated that there is a “leadership gene” that determines one’s leadership abilities based on their genetic makeup. If there’s anything we learned from Mustang: the Story, it’s that hard work and determination are the real factors in leadership potential. According to Bill Higgs, author of Mustang: The Story and co-founder of Mustang Engineering, those genes just get you a “seat at the table.”  

bill higgs

Higgs will be sharing his leadership expertise next week at Vistage in Greenville, South Carolina. Vistage brings together executive leaders to help them expand on their leadership abilities and share business experience for learning and inspiration.

Higgs’ sessions will explain that the real work of becoming a great leader comes in as you are made into someone that others trust and respect to guide, not only the company in which you started, but also with the people you rely upon.

Higgs believes, “It is not all roses…there are thorns when working an organization. We always said ‘There is a little bit of Hell in every project. How you handle the Hell, or the thorns, will determine how good the project will be.’ Taking care of people and projects needs to be the leader’s ‘Come from place’ in order to create a culture that easily handles the thorns while enjoying the roses.”

Great leaders are indeed made, and Higgs stresses that they must first establish a clear vision and values that are robustly and frequently communicated across the company. And as all good leaders eventually realize, the hardest part of their success is getting the organization to reflect that philosophy and drive.  But once they do, energy and enthusiasm is a force multiplier, and that will help lead an organization to success.

Looking to inspire leaders in your organization? Schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event by emailing Jeni Bukolt at mustangthestory@gmail.com, or calling Haven Creative at 704.256.4008.

We know time is of the essence at every business, and your to do list isn’t going to complete itself if you’re stuck in meetings all day. We feel your pain and we’re here to help! Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can run a productive and effective meeting in these simple steps.

  1. Consider the topic or project and invite the appropriate employees. We’ve all sat in on a meeting where we just… well, sat. There was no real purpose for us being included and we weren’t able to add anything constructive. To avoid this, make sure you are only inviting those who are actively involved, unless someone outside of the project has mentioned new ideas or an interest in getting involved. In this case, invite that person and let them bring fresh ideas to the table.
  2. Speaking of tables, consider the space where the meeting will be held. That conference room down the hall might be your go-to, but consider the park that’s just a block away or a coffee shop with lots of space. Changing up the space and getting people out of the office might inspire more creativity, and a little walking will get everyone’s blood pumping to their brain and fresh air to their lungs. You can’t go wrong!
  3. Always have a written agenda, and send it out ahead of time. This practice helps everybody. It forces you as a leader to formulate a clear and concise outline of what needs to be covered so no time is wasted off topic. An agenda also helps your employees better prepare for the meeting and attend ready to contribute. Bonus: if you find the agenda is looking pretty pointless as you write it out, cancel the meeting and send an update email instead. Everyone will appreciate the update and the time to work towards the broader project objectives.

With some practice and consistency, your team will start to feel energized and excited when they receive that meeting invite. Mustangers know that hard work pays off in big ways. Meetings might seem like a small part of the payoff, but they are a key ingredient to success.

This throwback photo of Mustang’s founding team from 1987 is significant – not because of those metallic blue shorts – but because Mustang Engineering took off not much longer after these photos were taken. It’s moments like these – where the whole team is working together, putting in the work, and celebrating milestones – that makes all those meetings worth it.

For more ways to build, motivate, and celebrate your teams, order a copy of Mustang: the Story, From Zero to $1 Billion by Bill Higgs and become a Mustanger today!

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!

If you’ve had the chance to attend one of our speaking engagements, you’ll notice we bring a Snickers® bar to every function. Mustang Engineering snagged one of their biggest clients by winning them over with a Snickers® candy bar.

Candy is great and all, but it seems unrealistic to believe that something so small could make such a big impact, right? Obviously, there’s a whole lot more to it than that!

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 8 of Mustang the Story about how it all went down:

Our team walked in carrying an easel and the advertising boards – just hoping to get some attention. I then flipped the first board over to reveal the start of our presentation. Written in magic marker were the words:


The original presentation boards

I then probably broke all of the protocol rules of Metro and walked over into their space. I had a Kroger plastic shopping bag in my hand and starting with the first board member, I put a large Snickers® bar in front of each of them. Of course I sort of sang the Snickers jingle, Mustang style. Smiling and bouncing a little as I walked down the line, I told them that I wanted them to focus on this presentation…not lunch!! We were going to tell them about a company that is focused on solving their problems. Our feeling was that if we take care of their problems, they will gain trust in us, which will increase efficiency and lead to more work.

I had worked my way down to putting a large Snickers® in front of the last board member, when I said “Oh and here is a small one for your baby”. That comment got everyone on both sides of the room laughing, because she was pregnant but not yet showing. It was very obvious through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and feeling of empathy, that Mustang was really going to be focused on Metro and their needs.    

By going into the board’s space and getting them laughing, we were able to totally change the whole dynamic of the room. We drew them into a great conversation about their concerns. We talked about how Mustang would help solve those concerns, if Metro would help us minimize the bureaucracy and paperwork required of our people. Before the “Presentation” was over, we were all working together to figure out how to take care of each other in a fully win-win fashion that really felt good and energetic to all participants.

It’s a great success story, but more importantly it helped demonstrate and reinforce three characteristics of work cultures that are other-oriented. Let’s break it down:

  1. Other-oriented cultures consider basic needs first. As Higgs writes, this meeting built trust between Mustang and the client. Small deeds like providing hungry and busy clients with a snack means you care about their needs. Sure, a Snickers® isn’t exactly a balanced food, but in this scenario the thought and gesture matter more than the snack. Higgs and his team demonstrated they considered the client’s basic needs; this ultimately led to a foundation of trust.
  2. Other-oriented cultures require (positive) thinking ahead. As soon as the Mustang team realized their pitch was right before lunch, they anticipated the potential for distraction. Instead of adopting a “we’re doomed!” mentality and trudging through, they found a solution and implemented it immediately.
  3. Other-oriented cultures change the dynamic for the better. Pitch meetings can be stiff, boring, and perhaps worst of all they can be a huge waste of time. Much of this is a result of an atmosphere that is way more serious than it needs to be. By cracking some jokes, singing a popular jingle, and getting everyone to lighten up, the Mustang team shifted that dynamic. This ultimately put the client in the right mindset to listen to Mustang present on how they would take care of Metro efficiently and with great care.

You don’t have to have a clever or quirky solution to every problem to establish your organization’s culture as other-oriented. All you need to do is follow these three mindsets and problem solving tactics, and you’ll be on your way to success.

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

What does it mean to work as a team?  How does one foster a sense of “team” when the physical location of members is dispersed throughout the country?  What are the tools that team members can rely upon to strengthen their cohesiveness, in spite of their distance?



In the modern workplace, it’s common for employees to work remotely, either from satellite offices or even from their own homes.  Consequently, leaders can promote culture and productivity by following three basic principles:


  • Meet together in person. Despite the virtual nature of your teams, it’s important to, at least initially, place names with faces.  It establishes a baseline level of trust among team members, as well as everyone being able to get on the same page about the shared mission and/or direction of the work going forward.
  • Create a communication schedule and stick to it. When working remotely, it’s easy to get caught up in your own task list, but consistent communication enables team members to discuss what they’re working on, in the event that others might be able to leverage or contribute their own work streams into others. As Mustang The Story Author Bill Higgs writes, “Mechanical, structural, electrical engineers and designers all sat together to foster a sense of team and insure there were no communication gaps across interface lines. We knew that we could not take risks other companies did, because there was no buffer of cash if we failed. We had to get different types of contracts, work in different, more efficient ways and win work in a super competitive environment.Our intense work ethic and attention to detail permeated the entire organization to the point where people felt responsible to get the whole project out in good order…not just their part.”
  • Utilize technology. Technology can be a powerful tool to promote connectivity and cohesiveness among team members. Harvard Business Review Contributor Keith Ferrazzi recommends using platforms that integrate all types of communication to include direct calls and text messaging, discussion forums or virtual team rooms, and conference calling. The tools that currently exist to help streamline work and engage the whole team is limitless so do your homework to discover what will work best for your needs.

Mustang always prioritized culture as they worked to deliver for the client.  Higgs even recalls using short mantras and icons for different stages of a project to help people pull together.  “For the Clair project in the North Sea we needed to reduce cost by 40% to make the project go. During concept work with teams in the UK and the Americas, our mantra was “Clair will be Different” to get folks aligned. Once approved, the saying became “Clair…Deliver the Difference!!” We put it on everything from email to signs in video-conferencing to trinkets on desks…and we delivered world-class performance.”

With the trend in companies continuing to employ virtual teams, it’s no wonder there are so many options for engaging team members.  What strategies will you rely upon to foster a winning culture among your team?









What does it mean to truly work collaboratively?  How can a company best leverage their workforce?  What’s the best strategy for busting the designated groups, or silos, of a company for optimal outcomes?

Mustang answered these questions by recognizing early on that all problems are communication problems.  And the only way to face those issues, internally, before they escalated, was to bust their work silos wide open.  Essentially, foster the free space for all employees to think, share, and articulate ideas across titles and work streams.  Thereby, business development works concurrently with sales who works together with manufacturing, and so on.

Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs acknowledged, “Each group within a company was responsible for delivering a bottom line and developed its own structure to do that. Each one of these silos could handily report out at the top to the organization, which could then roll everything together for projections and results. The reporting and organizational lines were very clear as well as career paths and job descriptions. Everything was set up well to be ‘managed to metrics’ that had been proven to deliver a healthy bottom line.”

Ultimately, establishing open lines of communication among employees make it easier to recognize potential hiccups, talk through strategies, and be more tolerant of the decisions being made.

Fast Company Contributor Asha Sharma agrees, “A company should make sure their employees feel comfortable asking questions so they consistently have what they need to perform at their highest levels. They should never be without crucial information because they don’t know where to go, who to ask, or are worried their inquiries will be shut down and not taken seriously. Questions spur creativity and get people talking about how to tackle problems in new and different ways. Cultures that are built around defensive territorial behaviors are not built to last. Cultures that promote and embrace intellectual curiosity across the business are sure to grow and thrive.”

Communication is the key to success in any relationship, and certainly in business.  What silos will you bust to make your business boom?

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 @ thehavencreative.com.

When Mustang Engineering first began, they worked hard to cultivate a culture full of Mustangers — passionate, hard-working, enthusiastic go-getters who aim to achieve greatness on a daily basis.  But, you don’t have to be employed by Mustang Engineering to be a Mustanger, at heart.

At its core, a Mustanger is someone with a “Just Do It” mentality that can come from any company, any line of work. A Mustanger’s energy and enthusiasm is a force multiplier that helps spiral coworker’s attitudes up to create a more positive work environment.

Forbes Contributor Ken Sundheim reiterates, “Hire employees who take action and take chances.  While chances may lead to failure, they will more often lead to success and mold confidence while generating new ideas.  Stagnant employees won’t make your company money; action-oriented employees will.”

Like the spark plug of a project, a Mustanger’s involvement ignites the passion of others, and yields success in both the project’s outcome and all those who contributed. They take vested interest in the achievement of their team members, because they know a strong team is mutually exclusive to strong leadership–hence the expression, “lead from within.”

It’s no easy feat to continually build up the team that surrounds you, which is why Mustangers make it a point to seek out good mentorship. They identify their own areas of weakness and strive for the knowledge and/or experience to turn them into strengths.

And at the end of the day, Mustangers recognize that work is meaningless without play, and therein lies the work hard/play hard concept!  You can’t truly appreciate all you’ve achieved without the wisdom to step back and celebrate the accomplishments.

Learn how to become a Mustanger…purchase a copy of Mustang the Story today!


It’s inevitable in any company that the torch must eventually be passed to the next generation so the legacy of their predecessors can continue. It’s for this reason that it’s critical for management to prioritize the hiring and mentorship of “Young Guns” – the term Mustang used to refer to the new recruits in their mentorship program.

So how does a company foster that next generation?  Consider the following:

Empower Innovation – Be open to the ideas of those around you, no matter how far down on the totem pole or how different the person may be coming up with them.  Often times, those pitches are incredibly innov

ative because they don’t have the luxury of resources and broad networks at their disposal. Let your younger generation find those out-of-the-box solutions to your problems because they aren’t stuck in old ways of thinking.


Encourage ExpressionAs innovation requires resourcefulness, receptiveness is the way in which company leadership responds to those ideas. Encourage your “Young Guns” to speak what’s on their mind by establishing an accepting and collaborative environment.  It’s not so much that all those ideas will be implemented, but more so that Young Guns feel heard and valued simply for speaking up.


 Leverage Strengths – “Young Guns” are technologically savvy and are intrinsically comfortable with a multitude of platforms.  Consequently, they’re easily motivated to learn “the next big thing”, or really whatever program would streamline their work.  And therein lies another strength – because they so strongly believe in the value of work/life balance, efficiency is king, and efficiency equates to productivity!

Entrepreneur Contributor Marty Fukuda states, “No organization can have too many qualified leaders, and you can never know when you’ll need to replace, add or promote someone. The organizations that are intentional about the development of their next generation leaders will be prepared for anything.”

To learn more ways to foster leaders in your own company, schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – jeni @ thehavencreative.com.