If your company is growing – and we hope it is! – chances are you’re looking for new employees to get the work done. Out of a sea of applicants, how can you make sure you find the right one?

For starters, seek out candidates who clearly exhibit an eagerness for your company or industry from the get-go. Passion makes progress. “Operation Horsethief” was Mustang’s solution to finding passionate people, AKA Mustangers, and building a winning team. The excerpt below chronicles how Mustang Engineering succeeded in hiring the best of the best.

Excerpt from Mustang, The Story: “Operation Horsethief” 

It is pretty common that 20% of the people in a company pull the bulk of the load in making the company successful. We were working to develop a company where 80% of the people were pulling the load. We did this through small things like getting secretaries and drafters in front of the client to hand out their business card and show how they were helping the project.

We disseminated information broadly in a continuous attempt to make all eyes informed eyes”. By having informed eyes and people’s brains turned on in an encouraging environment, we could catch problems and conflicts while they were still small.  As we needed additional folks, we asked our people, vendors and clients if they knew people that would thrive in an environment like ours. We needed people who could work in an open, transparent, fun environment that also required a lot of personal accountability to produce.

 Good people know good people. That is about all we could believe in for hiring. We started calling our hiring process Operation Horsethief…identify the horses in other companies and go get them.

By Having A Fun Name For Identifying Top Performers, We Were Able To Keep It At The Front Of People’s Minds, Resulting In A Very Successful Hiring Practice.

It also helped that we would bring people in, have them drop all of the bureaucratic training they had and ask them to just take care of projects and people. They found this simple philosophy invigorating!

Sometimes we brought in people for interviews, liked them, but the timing was not right for either them or us. We may not have had enough work to add them, or they may have wanted to complete a job in order to not burn any bridges with their old company or their client. We agreed to keep talking and they were put on a department manager’s “want to hire” list. In many cases we worked out compensation and just put it in a folder. We wanted to be continuously interviewing and looking for good people that matched our criteria.

We had cobbled all of these people together from various companies and backgrounds and we wanted to rely on their capability in taking care of clients. We asked them to think in terms of working for the client and just getting paid by Mustang. Do what it takes to satisfy the client and get them coming back time after time. We’ll make sure you get paid and have the people and tools required in executing what you promise.

The payoff for joining and performing would be continuous work in a company that would not disappear out from under them, as happened all too frequently from ’83-’89 and again in ‘91. They could focus on the work while Felix, Paul and I would continue to work hard on their behalf to create a strong, stable company.

For more tips on how to create culture that inspires success, follow Bill Higgs on Twitter @MustangHiggs

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The K.I.S.S. Principle, which stands for “Keep it Simple Stupid” is not meant to imply stupidity. On the contrary, it is a design rule that states that systems perform best when they have simple designs rather than complex ones. To avoid the misunderstanding, we prefer to say, “Keep it Super Simple.”

The K.I.S.S. principle can be applied to virtually any scenario, especially business planning, management, and communication.

When starting a new project, the task list and objectives can feel overwhelming, but tasks are rarely as complex as they are initially perceived. A similar effect can take place when we think about communication. It can be easy to overthink an interaction, and it can also harm us to assume we’ve fully communicated an expectation or directions when we haven’t done so.

K.I.S.S. advises to first step back, take a deep breath and create a plan of action. When it comes to communication, we can assess what needs to be communicated. For example, consider who is performing the task, the timeline they’re allotted, how to complete the task, and any contextual information they might need to know. Has this all been communicated?

If not, what would be the best way to communicate this information? Do you have a process document in place that you can pass along? Should you meet one on one, or would a bulleted list sent via email suffice? Decide how you’re going to communicate the information and make it happen before the project begins!

By keeping communication direct and simple, it enables productive work in large development groups, and efficient problem solving. Additionally, it facilitates seamless cohesion across silos, creating dynamic teamwork that results in higher quality deliverables.

Forbes Contributor and CEO of MediConnect Global, Inc., Amy Rees Anderson, affirms that, “Truly intelligent people are not afraid to share their knowledge because they don’t view other people gaining knowledge as a threat to their own. Rather, they take pleasure in sharing and teaching others. As a result they become builders of people, and they contribute tremendously to a company’s overall success.”

Leaders who apply the K.I.S.S. principle to projects will find that they are able to move more projects forward and achieve greater success than ever imagined.

For practical advice on how to bust silos in your organization and eradicate communication problems for good, check out Mustang the Story on Amazon today!

If life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it, then developing a winning mentality will be what sustains you through the ups and down of business ownership.

Bill Higgs, author of Mustang The Story, implores startups to see how “CANNOTS” can turn into “COULDS,” and finally into “CANS.” The entrepreneur will be inundated with voices that say, “You Cannot…”

New business ventures are rife with naysayers, and if you listened to each one of them, you’d never get your feet off the ground. Positive people with a “just-do-it mentality” face the ever-present challenges and rise above. Those same people dismiss sheer luck as the path to success, and rather focus on their unwavering dedication to creating their own luck to deliver their value proposition and move their industry forward.

Business Zone Editor Dan Martin asserts, “We get the results in life that we think we’ll get. Hence confidence is a crucial aspect in my opinion. The top performers have an inner confidence which allows them to make the moves which others would step back from.”

It’s that desire to push forward, despite the obstacles, that creates a winning mentality. It’s having faith in yourself and your abilities to assume that if you push hard enough, you’ll make it through. Does it also take a commitment to excellence and a willingness to continually hone your craft? Absolutely! But it equally requires an inner confidence and remaining calm under pressure to spur you onwards and upwards.

To continue growing your winning mentality, check out Mustang the Story on Amazon today!

This week, Bill Higgs, author of Mustang the Story, presented to Vistage groups in Columbia & Charleston in South Carolina on some of his success takeaways. We affectionately call these phrases “Higgisms”:

Bill Higgs (right) trains a Vistage participant on how to become a Culture Merlin™!

“Sell While the Shop is Full!”

“Make Heros!”

“All Problems are Communication Problems!”

“Energy and Enthusiasm is a Force Multiplier!”

If you’re unfamiliar with Vistage, it’s a coaching seminar for CEOs of companies who are constantly striving to improve their efficiency, culture, and expertise. The groups listen to presentations given by speakers who founded, grew, and led their own businesses. While these rooms are filled with people who seem to already be living the dream, they’re there to grow and improve and meet like-minded individuals. This is networking.

Networking involves pulling yourself out of your comfort zone to meet new people and learn something new about yourself in the process. In many cases, it feels uncomfortable because you go into it looking for an outcome – you need a new job, or a new mentor, or just some advice on how to make the changes you need. These are fine objectives to have, and they may be what motivates you to put yourself out there in the first place.

If you’re new to networking, though, the process can seem a bit intimidating. Here are some tips to help you through:

  1. Utilize websites like Meetup.com to find locally organized groups and events in your area in a variety of themes, professions, and topics.
  2. Dress business casual, and don’t be scared to let your personality shine. Meetups and networking events are usually in fairly casual settings, so relax and be yourself!
  3. Bring business cards, and make sure you take business cards from the people you meet. When they introduce themselves, repeat their name back to them. “Nice to meet you, Jerry!” will help you match their name to their face when you sift through the business cards later and follow up.
  4. Follow up! Send people you met an email and ask them to grab a quick cup of coffee with you. Expand on a conversation you had with them at the meetup.
  5. Smile, give a firm handshake, and make eye contact. Convey confidence and professionalism, but do your best to be warm and friendly as well. You’ll be great!

There’s a lot we can learn from CEOs and their success, and one of those is the idea that we can always improve and meet people who can teach us new things. If executives at the top of their game are still looking to improve, you should be striving now as you make your own climb to the top.

To book Bill Higgs as a speaker for your next event, please contact Jeni Bukolt of Haven Creative at jeni @ thehavencreative.com.

To learn more about Vistage, visit vistage.com.

Would a warehouse space, with no cubicle walls and large group tables make your employees run for the hills or be excited for the inevitable collaboration? Would individual offices for all employees make them feel isolated or feel special? Would a work-from-home office stop motivation dead in its tracks or give an employee the work/life balance they’ve been seeking?

As an entrepreneur and business owner, it’s important to recognize the role your environment will play in influencing your company culture. Here are five tips to consider:

Have face time with employees – Recognize the importance of open communication among all levels of employees. If you have an office door, make sure to leave it open at key times of each day.

Foster openness – Dovetailing to the point above, consider eliminating private offices and/or cubicles altogether, as a means of facilitating continuous dialogue and collaboration.

Build wellness into the workday – Be it a yoga class for the office, an in-house masseuse, or bring-your-pet-to-work-day, give your employees an opportunity to relieve stress.

Make comfort a priority – Not saying you need Sleep Number beds in each workspace (though there might be something to that), but attention to temperature control, lighting, paint colors, and ergonomic layouts all play a part in productivity.

Be flexible – Give employees the occasional (or full-time!) benefit of being able to choose where they get their work done. Support their desire to leave early for a kid’s ballgame; or their wish to log some hours while they wait for their oil change at the car dealership. Allowing employees more control over their lives fosters a sense of balance and fulfillment that ultimately translates to better work performance.

According to Forbes contributor Jerry Jao, “Forty-one percent of respondents said that the physical workplace would impact their decision to accept a job, and fifty-one percent said that it would impact their decision to leave one…Put a lot of thought into the culture that you want for your company. What values do you want to communicate to your employees? How do you want to come across to the public and to your customers?”

When setting up shop, ask yourself what office features you would value most, for the environment you build is the culture you create.

We’re talking about the blame game.

When the pressure increases due to an overload of work; processes, systems and people start to break down. If the team is not tight knit, the blame game starts in order to deflect criticism. Finger pointin

g at other people or groups is natural under stress. This tends to increase the demarcation of silos in the organization between sales, design, purchasing, fabrication, and company administration. This is a good time to remember the old adage that…

“When You Point At Someone As The Problem, There Are Three Fingers Pointing Back At You.”

The first of those fingers pointing at you is asking if you communicated well with the person or group. Did they understand the handoff and what they were supposed to do in terms of task, quality and schedule? Had you effectively broken the silo between yourselves to work as a team?

The second finger asks if you provided the right support in terms of tools, training, process and resources to accomplish what was needed. Where did things break down? Were there multiple checks where the failure could have been avoided? Success is a team effort, but so is failure. You can still succeed in the future if the team self-reflects and takes responsibility for the loopholes.

The third finger asks if there is a trust relationship between you and the person or group. If there is a foundation of trust, then you will be able to put the failure on the table and discuss how to improve going forward. It will not be personal…it will be an objective analysis of what happened and why and how to prevent it in the future. How can the team get it right every time going forward?

Build a team mentality where everyone wins and loses as a team. Break down the silos to eliminate an “us and them” mentality within the company. Stop the “blame game” whenever it pops up and turn it into a team building moment by getting everyone to focus on solving the problem permanently instead of building more walls that prevent open and effective communication.

And feel free to share this clip with your team as a gentle reminder! A visual always helps!  https://youtu.be/1kAvHXBI4DM

Engineers are focused on using their expertise to implement the latest and greatest technology for the most cost effective solution. They live for the challenge of developing a unique and beautiful solution…as viewed by other engineers. They want to “Get ‘er right” to their definition of right.

This Quixotic search for the perfect solution gave rise to the Dilbert™ cartoons that clearly depict how out of touch engineers can be from the real world. I’m a Professional Engineer and I chuckled when Purchasing would show me an engineering design made out of Unobtanium (Ub). Later construction wanted to know why the Unobtanium was late…causing cost-schedule-safety impacts.

UnobtaniumYou can “box-in” engineers to keep them on the cutting edge of technology and not allow them to take you to the “bleeding edge” where consequences are severe.

“Mustang the Story” shows how we understood that “Engineering is a necessary evil to get into purchasing and construction”. With go-bys, standards, a stage-gate process and construction focused work breakdown structure we were able to get engineering off of the critical path and delivered 30% reduction in schedules and costs repeatedly on first-of-a-kind world class projects. We show you how to motivate engineers to “Get ‘er done” because we know they will do it right.

Job-on-the-corner-of-the-desk” is part of the solution…it is the “shiny object” engineers cannot resist jumping toward.  

– Bill Higgs,
Co-Founder Mustang Engineering,
Author, Mustang The Story

Find Bill on Twitter  @MustangHiggs and on Facebook /MustangTheStory

It’s not a typo, it’s a way of thinking! There are so many different ways to describe leveraging the strengths of those around you to build up the unit as a whole. To Mustang, it’s all about “Joined Up Thinking”, or JUT.

While competitiveness is ingrained in the human psyche, so too is cooperation. When company leaders value the latter more than the former, they begin to engage in JUT. Even the most competitive individual requires the support of others to succeed, so it is beneficial to everyone in your organization to adopt a JUT mentality.

Consider Computer Weekly Editor David Bicknell’s contention, “Collaboration will help us do more with less and lead to new growth opportunities to help companies differentiate themselves in difficult times, where the mindset is ‘work smarter, not harder’, and where work is something you do, not where you go. Collaborative tools can give that business advantage, unlock organization-wide and global intellect, and use that to foster the joined up thinking that will drive innovation.”

Company leadership is often operated under a “bunker mentality”, where each partner or manager has a business stream or department in which they are responsible. Bill Higgs refers to these as silos.

The natural inclination is for leaders to reinforce the walls of their own silo and build it up higher. In actuality, the goal should be to connect all the company’s silos using joined up thinking. To do this, Higgs strongly promoted the concept of “silo-busting.” The best way to start busting silos? Adopting joined up thinking, of course!

“The heads of the silos should talk and employ cross-fertilization to leverage their top resources in such a manner as to create a bigger pie…bonds then form between silos, learning from each others’ value propositions, understanding how links can be made to match clients’ needs, and demonstrating to management that this effort will create more opportunities and increase the bottom line.”

No matter the industry, consider of the organization you would rather be in: the one where each silo works unilaterally to accomplish their own goals or the one where they continually collaborate to achieve company-wide success? We know which one is more efficient, and we know you can achieve it through Joined Up Thinking!

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!