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!

A new business is saddled with the overwhelming need to keep costs under control.  It’s working countless and often uncompensated hours to minimize overhead labor costs and maximize returns.  In early days of Mustang Engineering, they recognized the need for a winning sales strategy without the employing of actual salesmen to increase expenses. Thus, their concept of “Same Sentence Sales” was born.

Forbes Contributor Gay Gaddies writes of lessons learned in sales strategy, “[It’s] better for your customers to discover how great you are than for you to tell them. Leave bread crumbs for your clients to find you because it is much more valuable for someone to discover you than for you to pound your fists declaring your greatness.”

As bread crumbs, Mustang used their existing relationships with key vendor salesmen or owners that were currently in the fields working with desired clients.  They leveraged the trust they had already built, such that when the client came asking their opinions on who best to parcel out sub-tasks or new projects, those salesmen could answer “Mustang”, among a short list of well-respected competitors.  The ability to have Mustang used in a conversational vs. sales sentence made all the difference.

Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs recalls, “The vendors knew we would take good care of the client and they had no problem working Mustang’s name into conversations.”

In turn, that led to winning more bids and, thus the easier their same sentence sales strategy became.

For more sales strategy tips, purchase a copy of Mustang the Story on Amazon – HERE

Picture a bidding presentation where the only thing standing between a crowded room of skeptical engineers and their lunch is YOU – and your sales pitch!  That’s not exactly an ideal position, but it was where Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs found himself in the early days of Mustang.  Higgs took a creative approach on what could have been a room full of “hangry” people and spun it into a message about Mustang Engineering being other-oriented.

In Mustang The Story, Bill describes, “Starting with the first board member, I put a large Snickers® bar in front of each of them. I told them that I wanted them to focus on this presentation… not lunch!! 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 [the client] and their needs…That is why we served Snickers® bars at all functions. We want to continually remind people to be other-oriented in our ongoing effort to build trust. Being other-oriented in all of our actions is a very positive differentiator that many find hard to believe at first.”

What can you do to create a winning deal and a lasting impression?  For Mustang, it was all about building trust with the client.  Satisfy their hunger for a strong collaboration, a useful contract, or perhaps just a tasty snack, and make a deal worth skipping lunch!



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.

For the budding entrepreneur, moving from vision to action often starts with a solid business plan. Take a breath…we’re not talking about a phonebook size stack of papers that specifically outlines every single aspect of your business, in minutia. But rather, a high-level, action-driven, one-pager that lays out your vision, mission and objectives.

This week team Mustang attended a “One Page Business Plan” presentation by entrepreneur Tom Bojarski of Echo Stone. Bojarski spoke about the business plans of past – those 200 page documents that start with good intentions, but often end up in the back of the filing cabinet collecting dust. He stressed that the one page business plan is more effective because it streamlines the steps and removes the unnecessary verbosity and clutter that can often be found in more comprehensive plans. Leave it out on your desk!!

Much like the SMART goals, SWOT and KISS principles that Bill Higgs speaks about in his keynote presentations, the one page business plan also helps define who are you, what you do, and how you will get there. It is the perfect way to get you started on formulating your end goals and business strategies while giving you the benefits of a business plan.

With all the tasks to juggle in order to get a business up and running, it’s easy, and all too common, for teams to lose sight of the answers to these questions.

The one page plan is meant to be a living document – it will expand as you grow and keep you on track. In order to ensure its success, you need to meet regularly with your team to discuss progress. The beauty of a one-page plan is its innate conciseness, allowing you to keep your team focused.

Entrepreneur.com Contributor Casandra Visser recommends the simple one paged plan. “Test drive your thinking. Get [your plan] out in front of as many potential clients, partners and suppliers as possible. In presenting and discussing your offering with them you will receive immediate feedback. This kind of first-hand market research will be invaluable as an early indicator as to whether or not your business plan is on track to becoming a profitable enterprise.”

Avoid the rabbit holes with a one-page business plan. Don’t let the idea of developing a business plan, and all that it COULD include, be the thing that keeps you from getting started… today!

As a leader of a growing company, you have to know when to let go. In the beginning, it’s always a juggling act to manage all the moving parts. The consistency and abundance of tasks to manage means your company is, not only existing, but ostensibly, thriving. And at the helm, you have to know when to delegate down so you can rise up. In other words, “delegate to elevate”!

Yes, that may seem like an oxymoron – letting go despite an ever-growing list of to-dos — but here’s three steps, in order, to guide you through the process:

  • Figure out what about your business you enjoy doing the most. Michael Gerber, entrepreneurial coach and author, believes there are three roles to choose from – entrepreneur, manager, or technician. Do you know which one you are?

Gerber suggests that spending the majority of your time in the wrong role is one of the primary reasons for small business failures. You can work against type if you have to or choose to, but you can’t sustain it. You will expend much more energy than necessary and you will accomplish less.

  • Write down everything you do on a given day. This is no small feat because even the most minor of tasks are not necessarily intrinsic to someone else, if they had to be delegated.

One of the surest ways to break through the ceiling and get to where you want to go is knowing how to “delegate to elevate.” Growing means knowing when to let go. In other words, delegate down so you can rise up. You’ll never know what you have until you give it some autonomy to see if it can soar and just how high!

Need more advice? Purchase the how-to manual of building and growing a business, Mustang The Story today! Now available on Amazon!

At Mustang, they used to say “make all eyes, informed eyes”.  It was a similar sentiment to the expression “two eyes are better than one”, but at Mustang, they believed in many more than two!  It was truly a collaborative, engaging culture that not only benefitted the employees themselves, but also the projects in which they took part.

Bill Higgs recalls, “We disseminated information broadly 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 who would thrive in an environment like ours — an open, transparent, fun environment that also required a lot of personal accountability to produce…They could focus on the work while we would continue to work hard on their behalf to create a strong, stable company.”

When you make people aware of an issue, no matter how broadly,  that’s often when a solution can be found.  That’s when a potentially unlikely source will wake up in the middle of the night with an “ah-ha moment” and subsequently, make a valuable contribution.

Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, states, “Team members are more likely to want to collaborate if the path to achieving the team’s goal is left somewhat ambiguous. If a team perceives the task as one that requires creativity, where the approach is not yet well known or predefined, its members are more likely to invest time and energy in collaboration.”
Open-ended, continuous brainstorming is the key to engaging everyone from the project manager down to the receptionist.  By making all within earshot privy to details of the project, solutions can be derived from unexpected people.  Give people a chance to rise to the occasion, but simply giving them a seat at the table — all eyes, informed eyes.  You never know who will be the voice that will bring in a new perspective!

dontexpectwhatyoudontinspectThis was a common adage frequently used by former Mustang construction manager Mike Hunt.  It served the company well as it guided project managers to thoroughly create, vet and quality assure all outgoing deliverables.  Essentially, it’s paramount to inspect all aspects of the work being produced so your returns are as expected.  

Instrumental to quality assurance in project management is the concept of a Work Breakdown Structure — a topic we’ve previously addressed on this very blog.  The benefits of incorporating a WBS are ten-fold, but because it’s a decomposition of work into smaller components, it facilitates specific work streams be administered by those team members best fit to manage them.  So in theory, each stream gets its own personal QA, dedicated to ensuring its success.  And when those individual streams are then added to the larger project deliverable, the PM can feel confident in the sum being as good as its parts.  

At the crux of this concept of thoroughly inspecting a project’s pieces to manage everyone’s  expectations is scoping the work.  According to the Project Management Institute, the scope of a project is defined as the work required to output a project’s deliverable.  It’s managed by ensuring the project still comes in on time and within budget.  It’s setting the right expectations for those doing the work as well as those utilizing the end product.

Continuous communication across each project stream certainly fosters a satisfying deliverable. Further, when work is scoped appropriately at the onset and given its due diligence throughout, the handoffs have a way of meeting, and hopefully exceeding expectations for all involved.  So at your next project meeting remember, “don’t expect what you don’t inspect.” 

Busting Silos Joined up ThinkingCombined arms operations. Cross-discipline coordination. Cross-sector sales. There has been much finessing to the term best used to describe leveraging the strengths of those around you to build up the unit, as a whole. To Mustang it’s 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 then begin to engage in joined up thinking. And even the most competitive individual requires, on some level, the support of others to succeed.

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/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 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.

From sifting through piles of resumes, to countless interviews and sometimes blind faith, hiring employees that “fit the mold” of your company is no small feat. To avoid turnover, create loyalty and boost productivity amongst employees, it’s important to invest in recognition (a.k.a. “atta boys!” and “atta girls!”).

David Sturt, Executive Vice President at HR consulting firm O.C. Tanner Co. maintains that, investing in your people “helps drive engagement and boosts morale…take your best-performing employees and show them some appreciation. If you don’t make time for those who deserve it, they may start to look elsewhere for a company that will.”

thank-youInvesting in your people doesn’t have to mean investing big dollars. There are all kinds of ways to positively recognize people. Consider your company resources, but also understand that it doesn’t take much to make your employees feel valued. Examples include thank you notes, public appreciation boards highlighting someone’s professional milestone or project achievement, and/or birthday announcements. It could be a gift certificate, “years of service” plaque, or a simple toy/mascot that gets displayed on a person’s desk for a certain period of time before being passed along. If you’re a small business with limited resources, you have no choice but to think out of the box, but you (and your people) will likely be pleasantly surprised with what you come up with.

At Mustang Engineering, the founders believed that training the leadership team to engage and reward people “in the moment” benefitted the company as a whole.

smile-and-say-helloBill Higgs noticed while doing his paper route as a young man that people were not smiling and seemed unhappy. He decided that he would smile at everyone and say “Hi!” He knew that no one would resist smiling back and saying hello. So for at least that moment their day would be happier. And it might spill over to improve the rest of their day.

When people feel appreciated, they’re more likely to be productive. With relatively little effort from leadership, its impact is profound in establishing a positive company culture.