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.

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!



bestplayersIt works for the NFL, the NBA, the NCAA…the best player plays! Sure, there’s a lot of strategy going on behind the scenes to pull off a team win, but utilizing your strongest players is a sure-fire way to up your odds. It’s ironic then that the same philosophy isn’t universally applied to the business world.

In the workplace, all too often, companies don’t employ “the best player plays” approach. They become too focused on closing the deal or making the sale and not on the client’s needs. By putting the client’s needs first, you build trust and relationships that will pay back ten-fold.

Mustang co-founder Bill Higgs recalls, “[Our project managers] were free to sit on the same side of the table with the client and figure out the absolute best way to deliver the project in the current industry reality. Sometimes this meant that we gave some of our scope to vendors or competitors that had a very efficient solution. At other times it meant that we put an engineer or designer into a vendor shop to help them get their product done on time. The client was involved in these decisions as we worked a “best player plays” mentality along with an open-minded project execution philosophy.”

Using this approach to business inadvertently fosters trust with the clients, as well as a particularly supportive culture. People are more inclined to volunteer someone else perhaps better suited to the project’s needs. Moreover, they’re more willing to take themselves off a project if they feel comfortable that they could reasonably shift to something else.

“Mustang’s focus was on delivering quality projects in the best possible manner for the client, accepting the internal juggling act to move employees to billable hours elsewhere internally, “ said Higgs.

Encouraging your company to have their best players play doesn’t have to come at the expense of some, but rather the success of all.

Looking to cultivate a strong culture within your organization? Schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – mustangthestory@gmail.com

Deciding to start a business can be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make in your life, but it is most certainly not for the faint at heart. There are always those that don’t share your vision, and maybe some that don’t want you to succeed. To be successful, you have to keep beating the drum.

DrumEntrepreneurs who have an unparalleled commitment, tenacity and work ethic are ultimately profitable. As Mustang Co-Founder, Bill Higgs, says “it takes constant effort to get your vision and values to permeate throughout your organization top to bottom…we kept beating the drum for our vision of moving an industry to take care of people as well as projects.”

Each day presents a new problem to solve, a new process to streamline. And while there are times to look at the endeavor holistically, more often than not, just taking things day-by-day is what keeps you moving forward. There are virtually no [successful] business owners that end the day thinking, “I’m done. I did everything I sought out to do.” Because with each accomplishment, comes a renewed vigor to tackle the next hurdle even better than the last.

Entrepreneur Contributor, Stevel Tobak states, “Make no mistake, successful companies have no endpoint. That’s right, they don’t. The goal is to keep overcoming obstacles, growing sales, and making money, ad infinitum…Having the vision to see what others don’t, the passion to motivate yourself and others, the savvy to build and grow a business, and the guts to make good decisions, are all part of the mix. But what binds those ingredients together is the tenacity to stick with it, day in, day out, year after year.”

While passion is the initial driver for entrepreneurs, it takes consistent beating of the drum to get that passion to permeate throughout the organization. Consistent messaging, taking care of people and focusing on projects will help drive that home.

It’s the accompanying strategy and logistics that create a truly thriving business. But as Peter F. Drucker says, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” so it’s equally important to invest in your culture. Having both and the will to continue beating the drum is what, ultimately, makes music that people will dance to.

“Effective and continuous sales are the lifeline in a small business” Bill Higgs

BillHiggs_MustangTheStory_SalesMustang, The Story, illustrates several ways to gain effective and continuous sales.  Here is a excerpt from Mustang, The Story, Chapter 9 , which offers a unique perspective on creating lasting relationships.

Sales, The Mustang Way.

Divakar Pathak was our first direct hire Mustanger and worked as a piping designer. Out of work and needing to support his family, Divakar had been selling cars at a dealership. He had been the top salesman for the previous three months, but was happy to be back in a technical job. I told him that I had primary responsibility for sales, but did not have much experience and wondered if he had any words of wisdom from selling cars. He said to just make an impression so you are remembered. In his experience, it did not seem to matter if the impression was good or bad…just that they remembered you!

Back in those days, I was able to set up an appointment with one person at Arco and then just roam the halls to say hello to other engineers and see what was coming up. I’d go over every week or ten days and pick up small tasks that did not have to be bid since we had very quickly set up an “umbrella” or “evergreen” reimbursable contract with Arco. It turned out the Arco contract person lived in my neighborhood and knew the head guys wanted to be able to work with us, so he expedited the contract. Some Arco engineers started calling me “Mr. Mustang” as I’d come down the hall and I always worked to brighten their day with a smile or some antic like getting a vendor’s donuts from the coffee area and handing them out.

Working with their head of electrical engineering (Mike Campbell), Felix and I set things up for him to electronically transfer data back and forth to our office to get the drafting support he needed. Most times Mike just worked directly with LD Cunningham in drafting and did not get charged for any engineering time from Felix. This worked so well that I started telling the other engineers that we were Arco’s “engineer down the hall”. We had a contract and the trust of their bosses, so use us to get your work done! We were able to leverage their small staff and accomplish a lot of work.


This became my modus operandi. I worked to build trust in me and Mustang with the client and then worked to transfer that trust to the even smarter folks back in the office. And I had discovered the engineer-down-the-hall moniker would help people understand Mustang as we progressed. For example, would you put unlimited liability on your own engineer down the hall? Of course not, so why try to put that risk on Mustang and have to pay for it? Felix loved this affirmative action from sales to help him get good contracts. Of course, at the time, Mustang was so hard to manage that if someone wanted to sue us we joked that we would just hand them the keys and wish them good luck. In general, I joked with clients that we wanted first right of refusal on their work. If it did not match us, or we were too full, we would help them place the work at the right company and even suggest the team they should use. We were building trust based on an all-encompassing performance in the client’s eyes.

Follow the blog for weekly updates about Mustang, the Story and excerpts from the book

For more sales and leadership advice, follow Bill Higgs on Twitter and on Facebook

Strong client relationships drive sales, sustainability, and growth. You need your employees to believe in the mantra that you’re not in business solely to make money, but actually to help your clients. Money is a byproduct of success, not the other way around.

bil higgs mustang the storyHere are three “Mustang” ways to develop strong client relationships:


Communication is a key ingredient in healthy client relationships. As Bill Higgs often says, “All problems are communication problems”. If you fail to communicate with your clients, it will be difficult to adequately address their needs. Touch base often with your clients to inquire about their progress and to learn how you might be better able to meet their needs and expectations.


The more value you offer, the more a client comes to depend on you. Build your relationship by giving away some free insight. Don’t hesitate to share information clients may find useful, whether or not it benefits you in any way. “By giving the client the names of people he should use at other companies, we showed good industry knowledge, showed a focus on the client and showed we were realistic about our own capabilities. A clear and clean philosophy came across in everything we did. We were working to position clients, vendors and Mustangers into a win-win scenario…even if it meant Mustang taking a controlled hit to prove the point.” (Excerpt from Mustang, The Story)


Effectively communicating and bringing value to your clients on a consistent basis results in “making heroes” by putting them in position for superior performance. Mustang’s win-win, teaming environment was transformational to the industries it touched and created better profitability for all involved.

Implementing these relationship-building strategies will likely yield measurable improvements in sales and lengthen the duration of relationships with your company’s most valuable clients. Strong customer relationships are built over time. It’s important to provide value to these clients on a consistent, ongoing basis. It’s like piling sand – a continual effort!

For More Tips on How to Build Strong Client Relationships, follow Bill Higgs on Twitter @MustangHiggs

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In the early days of Mustang Engineering, controlling costs became an intense juggling act as the founders strived to create trust and loyalty between Mustangers, vendors, and clients. They worked an unbelievable amount of hours to minimize overhead labor costs and as Bill Higgs recalls, “I had salt stains on my shoes from sweating through them pounding the pavement for work.” Mustang had a tenuous grip on survival and needed a winning sales strategy, yet hiring a salesman did not fit within the control of expenses. As a result, “Same Sentence Sales” was born.

Excerpt from Mustang, The Story, “Same Sentence Sales” 

 There were about 20 competitors and 40 clients in Exploration & Production (E&P) or what is commonly referred to as the “upstream” oil business, working on offshore platforms in the Gulf. Due to Paul’s client relationships, we had 12 designers working in our sixth week. Our design group was in the Houston “network” that shared information on where projects were and how companies were faring. This network was the designer’s lifeline for the next job. They “heard it through the grapevine” that a prime competitor, Omega Marine, had four salesmen and three less designers working! This piece of information had such an impact on us that we did not hire a salesman in upstream until our eighth year. 

Instead, we developed our relationships with 17 key vendor salesmen or owners. Valve salesmen, control panel salesmen, equipment salesmen, etc. were shaking the bushes hard, looking for work. They all had certain strong relationships with clients based on past performance. Each had trust relationships where the client would ask their opinion on which engineering firm could do a good job for them. We asked that these salesmen just put our name in the same sentence with known companies like CBS and Omega that they trusted. This was our “same sentence” sales goal of the first few years.

The vendors knew we would take good care of the client and they had no problem working Mustang’s name into conversations. Generally they would call us if there was work at a given client’s office, and we would share what bids were coming out of Mustang or other work we had heard about. In this manner, we stayed super-wired into the industry and what work was coming up. The sales calls we made as a result of this network were “rifle shots” targeted toward a specific project and the person who could award the work. Many times, we also knew the client’s concerns and how to win from the conversations with vendors, who were themselves trying to put together a winning sales strategy.

Same Sentence Sales


For more sales tips, check out our post on “Creating Lasting Impressions”  and follow Bill Higgs on Twitter @MustangHiggs