Some may say that Brandon Steiner that was dealt a hand of cards that weren’t in his favor, but that didn’t stop him though from building one of the premiere brands in sports marketing. During our interview, Brandon shared some of the most valuable lessons he’s learned in life and what has helped him arrive at the point that he is today.
Alan: Welcome back I'm with Brandon Steiner today of Steiner Sports, welcome to today's show.
Brandon: I'm excited to be here when you said American Dream I feel like I have my name on it
Alan: You've got quite a bit in life and for the listeners I'd like to have you bring us up say since your education date years to moving out into the real world and starting companies and how you got to where you are today.
Brandon: For me it's always been the underdog. I think it's the best way to describe me and I was the stupidest kid in the family. Had a seven sixty on my boards combined, went to a pass-fail high school, I had no money to go to college end up going to one of the most expensive private schools in New York- Syracuse. It's really just about the fight and by the way I've struggled- a lot of ADD, ADHD issues OCD issues, but I never let that stuff put me on the side. I didn't fail in school I think school failed me and I think school really didn't recognize the grit, the fight I had in me. I've been working since I've been 10, not out of joy and love at the beginning, but we didn't have enough money we didn't have food so I had to work and there was something about being hungry when you were a kid, the hunger. But I never let it get me down I always found the excitement of trying different things. I definitely had a very imaginative mind and for me I think really things took off for me when I was 12. I had the paper route going, I was giving circulars underneath the L and taking those circulars, hiring kids, couldn't pay them in cash, pay them in fireworks, bottle works, just manipulating a whole bunch of things, I knew there was something a little different with me. So I understood, put a lot of work into something and do quality work get a good result. I got an accounting degree from Syracuse- which was I'd say virtually almost impossible for someone like me to get. But if I found the right kids at Syracuse, they were really smart and they took that stupid kid like me along and they got a joy out of tutoring me and showing me how to get through. I think if you want to get through anything you can you just have to kind of set your mind to it because I cried, "mom I got to come home, I'm not going to get this, I can't do it" and she's like, "no you get the accounting degree, then you can come home" and then if you want to go to the Culinary School you can. So that's kind of- my childhood was rough. Not a lot of money single-parent not easy but I didn't get you down about it. I found good mentors I found good kids to hang around, I was lucky that way, it doesn't always work that way and my mother was extremely supportive. My second book, You Gotta Have Balls, was my mother's favorite line and she was like, "be fearless... do things the right way... don't be afraid to fail and dream big, think big" why dream small there was nothing small the way my mother operated that's her message to me.
Alan: It's interesting as you as you outline nothing was really easy but it seems that you had the ability within yourself to take the risk to bet on yourself and to move into the unknown.
Brandon: It's essential, the company I started, Steiner Sports, I started at 30 years.
Alan: How'd that get started?
Brandon: 4,000 bucks, honestly I was supposed to be part of a group of guys, I was to a partner and when I show up the first day they basically told me they didn't have room for me in the partnership but I could have that little office over there for $400 a month. I didn't get down about it, I figured it was a sign, I feel like there's signs in life if you actually have your eyes open to them. I feel like it was a sign that said, Brandon you're destined to do your own thing. The 4,000 bucks didn't go a long way, that was a Mac plus, a printer and a few hundred bucks for some office supplies, but I grinded it out and really my first company was marketing players, marketing athletes. That's what Steiner did, we marketed players all over the country. Back in the late 80's there wasn't a lot that going on, from Rick Perry to Johnny Unitas to Roger Staubach, there was nobody I wasn't marketing and it was a retail boom so I was doing all these grand openings all over the country with Walmart’s and Caldor’s and Target's and Sports Authorities were opening up these mega stores and we were getting all the athletes to go and kind of open them up. In the mid-90's, I went to my wife I said, "I got to take ten thousand out of the bank," because a lot of people were asking me for these autographed items which I would bring along with the celebrity marketing just as a leave behind for the client to use maybe to give it to one of their kids or maybe to give to a client and sure enough the ten thousand dollars was one of the better investments because that's what when started Steiner Sports Collectibles- which is an international brand, a $50 million dollar company, it does really well, there's a whole bunch of platforms, team partnerships an auction platform, web platform which really gets people closer to the game. We've developed all kinds of product from game use - autographed items. So we still book a lot of players still to this day for marketing although a lot of people are doing that but the collectable name has certainly been a brand that people recognize around the country.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports. Brandon I need to take a quick break and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back I'm here with Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports and Brandon, in the first segment we talked about your history, you did a lot of odd jobs went into hospitality for the for the first few years and then you started Steiner Sports some 30 years ago. What was it like getting your first client? You had a desk and a computer and the monitor but landing that first client, how did it feel?
It's funny Alan, on my blogs, the most frequently asked question: 'What's it feel like? How do I get started and where did you fail?' And to me I was so excited, it was like a like lightning, it was just lightning there was thunder, it was- I just couldn't wait to go to work and I had nothing. So what I would do is I would call as many people as I could, hope that they weren't in, this way they called me back and the phones would ring with some excitement. You'd find me very much outside of a lot of stadiums in the parking lot, literally just trying to wait- because you needed a guy's phone number. It wasn't like the internet or anything, if you didn't have the guy's home phone number- you didn't have anything. So it was two parts, one you're outside in parking lots waiting for guys to come out and hoping they're going to come out. Lawrence Taylor would always laugh because you see me out, snowing and freezing out, I'm waiting for them to come out and then you spend the other half of the day running around to different companies with an idea. I think the real key to getting a business started for me was coming up with ideas that made sense. Nobody's not taking your call if you have an idea that make sense. That either can I help you save money, make you money or hope you with something that's important to you. My main focus and value proposition when I call anyone- still to this day going way back 30 years ago and even further- is how can I help you? So I think the hospitality thing served me well, it is about serving people and if you're really committed to that and Alan I know you are, so I know you understand this, it's really about serving people. The best job I ever had was busing tables, waiting tables, serving people, because I'm still doing it. Nobody wants to get rid of somebody that's helping them out with a problem or helping you make money or helping you save money or can give you some influence to get you what you want. If you put out good you're going to get back good. And if you serve- if you forget yourself, you'll fill yourself.
Alan: I love the way that you put that, 'if you forget yourself, you'll fill yourself' and there seems to be a trend of those successful entrepreneurs were never doing it for the money they were doing it to fill a gap to solve a problem and so when you came into your first customer, your client you're sitting in the parking lot trying to get phone numbers and what was the feeling that came back to you? Do you remember who it was?
Well first was the fan mail. I remember I was literally when- it's crazy when people say, how'd you get Dereck Jeeter, how'd you get Laurence Taylor or these players and they had all this fan mail, boxes. I said, "Let me help you with that. I'll open up the mail, I'll give you the important stuff, and we'll sign some pictures and send it back to the fans." Now it sounded like a trivial thing and then also at the time was Keith Hernandez who just got traded to Cleveland who's on the Mets at the time and he had all his fan mail and also his regular mail and some of his regular stuff that he was getting in New York. He was in Cleveland, so I was going through all that for him. Darrell Strawberry was one of my first clients, I was trying to just help market and maybe help some of his charity endeavors. So I just zoned in generally on the players that really needed the help, Dereck Jeeter didn't need Brandon Steiner when we signed him in '96, '97 but I knew his term two was really important and we raised a lot of money for term 2 and helped his family, Charlie and Don Charles with developing the term two, with sponsors. That was my main focus for quite a while, it wasn't like automatic, the floodgates are open and we're making money, we didn't know Derek was going to be Derek although he look like a pretty promising player but it wasn't like we were going to be 20 years later ever known that was going to be. But you'd serve and you try to figure out how to help people with their problems. It's easy thing to say, it's a much harder thing to do and I think that a lot of people get confused about what they think and then what they do when it comes to having to give up your time. How much would you do for someone that you knew couldn't do anything back for you? And that's a hard point, a difficult part to really get through to someone. Because am I going to do this for you but what are you going to do back for me and that's a real test I think if you're really committed if you're out there and you're thinking about really getting yourself going is you do need to do a bunch of things and not expect anything back because it is just the right thing to do and it's a smart thing to do.
Alan: Welcome back I'm visiting here today with Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports and Brandon, in the last segment you talked about this service component and how that has really helped you with giving without necessarily the large expectation of getting something in return but how difficult was that in the early years because I'm sure there was like a lot of hand-to-mouth and trying to make the bills paid...
I think my mom was a great example. We didn't have a lot and she was always trying to help people, never stopped helping people, it was part of her DNA and that you pick that up as a kid. I think if you're a parent out there you don't realize the kind of impression you can make on your kids but it's funny I got a job at the Hard Rock Cafe when I came back to New York after doing a stint with Hyatt which is my dream job frankly. And Isaac Tigrett, one of the founders of the Hard Rock- this was the second Hard Rock that opened up in the States- Peter Morton in LA, Isaac Tigrett in New York. And in the Hard Rock New York was 'Love All, Serve All.' And I ran into Isaac, I was running the place at night and it was packed and he said "Brandon, I'm scared, I'm scared we're too busy. And I'm scared we're going to disappoint people, we're not going to be able to give enough good service and I don't worry about much money I made, I worry about doing the right thing" Sai Baba he was a very big fan of- he had a guru, and he started sharing some of that with me and I started understanding the spiritual part of business and the spiritual part of what needs to happen every day. It was it was just another sign it was a moment. Here I am grinding and working really hard trying to develop my career and this guy's telling me to slow it down, don't worry about the money, but worry about doing the right thing, worry about serving these people and having making sure that the experience is right and if we make a little less money it's okay. And I hadn't had a boss to tell me that by the way. And I always remembered that it that. It was a lasting impression, so I'm out inline and it's cold it's there's 200 people and I'm giving people soup. It's 100 degrees outside in the summer and I'm giving people iced tea. And it is about over delivering and being empathetic and thinking of people when you're serving them in a really authentic way and I think that at Steiner I really try to do that. We put extra products in the boxes, we put personal notes in there, we send people gifts without them ever expecting it. Every morning at Steiner Sports my first thing I do is two acts of kindness, been doing it for years, I send random things out, a check, a book, a note to somebody that I know needs it. I see on the news someone had a fire, we sent them a box of stuff that they could put up in their new house or maybe a check or whatever it is and it's the best thing I do every day and then that about two hours later the mail comes and I get two thank-you notes. I'm a crazy collector so I save all those notes and it’s the joy. People say what's your favorite collectible, they think it's a Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig and those are great collectibles- my thank-you notes are.
Alan: That says a lot right there. As you've given out a lot of service, to come back with people expressing gratitude tells you, okay I'm doing something right here.
Listen, you don't have to go chasing Derek Jeeter in a Mariano Rivera down yes and you have to be fearless in that- but with the intent to help them, not what they can give to you. And that takes a lot of thought and it's not who you know or what you know but what you know about who. So you've got to go do the work to find out who you're chasing to really understand who they are and how you may be able to help them and what they need. If you can find that, that's the beginning- I think the start of a relationship that's going to be worth both people enacting and getting involved with. And I think that's how- you look at some of the characters that I've been able to land over the last 25-30 years some of the biggest names from Eli Manning, Mark Messier, Jeeter, Rivera, the Yankees, Notre Dame, the Dodgers, I mean, this is not easy, but always with the intent that I think I got a solution to some of your problems- not I think I could make a lot of money off you or with you. And it’s not easy to keep that mindset but I got that from my mom. By the way, You Gotta have Balls, is not a sports book it's everything my mother taught me, and I made a ton of money from listening my mom. That's my advice to the people listening out. Listen to your mom, I did and I made a fortune off it. It's not great for the ego in front of all your friends, I never really admitted that, but I took her advice and I made a fortune, a fortune not only a money but in relationships and friendships and the charity work I do, I just I followed her lead and it took me someplace for really really good.
Alan: I expect it's tough to get some of these athletes to open up, but how effective are you in terms of getting to the personal level?
I think I'm good at it, it's difficult because I have so many people coming at them and I think you got to be able to know when to move quick and also be very patient and slow. I think consistency over time equals credibility. It's not a race though sometimes it is and you got to be aggressive although sometimes you can't be. All these players are different, especially now where there's so many international players, there's a different approach with a lot of them depending where they from. But I'm a straight shooter, I'm not afraid to tell any athlete anything from Mickey Mantle back in the day to Alex Rodriguez to whoever it is, "hey that's not going to fly, that's not going to work and maybe you want to keep doing that but you won't be hearing for me much." Because how people perceive you, your image, your brand is very important. I think what's confusing now is a lot of athletes with their social media because they have big numbers means they have a big brand but unless you understand who those numbers are and a lot of athletes miss that so you got a offensive lineman blue collar and he's dropping posts on Mercedes. He's not reading who his following is. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with these followings and it's important that the athletes understand that.
Alan: The industry that you serve is there a lot of competition?
Oh it's crazy because now you got more now, not when I first got in but there wasn't an industry that existed. So every day I would come home, my wife was like, 'what are you doing? Somebody's going to pay for that, somebody's going to pay for an athlete?' So celebrity marketing is big, but it's very competitive, you have to get up every morning go get it. You got to beat yesterday, it's kind of one of my favorite lines, this is not an industry you can get passive with because the names are changing every day, every week, one year, these guys are hot, next year another set of guys are hot, but I think the sports industry is healthy I think the players are probably smarter today than ever have been. They're better trained from a business standpoint than they ever have been and there are more people watching more of these players are than ever before which is very optimistic for me as I'm growing with this business 30 plus years.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports and Brandon, final question here, so in them in context of where you're at today, what's the greatest accomplishment you would say-
I think it's straightening out the industry. I always had a feeling whatever industry I wanted to go into, I wanted it to be better because I got into it, I wanted it to be better because I was there and I think I've done that for the sports industry. I've helped so many players, I created a sports collectible business that didn't exist before I was there and it comes from a lot of hard work and a lot of things that I had to do that didn't necessarily help me- initially- but hopefully in the long run would help me. Yankee Steiner was probably one of my biggest accomplishments so starting a partnership with the New York Yankees, one of the biggest brands along with Notre Dame Steiner- to put my name next to theirs and then have a full born out partnership now for 14 years it's been amazing. The other thing is, I'm half illiterate. I always had trouble reading or writing and I've written 1,400 blogs that now over 500 thousand people read. I was the idiot in the family Alan, I couldn't read, couldn't write. my brother was incredible writer- you're an idiot- meanwhile I'm working on my third book. I got a blog on BrandonSteiner.com with 1400 posts and I'm proud of that because I love when people keep telling me about all the things I can't do and I just keep doing them, whatever I want, whatever I think is appropriate, whatever thing's best.
Alan: For the listeners wanting to contact you, how would they go about that?
I'm a Facebook guy, love going on Facebook or even on LinkedIn, I'm a big LinkedIn guy, you can email me at BSteiner@SteinerSports.com. My website is BrendanSteiner.com to get the blog and any other information.
Alan: Brandon thanks for being on today's show.
Been great. Well Alan love your show keep up the good work. I tell you a big fan of you, the big fan. Thank you.
Alan: Been visiting here today with Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports we'll be right back after these messages.