Brandon Steiner – CEO of Steiner Sports Marketing

[quote]I ask myself two questions every day: “What else?” and “what is missing here?”[/quote]

Brandon Steiner is the founder and chairman of Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia, the largest company of its kind in America. Considered a sports marketing guru, Brandon is a permanent fixture in the media as a regular on ESPN Radio 1050 and as co-host of Yankees-Steiner: Memories of the Game on the YES Network. He is also regularly featured on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, and in newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The author of The Business Playbook: Leadership Lessons from the World of Sports, Brandon lives in Scarsdale, New York, with his wife, Mara.

What are you working on right now?

Personally, I’m prepping for the release of my new book You Gotta Have Balls, working on my new blog “What Else?” and speaking at corporations and universities.

At Steiner Sports, it’s really more a matter of what I’m trying not to work on. I find that many things that worked 10 years ago are no longer effective, so our company is trying to get back to the basics. We got comfortable with our routine and lost sight of some of the things that made us successful in the first place. So what we are not doing is much more important than what we are doing.

Where did the ideas for Steiner Sports—and, more recently, your book—come from?

When I started out, there were no serious sports bars other than a few that I had created. In 1986, I was trying to raise $1.3 million to open a high-end sports bar, but was only able to raise $300,000. That is when I decided to take things in a different direction. The idea of Steiner Sports developed because of the realization that my restaurant business wasn’t the life I wanted. I decided to start a small PR/marketing company to help pair corporate clients with athletes. At the time there wasn’t a market, and the rest is history.

I decided to write You Gotta Have Balls in memory of my mom. She used to say that line to me growing up, and the message stuck. In You Gotta Have Balls, I explain how I landed deals with top athletes and teams like the Yankees. I also share some of the lessons I learned along the way that helped me find success in the business world.

What does your typical day look like?

My days are never the same. I don’t have an exact routine because I like to keep mixing things up. But one thing is constant: I spend the first 90 seconds after I wake up visualizing what I need to do to make the most out of that day. I believe that the first 90 seconds dictate the rest of your waking hours. Most days, I work out early and eat an extremely healthy breakfast.

I rarely meet with people early in the morning because I like to brainstorm about the three most important things that day and how I can make sure I get them done. I also spend this time making sure I know where my family is and what they are doing to get an idea of if anything special is happening so I can make sure I am there for them.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Mostly through visualization—I am a huge dreamer and love to think things through from all sides. Daydreaming or dreaming at night, I need to make sure I have a picture in my mind of what needs to happen.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I think the Baby Boomer trend is huge. Baby Boomers control the vast majority of the money in the business word. Baby Boomers spend the most money in this country. As a Baby Boomer myself, I can relate to today’s most important market in an authentic way. I know what these people want and need, and it’s a huge advantage. It keeps me excited.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I had a ton of terrible jobs when I was younger. When I was in high school, I would do anything to make money. As a sophomore, a friend asked me to work in a catering hall. I was asked if I was Italian, and when I told them I was Jewish, they sent me to a prep kitchen upstairs by myself with around 300  melons. The catering hall started off all meals with a slice of melon, and my job was to cut up and plate slivers of melon for the hundreds of nightly party guests. There was no air conditioning, so it was hot as hell.

I hated that job, but I worked hard and cut up the melons as fast as I could. I created a game with myself and got great satisfaction walking up to the boss and saying, “What else can I do?” He was dumbfounded at how quickly I worked and couldn’t believe it. I learned a meaningful lesson: take pride in everything you do, no matter what. Don’t let other people and how they view you define you.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I were to start over today, I would do a lot differently. I definitely would’ve gotten some financing or some solid investors. I started out with only $4,000 and no partners. I didn’t have any specific goals. This was a mistake. If I understood finance better, I would’ve done things very differently early on. I made things harder than they needed to be. Things would’ve been faster and easier, but I’m not sure I would’ve been as creative. Because things were difficult, I was forced to come up with creative solutions to problems. This creativity was the foundation of my business.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I ask myself two questions every day: “What else?” and “What is missing here?” I think it is incredibly important to think about how you could help create more value for your clients or customers. If you come up with something they didn’t think of, even better. Everyone would benefit from just asking those simple but often-overlooked questions. I’m a huge fan of being first to market. I believe that “What Else?” x “What’s Missing?” = first to market.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

After my deal with the Yankees, I decided to try to sell segments of the façade from the old Yankee Stadium. I made a huge investment and thought they would be big sellers with my higher-end clientele. Unfortunately, I did so without truly understanding their dimensions. Each segment weighed several tons and was 15 feet by 30 feet. The investment seemed like a total disaster. The pieces were impossible to move and too large for most people to display in their yards.

Instead of giving up, we came out with a new idea: What if we carved the pieces down into miniature replicas of the old Yankee Stadium? It gave fans the opportunity to have a piece of history for a much lower price. The item is one of our bestsellers today.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Here are several of my business ideas:

First, most people are focusing their attention on the demographic that includes 25- to40-year-olds, but they need to be careful. This isn’t where the buying power is or where brands get developed.

Second, my customers are a huge resource. They always tell me what I am not doing. If you have meaningful relationships with your clients, you don’t need surveys. You will hear the feedback loud and clear. If Henry Ford surveyed people, they would’ve asked for faster horses.

Finally, trust kids. Ten- to 12-year-olds don’t lie about their feelings. Steiner Sports is based on a 10- to 12-year-old view, even if the kid is actually in a 50-year-old’s body. Everything is possible, and kids keep a vivid imagination. We always remember our firsts—first kiss, first baseball game, first vacation, etc. I think we all know how important firsts in our lives are. Tap into that mindset, and possibilities are limitless.

Tell us a secret.

I think that Oprah’s OWN Network is the best channel on television. Its content is extremely intelligent, and I try to watch or TiVo programs on OWN every day. I learn so much from the shows, and they get me fired up. I watched Oprah’s show religiously for the better part of 25 years, and it always gave me great insight into the women’s perspective. And if you are interested in having some sort of spirituality, “Super Soul Sunday” is a must watch.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?

1. —Their site gives me all the sports news I need on a minute-by-minute basis.

2.  Google – I like Google for obvious reasons. It helps me find anything I could possibly want.

3. YouTube —I tend to mostly watch videos of people I respect in business and sports. I study success as a hobby, and watching videos of interviews and speeches on YouTube lets me get close to those people over and over again.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

You mean besides my own? (I’m just joking.) But seriously, there are three books that I think everybody needs to read. They are How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, How to Sell Anybody Anything by Joe Girard and Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay. All three had a major impact on me in business and as a person. If you want to be good at something, study and become a student.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Actually, I prefer following people on Facebook and YouTube. You can learn a lot more about who people really are that way.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

My daughter always makes me laugh. She always calls me out and never lets me get away with anything.

Who is your hero?

My mom and my wife Mara are my two biggest heroes, without question. My mother raised three kids on her own while being very sick. I don’t know how she did it.

My wife is a hero because she will do whatever it takes to get the job done and raised our kids in an amazing way. At the same time, she played a major role in making Steiner Sports what it is today. I truly believe Steiner Sports wouldn’t be so successful if it didn’t have her guiding influence.

My brother Adam is an honorable mention. He has persevered through some really tough times, and his drive continues to amaze and inspire me every day. He once had substance abuse problems, but today he runs a program that helps hundreds of people quit smoking.


People can connect with me very easily. I am on all of these sites and try to answer all questions and get back to everybody personally. Feel free to reach out.

Brandon Steiner on LinkedIn: 
Brandon Steiner on Twitter: 
Steiner Sports’ Website: 

Image Courtesy of Chuck Solomon/Sports Illustrated.