The best people in any business look beyond success and constantly strive to do something bigger and better. Sports marketing guru Brandon Steiner lives by this principle every day. You would think that someone who has built a brand as iconic as Steiner Sports and bought the Yankee Stadium at one point in their lives is living at the pinnacle of achievement, but Brandon refuses to settle for success. To him, being in capacity is a sure road to mediocrity and what distinguishes us, humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to take everything we do best of and try to do better. Through his books, podcast and speaking engagements, Brandon endeavors to inspire leaders and entrepreneurs to stop wallowing in their past successes and ask themselves, “What else?” Pick up some lessons, encouragement and other Steinerisms that you can take in your own journey to greatness as Brandon speaks with Jesse Cole in this episode of all episodes.
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What Else?: Setting Your Sights Beyond Success With Brandon Steiner
Our guest is a legend in the sports world, Brandon Steiner. He is the Founder of Steiner Sports and the man who bought Yankee Stadium and sold it all as collectibles. He’s the Owner of CollectibleXchange and the author of The Business Playbook, You Gotta Have Balls and Living On Purpose. This episode is an all-time episode. Brandon shares his principle of asking what else and not settling for success. He shares a great story about Pat Riley, always keeping it fresh with new experiences for his players. Brandon even goes on an epic rant on how to push the envelope with selling balls and other collectibles. Buckle up for this episode as he pushes us all to look past our capacity and always look to do more, be better, and think and act differently.
Brandon, welcome to the show. I’m excited to have you.
Thank you. It’s great to be with you. I’m a fan and I love what you’ve done. You should be proud. I enjoy it when I see people find their way, find their purpose, and figure out who they are because there’s nothing better. You did it in such a unique way, which puts a smile on my face.
I appreciate you. One of the first books I read when I joined the industry was The Business Playbook. Since then, you’ve gone on to write two more books and make an impact and do some big things. What’s great, Brandon, about this show is I interview a lot of authors, but not as many people that are doing it. The practitioners, the people that are making things happen, and entrepreneurs. That’s what I’m fired up to speak with you. I want to start with the big things. You went from restaurant business hospitality to starting Steiner Sports, to then buying Yankee Stadium. We have to go with that big one because I want to know the whole details of that deal. How much did you buy the Yankee Stadium, Brandon?
It was complicated. First, let me say that it’s funny. I’m starting a new company myself, so I’m reading the first book over. I don’t think we ever discount the fundamentals and basics when you try to improve your game. Most people want to shoot three-pointers. I’m like, “Get a layup and shoot some free throws.” When I could still walk on the court, the first thing I do is take about 30 or 40 layups and I take some free throws. I can’t stress that enough from a marketing advertising standpoint. If your company is relying on that, to get to the brutal truth and the simplicity will set you free.
I’m starting in CollectibleXchange, my new company. I’m not with Steiner anymore, which is weird to say because Steiner is Steiner. I look at Steiner being like Kleenex. I’ve started a new tissue company, CollectibleXchange. I feel like I’m nineteen again. I’m reading the first book again trying to figure out all the little things because I want to make sure that when I redo this, I want to do bigger and better than I did the last time. Otherwise, why would I do it? I’m into the basics and a lot of fundamentals.
I’ll give you a quick story. I came home late one night and my wife said, “Where have you been?” I said, “I had to go deliver this jersey who’s this customer’s husband’s birthday. We forgot to ship it.” She said, “Where did you go?” I said, “I have to drive into Manhattan. It was a 1.5 hours drive where I had to go wherever it was.” I’m like, “What kind of message am I sending to my customer if she was counting on the gift for a birthday for her husband and she didn’t get it?” I delivered it and she flipped out when I brought it.
I’m like, “That’s the stuff I did when I first got started.” I packed the boxes. I went out in the street. We couldn’t even afford boxes. I would go get used cartons down the street where all these different manufacturers are throwing them away and we’d reuse them and put our boxes in there. To me, it’s never ever too late to get to some of the basics and this is a great time. With the virus going on, people are grateful and will show you gratitude back with a quick thank you, reaching out to check on your customer and little things like that.
It’s amazing how people can’t do that but you can do it, “By the way, thank you.” “By the way, I’m just checking in.” “No, I don’t need anything from you. I just want to see if you’re okay.” I know I got a little tangent there. I love the first book. I know You Gotta Have Balls and Living On Purpose gets all the props of my other two books. I tell people like, “That’s gold.” Everything in that book, I wrote for somebody who is just getting started to want to be an entrepreneur. You could put everything in play because you read a lot of these books and I read them all. I’m like, “I love that story but I don’t know how I could do that. I don’t know how that story could work for me.” You could do everything in that book.
I love that you went there. It starts with small bets and small steps. The name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. We look at those little fans first things we can do. Everyone sees Yankee Stadium. There’s a lot of things that lead up to that, but to get there, a lot of entrepreneurs have a goal to do something big and audacious, but it’s many small bets that get them there. I’m fascinated by that big thing because you have to think dramatically differently than anyone else.
It was a big buy and I had to sell a lot of people on it. What’s interesting about that is that when I did Yankees-Steiner back, which changed the collectible business, to form a partnership with the Yankees, which took me two years to do. I give the Yankees a lot of credit. They got a million things going on. That’s a huge company. They are as big as what you think and they have a lot going on. They have an incredible management team and they also believe in their brand, the little things and everything.
What brought us together was the protection of the fan because people were buying all these fake Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig. That was the first thing that brought us together. We started scheming, dreaming, and thinking about, “Maybe we should do this going forward so that when the fans do get stuff down the road from a Jeter or Mariano, they know it’d be real.” When I ended up buying the Yankee Stadium, what’s funny is I did the original deal, which is an industry game-changer.You cannot move ahead with something bigger and better unless you have gratitude for what you have and where you've been. Click To Tweet
As we’re walking away from signing the deal, I say, “By the way, if you guys ever built a new stadium, I’ve got to take the old stadium down.” They’re like, “We can’t put that in the contract. We’re too far down the road, but we promise you, if we could get you involved, we would do it.” What’s crazy is four years later, they built a new stadium, and Lonn Trost and Randy Levine call me, “By the way, we built a new stadium. Remember when we close-knit, we told you that if we could, we’ll get you involved. The one problem is we don’t own the stadium physically. We own certain things. The city does. We have to negotiate,” and it was a complicated process.
What I love is the Yankees easily could have said, “I won’t be bothered with this. We’ll build this new stadium and we’re moving forward,” but they understood their legacy, the brand of that stadium and the importance. When I took that stadium on as a project, I went to the Yankees and said, “This is a 3 or 4-year plan. We’re not just going to go and sell off the expensive pieces. I want to sell every brick piece of concrete,” which is a pain in the neck. The Yankees are building a new stadium. They’ve got other things to do, but they know the importance of their customer. They know the importance of that brand.
I bring this up because as big as it was for me to take on the stadium, and it was $18 million we had a layout, it was a small thing in essence with all the other stuff the Yankees were doing between legends, premium, new premium thing, new introducing, the new stadium, YES Network and everything else. They don’t treat things that way. One of the things I loved about working with them is they look at everything as an important big thing, especially if it has any effect or impact on the fan. They take everything seriously. They were supportive in following my vision and dream and helped me on many different fronts to sell off the bricks and concrete.
We took the carpet in the locker room and made doormats and car mats out of it. The bricks in the ceiling were 5,000 for 1929 to be able to pull those down. The locker, blackout and outfield with Reggie Jackson sign, all those things were credibly entrepreneurial. Even lifting the grass off the last game at the stadium and freeze-drying it. Getting us containers and big drums of dirt to be able to sell at the time was popular because as a Yankee fan, it’s emotional what happened in that old building. It was emotional moving into this incredible new building, so you can’t ever move ahead.
I want to tie this story up with this message, “You cannot move ahead with something bigger and better unless you have gratitude for what you have and where you’ve been.” A lot of teams forget that and they forget that with their older players. They forget that with an old building. What’s that old building going to mean? The Yankees know to move ahead. They needed to make sure they put that stadium to rest. When you go to Yankee Stadium, you see the older players and the old-timers there. That’s respect for where you’ve been and where you are.
Not only the push and the aggressiveness to move forward to do the next thing, which everyone knows. Usually, if something happens with baseball or a sports team, time and time again the Yankees have been there first most of the time and there’s a reason for that. It’s because of their constant respect for their brand. If you’re thinking about growing your brand, stop complaining about where you are. Have gratitude for where you are because that’s the springboard that’ll probably enable you to think that you can go forward to go into another level.
There are a few things I want to unpack there. I started the thank you experiment back in 2016, writing one every day. It hasn’t stopped. As my audience knows, I’ve earned over 2,000 thank you letters, gratitude, and everything. That’s amazing. You gave me a lot there, Brandon. There’s a lot of good stuff right there. The first thing I thought about when you looked at spending $18 million on that, you said that wasn’t much in the scheme of things.
Right before the pandemic, we announced we were creating the first-ever ad-free stadium. Our entire ballpark is ad-free, which is crazy. Most of the industry doesn’t understand, but we believe no one comes to a ballpark to be sold, marketed to or advertised to. They want to be able to escape and enjoy it. We throw away hundreds of thousands of dollars and the industry is like, “How do you do that?” That’s a small thing in the scheme of where we’re going with our Fans First business. People think big, but if they realize like, “I’m not looking at $18 million. I’m looking at what this legacy is going to do over the next 3 to 4 four years. How much we’re going to sell, and what it’s going to do for the marketing of our company because we’re selling Yankee stadium.” Is that how you were thinking?
There’s no question. First and foremost, I was thinking about one of the biggest brands. The respect and accountability and making sure that this incredible fan base, which I’m not sure there’s another team out there that’s got a bigger fan base other than maybe a couple of soccer teams in Europe. I needed to protect them, make sure that I consoled them and make sure they got something. Some of the Yankees trusted me with that responsibility. How I felt was I was nervous. I thought, “Derek Jeter wants his locker. I got a foul pole that maybe Johnny Damon wants. I got fans that want. He got seats and he got all kinds of things.”
I don’t want to screw it up. I want to make sure most people look at me as a white version of Sanford and Son. I wanted to do it in a respectful way, in a category that always takes its lumps. When you think about collectibles, you know that Steiner’s a respected name and that’s because I’m grateful for the fans and the people that never take that for granted. I know where all that stuff has come from. The greats, the Mickey Mantle’s and Babe Ruth’s, that’s how I exist and have a business now.
The gratitude and the thought process, you represent something bigger than that. We’re going to get into a bunch of Steinerisms, which I love that you named your quotes. I’m trying to think of what I call my quotes, Coleisms. That’s not going to work. The audiences have an idea of what I call quotes. Let me know. One of your Steinerisms is, “Capacity is all a state of mind.” I want to talk about that in this context. For us, the Bananas, we’ve sold out every game and a lot of mindset is like, “You’ve reached your capacity,” but not if we’re not looking at taking the show on the road and going to different markets. If we’re looking at playing year-round games, which we’re going to have no offseason, you change your capacity and you look at things differently. For you with Yankee Stadium, every business owner reading, you think this provides value. Let’s think about everything else. The dirt provides value to fans. The grass, facade and foul pole that you’re selling provides value to fans.
The ticket stub, base, scorecard and everything.
When you look like that, all of a sudden, that investment seems like nothing because there was so much value. What would be your lesson that you would share with a business entrepreneur there in how to look past the capacity that you see in front of you that looks dramatically different?
The first thing is that we all have the ability to do at least 10% to 20%, more than whatever we think we’re doing. That’s the fact and I would never argue with that. If you go to the gym, you lift in 50 pounds. You know you could lift in 60 if you wanted to. It’s important to believe in your mind that you’re at capacity, but understand that if you are at capacity, you’re on a road to mediocracy. There’s no way you could be busier.
When I run into someone that says, “I’m busy. I can barely even get done what I want to get done.” That’s a person I’m thinking is on the road to mediocracy, not somebody I respect. I love when somebody says, “I’m busy, but what have you got? I’ll figure it out. Maybe I sleep a little less. Maybe I’ll cut my shower down by two minutes. Maybe I’m going to walk my dog three minutes less. Maybe I could figure out how to get to work a little faster.”
Capacity is a state of mind, and you’ve got to be careful. I answer that question specifically with this. There are thousands of species on this planet, birds, dogs, fish, gorillas, monkeys, lions, tigers and bears. There is not one species. You’re never going to wake up in the morning and your dog would have walked itself, fed itself, or read the newspaper in the corner. The goldfish in your tank is doing a backflip and doing all kinds of different backstrokes and everything else. Elephants can eat and poop for seventeen hours once in a while, have sex and sleep for about six hours. That’s been going on hundreds of years.
None of these species can get better. None of these pieces can do more than what they’re already doing. All they’re doing is living to live another day. That’s a fact. That’s not a feeling. What I’m saying is that we have the glorious opportunity as being the one species on this planet. It’s the gift, if nothing else, to get better and do more. If you look at our track record over the last several 100 years, we continually show that we can do more, think more and do better.
If you’re waking up every day and not thinking about your family, yourself and company, then just do it for the outright reason for the blessing. You have a being on this planet, which is to be able to be better and do more. There are only two reasons why you’re on this Earth and why you’re a human being. One is to be better, do better and do more, and the other is to help each other. That’s it. Why else are we here? Why do you think you’re here? Why did you get this golden ticket to be here, which is to do more, do better, and pass up whatever that’s been done to do more and do better?
Most importantly, even better than that, how about the person next to you? Serve and help people. To fill yourself, forget yourself. Love thy neighbor. All those things are true. Helping people is not a burden. It’s an opportunity that leads you to sheer joy. It’s a common question that comes up. If you’re not getting better, you’re wasting one of the great opportunities that most things and objects on this planet don’t even consider an opportunity. I’m sorry to get a little uppity about that answer, but what the hell are you doing? What’s the right approach?
The cliché quote, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Why else are we here other than to grow and make a difference?
If you’re agreeing, you’re growing. If you’re ripe, you rot. If you rest, you rust. That’s how I put it.
You’ll love this. On opening night, every year, our team wears green uniforms because the bananas aren’t quite ripe. We haven’t gone to the brown rotten uniforms yet.
I want to mention one more thing about entrepreneurship, which is one of those I love about your platform and love about you. Not only what you’re doing for you, your family, and your fans, but you’re representing entrepreneurship, which in this country is at a critical juncture. Before the virus, there were 750,000 small businesses that went out of business. Only 600,000 new businesses opened. We’re in a steadily declining small business. We need entrepreneurship and we need people to believe that they can do better and they can do more.
One of the reasons why I write these books and I lecture about this stuff is because entrepreneurship has been incredible to me. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur at ten years old. People like you who are doing what you do the way you’re doing it with enthusiasm is contagious and we spread that out to others. Risk is such a big part of entrepreneurism. Giving people the confidence that they can do it and can do more comes from us helping our neighbors and showcasing the case studies of how to do it.
We got to show it. That’s why I talk about it. A lot of people think you’re in the middle of a growing business. Your CollectibleXchange is going to be a big, impactful business. It already is. I believe the Bananas are going to be worldwide doing tours all over the world and making an impact. Yet, we’re having interviews, we’re sharing and writing books because we realize that it’s a bigger impact than just what we’re doing with our business. It’s how that spread.If you are at capacity, you're on a road to mediocrity. Click To Tweet
My friend goes to exactly what you talked about. I know you’ve learned from your mother who was a big role model for you. It was asking, what else? What’s the next thing I can do to wow my customer? I want you to dive into maybe a little bit of that, maybe how you did that with your business. You can go into the bagel story, which I know is a classic as a kid, but even now, that what else question is so important.
Let me go over this one thing, which is a great example. My mother’s favorite line was, “You got to have balls.” The second book was dedicated to her and all this stuff. I’m one of those kids that listened to his mother and I made a ton of money from it. I know it’s not popular with kids to listen to their parents, but my mother was bright and she had a way about her. She’s definitely different. I made a ton of money from listening to her ideas. A big thing with her was what else and a big thing was about serving others.
I did a TED Talk on this at Syracuse. I’ll give you the short version of the story. My warehouse guy comes to my office and he’s like, “We got a problem.” “What’s the problem?” “We’re overstocked on balls.” People know that one of my big things is we got balls. When he comes into the office where that whole thing comes from, he’s like, “We’ve got this big problem. We have too much inventory.” I say, “We got balls.” I put a billboard out in ‘95, “We got balls,” and put a picture of a bunch of signed balls. People didn’t know the amount of balls we had.
We got the billboard up and we sold balls. He comes back off the second month and he goes, “Brandon, we’re definitely moving our balls, but we got footballs and basketballs.” I said, “We got big balls. I’m going to get a second billboard. We got that we got balls and we got big balls. We’re going to put on footballs and basketballs.” That’s great. With a value proposition, your first idea is not your best idea, and the what else. My people are celebrating because the whole we got balls is starting to take on. We’re selling our balls and we’re moving our balls. I’m thinking, “People got a lot of balls out there. They got to have a place to put their balls.”
The number one selling item and still a collectible stage two is the case. We have a cube where people got a place to put their balls. It’s, “We got balls and we got big balls,” and then the third sign is, “We got a place to put your balls.” It was a picture of our cases. The balls have to go in a case, but I didn’t stop there. It goes back to the ‘what else.’ Your first idea is not your best idea. Many people, when they come up with a good idea, the first thing they want to do is celebrate. They want to offer a big lunch. Me? I’m not leaving my desk because if I got one good idea, I know there’s another one coming and I know this probably something much better behind that idea to make the one idea even better.
I take this cube, which I’m selling for $5 to put a ball in. I’m thinking, “People are probably particular by where they put their balls.” That was a $0.60 cost and sold for $5. I built this nice wooden case with glass and I sold it for $20. It cost me $5. Now, I got this thing going. Customers are like, “This is great. Now I got a good place to put my balls. It’s safe and secure.” I don’t stop there. I’m looking at people’s balls and I’m thinking, “One of the biggest problems with people’s balls is that you can’t always read the signature on the ball.” I’m a big photo guy, so I take photos and I put them in the case and I created this photo case.
You put your ball in the case, and then behind the ball is a picture of a player whose signature is on the ball. I put a little dirt on the bottom of it to make it feel authentic from the team that that player played on. I call it a photo dirt case. I took $19.99 and it cost me $6. Now, I’m at $39.99 and it cost me $7. It cost me $1 more. I have customers email me thanking me for solving the problem because when people want to showcase their balls, a lot of times, people don’t understand the signature that was on there and everything else. Now they can show off their balls a lot better.
It’s all about showing off your balls. One thing is you got to have balls. It’s important that you have balls, but it’s also important you can showcase your balls. That little concept of what else drives me. My mother’s like, “Don’t stop.” Having balls is about being relentless and not accepting success. Nobody cares that you are successful. People want to know about people that are extraordinary. The best there ever was. I never had any interest in meeting success. Part of the annoying drum that keeps pounding is about taking a good idea and taking your best to make it better. You look at some of the people that have done that, the Mariano Rivera with the cutter. Mariano threw a changeup and threw a curve. Why? “They can’t hit my cutter. I’m making my cutter even better. I’m working on my cutter.” I said, “No. Apple, Heinz ketchup.” Is anything better than Heinz ketchup? It’s the best. If you think about something that is the absolute best, you remember that.
To me, I always wanted Steiner to be the best. CollectibleXchange is developing a different formula but the same drive that goes into that formula, which is, “Don’t settle for success.” If I leave you with anything, it’s like, “Success is good, but getting up this morning out of bed was a success.” For some people, I get it but don’t settle for it because extraordinary is about the capacity times the what else. You convince yourself that you’re at a capacity, you can do more and push yourself that this thing you’re working on isn’t the best you can do. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. The only thing that matters is what you want to accept. If you’re accepting that you’re good, when somebody says, “I’m good,” that is the formula. I want to sprint away from you. The elephant is good and the goldfish in your tank is good because they have no other choice. It’s a question of, what are you willing to accept? The way to reach extraordinary behavior, the way to get your business to be extraordinary to be the best is to have a high level of non-acceptance. You have to be in a complete focus of non-acceptance and non-settling. I see my friends that own companies and they’re like, “This employee and that employee.” It’s not the employee’s fault. It’s your acceptance of that employee.
Your business is where it’s at because you’ve accepted that. It’s not at a higher level because you have to wake up one day and say, “I’m not accepting this. I’m going to take the show on the road. I’m going to figure out a way to go. That is distinct to even become more international. Maybe going national is one idea, but maybe going to London and other parts of the world is an idea.” The higher level of non-acceptance, the more chance you have to ultimately get into extraordinary. By the way, in order to get to that high level of unacceptance, you have to get a little hostile and you have to put yourself against a wall. Nothing ever happens unless your back is against the wall.
If you see high school kids trying to get into college, do you ever see a focus? All of a sudden, a seventeen-year-old looking at potential references, looking at every school, and at every grade they ever have. Why are their backs against the wall? A year from now, all of them and their friends are going to college and they’re going to do everything they can to get that one little edge so they get into their school. The key thing is, how do you reinvent that edge? How do you keep yourself in that hostile back against the wall moment? You said it right in the beginning, “I’m on an air mattress. Things are tight. I’m not sure what we’re going to do.” What happens? Greatness. You start rolling.
How do you co-create that even if it’s in your mind? If you learn anything from the Michael Jordan film, he played the game within the game. He always created this hostile, “That person thinks he’s better than me.” It’s Michael Jordan. He’s won five championships and he’s worried about what Joe Dumars is doing. He’s worried about this guy and that guy. In his mind, he created a hostile environment for himself and put himself against the wall like he had something to prove.
People always asked my brand, “What do you have to prove?” I’m like, “I don’t know but in order to get to an extraordinary level, I have to keep proving myself. I have to keep proving that what I’m doing is going to work.” That’s my goal every day when I come in. I have a high level of unacceptance. I’m trying to convince the employees here to get with me on the unacceptance, not celebrate, and not want to say, “We’re doing much better than we ever thought,” which is true, but we’re not going to accept that because we can still do a lot better.
You’ve got to get it to the core as a leader and you’ve got to get it into your core. You’ve got to be able to sell it into your core with your people to realize, “It’s not that I’m not grateful for all we’re doing, but I’m not accepting it because I know we could do better. I know we could do more.” When you start getting your staff and the people around you to believe that, you’re on a rocket ship. I’m sorry I went on a rant but I love talking about this stuff and I want people that are reading to understand that it’s not easy to get in this mindset. It is not comfortable.
In 100-plus episodes of this show, that may have been the best rant. You started with a whole rant about how you’ve got to have balls, which was awesome, and then you said something powerful and I want to repeat it, “Don’t settle for your success.” Often, we talk about, don’t settle for the status quo. In my book, I shared that my biggest fear in life is settling. It’s looking back and saying, “I didn’t achieve what I shouldn’t have achieved.” That’s the same mindset that great entrepreneurs have. I want to jam on this for a little bit.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling and it’s important to get used to that discomfort.
Asking what else and pushing yourself and the way you did it with all the items is brilliant. You can’t do this in big leagues or major leagues. In our bathrooms, we have a 1926 stadium. Our biggest rival is Macon Bacon. We have a nasty bathroom and it’s gross. We put Macon Bacon urinal cakes in all the urinals. Our fans are pissing on our rival, but then we’re asking, what else? We’re not making money off that. We’re providing fun laughs and a little bit of value.
We unveiled the Macon Bacon toilet paper. We sell toilet paper because we got to talk about number two. We’re number one and we talk about number two. You’ve got to keep pushing what you have. What team in the world is selling underwear? We did okay, but we could do better. A couple of years ago, we unveiled the Savannah Bananas Dolce & Banana underwear. We started selling the small banana and then the big banana. The small didn’t sell much, so the big banana outsold the small banana dramatically. We’re talking about volumes of big bananas.
We were selling this well, but I said, “We need to push it even more.” We asked, “What else?” This is a lot from your mindset. We said, “Let’s do a fun little promo video to sell it.” We took inspiration from outside of the industry, which some of the best inspiration comes from. There was an old commercial by Kmart many years ago about shipping. We wrote this script and it starts with, “I ship my underwear for free.” “You, what?” “I ship my underwear for free.” “No ship.” “Ship, yeah.” “Holy ship.” “Yeah, Savannah Bananas’ free shipping. Who gives a ship?” Our merch director will say, “I give a ship all the time for free.” “I may just ship my underwear.” “It’s your last chance to get your ship together this holiday season. Bananas underwear. It’s worth the ship.” The mindset was, “Let’s push this a little further.” As entrepreneurs, what do you have to lose?
By the way, Amazon gives away free bananas for their employees every day.
I never do that.
I wondered, do you have a deal on Bananas at your ballpark?
Yeah, every ticket at our ballpark is all-inclusive. I don’t know if you know that. Every ticket includes all your burgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches, soda, water, popcorn, dessert and all of that.
Is there a banana that is like your spokesman?
We have a mascot. What are you thinking about?If you're ripe, you rot. If you rest, you rust. Click To Tweet
I’m thinking that there should be a banana doing a lot more of the talking for your commercials. The banana emoji should be talking for some of your promos and specials. It should be a talking banana.
I like where we’re going with that. We’ve been hitting on this theme for a long time.
I love bananas though. That’s probably why I like you.
If you like me for a banana, that’s fine. That’s my dress. I look like one. The same thing with what else and I want to go further. I love the little piece in your book. You’ve talked about many stories in your books about athletes and what they did, but one little thing about Pat Riley, which I loved is about, “Leaving no stone unturned.” You shared in your first book about his first speaking appearance with you. Can you share that story? Because everyone can learn a lot from it.
First of all, Pat Riley is one of the great coaches. Sometimes, people forget he’s the general manager of Miami Heat, but he was an incredible coach. He was focused on the little things and how much he would prepare. By the way, I would do anything to book him for a speech because I would pick them up and I would take him to do the speech. Also, I get to listen to an incredible motivational speech and every one of his speeches was different and incredible. One of the things I learned from him is that he said, “Brandon, one of the most important things in leadership that I focus on, even though my guys are playing the NBA and they should be grateful, is how do you keep things fresh?”
This is true in all your relationships, with your marriage and employees. Things get mundane and they get boring. As a leader, how do you mix it up? How do you shake it up? It seems like you’ve done a good job over there with your fans, but sometimes, you’ve got to remember, you’ve got to shake it up for your employees, at home, or whatever it is. What he would do is he would have the plane. They’d be going on a road trip and they’ll have the plane stop somewhere as a surprise to a casino. He would have the bus never go the same way twice when they go to the arena from the hotel.
He would constantly mix up. If he is in the locker room, he makes the players get up and switch their seats. Even at a meeting, if he sees you are always sitting together, he’ll go, “Get up and mix up.” He was constantly looking to change things up. One of the things I always did is I always moved my people’s offices around, so they have a different view. I hope I have the story that pertains to you. One of the things that Pat Riley says, “How do you keep things fresh, not only for your customers but for your employees? How do you keep things fresh at home? You should give that some thought because when you do that, it creates excitement and it keeps your relationships.”
We all know how important relationships are, especially with your key employees, your family, and your spouse. You’ve got to keep that fresh. That was one of my main value takeaways from Pat Riley. He was an amazing motivational coach and he deserves everything he’s gotten because nobody knows the game better than him. By the way, I’d still go back and buy one of his old books. They are that are good. One of his big things is, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” No matter what employee you have, you can measure.
He would sit down with Charles Oakley and say, “Charles, you averaged six rebounds a game last year. Now this year, I want you to try to figure if you can average seven rebounds. You got eight touches. I want you to get to nine touches. You defended and stopped your opponent from scoring. Your opponent averaged fourteen points a game. When you are on the court, you get that down to thirteen.” He would give these reports. He put his players in a conference room. He put these numbers up and showed them where they are quarter to quarter versus in the previous year to show them that it’s digressing is progressing.
As managers, we get stuck on the numbers. I always say, “Don’t chase the money. Chase the things that get the money.” A lot of times, for some of our employees that aren’t completely number-driven, you could still do some of the analytics to show them how they’re progressing. Even if it’s in the hotdog stand or even if it’s somebody who’s in a coat check or whatever it is, you can measure and that’s a valuable lesson that Pat Riley taught me.
You gave me a bonus Pat Riley story. I was referring to the one about when he wanted a five-page questionnaire where he was speaking at this and then the research. We don’t need to go into that. He spent so much work researching before he was going to speak to a company.
Harvey Mackay is another one with 66 questions. There’s nobody who prepares more than Harvey Mackay. He’s one of my mentors. Swim with the Sharks is a great book. He’s written fourteen books, which is a must-read. Nobody prepares for a speech with as much detail as Harvey.
It’s the same thing that we said. I don’t know where we go here but it is. What else? Pushing yourself to learn more, try more, and ask more. Let’s go for a few Steinerisms here. Let’s have some fun. Maybe give a little bit of rapid-fire cushion on what this means. I love this one. “If you want to win more, you need to increase the losing.”
A lot of people struggle but if you’re 51 and 49, you’re a winner. I remember when my kids were pitching a little league and we gave up a couple of runs in the first inning, I’m like, “Do you think you were winning this game? Do you think you were pitching a shutout?” If you can hold them to two runs, I’m sure we can squat three. If you believe in winning and losing, losing is not the opposite of winning. Losing is a big part of winning.
We all know how important losing could be as far as the lessons you can learn. That’s where you grow and you go. At the end of the day, if you think that losing is a part of winning and the more you win, you will have increased losing, too. A lot of people that start to win big don’t see the losing big coming behind and it becomes a struggle. You have to prepare yourself. If you’re going to play big, you’re going to have to lose big once in a while and prepare to pick yourself up and dust yourself off.
Quantity leads quality. We tell our team, “Every night, every position, try something new you’ve never done before.” We’ve done 250 live promotions in front of fans. I’ll tell you, a lot of them have failed miserably, but we learn and get to the next one. Those are losses but the losses lead to the wins. It’s the same theme you said, “Play the game, not the score.”
If there’s a shot clock in your office that you need to shut down the lights and go home because you can’t have a shock clock in your office. You should never be able to tell whether you have a good day or a bad day in your office. You come up here and you see. I challenge anybody in my office for more than 30 years and you see the same level of focus intensity. I always say consistency over time equals credibility. It’s important. One of the things I loved about Jeter is when you go and watch Jeter play, you can never tell if he’s up to five runs and down five runs.
I remember my son, the Yankees are winning 11 to 2 and it was the eighth inning. He says, “Let’s go home. This game is over.” I said, “No. Now I want to see who here is playing for the love of the game, who’s trying to get that one more hit and who still thinks that they can win the game.” You learn a lot about people when things are not going well. You see their real intent and that’s important. I love to see guys that get up to play in the bottom of the night and get that hit and go the extra mile even though they hit their number. Play the game, not the score because it’s short-term thinking. You want to play the long game.
You’re only as good as your next to bad. You shared the story about Ted Williams. His coach gave him the option not to play the last game and finish over .400. He played the doubleheader and had 6 hits in 8 at-bats and finished at .406. That’s the kind of player you want in your team.
The difference between going into the hall of fame and being a .270 hitter is one hit a week.
You know this one. I share this in all my speeches. I go, “Who has the most hits of Major League Baseball?”
Do you remember how many hits?
Who has the most at-bats in Major League history?Your first idea is not your best idea. Click To Tweet
About 14,000 at-bats. He has 2,000 more bats than the next hitter in the history of the game, who was the guy we also know of, Hank Aaron, who was the homerun king for many years. You’ve got to keep coming to bat if you want to get your hits.
That’s good. I’m stealing that.
Who has the most strikeouts in Major League history?
It was Babe Ruth?
Everyone thinks that is, but no. It’s the guy known for three home runs in game six in the 1977 World Series.
He’s not known for the strikeouts. He’s known as Mr. October. He’s a Hall of Famer. We don’t remember the strikeouts. We remember the hits. Keep coming to bat.
We all tend to emphasize on the strikeouts and the failures more than the successes, which is another great tip if you’re reading and that is don’t overplay the losses and underplay the wins. Do it the other way around. A lot of us overplay the losses and underplay the wins and you have to get the other way around because we tend to be a lot harder on ourselves that what the world sees.
I want to go to a sports question. Brandon, you own a baseball team now. I’m going to say you’re not owning a Major League team because there are too many restrictions. Say, you own a team, an independent Minor League like us that baseball is declining. A few people may know about the team right now. Knowing what you’ve done in the industry to think dramatically different, what would you do as the owner of that team?
There’s a lot of room to bring back some of the former players. I would do a lot more autograph signings and a lot more Q and As and clinics with former players. Anything I could do to get fans on the field with a real-life former baseball player, to me, I call that product involvement. It’s a lifetime memory, not to mention the fact that it’s tough to shake that off. Once you’ve gotten on the field, it’s special. If you’re on the field with a hall of famer or a former player, it’s special. That building becomes special.
Now you got a picture of you with that player up in your office and that place now becomes holy. I do bring former players to Minor League ballparks, but they should do it a lot more and there should be a lot more activities. Using a lot of former players to teach young kids, more clinics driven by athletes, giving the facility the ability to be used by a couple of former players or partnering up with them, and stuff like that. I’m a little biased.
I like that perspective. Many people don’t get the opportunity to go into the field and feel part of it.
People underestimate the importance of food. I love what you did with the food included because money is a concern. When you go to a ballpark, they should have the best of 1 or 2 things and you have to go to that ballpark to get it. My son and I go to every baseball park in the country. If you’re going to have fries, you’re going to have the best fries or hotdogs or hamburgers or something that stands out. Regardless of what it cost, you got to go to this ballpark. In Pittsburgh, they got the pierogis. In Miami, they’ve got Dominican food in this whole alleyway. You’ve got to have something in your ballpark that you can’t get anywhere else. Food is always important, especially for kids.
Bringing people on the field is important. My dad was a big Yankee fan, Mickey Mantle fan. He used to remember walking on the field of the monuments. He talked about it over and over again. You better believe as we renovate our stadium, we’re trying to make, how can we keep fans on the field throughout the whole game? When we announced we got rid of our ads, which is crazy, we decided to have a fan wall and we let the fan sign the wall. We couldn’t do it in 2020 because of COVID, but they got to sign a piece of the wall in the 1926 ballpark. It’s those experiences. One quick follow up on that one. What merchandise opportunity is a team not utilizing that they have?
I’ve definitely had my say about that. Trying to utilize every possible thing they can. On the minor league level, the game use stuff is underused. There should be more game use programs put into play. If I’m going to a bunch of your games, so be it. If I can go get the first baseman’s cleats, his glove, and that kind of stuff, every now and then, one of those players becomes somebody great. Even if he doesn’t, it’s something about having a professional player’s equipment of some sort.
Sell some game use jockstraps.
You could, but I’m thinking more along the lines of the hat, jerseys and stuff. I’m a big fan of that. The apparel and all that stuff have been taken to an incredible level. I still don’t think we’ve done everything we can as far as organizing some of the stuff that the players play in and creating smart opportunities for fans to get it.
We had Russell Wilson play for our former team when we played baseball. We had bobbleheads and they were gone quickly. I wish I had more stuff thinking back on that. The game use has been important for a lot of people. Brandon, I’ve been grilling you for a while. You now are the host of the show. You can ask me one question. It flipped the script.
My one question would be is how do you take those ideas and bring them to other ballparks? How do you create that consulting firm that says, “You can bring me into your ballpark, maybe you take your show on the road?” How do you create a consulting firm saying, “My team is struggling a little bit. I need to get a completely different culture like what Disney does.” Why aren’t you putting together a consulting firm to go into a ballpark for 30 days and change the culture and change the thinking?
Did you do some of that?
You did more of the marketing agency when you started. You didn’t do any of the consulting.
I’m doing some consulting, but I’ve never done that on a team level because I’ve not worked on the inside of a team like the way you have. To me, when I look at some of these minor league teams that are not doing all the things they can do and I look at what you’re doing, it’s too many miles apart from where you are versus where they are. To me, I would hire you and a small group and say, “Fix me.” Like what Jon Taffer does with the restaurants.
I thought it’d be a reality show coming into a ballpark with no fans coming to it. That’s bad energy and a bad atmosphere. You fix it up and then you pack the house.If you want to win more, you need to increase the losing. Click To Tweet
You got the juice. You’ve done enough trials and tribulations of good, bad, indifferent to go to a ballpark and make a big difference in 3 or 4 weeks.
Thank you. That was the best script ever. You answered the question for me. That worked out well.
That’s what you do when you’re a consultant.
I do a lot of that with businesses. I’ve been fortunate to speak and work with billion-dollar brands, but sports teams think we’re too crazy, which I’m okay with.
I don’t think the minor league teams are going to think you’re crazy. There’s a lot of them that could use your help.
I appreciate that. Thank you. Question time, if you want better answers in business, you’ve got to ask better questions. What are some of the other great questions that you’re asking, Brandon?
I’m asking myself, where’s this all going? I don’t think this period of time that we’re going through is our destination. It’s our transportations that’s leading us and taking us someplace special. I’m trying to figure out where the hell this is all going because it’s probably going to lead to something bigger, better, and smarter than anything we’ve ever seen before. Probably faster than any other time we’ve seen before. I’m trying to figure out what that looks like. I’m also trying to figure out, what does the modern age employee look like? How the hell do you manage these people anymore?
Do you have to bring your dog to work? Do you have to have a kitchen full of food? Is it the money? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure that out because if you’re going to grow a company and have a loyal employee base, I’m trying to figure out how to handle employees. It’s definitely different today than it was years ago. To get good talent, which is critical, is not easy. The big question I asked myself is trying to understand where the whole employee movement is going so that I can be a good boss and I can run a good company.
There’s a great book that can help with that. Living On Purpose by Brandon Steiner. People talk about ROI, the return on investment. How much your employees cost? I don’t talk about ROI. I talk about ROP, the return on purpose. Are you giving them purpose? How much purpose are you giving them, their dreams, goals and what they want to accomplish? We talked about food and great parks. A lot of times, it’s feeling like they’re part of something and they’re a part of a game to make a difference. You’ve already answered it a lot with your purpose. That’s awesome. We’ve been talking about what else and not settling on success, but fans first. I’m fascinated with that. It’s a concept and the name of our company. Can you share maybe one little thing that you’ve done that’s above and beyond fans, first, that you created a fan by doing this, you or someone in your team?
First of all, every time I meet somebody at a ballpark, a particularly young kid, I introduce myself and I thank them and then I tell him if he does well in school, drop me a note. I sent him a box of stuff. I’ve been doing that for more than twenty years. It’s amazing. Now I’ve got adults that walk up to me. It’s like eight years old getting a box of collectibles and stuff from somebody like me. I know the importance of that impact. The other thing is I try to do two good things every day, two acts of kindness every day. That’s the most important thing for me.
I do two things for two people that don’t expect it. I try to be generous. I’m not doing something because I’m going to get something back. I’m not talking about doing something I know it’s going to be good for my company. Those are all important things. I try to do two things a day, and then the best thing that happened is I get two thank you notes from two people. When I speak, it’s always for two charities. The money from books and my speaking goes to two different charities. The biggest impact is, and I’ve been doing that a long time, is trying to do nice things for people that have nothing to do with my normal day of business, which you should try to do nice things, too.
Finding people that need a little help or somebody that needs a little something or encouragement. Sending those boxes of things to hundreds of kids. I’ve been doing this for many years and it’s amazing. It’s thinking, “You build your business, one fan, one person at a time. You build your legacy by communicating and having a compelling relationship with one person at a time.” I do believe in that. When I die, which is going to happen, I want people to think, “That was a nice guy. He cared. He used to be generous. He put a smile on my face and he helped me with something.”
Lord knows, if you look at my background growing up, there’s a lot of people that I don’t even know who they are to thank them, who enabled me to get to where I am today. It’s a good feeling to know that I’m passing on that torch to help others that are in need. Whether they need it or not, it’s nice to do nice things for people. If you get in the habit of doing that once a day or if you can afford to do it twice a day, even if it’s a small check or a thank you note or a book, it’s a beautiful thing.
There’s so much depth to the craziness and the purpose that you have. I do want to jump to the last two here on the craziness. A lot of people from the outside may say we’re a little crazy. We do things a little wild. You’ve done things wild and I’ve done things wild. I’m also obsessed with the idea of going bananas. What does going bananas mean to you?
Going bananas is going outside of my reach and doing some things that are uncomfortable that I’m not sure if it’s going to work. I do it now more regularly. It’s getting a little harder to go bananas because me going bananas become normal, which is how I see it. I don’t want every day to be the same. I don’t go about every deal the same. I don’t deal with people the same way. I’ve tried to deal with everybody differently, which creates a lot of bananas. That’s my mindset.
I took the Syracuse dome, the roof of the building and I’m selling the dome. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing with this, but I don’t want to do with it. It’s Syracuse. It’s my team. It’s my school. I came up with a whole product line of 5,000 orders later and the coaches in Orange Nation. It’s been one of my biggest opportunities to share. That’s going bananas. People are like, “What are you going to do with that roof?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I have no idea but I’ll figure it out.”
What makes someone unforgettable?
What makes somebody unforgettable is somebody that’s not willing to accept where they’re at, although they’re grateful for where they’re at, and somebody who’s generous and goes out of the way to do something for you and expects nothing back. When you deal with a brand that does more than what you expect it and is grateful for your business, or when you have a relationship with a friend that you know is going to be there for you, regardless of what you could do for them. Those are people that are unforgettable.
I don’t know if I’ve said this yet, but this may be an unforgettable episode. The rants, knowledge, asking what else and pushing yourself past the success. You made an impact on me. I want to thank you for being with us and sharing.
I appreciate it. I hope that people reading are able to do a little bit better tomorrow than they did now. I answer all my LinkedIn messages, Facebook or whatever. I’m one of those guys. If I’m going to sit home and watch some dummy down sports programs or TV, or whatever, which isn’t always dummy down when you think about it, I multitask. I go on social and I try to communicate and reach out to as many of my customers or friends. Otherwise, like you, “I’m busy. I have no time.” You don’t have any time or you just choose to want to sit down and watch a football game for six hours of which in 3 or 4 years, you are not even going to remember watching it.
You mentioned your three books are on your website as well, right?
Yeah, if you go to CollectibleXchange, pick any one of the three books, you’ll get that for free. Just pay for shipping. Plus, you’ll love it. There are 50,000 to 60,000 items on the site, but at the least, I love my free books. They have three different messages but if somebody wants to improve and get better, you’re coming out of school, trying to start your entrepreneurship life, definitely pick up The Business Playbook, You Gotta Have Balls and Living On Purpose. If you’re approaching 40 years old and older, that book is probably my best work. I’m as transparent as I possibly could be with that book.
Brandon, thank you.
Thank you. Have a great day. Keep on keep going bananas.
- Steiner Sports
- The Business Playbook
- You Gotta Have Balls
- Living On Purpose
- TED Talk – Find Your Dirt
- Swim with the Sharks
- LinkedIn – Brandon Steiner
- Facebook – Brandon Steiner
About Brandon Steiner
Brandon Steiner is the Founder & President of The Steiner Agency and CollectibleXchange. The Steiner Agency is the nation’s premiere independent athlete procurement source, and CollectibleXchange is an online platform for fans, collectors, store owners, celebrities, athletes and teams to buy and sell collectibles. Prior, Brandon created Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia, one of the largest companies of its kind. In addition, Brandon is a premier motivational and inspirational speaker. Steiner has spoken to world-class organizations such as the New York Yankees, BMW North America, Nike, Live Nation, Cornell University, TEDx and Harvard Business School. Aside from speaking to audiences, Steiner is a permanent fixture in the media as a regular on ESPN NY Radio 98.7 FM and as co-host of Yankees-Steiner: Memories of the Game on the YES Network. I have appeared frequently on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, and in newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Steiner is the author of Living on Purpose: Stories About Faith, Fortune and Fitness that Will Lead You to an Extraordinary Life, The Business Playbook: Leadership Lessons from the World of Sports and You Gotta Have Balls: How a Kid from Brooklyn Started From Scratch, Bought Yankee Stadium, and Created a Sports Empire. He lives in Scarsdale, New York, with his wife, Mara and children Crosby and Nicole.
To book Brandon Steiner for an appearance, contact: [email protected]
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