Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder Mixergy, where I interview usually tech software entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. But joining me today is an entrepreneur who I met at a conference. I flew to be at this mastermind run by Joe Soto and speak, and this guy was speaking with me. The only other speaker there, other than the host, was a guy whose book was “You Gotta Have Balls.” I had never even heard of this guy. I go, “What is this thing he’s going to do?” And then I heard he was in memorabilia, and I thought, “Interesting.” And then I heard the guy talk, and I just loved it. I loved his book. It’s called, not upside down, “You Gotta Have Balls.” I read it about how this hustler entrepreneur, who started out with nothing, ended up building this phenomenal business that, among other things, sold Yankee Stadium and dirt and other things to collectors.
I invited him on here to talk about how he built his business and to talk about why his follow-up book is “Living On Purpose” instead of “How to Make More Money,” which is something your mom always told you to do, Brandon. I want to find out why you’re doing that. And we’re going to do it thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first will do your email marketing right. It’s called ActiveCampaign. And the second will help you find your next phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal.
Brandon, good to see.
Brandon: Nice to be here. How are you, my friend?
Andrew: Good. Brandon, what kind of turnover are you guys doing? What’s the annual revenue at Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia, your company?
Brandon: We’ve been a pretty constant $40 million, $45 million top line business. We have about 75 employees. You know, I haven’t been driven to drive . . . I know it’s not going to be popular when I say this, but we haven’t been driven to have the most insane growth as opposed to having better quality ideas and products. Remember, on the marketing business, you’re procuring athletes, and that has a lot of growth potential when you’re just getting athletes to appearances and stuff and marketing stuff and campaigns. But in collectibles there’s a limit. So my job, as I’m creating these products, is to not have enough. So sometimes it does work against the growth thing. But, you know, we do well. We make money, and we have a lot of great, loyal customers. So we’re right around that top line of $40 million.
Andrew: I feel like you’re working your tail off. I don’t even know what the hell you’re doing here talking to me to be honest with you. Like the conference was over, you shot me an email to talk about the chatbots that I was using and how you could integrate it in your business. You’ve got a Facebook page that you’re growing. I wonder why. Dude, you’ve made it. How many extra customers are you going to get by having me on? Why are you doing this? Why are you still working so hard?
Brandon: Well, I enjoy it. I mean, it’s what I like doing. I have a balance to that, not a work-life balance, but a balance to what I want to do. But I think about and listen I’ve done well. I enjoy what I’m doing. If I don’t, I would go home. No problem. But I think that, you know, every day I’m able to use the influence I have to help others, which is not a burden to me. It’s a joy. It’s an opportunity really.
Brandon: So when I get to meet somebody like yourself, who’s a lot smarter than me about a lot of things that I really don’t know a lot about, it’s a real blessing frankly, and I’m still learning. I’m still interested and I’m still curious. And every day I promise myself, since I was able to have a little success financially, that I would spend a percentage of my day growing and helping others, not just money grabbing and just trying to figure out ways just to make more money. And, you know, I think I’m a more well-rounded person, probably a better friend, and I’m learning. I still think my best day is in front of me.
Andrew: I want to hear about what you’re doing with everything that you’ve learned, how you sold dirt. I thought it was . . . It sounds kind of easy. All right, you sell dirt. It seems kind of cute. But the way that you kept leveling it up was interesting.
Let’s go back in time. I circled this one phrase in your book, “what else,” because it just kept coming up in all of your stories, and I told you before we started, “You Gotta Have Balls” is a cool title, and I think you’re right to have named it that. But boy, the “what else” phrase is almost more important to your life. Let’s talk about how it expressed itself.
You were doing daily news delivery as a boy, and you went to this woman in this building, apartment building, and you said what to her?
Brandon: Well, I was in Brooklyn. And first of all, the book, “You Gotta Have Balls,” was dedicated to my mom who was always, “What else? What else? What else?” And I always say what else times what’s next is what gets you first to market. When you’re thinking what else, what’s next gets you first to market. My mother was always never satisfied with whatever I came back to her with. She was always, “What else? How do you differentiate yourself? How do you do more?”
So I go to this lady and I’m trying to open up as many as accounts as I can, and, you know, I was only 12 at the time. Whoever opened up the most accounts would win a box of candy bars, and I was trying to figure out like . . . So I knock on this woman, she’s got to be like 80 years old, 75 years old, and ask if she wants to get the paper delivered. She says no. I said, “Ma’am, it’s the same price as the corner store, $0.08.” She goes, “Yeah, but then I’ve got to tip you.” And she kind of shuts the door my face.
I went home and I told my mom like, “The people in this neighborhood are so cheap. I don’t know why we even live here. It’s just terrible.” And my mother said, “Look. I got to tell you a couple of valuable lessons here. One is you’ve got to differentiate yourself. What else can you do for this woman? And you got to stop selling. You got to start serving and you got to start solving. Entrepreneurs solve a problem. You’re just out just trying to sell something, you’re not going to get anywhere.”
So I’m going back and knocking on doors, nothing. I mean, I am really scrapping. I go back to this woman’s house, apartment. She’s like on the fourth floor. It was like 10:30 at night. She’s like, “Are you crazy? What’s wrong? Is there a fire?” I said, “Ma’am, I just had to come back to you. If there’s a torrential downpour, a snowstorm, a blizzard, I mean, heat wave, you know, a woman your age shouldn’t be outside getting a newspaper. If I bring you milk and bagels on Wednesdays and Sundays, would you get the paper delivered from me then? I’ll never be late. I’ll have it to your house by 7:30. So you get the same value, maybe better, and I’ll get you these other things. If you need something else, I’ll get it for you too.”
What was unbelievable about that story is not only did the woman sign up, but she was friendly with everyone in the neighborhood. And I went from 29 dailies to 199 dailies. And when you’re 12 and you have 199 dailies, 230 for Sundays, that’s swagger.
Brandon: But the main lesson I learned there, for anybody listening, is, you know, are you listening to your customers. Are you really listening to the market? And really understand what people need, not just about what you want to sell. And are you serving? Are you solving a problem in your approach to what you’re selling and what your servicing people with?
Andrew: You were on welfare growing up.
Brandon: Yeah, it was tough. The food stamps, the embarrassment, especially since we grew up in a middle aged neighborhood, I mean, middle income neighborhood and lived over a glatt kosher butcher, over a store, which wasn’t pleasant. It’s humbling. You know, when you really don’t . . .
Andrew: Glatt kosher, I didn’t understand this until I read your book. They’re actually slaughtering the chickens in a glatt kosher butchery because they want to make sure that it’s slaughtered kosher. And so you’re living in that type of environment. I read in your book about how it was super cold. When they closed on the Sabbath, you wouldn’t have any heat. You had to at times go and call the police and get them to turn on the heat, or you would go and break the locks to go in.
But let’s talk about an embarrassing moment. Growing up in that environment, where everyone is doing fairly well for themselves, what’s one of the moments that stands out for you as like the most embarrassing? Was it the pants situation? Was it something?
Brandon: I mean, there are so many. Obviously, when you had to go to the electric company, I handled the checkbook starting around 10 or 11. So we wouldn’t have enough money to pay the electric, and you go to the woman and please ask her to hold the check and not turn off our electricity. Even when I was at the appetizer counter in the supermarket and I was trying to get a quarter of a pound of salami, and she says, “It’s a little over. It’s okay?” I’d say, “No, it’s not okay. Take that off. I only have enough money exactly for a quarter of a pound.”
Again, I want up to the front of my class when I was in fifth grade, Mr. [Kerper 00:08:13], and he gave me an envelope of money, which was, you know, to help pay for clothing because I had a rip in my right knee and I had been wearing the same pants for three weeks in a row.
I mean, you know, you don’t realize because when you’re a kid, you only know what you know. But at that point, I knew that we didn’t have a whole lot of money. We were in trouble. And that I had to get accountable and I had to get serious. So . . .
Andrew: And that forced you to go and get a job.
Brandon: Yeah. I mean I think it’s a little young to probably work at 10, but I did. So I never wake up in the morning worrying about whether I can find work or make money, because when you start doing that at 10, when you’re on the street scheming and dreaming, at 10 years old you’re trying to figure out how you can hustle and how you can make money legitimately, I mean that’s a big thing. And then figuring it out and then I had my mother kind of guiding me and helping me along with some of my schemes and some of my . . .
Andrew: Like what? What’s an example of a scheme growing up?
Brandon: I started baking bagels. I came home and I said, “Mom, I got this idea. I’m going to get a van. I’m going to cut out the side of the van. I’m going to put a huge bagel on top of the van. I’m going to go up and down the streets on the weekends and people can go and pick up their bagels instead of go to the bagel store. I’m going to have different containers of cream cheeses.” My mother says, “Well, that’s a really good idea, but you’re 14. You can’t drive.”
I was always like I would go on the beach and sell knishes on Coney Island Beach.
Andrew: And you did sell it?
Brandon: I would sell knishes and cold soda, and those bags of the soda was really heavy. But, you know, you’d make some quick money. But it wasn’t quite cranking. So what I did is I’d buy this big packets of Oreo cookies, not like now where they have a gazillion levels of cookies. If you bought Oreo cookies, it was three sleeves in one big packet. What I did is I’d get the baggies, and I would take three Oreo cookies, put it into a little baggie, and I’d sell Oreo cookies and all the kids would come. And then I’d sell my knishes and cold soda.
Brandon: I was always scheming and dreaming of different angles of how to differentiate myself whenever I was selling stuff. And I think the real point, and I’ll just tell you one more quick story. This was when I knew I was an entrepreneur is my mother owned a salon at the time. She says, “Listen, I want you to go and meet the L and I want to give out flyers and get people to get haircuts and wash and sets during the week.” Hundreds of people come off the F train on Kings Highway. It was an express stop. And my mom’s salon was only two blocks from there. She said, “I’m busy on Friday and Saturday. I may get busy during the week.”
So one day I’m in front of my mom’s salon. She’s like, “Did I not tell you give out flyers underneath the L?” I said, “Mom, I’m giving out flyers. What are you talking about? I’ve got it covered.” “What are you talking about? You’re here. How could you be underneath the L?”
I said, “I got four kids, one at each entrance giving out flyers. As a matter of fact, I went to two other stores. I’m giving out flyers for them.” She says, “Well, how are you paying them?” I said, “Very easily. The kids in the neighborhood, a lot of their parents don’t want them working. So I’m giving them fireworks.” You got to hustle if you got to go buy some fireworks. I’m giving them fireworks. I’m taking a [inaudible 00:10:56] so the other people will pay me on the flyers. I’m making money on that. And the kids are ecstatic because they want the fireworks so they can blow the fireworks up. I’m supervising. I’m working very hard right now. I’ve got four people working. In two hours I got a new four kids coming on. So they can only work two hours.” And that’s when my mother said, “There’s something very wrong with you.”
Andrew: That was too much even for her.
Brandon: Yeah, 14 or 15, like to have that kind of scheming, that was pretty good.
Andrew: Do you ever worry that your kids won’t have that? I mean, your kids are old enough now that you can see how they turned out largely. Did you worry at the time, like you’re setting them up much better than your parents set you up?
Brandon: Oh, yeah. I mean I worried. My wife and I argued quite a bit, because I remember when my kid came in our room and says, “Dad, can you take me to school?” I’m like, “No. What do I look like, a taxicab driver? Am I a limo driver? No.” He says, “Dad, mom can’t take me. Can you take me?” I’m like, “No, God gave you two feet. There’s a school bus a couple blocks away. Figure it out.” He says, “Dad, I’m 9.” I’m like, “I know. You’re 9. Figure it out, man. I walked to school every day.”
Brandon: We had a big conversation, my wife and I, that day. You know, I love my kids, but one of the things I learned is I never got too caught up with how much of what we have, I never hid it from my kids. So I didn’t say, “You know, you’re lucky you have this car or you have it a lot nicer than I had it.” I was told my kids the truth, but I always told them the process to get some of this stuff that I have. That’s what I shared with them. I shared with them like how hard I had to work to get the stuff, and it’s up to them if they want to work that hard to get it for themselves. It may not be interesting to them or not, but I never made them feel guilty about having it, because I know they never asked for it.
And I always really showed my kids, as often as I could, the process and the real joy of getting a whole lot of success financially is about what you can give back and what you can share with others, not about the money get and the money grab so you can just have more. The real joy is in sharing it and helping others and paying it forward, and that’s how they would be judged one day by how much they could pay forward, but not how much money they had in the bank account. That was my big emphasis with my kids.
Andrew: They seem to have turned out right. I saw your son there at the event. Let’s continue with your story, with this “what else,” that again I’ve circled so many times in your book. We saw it express itself as a kid. Let’s talk a little later in your life. You were working at the Hyatt and you wanted to find a way to do what else there? Do you remember the story I’m referencing from the book?
Brandon: I lived with a couple of managers of the Hyatt. I was just a trainee. I remember coming home one day and one of my roommates said, “I got you a promotion,” or at least that’s what I thought it was, a $500 raise and I’m in the coffee shop as a manager and I’d be working every morning.
Now, if you’re in our hotel, Hyatt on Baltimore on the harbor, it was the first hotel on the harbor, and the hotel occupancy was 92%. It was packed, 400 and something room hotel. And I realized I had to wake up at 5:00 in the morning every morning to be at work by 5:30. I was thinking about killing myself. What did I do? When you’re 23 years old, waking up at 5:00 in the morning, it is hell. It’s [ling hell 00:14:14]. I mean there’s no other way to say it. I mean I’m an early riser, but you don’t want to have to be at work at 5:00 a.m., and especially at 6:00 a.m., there’s a good amount of people on line ready for breakfast, and you’re going to do this prayer when you get to the hotel, praying that your people show up because as much as it was for me, I’ve got waiters, busboys, all these people.
So I learned this thing about never ask a person a yes or no question. You want to go on a date, yes or no? Fifty percent of the answers could be no. Do you want to go out to the movies, or do you want to go for dinner? Do you want to go for a cup of coffee or maybe just meet a quick sandwich? Those are all yes-yes questions.
Andrew: Let me emphasize that for second. I saw that in the book. I loved it. You want to ask yes-yes questions, where you give people two options that are great for you, and they’re more likely to go with one of those two options instead of stopping and something, “Wait a minute, I should actually say no.” So, if I want to go out with my wife this Saturday night, just to bring it a little bit to a personal because you’re going to go business in a moment, I can say, “Do you want to go out for dinner, or do you want to go out for drinks?” And now we’re talking about which one she prefers as opposed to do you want to just stay home and get comfortable instead of moving our asses out of there. Is it wrong for me to just . . .
Brandon: No one wants to be told what to do. No one wants to be told what to do, so you give them a yes or yes question.
Andrew: Okay. So let’s talk about how that expressed itself at the Hyatt with this what else mentality of yours.
Brandon: But this works with everything. I mean, any time you don’t want to tell somebody what to do. But at the Hyatt, what I realized is that I’m walking around, busing tables because one of my busboys doesn’t show up. What does a busboy do? You clear tables and serve coffee. And I’m realizing I’ve got another hand available.
Now in a Hyatt, the only way I was going to get promoted was by getting the average checkup. And I tried serving wine for lunch and dinner, but nobody was drinking wine in a coffee shop, so that was a bust. And I was trying to think of every which way to upsell to get those average checks up to show that I’m worthy of a promotion. And then sure enough I realized that in the one hand I have coffee, I’m only asking, “Would you like more coffee?” That’s a yes or no question. I noticed every day on the machine right in the back of the house they had a fresh squeezed orange juice machine. Now I never even knew what that was. I always drank Tropicana was a delicacy for me. I never knew about fresh squeezed. So it was like every morning I would go, when the chef wasn’t looking, and I grabbed some fresh squeezed. It was delicious.
Andrew: It is.
Brandon: They had a beautiful pitcher of orange juice, fresh squeezed, and I walk up to each table, “Coffee, orange juice? Coffee, orange juice?” Instead of a yes, no, I’m asking what you want, and most people said both. And my check average zoomed. Within 60 days I got promoted to the rooftop restaurant where all the beautiful people were.
Brandon: They had cocktail waitresses. It just came from making sure that I asked a yes or yes question, not a yes or no question. And that’s the what else. You know, I’m not going to sit there and do a year in a coffee shop waking up at 6:00 in the morning. On the other hand, I’m not a quitter, but I’m going to figure out a way to get myself promoted and elevated. And that’s how I did it.
But I think the yes or no question for people out there, when you think about how you frame your words, it’s so important. Even when I meet somebody, “Tell me something good.” The first time I see them, “Tell me something good.” You know, a customer calls up, “Tell me something good. Tell me something that’s great that’s going on.” And then people will light up about something good happening with them, and that’s how we start the conversation and sales call off.
Andrew: All right. Speaking of sales, I’m going to do a quick message from my first sponsor and then continue on with the story. By the way, Brandon, I really love how you keep thinking about business. Always in your head you keep thinking about business. That’s one of the things that I love about the people over at Toptal. These guys, they have top developers. Just like you keep thinking about business, they keep thinking, “How do I problem solve? How do I develop better code? How do actually help my clients do a better job?” And they can’t freaking help it.
I moved here to San Francisco, and it wasn’t until I lived here surrounded by people who are engineers at Google, at Facebook, at Apple, that I started to realize they are constantly thinking this stuff. And that’s what separates the best of the best developers from the ones who are just doing it to get a job.
If you’re out there looking to hire phenomenal developers, you owe it to yourself to go have a conversation with the people at Toptal. All you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. When you do, you’re going to see a beautiful model on that web page, number one, and number two a simple button that when you press it, you’re basically scheduling a phone call with a matcher where you get to have a conversation, tell them what you’re looking for, what issues you’re solving, and then let them wow you. Let them get you on a call with one or two of their developers so that you can see what their developers can do. And if you’re happy, you can often hire them and get started within days.
Totptal.com/mixergy, top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, .com/mixergy.
What do you think of that, Brandon? Decent ad read. Not one of the best ones, but I thought it was good.
Brandon: I think, you know, it’s a good idea. It sounds like a good company. It sounds like something I’d be interested in. So far there’s two sponsors you’ve hit me up with already that I may have to go check out.
Andrew: Wait till you see ActiveCampaign. As a marketer, I think you’re going to love them.
You got into sports specifically, or your business kind of took off from what I can see in your book because of 7-Eleven. They hired you to do . . . you were starting your own company, you were getting going, and they hired you at 7-Eleven to do what?
Brandon: Well, actually what it was was it was a 7-Eleven promotion.
Andrew: Excuse me, 7-Up not 7-Eleven.
Brandon: 7-Up, yes. And we were sitting there, and we were trying to figure out . . . well, actually that was how I got my first car. But it was also the beginning of like me really making collectibles and putting them at corporate premium. And I was a deal loader for 7-Up that distributed also Dr. Pepper. And what we did is we got them . . . if you bought more product than what you bought the previous six months in that one month, you were able to one of these seven footers and . . .
Andrew: What’s a seven footer?
Brandon: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, all the big men in basketball.
Andrew: You mean their autograph or you get them to promote it?
Brandon: Get an autographed jersey.
Andrew: Got it. They hired you. They said, “Hey, look, we need more stores to start bringing in the 7-Up and buy it from us and sell it to their clients.” And you said, “I know what, if we offer them a collectible as a prize, they’re going to be more likely to sell it,” which is kind of like what happened with you as kid selling newspapers, you wanted that chocolate prize, right? But before we continue with this story, Brandon, why? Why wouldn’t they say, “Hey, we’re business owners. Dude, pay us in cash. I don’t need a prize like a kid.” Why is it that prizes still work for motivating people, especially when they’re thinking professionally?
Brandon: Well, prizes are promotions for people not for profit. And that’s a mistake that a lot of companies make is they come up with prizes and promotions but they’re really not great and they don’t work all that well. And I think they have to have value and how I define value in my world is what I can do for you and you can’t do for yourself. And at that time those jersey autographed were really hard to get. The collectible thing wasn’t was it is today, and it was a rare idea, just to get the jerseys itself were really difficult. We had to get them custom made and everything else.
So when you offer somebody something that really is hard to get themselves, and back when I was a kid, by the way, winning a box of candy, because I had no idea how to get a box of candy bars. That was unbelievable that I’d actually be able to win this. And it’s the same thing I felt like with those seven footers. We went and got Scottie Pippen, we got four really great NBA players, and we offered these autographed jerseys, which I knew were rare, hard to get, and it really incented people to go make the extra buy.
Because the goal was they go to a customer, they look at your sales over the last six months. If you made a sales order for the next two months that were bigger than any two months in the previous six, you were able to get this jersey, and it worked like a charm. I mean, it went through the roof. And then the next month we did a special hockey puck by the 10 greatest goal scorers. And said we all have the same goal in common, and it was like if you ordered X amount of the new product they had, you would get the puck, this goal. That was the goal and this kind of play on words.
Andrew: I like the play on words. Even the contest that I started off talking about was called Seven Footers for 7-Up. You’ll get a collectible from a seven foot basketball player if you help promote 7-Up. I kind of skipped over how you started in business. Why did you get started as an entrepreneur? What led to that?
Brandon: Well, first, out of desperateness. I mean, as a kid I was always trying to figure out schemes and different ways to make money. I was the odd kid in the neighborhood just because, you know, it wasn’t common that you’d work, even as a teenager let alone as young as I did, so it was probably out of desperateness so I’d have food and clothing.
Andrew: But you had a job. Why were you desperate for more money?
Brandon: I mean, once it’s in your head and once you see the light at an early age, and once you see that, you just don’t lose that.
Andrew: So you still had your job and you started your business on the side?
Brandon: You know, but for me, when I got like out of school and school was not easy, you know, my mom was listen, you’re not starting your own business. You’re not ready and you’re going to go learn how money gets made, how a business gets run from people that know what you’re doing. Don’t make the mistake of doing something too quick until you’re experienced and understand it’s not just about the idea that you have, you need to have the business principles—hiring, firing, rent, how to get space, all the marketing, all the little things you have to do in the business besides coming up with a good idea and expedite it. And the smartest thing I did was wait for about seven years until I started my own business.
Andrew: So you learned, you started your own business because that’s who you were. The first big thing that took off for you was that 7-Up promotion. At that point you changed your company. It looks like the company name was Steiner Associates. Why did you change it from Steiner Associates?
Brandon: I think Steiner Associates was more of a PR name. I’d start off as a PR company. I was helping doing consulting for restaurants. The sports bar theme was hot at the time. I was helping a lot of sports bars open up. It was a theme I helped create back in the mid-’80s, and it just didn’t have a good ring to it. Steiner Sports was the original, and then we added marketing to it. It just had a better ring, had a crisp tone. And remember back in the mid-’90s it really was not that many sports companies out there. It was still very, very new. I can’t tell how many people walked up to me, “What’s a sports company? How does that work? How does that even work? Do people hire athletes? People buy autograph stuff? What is Steiner Sports?” So half the battle was explaining that there was . . Steiner Sports was . . . you could actually have a sports company that [inaudible 00:24:14] sports.
Andrew: It’s not a sports company that, I don’t know, owns small baseball fields or any number of things or makes sports equipment. It’s you do marketing. And a big part of your business . . . you know what, let me ask you this question. It’s kind of tangent but I’ve got to ask you. Page 115 of the book is Chapter 9 “Turning Memories into Money.” It starts off by saying, “Adopted from the ‘Business Playbook’ page 33.” What are we looking at here with this book where a section is adopted from another book?
Brandon: Because the first book I wrote . . . I couldn’t get a job coming out of college was the “Business Playbook.” It was really a book geared toward kids in college or right coming out of college who were trying to build a brand. And it was a major part of the brand build was what you just talked about, which was memories that matter. It really is responsible for my fortune that I made at Steiner, and I told them in the “Business Playbook” and I thought always fair to mention that it came right from that book, because generally in my books I don’t repeat what I’ve written in another book, but this was worthy of repeating because it was the game changer, it was the aha moment. You happened to circle by the way, good job on that.
Andrew: You know what, I read these books so fast because I know if I’m going to meet the author, I can’t let my mind wander, can’t let myself lose focus, focus read every single word and it really helps that I get to talk to you right afterwards. And so what you’re saying is like this moment in your book is so important that you wanted to recap it. And this goes back to Walter Payton. What happened with Walter Payton?
Brandon: Well, first what happened, the aha moment, just so we can just quickly go to that just for a second because at the end of the day I had a real bad learning disability, which is funny because I have 2,000 blogs, written three books, and I’m half illiterate. I struggled to read and write, I mean, really. And what’s funny is I used to read my kids stories and I didn’t like reading. I’ve never been a big reader.
I make up stories. I’d open up a book and I’d just make up my own story and my kids would go crazy. So I go and I’m telling a story about my favorite moment in sports, which was the ’94 Cup when the Rangers won the cup and Messier was the captain. And I look over to my son and he’s dead asleep before I even start the story and I’m like this is wrong. I’m about to tell you about the most important sports moment. And that was the beginning of Steiner “Remember the Moment” campaign which was . . . I would continue to sit on his bed and tell myself that story about why Mark Messier and the cup was such an important moment to me that I waited 54 years, the Ranger fans were waiting and how this is such a big moment and I realized, wait a minute, everybody has one of those moments. Carlton Fisk when he hit that homerun or Bobby . . .
Andrew: And you’re saying the moment in sports that was dramatic for the player was super meaningful for the viewer and what you’re saying was, your realization was people want to hold on to it somehow, have a tangible experience, not just a memory.
Brandon: And what I think is in most people’s lives it’s moments that matter was what we remember, is we remember these select moments that matter and they got memory and holding on and you don’t want to let them go. So I would say, wait a minute. I used to collect all these magazines. Remember there was no internet at that time so I started going through the magazines, and Joe Namath holding up the number one, Ali over Liston, all these great moments where you remember where you were.
And I started looking at all these photos trying to find the photographers, having the athletes sign the photo, write a little description of what happened in the photo and that’s how we changed the collectible business is we came up with moments that matter. And in those photos we found products that the player would use and we found the actual bat they’re using and we replicated them. We found the hockey stick that Wayne Gretzky used on his first goal ever, [Hespeler 00:27:56] and we replicated that stick. And that’s what we were selling, that’s what kicked off Steiner collectibles. We found collectibles that mattered and that were affordable and we produced them.
Andrew: If I understand you right, you were first doing promotions for hospitality companies like restaurants. You then discovered through the 7-Up that the sports connection made more sense than just being in a PR marketing space. Then you started selling the products?
Brandon: I never thought Steiner was going to be a product for fans. I thought it was a B2B play.
Andrew: But is started becoming that after 7-Up?
Brandon: Like 7-Up was a B2B play. We worked with a company that did promotions.
Andrew: What got you into actually selling the products directly to individuals, to people?
Brandon: The night I was telling my kid a story [inaudible 00:28:45].
Andrew: Oh, that’s before you weren’t even selling items.
Brandon: No. I was just selling like if you were a salesperson, I’d sell you a signed ball. You’d go to a meeting, you [inaudible 00:28:53]. You’d sing a Sandy Koufax ball, Whitey Ford ball. And that was cute. Or if I do business with you, I’d send you an autographed bat, look for it and a home run in 2019. And that worked. I never thought the product was going to be a brand play. I thought it was going to help you do more business as a sales person to do business for another business.
Andrew: Got it.
Brandon: I’m reading my kid a story at night and all of the sudden I’m like wait a minute, I think fans really want something more than an autographed item. They want an autographed moment that mattered.
Andrew: How did you get customers in the beginning?
Brandon: What’s that?
Andrew: How did you get customers in the beginning?
Brandon: Not easily but I came up with a couple of different campaigns. “Remember the Moment,” we came up with a little jingle. We go into some catalogs. One of the biggest things, breaks I’d gotten . . . I didn’t have a whole lot of money as mentioned earlier, but I had my American Express card which I figured out how to get one. And I would get these statements and they’d have different offers in the statement. I’m like wait a minute, I bet people would want to get a ball if I put that in the statement, and they started this rewards program. The rewards program where you’re able to cash out points for a signed ball.
I said no one is ever going to cash out points for a signed ball. And one guys said, they’re going to cash out points for a ball because they can’t get this ball, they don’t know how to get this ball, and I can get them this ball. And then we started going crazy with American Express and all these other different catalog programs when they put autographed items in there and that’s kind of how we got our initial run of customers.
Andrew: Walter Payton, since I brought him up, he was a running back for Chicago Bears. He was dying when you talked to him and you came up with an agreement to do what with him?
Brandon: Well, we did his . . . we did basically the last year of his life, we did a huge collection with him. And I spent three weekends with Walter doing some tradeshows with him for a couple pharmaceutical companies. He was amazing to work with. And I always say, we don’t sign autographs. He never liked signing for money. He always signed for fans but he didn’t want to get paid. But when he realized that he was dying he thought it would be a good legacy to leave back, a product line, leave some money for his family and we signed 20,000 items. That was really a huge break for me to have gotten that collection, put that collection together. I didn’t even realized how popular he was until unfortunately he passed and certainly that did put us on the map in a lot of ways. Sometimes you’re [inaudible 00:31:14].
Andrew: You weren’t able to sell it until after he died.
Andrew: And then it seems like the next big break was, or the next big opportunity was the Yankees versus Mets, right? This is what? 2000?
Brandon: I signed a lot of players to do their collectible lines of product. One of the things we did at Steiner that differentiated we’d find a player, we’d put a product line together for them. Starting in high school, minor leagues, all the different moments that happened to the player’s career. So when someone was fanatical about a player, we’d be able to put a whole product line together. My first big, big deal was with Messier. But my first gigantic deal with Derek Jeter. And sure enough in 2000 we were lucky enough to get a World Series match with Mets-Yankees. Jeter won the MVP, and it was a $5 million deal I did with Jeter.
Andrew: You made $5 million for what?
Brandon: For three years and that was a lot of money back then. That was in 2000, ’99.
Andrew: Three years of what?
Brandon: Three years of him signing autographs, doing appearances, doing a clinic, which was a lot of money back then. I paid him a $1.7 per year to basically sign a lot of autographs, do some clinics, do a couple of appearances and say he was a friend of mine.
Andrew: So part of the deal was he had to say he was a friend of yours?
Brandon: No, not quite but we had our little innuendo stuff of how we could . . . when people walked up and say, “I know Brandon Steiner,” we had the little keywords to know if the guy was really my friend or not as I was getting more popular.
Andrew: Oh, you mean him?
Brandon: Yeah. But more importantly we met with him . . . we had a Yankee thing again on such a run. It was crazy.
Andrew: Wait. You were selling clinics and you were also getting paid for appearances and you were selling the bats, the balls and everything else he signed?
Brandon: And clinics were important because our B2B business, when I was selling I was going to corporations saying look, you can’t get a client to meet with you, go put on an event together where they can bring their kid. Because most of the high-level people . . . most of the high-level decision makers were really hard to dinners with and get meetings with. I said look why don’t we invite them to go to a clinic with Derek Jeter. They’ll be on the sidelines when you’re talking while the kid is playing baseball with Derek Jeter. We’ll definitely get [inaudible 00:33:25]. We started doing that with Mia Hamm, we started doing that with all kinds of players, and that’s when we really built up a great company corporate base just really wealthy decision . . .
Andrew: What a great idea. Right. So how are you going to say no to bringing their kid to a once in a lifetime activity and while their kids are playing they feel great. They feel good about the person who just bought this for them. Okay, so . . .
Brandon: That’s really my claim to fame at the end of the day if you’re trying to get a meeting and you can’t, I’m the guy you want to call because I will get you that meeting 99% of the time.
Brandon: Because I figured out a way to do something that has value to that person you’re trying to get the meeting with instead of trying to sell them . . .
Andrew: What’s an example of something you’ve done like that? What’s non-sports related? I feel like sports . . .
Brandon: I had a doctor come into my office and said, “Look, I haven’t been home in three weeks, I deliver kids, I delivered 63 kids in the last three weeks. I haven’t been home in three weeks. My kid hates me. I don’t know what to do. And it’s his birthday coming up and he loves hockey. You think he can meet Mark [Tams and Berg Door 00:34:20] or somebody . . . I said, ” no, that’s stupid.”
I said, “What I want you to do is we’re going to rent out a rink because you don’t need to look good in front of your kids. You need to look good in front of your kid’s friends. We’re going to rent out a rink, Mark [Tams 00:34:34] going to be the coach, organizer of the game. Your kid and his friends are going to come play hockey, and Mark Tams and Berg Door is going to be the referee and set everything up and do a little play. Now you’re going to look good with your kid and his friends, and his friends are going to say, you know, ‘You have the best dad in the world.'”
Because the best way to turn your kid around is having his friends and tell you how great dad you are. And I remember getting a letter from that kid about 10 years ago, because it was 20 years when I did that, and saying the relationship with my dad changed from that day. I know you had a big part in doing that. I never would’ve got to know my dad. I was so angry with him back then because he was never home, and then all of the sudden we started getting into hockey, we started going to hockey games together and then Mark Tams and Berg Door appearance we went to that rink which changed everything. But I can give you two hours of all that and not come up for a breath.
Andrew: And so the big takeaway for me is, there’s two things I get away from that. Number one I get the idea that if you want to meet someone or give someone, give something to their kids. I even find here I get tons of stuff in the office and the thing is my kids can come in and enjoy are the things that I get the best value and the best upside for me. Number two is my wife, if I can give something to my wife, I enjoy it. Otherwise it just feels like a burden to me.
Brandon: Hard to regift to your wife though. Wife’s not big on the regift by the way.
Andrew: But if something comes in that’s especially nice for here . . .
Brandon: Like why didn’t you think of giving me this? At least my wife . . it’s hard to regift my wife but I can regift my kids. Because my kids will regift I have to claim this is a regift. Keep this for myself. But I’m making a statement that you would enjoy this more than me so that’s why I’m giving this to you.
Andrew: Second thing is the bonding power of sports, I don’t have that. I have no connection to sports outside of a few Yankee experiences growing up. Can you actually win someone over if they don’t love sports or don’t even follow it the way that they do? What’s a way to do that for someone who’s not into sports?
Brandon: Well, I think it’s even more important because if you’re not a sports, then that person struggling and sometimes they have a loved one or somebody important in the family that does love sports and if you can make that little bit of a bridge, that’s even bigger. The Mia Hamm clinic was another one because guys have trouble doing stuff with their daughters and always have a million things they can do with their sons. So doing a soccer clinic with Mia was a great thing for a 9-, 10-year-old daughter with a guy, with a father struggling with, “What should I do with my daughter?” I’d take them to a Mia Hamm soccer clinic. Bingo and there’s a million ways to do it. A big part of most of my clients, the best ones I’ve had are not sports fans.
Andrew: Okay. There’s so much that I want to cover with here with you. I’m going to talk about my second sponsor then I want to come back and ask what happened when the Yankees brought you in and said, “Hey, what are you doing? Who are you? What are you up to with are people?” Number one. And number two, I feel like you didn’t explain how you sold your company in the book and I’m fascinated by that and why you’re still coming to work after selling the company so long ago. I mentioned the dirt thing, we got to bring that up. And then finally, I want to close out with why do you have so many freaking . . . so many basketballs in your house? Why?
But first, I’ve got to talk about my second sponsor. It’s a company called ActiveCampaign. You do email marketing, but you guys use MailChimp from what I saw, Brandon. I shouldn’t have brought up the competition’s name. Whatever. You use another email provider. Let me tell you why you might want to consider . . . why you should consider ActiveCampaign to switch over.
Most email providers what they do, Brandon, they let you put everyone on an email list and email everybody the exact same thing. The thing about ActiveCampaign was imagine you send everyone the same email and you discovered there’s a handful of people who every time you send a link to your next Facebook Live, they click it. Why should you send them the same thing you sent to everyone else?
Meanwhile there are a handful of people who every time you say I got a new memorabilia, they click that. You want to tag those two groups of people and then if you have something that is just a Facebook Live that’s urgent or another Instagram live that you’re experimenting with or something else, you go back to those original people who keep clicking your Facebook Live and say I’m doing this special thing on Instagram. You should come and see that.
And the people who are just into the collectibles, every time you email about that, they click those. You want to treat them differently and say, “Here’s this new thing that I’m offering just for you.” Because if you were to go to the Facebook Live, people just want business advice from you and try to talk to them about buying baseballs over and over, they’d think you were selling too hard and it would feel a little too pushy. But people who are into collectibles, they want it. They want to know before everyone else. Anyway, what I’m saying is, Brandon, ActiveCampaign allows to bucket people like that. Sorry.
Brandon: I love this.
Andrew: Yeah. Super, super simple to do. There’s lots of software to do it but it’s way too complicated. They make it really easy and if you are with a different email provider, Brandon, I know you’ve got a team. I talked to your team. They’re super smart. They did chatbots before most people even knew what they were. And I know they can move you over but I also know that they got so many other things on their plate, why should they even bother?
If you go to activecampaign.com/mixergy, you will see that they will migrate you for free from your current email provider. They will also let you just try it for free. Experiment with it. See what you like, what you don’t like a bout. If you decide to sign up . . . Sorry?
Brandon: I’m going to try it.
Andrew: I see that. I saw you write it down a couple of times. Write down the URL and say, wait, how do I get that extra migration?
Brandon: This is so important. I think people take it for granted just because you have my email address doesn’t give you the warrant to email me anything. And when you email me the wrong thing, it pisses me off.
Andrew: Yeah. And sometimes it’s hard. You can’t just survey people because they’re not going to tell you the truth. What you want to do is look for signals in what they’re already doing, what they’re clicking on, what videos on your website they’re watching all the way to the end. What things are they doing on your site beyond that, beyond watching the video.
So if you go the activecampaign.com/mixergy, you can try it for free. You’re kind of rich, you’re a rich man right now. Not kind of, you’re very. You don’t even need this. But I’ll tell you the second month is free. I know that people even in your position appreciate getting a free month of service. Then if you use activecampaign.com/mixergy, they’ll do two free one-on-one sessions with their expert to make sure you learn the software, go do it, and then come back, get more feedback, get more direction so that you can prove. And as I said, free migration. Activecampaign.com/mixergy. Activecampaign.com/mixergy.
All right. The Yankees call you in and say, “Hey, Steiner, we’re seeing your name all over. You’re interacting with our people. Are you legit?” You go into their office and you do that same “what else” for them. Again, I’m telling you, I’m circling this “what else,” not intentionally. It’s not until I finished reading the book, that I looked at all the dog-eared pages, and I said, “Wait, this ‘what else’ keeps coming up?” So what’s the “what else” that you walk in there . . . Tell me about that meeting if you remember it.
Brandon: I remember the meeting like it was yesterday and I was trying to get for about three or four months and finally somebody helped me get that meeting, which was . . . by the way, when you can’t get a meeting, think about who you’re trying to meet with and who they may know that you know. It’s not who you know, what you know but what you know about who. And I went to somebody that I knew that I knew that would know them and they helped me get the meeting.
And I went in there and I was really nervous because I thought that they were going to take my season tickets away. They were kind of on me. Because I was definitely in their space, working with a lot of players around the stadium and I decided to go in with no agenda. I had nothing . . . nothing. I went in with zero, with an open mind because I felt like I didn’t want to go one way or the other. I didn’t know what to do.
And sure enough we started talking and it hit me they just opened up the Yes Network, which was their first network that a baseball team owned their own network and I’m owned by Omnicom, which is a pretty big advertising agency conglomerate, even though I’m a small, little company in this big conglomerate, I did have a lot of friends that worked with all these ad agencies.
So I said to them, I said, you know, I know you probably don’t think I have that much credibility but I’m owned by Omnicom, a big company. They go, “You’re owned by Omnicom? Who own all the ad agencies?” I said, “Yeah. If you want I can get John Wren on the phone,” and John Wren was the CEO, still is. His kid plays first base, which I mentioned, a big baseball fan because John had reached out to me for season Yankee’s tickets.
No, I don’t need you to call him right now, but when we meet, I’d love to maybe meet him because Omnicom can help us with some advertising and help our station a little bit. “I’d be more than glad to make the connection.” And I found by keeping myself openminded and clear, I found something that they needed back to the woman, I found value proposition that they needed. And then the conversation went from a 15 minute meeting to an hour and 15 and at one point I said to them I said, “Look, I think a can help you, if not on the money part of it, your fans are getting fake stuff. I mean, 20 years from now people are going to want to get gaming stuff from Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte. I can put a program in place that would solidify the authentication and security so your fans aren’t going to be cheated.”
And they said, “That’s the most important thing. Our fans are the most important thing.” I said, “Why don’t we work on that and then we can figure out if there’s a business around that and we could come up with that too,” and we were off to the races. It took me two years to do that deal, by the way.
Andrew: And what the eventual deal?
Brandon: The eventual deal was creating Yankee Steiner, which again the balls my mother always taught me, if not you, then who. Like nobody’s ever put their name next to the Yankees. Think about the size of that brand, talk about developing customers, I went to the biggest name, the biggest brand and I demanded that it wouldn’t be called Yankee Collectibles. I demanded that it be called Yankee Steiner and I wanted equally billing and I wanted everything the Yankees proposing for themselves, I wanted that for my brand, and they gave it to me which I was very fortunate and grateful to them for doing that.
Andrew: And it was on you to take their collectibles and sell it?
Brandon: And organize it and do it in a way that was classy, authentic and made sure it was communicated in a way that is the Yankee brand is the end-all brand, the best brand in all of sports and they wanted to make sure it was treated with that kind of integrity and I made sure of that.
Andrew: What kinds of things were you creating and selling for them? When I do Yankee Steiner search on Google, I basically end up back to steinersports.com.
Brandon: That’s good.
Brandon: [inaudible 00:44:21] dirt and started laughing at me and I was like, well, I want to take a base from the game and I want somebody to take it and deliver it to someone in the seats. I want the FedEx man to go and walk into the stadium and give it to somebody. He goes, “Well, we’re never going to do that.” Meanwhile we get nine bases a game. We do that all the time now.
Andrew: What you wanted from them was they give you the collectibles, you find a way to sell it on their . . . with them.
Brandon: So all the game used collectibles from the phone to the bullpen, which I had Mariano autograph. We sell that to people and they have the phone that Mariano gets in the bullpen to the outfield panels. Clinics on the field so when we had Jeter doing clinics, we’d have Jeter do a clinic on the field at Yankee Stadium. How great is that?
Andrew: And you can’t do that unless you got a partnership with them. It becomes more and more difficult without them. So that’s the partnership that you had. Yankee Stadium, I remember going there as a kid. I remember even going there as an adult. They decided they were going to basically take that place apart. At what point did you come and say, “I want to partner up with you. I’ve got an idea for this”?
Brandon: What’s crazy is after two years, 200-page document, because remember we did this deal with the Yankee, the PA, MLB, there were a lot of things involved with doing this deal. And the last day before signed it I said to him, by the way, this goes back to the “what else.” “If you ever should demolish this a stadium and put a new one up, I’m not saying you’re going to because I have no idea, I’d definitely like to be part of that. We have to put that in the deal.” The CEO said to me, “Brandon, it’s too late to put that in the deal. We can’t do anything else with this deal. But you have my word that we’re going to do everything we can. If we should ever break the stadium down, we’ll do something with you.”
What I love about the Yankees . . . I asked him for that and I asked him for a store. If they ever have a new stadium, I want to have my own store in there. I don’t want to have to collaborate with the vendors there. I want to do something on my own. And sure enough when they had the blueprint for the new stadium, he called me up to his office. He says, “Brandon, I want to show you two things. He showed me where my store was.” I said, “What’s this?” He says, “This is the new stadium. You know what this is?” “No. What is this?” He says, “This is where your store is going to be.” He says, “What do you think?” I said, “It looks so small. It’d be nice if it was a little bigger.” He took out the pencil erased it and made it a little bigger. Have you ever seen the Yankee Steiner store in the stadium? It jets out into the concourse.
And then he said, “I remember you telling me that you wanted to break down the old stadium. We respect that. We’re going to partner with you but we do have to buy it from the city. It’s going to be a little complicated but . . . ” and they lived up to every bit of their word. Because they knew that the old stadium was the greatest maybe stadium of all-time and needed to broke down with respect and care and love, not a money grab and that’s exactly what I did. And the Yankees really supported that partnership by doing all the things enabled me to do that.
Andrew: I see the Yankee Steiner Collectibles, that’s what it says on the sign and it’s a store in Yankees Stadium. Your name right up there with the Yankees.
Brandon: I think there were two products in the store up to that point, I had my own store. I bought my own store. People don’t realize how hard it was to just get a couple of items in the stadium. Now I’ve got my own store, which is pretty cool.
Andrew: And so when they broke down the stadium, you got everything. I saw it. I loved in the book you say, by the way, we sell that stuff, purchase, go. And I looked it up. I’m sitting there . . . Everything you say on stage, there’s something in me that I have to go and see for myself. You say that the big campaign that worked for you was you got to have balls. I went back and I found old photos of the billboard because how are not people going to take pictures of a billboard that says you got to have balls, and then it’s you got to have balls . . . I forget what it was.
Brandon: Yeah. Baseballs and you got to have a place to put your balls.
Andrew: Right, to put your balls, like those collectibles. That brings me then to the dirt. So I love that in your book you don’t say here I had this epiphany. You said I was attending National Sports Collector Convention one year. I met a guy who was selling dirt from the first Marlins’ game at Joe Robbie Stadium, little bottles of dirt labeled appropriately for $9.99 each, $9 and 99 pennies, which is not the place where you live. You like to go up market. So that gave you the thought. Talk about like how you took that idea and evolved it and grew it and grew it beyond this little $9.99 tchotchke.
Brandon: Well, first of all, I tell people that if you’re going to be in products and services business, you better not get too caught up sitting at your desk. And anybody that knew when I would go to a flea market or to a tradeshow, I would go to people and that’s how much crap I would buy. You have to be curious, you have to walk malls, you have to walk stores. I’m constantly walking malls looking for the next idea because it’s not that idea but it’s an idea that you may see that’s transformed. So when I came home with stuff from the show it was like magazines, all kids of crap, I said to myself, “Brandon, you idiot.”
And I do have these conversations with myself like, “You are a . . . you bought dirt? Is something wrong with you?” And I was like, “Hmm, maybe there’s something there.” And basically what happened soon after the economy went so bad, I started coming up with these dirt product ideas—coaster, crystals, clocks. We’d spray adhesive on a photo and spray the dirt on there. Photos, we’d put a capsule of dirt. It was something like a good luck charm about that dirt and started working . . .
Andrew: And it started with you saying look . . . tell me if I’m wrong. You know this and I love the video that I saw somewhere on YouTube when I was researching you, where at the end of the game or even during, the player would go down, grab some dirt, put it in their pocket, there’s something about grabbing the dirt from the game. You said players are into this. This is an interesting product. Oh, look at this. I actually see a little collectible that looks like a . . . anyway, I see it online in lots of different ways. So the first you sold was what for dirt? So you made a deal, you said I want to buy the dirt from the stadiums. Now you’ve got this commitment to buy the dirt.
Brandon: No one took me seriously. Everybody thought, “You got to be kidding me?” But I got through it. Also the dirt had to be authenticated which we made sure it was real from that actual stadium.
Andrew: By authentication I don’t fully remember from the book, but I think it was something like you had someone watch to make sure the dirt was actually coming in from directly from the stadium properly.
Andrew: So you saw that. You had it. The first thing that you sold dirt in was what? Was in these bottles that look like spice bottles?
Brandon: It was these little capsules. It was these little capsules that we attach onto the photos so we get pitcher’s mound dirt, we attach it to let’s a CC Sabathia photo and that’s what we put all over the place. Photos we again use dirt and then the next thing we started to doing was crystals and coasters. I love that. I remember going to a vodka company and a gin company saying, “Look, put these coasters with your logo on it from Yankee Stadium and you have a dirty martini.”
Andrew: So you’re selling it to businesses too. And that’s another part of your business that’s interesting to me. You’re not just selling to the individual guy who loves baseball. Sorry?
Brandon: The premium business is cool because there’s a limit to what we can do so when people buy our premium, it’s a little bit more expensive but they’re unique. They’re different than just getting a pen or a ruler or a t-shirt.
Andrew: Okay. So you then moved on to dirt with businesses. And then talk a little bit about how you kept upselling . . . not upselling but just moving up.
Brandon: The economy was bad so we were coming up with all these different ideas, pens and crystals, clocks. I mean, it was hundreds of things. When you go on steinersports.com, you’ll seen hundreds of dirt products. But I was writing a little note to Brian Cashman to thank him for everything he’d done. The greatest GM on the planet. I love him. And I just wanted to thank him and I had my graphic designer do a map of all the different ballparks. I figured it’d be nice to hang in his office. You know, why not?
And then I said, what if we had dirt from every stadium? But a little capsule of dirt on there. And that’s when we came up with the ballpark dirt and I realized viscosity the color was unique in every stadium. Not all dirt is created equal and I got kind of crazy about the dirt. So you have this beautiful ball park piece and you have 32 different dials of capsules of dirt and I wrote, “Brian, thanks for everything you do. Now you have a little dirt on every team in your office,” that was a cute little catchy little saying, and meanwhile we started selling those for $500 apiece and it was selling like crazy.
So we figured out how to take a dirt product and we’d sell it for $29 and $39, which wasn’t exactly what I really wanted to do, but the economy being bad and it was creative and people liked it. We dug holes in bats and put game use dirt for critical home runs. So a guy would hit a big home run, we’d carve the dirt into a bat and that was another big upsell. We’d get a premium on that. Ballpark maps was the thing that got the numbers up really high.
Andrew: The fascinating part of your talk at Joe’s event was how you kept thinking we’d start off with one thing and we’d just keep evolving and evolving. The cases the balls were in, you said, people are buying these expensive balls. They’re putting in these $9 plastic containers. How do we make it where we can charge more, earn more money and also make it more meaningful? And it’s constant little things like shipping the quality what’s in it, the picture what’s in it, the dirt on the bottom. Every little bit allows you to charge more.
All right. Two things I want to close out with. I think I covered everything. Omnicom Media . . .
Brandon: The truth is your friend. If you just look at the truth of the situation, your first idea is not your best idea so don’t let success be deterrent to more success. And get to the truth of what you think and what you felt and what the customer is thinking and you’ll be surprised good things happen.
Andrew: Look at all this . . . I did the searches. I do a search on my site, you’ll see all the different ways we sell dirt . . . I see it on your site. Omnicom, when and why did you sell to on the Omnicom?
Brandon: Well, this is one of the few decisions that I made that my wife didn’t agree with me on. We were really starting to takeoff and I knew that I was going to need a partner one way or another to build this thing. Remember the thing I was building no one could understand other than I had this vision. And I knew that I was either going to need investors, a bank, or a partner. And I though Omnicom was such a non-traditional partner, the least likely partner you’d ever want to think of because they had hundreds of companies, no real sports companies, and I thought it gave me access to companies that would never normally walk into because of these high profile ad, PR, and marketing agencies.
And I thought they had the deep pockets enough to help me build and continue to be the best in category. They were big fans of the investing category and constantly one-upping the competition with the next best thing. I loved that philosophy, and I actually took less money upfront to go with them than I had other offers from other companies. And it just came down . . . you know, I was 40 and I just felt like I was okay for the grind but I didn’t want to grind on the money anymore. Like I wanted to enjoy the second part of my children’s lives, having some wealth, not having the pressure about the bank account, getting loans, getting money to supplement my inventory and I thought this was a really high quality company, which it is that could maybe help me do things I never dreamt of doing, which is true.
Andrew: And so, Brandon, when you sold, I’m guessing you get a percentage of profits or something because you’re working like a madman. You were not just that event, the next morning 7 a.m. you were up working out saying anyone who wants to come work out with me, come. You’re still selling within your book, you’re still talking. What’s your deal that allows you to keep doing this?
Brandon: I never really got too caught up in the money and that part of it is the reason why they should dictate who you are and what you do. You are who you are and there’s what you do. I like working. You know, I like the grind. I like making money.
Andrew: Do you get a percentage of profits of something? What’s your deal with that?
Brandon: Yeah, with Omnicom you still get a percentage of the profits, they give you profit sharing, they give you stock options. There’s a lot of different options and way to make it. I made a lot of money so the money isn’t as important. But I get paid well and I’m still creating and doing things. But listen, I manage my day very carefully and time management is a critical thing and I am doing a lot of things which always the way I like to operate, but I always make sure that the most important things is the most important thing. So my health is critical and always a focus, taking care of my family, travel with my wife, that never gets in the way. And then when I’m here, I try to kill them. I’m trying to do everything I can. I’m trying to do . . . I’m not going to come in and put my feet up. I might as well just to go home and go to the beach and retire. I want to kill it. We’re still going to kill the competition.
Andrew: You are. I can see the little things, dude. I am spending so much time in your world. I’ve got to ask you one last story. But for example, every time there’s someone I talk to who does ecommerce, I know the people are searching for their company name and coupon codes. You guys say people are searching for it, let’s put it right at the top of our site so that now when they search, Google is going to send them back to our site for our coupon codes and let them buy more stuff from . . . like stuff like that, those little details, someone doesn’t care if you notice.
Brandon: I’ll tell you something. And I appreciated you noticing that but I’ll tell you the secret to my sauce. Listen, I’m a relatively smart guy, not that smart, but I’m a relatively smart guy. But I know what I know but to really be active, this wasn’t my sweet spot, you know, ecommerce social media, so I hang out with a lot of 17, 18, 19 year olds. I brought them in my fold, I mentor them and they mentor me back, back and forth mentoring. Because they know all about these new apps and they’re so much more on top of this than I am, but they’re in my inner circle now. They’re in my office every day. I’m hanging out with them. I’m playing ball with them, taking them to games, so I provide value for them and I’m keeping close to it . . .
Andrew: Sharp. I’m telling you I thought you were going to blow their minds. You got me on a call to talk about chatbots and said I’m going to blow their mind. I’m going to show them that I know they’re on Shopify store and then I’m going to show them there’s one little chatbot that they could add that retargets people who didn’t complete their . . . no, they were on it. They already have a site. They knew the numbers.
All right. I want to close out with one last . . . when you’re a good storyteller, Brandon, you’re like a musician where people keep saying play this one song. I’ve got to. Just have it on the record for my audience, for me to have this recording forever of you looking at your house. Do you have a basketball court at your house?
Brandon: Yeah, I have an indoor full court and an outdoor full court. I’m a hoop junkie. I love basketball.
Andrew: One day you looked and you saw how many basketball that you had?
Brandon: Well, in my office there’s a sign that says everyone has a story, you know, what’s your story? And as soon as someone comes into my office, I ask then “What’s your story?” and unfortunately everyone has a story but it just ain’t true. So one day I’m working out with my basketball trainer and I take 300-400 shots. I usually try to work once a week to work with a basketball trainer so I play with my friends I’m one step ahead of them. I can hit shots.
I’m looking at it and I’ve got 100 basketballs and I’m trying to figure out like, why the hell do I have 100 basketballs? I got like five or six balls, a shooting machine, maybe 10 balls, but 100? And I realize then like when I was a kid growing up like we talked about earlier in the conversation how poor I was and we never had a ball. It was a big deal. Like we wanted to play, we could never find a ball. And once in a while not even a ball you could actually play with, a bubble in it, this that. And it was troublesome to me the fact that I wanted to play and didn’t have a basketball to play with.
And I look back, and I think why would I have 100 balls because in my delusional mind, I think I’m not going to have a ball. I need to make sure I have a backup for the backup, for the backup. I never want to wake up and want to play and not have a good ball to play with. And you think about that that’s something that happened 50 years ago and I’m still carrying that forward with me. And I ask people when I go and speak sometimes at a conference like what’s the story you’re carrying with you? It’s such a trivial thing like the basketball thing I’m carrying with me. Imagine all of the other stuff I’m carrying with me from my childhood and now it’s playing forward in my adulthood.
And I ask people at the conference like what are you carrying forward from your childhood that maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense because having 100 basketballs, probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s probably not hurting anybody so I’m probably not going to get rid of the balls tomorrow, although maybe I’m going to donate a bunch of them which I discussed my wife over the weekend. But at the end, what are you carrying forward from your childhood that maybe doesn’t make much sense that maybe you want to put that story to rest so you can get a more accurate story when someone asks you what your story is.
Andrew: I love it. I had no idea also what you were going through when you said. It wasn’t until I read the book that I found out about your dad, about how you knew him, about your situation growing up. I love biographies. This one is really good because you’re a good storyteller with a point. Every story is interesting. It’s fascinating from an entrepreneurial hustler point of view, it gets me motivated. And then the clear takeaway, clear point that I just don’t expect a lot of times from books anymore.
All right. The book is “You Gotta Have Balls.” His latest book is called “Living On Purpose.” It’s not even in Wiki . . . I said why don’t I not know it? It’s not even Wikipedia. Maybe someone can actually listen to this interview and go add it to Wikipedia because if I do it, apparently Wikipedia won’t allow me to but if you do it, you can. Anyway, it’s “Living On Purpose.” Why is it when I go to Amazon I can’t find it. Brandon, [inaudible 01:00:56].
Brandon: Doing pretty well on Amazon. We ran out of books though. We’ll have them back in stock, yeah.
Andrew: That does happen apparently when you run out of books . . .
Brandon: By the way, this is a book, honestly, when you read this book, it’s going to hit you hard, so you may want to be sitting when you read it because it’s a very transparent honest book about . . .
Andrew: What’s this one about? I see it now. Stories about Faith, Fortune, and Fitness that Will Lead You to an Extraordinary Life.”
Brandon: This is a book about when you get a little bit of success and maybe gone a little further than you thought or preparing for success, what most people don’t do. What happens when you become successful? And these are some of the honest trials and tribulations and mistakes that a lot of people make. This women was in the office. She had a new product she was showing me and she said I sleep with my phone by my bed. I work 24/7. I said, “Let me ask you something. When this product kicks in, what kind of shape are you going to be in?” I said, “You’re already messed up at maximum capacity and your product doesn’t even hit.” She said, “Well, I got to grind. I do whatever I can.” I said, “I can appreciate that to some degree but first of all, your husband is not thinking that’s all that sexy when you have your wife in your hand before you go to bed. This is not a sex toy, this phone, by way. And secondly, how did become [rude 01:02:07] to become more busy when you’re maxed out already?”
Those are some of the things I talk about, some good solutions in this third book that really gives some insight about how you can prepare for success and dealing with success and keep going. Because that’s what people ask me. Brandon, why do you keep going? I didn’t become extraordinary and do all of the things I’ve done so I don’t have to do it anymore. I’m extraordinary at something. I love promoting. I love doing what I’m doing. Why would I want to stop? Why does Tom Brady want to stop? Guys kill themselves to be in the kind of shape and be able to do what he does. He’s not doing that so one day he can stop. He’s going to do as long as he can because he’s great at it and he loves it.
Andrew: That answers the questions that I walked in this interview with too which is why is he willing to put up with my BS that I asked you on a Friday. I said we have an empty spot, or we’ll move somebody for you. We’re glad you’re willing to do this to come in here and tell your story . . .
Brandon: I didn’t make a clear choice here. I didn’t make the clear choice. Maybe people are watching make the clear choice and there’s nothing wrong with that. I respect it. I made a life choice. This is a life loving that I have here. This is a life love affair that I have with what I do and the kind of stuff that I’m able to do. And there’s no shot clock in my office, man. I’m just ready to go. If you call me up tonight at 11:00, I’ll be ready to go then. That’s how I am.
Andrew: All right, Brandon Steiner, he is the founder of chairman of Steiner Sports Marketing, the book that I just used to . . . I devoured, it’s called “You Gotta Have Balls.” You got to not, you have to balls. You got to have balls refers to an advertising campaign that just kicked for him, did really well. His latest book is “Living on Purpose.” I want to thank him for doing this interview. And I want to thank my two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first will host your website . . . no, wait. What am I talking about. The first will help you hire phenomenal developers. It’s called Toptal. And the second will help you do your email marketing right, ActiveCampaign. Check them out at toptal.com/mixergy or activecampaign.com/mixergy. And I’m grateful to have you on here, Brandon. Thank you.
Brandon: Nice. Active . . .
Brandon: . . . campaign.com.
Andrew: Slash Mixergy. I’m telling you they give you so much more with that.
Brandon: They’ll give you two months free.
Andrew: You know what, I like that’s you’re negotiating. If you want me to hook you up with someone there, they’d love for you ., . . .
Brandon: It’s one month free. You’re right. I don’t want to overdo it.
Andrew: Yeah. Try it out free and then they’ll give you a second month free once you get started. Ultimately though, it’s either going to make you a bunch of money, or you’re not going to love it. And instantly you’re going to know it when you see the tagging, when you see the way it makes it easy to customize your audience, you’re going to love them.
Brandon: Cool. Cool.
Andrew: All right, Brandon. Thank you so much for doing this. Looking forward to seeing you in person again. Bye.
Brandon: Thank you, brother. See you, man.
Andrew: Bye, everyone.