Steiner Sports CEO On Healthy Living And Having Purpose

Brandon Steiner’s story as a business entrepreneur begins in the late 1980s when he established Steiner Sports doing marketing and promotion for the athletes he had met while he managed the Hard Rock Café.

But the dramatic scene in Steiner’s story was in 2000 when he sold Steiner Sports, which by then had blossomed to a profitable sports marketing and collectibles enterprise, to Omnicom. It should have been one of the happiest days in Steiner’s life, but as he tells it in his latest book, “Living On Purpose,” he was “emotionally bankrupt” after selling the company.

“Most people will spend 90% of their time on the money grab or just learning how to do what they do for a living better. They won’t spend much time on just learning how to be a more well-rounded person. They are more concerned about their promotion and what they’re going to do for a living than the kind of person they want to be.”

Steiner, who stayed on with the company after the sale and continues to run it as CEO, said this was his mentality in the years leading to the sale of his company, as he spent every waking hour building up Steiner Sports. After the sale, he vowed to start living with more of a purpose beyond becoming financially successful. “Living on Purpose” emphasizes the need for business leaders to do more good—for themselves and the community at large—and by doing good, they will be more successful in business.

Chief Executive had a chance to chat with Steiner about the book, the ebb and flow of the sports memorabilia industry and much more. Below are excerpts from this conversation.

The book focuses on three areas where you need to improve your overall wellbeing – faith, fitness and fortune. Of those three, which area do CEOs have the hardest time paying attention to?

If there’s one part of the book that I’d ask every CEO or somebody who’s leading a group or running a company to read it would be the fitness part. Your health and your fitness is so critical to everything else. When you are feeling better, eating better, and you’re sleeping better, you will be more effective and efficient in the office. It just makes sense. The more energy you have and the more you feel better about yourself, you’re going to end up feeling better about everything else you do. So why not put yourself in a position to do that?

But it’s amazing how many leaders and people that are managing other people that are so consumed by the job…that they don’t have to take care of themselves and they’re bankrupt in that area. You’re running this multimillion-dollar business, but if your body was a business, you’d be bankrupt.

Your body is a business and you need to manage it. You know how much money’s in your bank account, but you don’t really know the percentage of body fat you’re carrying. Most leaders and managers say they have no idea [about critical health components]. They squeeze in an annual checkup when they can, but they are not really paying attention to it.

How has the sports memorabilia business ebbed and flowed and what has Steiner Sports done to stay relevant?

I think if you’re creative and you have the right products and players, you’re just as good as you were yesterday. But the business would be further along if the best players, the players that [fans] really want to collect, were a lot more cooperative or they weren’t getting himself into trouble. One of the reasons my business has [had to] evolve is because imagine if we had a Babe Ruth alive right now. Business would be booming. Everyone would want a Babe Ruth autograph. But the fact of the matter is we had Babe Ruth alive in A-Rod and Barry Bonds, but nobody wants [their memorabilia].  These are the setbacks you have…you have a lot more transparency from the players, so it’s harder and harder to have these guys on a pedestal and stay there.

Some of the biggest names—A-Rod, Lance Armstrong—I can go on and on…it just becomes a train wreck and [their memorabilia] becomes questionable things that you want to collect. I think if we’re able to get more players to cooperate and understand the business a little bit, it would make it a lot more fun and make the business a lot bigger.

On the other hand…there are teams, leagues and there are some players that are playing into [the memorabilia business] and that’s helped the business grow a little bit.

So what’s your next big idea?

I have a couple ideas up my sleeve. I’m hoping to be able to facilitate some new partnerships and attract different types of fans, different types of products. I still enjoy it. You’re creating some stuff. And then I want to continue to use the power of sports and the relationships I have to help others.

What advice do you have to your fellow CEOs?

I would say two things. One, the way you watch how many hours your employees work, you should be watching what your employees eat and how hard they work out. I don’t think there’s any laws against discriminating against wanting people to eat well and exercise. Focus on your employee health because it will have a big impact on their output.

And the second thing I would say is not everything has to be recurring and revenue growth to make a company successful. And there are some things that just need to be done because they are a good thing to do. And I think companies should be looking at more good things to do for their customer or for their community, not just stuff that they can get that’s going to help them grow their business.

Not everything relates to growing your business. There are some things you do as a company because it’s the right thing and that’s a good thing to do. And the byproduct of that will always end up helping you do more.

So many CEOs are line item and P&L focused, I don’t think doing the right thing to do makes for a sexy brand. That’s just me. I know earnings are important. Money grabs are important. But a lot of these CEOs want to build these great brands, but they don’t do the things that enable you to build a good brand.


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