There's an old saying that you can't judge a book by its cover. Otherwise, you might wonder what on earth Brandon Steiner is writing about in his terrific new book, "You Gotta Have Balls."
Yes, you read that correctly. Catchy title, to be sure, but a completely accurate description for the story of the guy who runs the largest sports memorabilia business in the country, Steiner Sports Marketing. The subtitle explains: "How a Kid From Brooklyn Started From Scratch, Bought Yankee Stadium and Created a Sports Empire."
Brandon's rags-to-riches story is inspirational, fascinating and, best of all, replicable. He started his life in a very poor apartment with a single mother who was often sick. He escaped to Yankee Stadium whenever he could scrape enough money together, just to have a break from his less-than-idyllic life.
A born salesman, he shares the story of his early endeavors delivering newspapers. When he was having trouble signing up customers, his mother challenged him to find other services to offer to prospective customers. What else could he do for them?
So Brandon, who lived near a bagel shop, told customers he could deliver bagels or milk in addition to the newspaper. Before long, he was delivering 100 daily papers, 150 Sunday papers, 100 gallons of milk every week and more than 100 bagels every Sunday. He found his passion at a very young age and parlayed it into what eventually became a multimillion-dollar business.
His success is summed up in one of his favorite sayings: "If you want more money, don't pay attention to the money. Pay attention to the thing that makes the money."
Brandon is the master of "what else?" -- the attitude that has helped him develop the winning formula for his success. This book is a game plan for any aspiring entrepreneur or anyone in business.
One of his childhood passions led to his blockbuster deal to buy the old Yankee Stadium contents for $11.5 million. "I wanted to buy the priceless remains, from the foul poles to the lockers to the bullpen bench. I wanted every seat, and every sign -- and of course, every patch of dirt and grass," Brandon said. "In preserving these totems from the wrecking ball, we'd also be preserving a very substantial part of people's lives. We had to treat it like your grandmother's home -- respectfully, delicately. Every little piece had a meaning and a story."
His attitude stems from years of customer service, from his paper route to hotel jobs to building his own company. He reminds readers to focus on relationships, not transactions. "Do as much as you can, for as many people as you can, as often as you can, without expecting anything in return," he says.
"Don't worry about what you're getting back from someone you're giving something to. Don't worry about how many dollars that person is going to equal for you. It's counterintuitive, but there's definitely more joy in giving than receiving ... Most people can't do that. They're too concerned with what they're getting back from the other person. They keep score."
He continues, "Being generous with what you have without keeping score is the only way to live. It strengthens your spirit, it keeps you focused on the people who make your business what it is, and it helps breed success."
Brandon's best advice for people trying to make it big is this: Differentiate yourself.
"It's in our nature not to be satisfied, but I'm a big believer in chasing dreams instead of being consumed by nightmares," he says. "If you have a big success, try and figure out how to have another one.
"If you're trying to satisfy a client, or make a deal, figure out how you can reach or help this person in some special, unique way. Really, it's this all-encompassing ideal that can help you realize your personal potential, which can help you grow your business, or even maintain and nurture a relationship."
Steiner Sports Marketing is a remarkable business, but not because of the fabulous collection of memorabilia it offers. Why? Because of "what else?" And really, what else could be more important?
"You Gotta Have Balls" reads like a great novel, and teaches like a great textbook. Brandon Steiner's story inspires, amuses and motivates all at the same time. Read it, study it and get your game plan together.
Mackay's Moral: What else could you be doing for your customer?
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive."