Embrace Your Inner Underdog

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 20, 2017

Brandon Steiner, founder and chairman of Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia, gave a speech entitled, “How to Pitch and Market: From Newspapers to Yankee Stadium,” at the LCT-NLA Show East on Sunday, Nov. 13.
Brandon Steiner, founder and chairman of Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia, gave a speech entitled, “How to Pitch and Market: From Newspapers to Yankee Stadium,” at the LCT-NLA Show East on Sunday, Nov. 13.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Brandon Steiner, founder and chairman of Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia, had multiple jobs growing up. He delivered fruits and vegetables and shoveled snow, but rarely had time for fun with his friends. When his mother suggested he get a paper route so he’d have time after school to play, he decided it was a good idea and learned whoever sold the most accounts would win a box of candy bars.

Motivated by this sweet deal, he started knocking on doors trying to sell. He came across an older woman, who refused to purchase a subscription. Feeling defeated, he confronted his mother and asked, “The people in Brooklyn are the cheapest! Why do we live here?” She replied, “I’m going to teach you a very valuable lesson: If you sell something other people are also selling, you have to differentiate yourself.”

Armed with this wisdom, Steiner went back to the woman and tried one more time to convince her. “Ma’am, if there’s a torrential downpour, snowstorm, or heat wave, it’s not good for a woman of your age to be outside in extreme weather. If I bring you milk on Wednesdays and Sundays, and hot bagels on Sunday morning, would you get the paper delivered from me then?” he asked.

The woman was shocked and said, “You’d do that for me?” He said, “Of course, and if you need anything else, I’d be more than glad to pick it up.” Not only did that woman sign up for the paper, she knew everyone in the neighborhood and told all her friends to do so as well.

Steiner’s story contains an important message: It’s not about what you’re selling — it’s about what your customers need, what they are looking to buy, and how they want to receive it.

The audience was captivated by Steiner’s funny, yet meaningful stories that hit home.
The audience was captivated by Steiner’s funny, yet meaningful stories that hit home.
“The question I want to ask you all,” he says, “is, are you listening to your customers? Because they are all different and have different needs. Yes there are apps and online portals, but to be successful in this environment I still believe when it’s personal, when you really listen to your customers and understand what they need and deliver it…it’s very difficult to compete with that.”

There’s No Need To Fear…Underdog Is Here

Steiner admits to loving the underdog role, because they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. “Everyone’s saying ‘between driverless cars, the Ubers, and the Lyfts, we’re done. We’re finished.’ A lot of you have gotten a lot further than you thought you were going to go. You probably started with a couple of cars and built your company up, and you’re probably way bigger than you ever thought you’d be. Take a moment to realize your best days aren’t your yesterdays; they are still ahead of you. Can you reset yourself to how you thought when you were just getting started?”

He encourages operators to bring the underdog role back to their businesses, not just sit back and say “good enough” is good enough. “Don’t settle for being in the second row even though it’s a much better seat than you had and you ever thought you were going to have,” he says.

Steiner identifies two types of underdogs: A participant and a spectator. What happens with business owners is when they’ve had a bit of success and made some money, they start spectating. Staying active in every aspect of your business is vital to ensuring your company stays competitive and wins the hearts and minds of customers.

Define Winning

Steiner asked the audience, “If I went into your establishment, got all of your employees together, and asked them individually to define what winning is within your company, could you tell me one, maybe two, things that no matter what happens, those two things would be what comes off your employees lips?” Most operators would undoubtedly say having clean vehicles and courteous chauffeurs make the top of the list.

Steiner spoke to a packed room, where operators learned how to tap into their inner underdog.
Steiner spoke to a packed room, where operators learned how to tap into their inner underdog.

But the second and more important question is: Do you do what it takes to win? Do you check every car to make sure they are clean and running efficiently? Do you use mystery riders to determine if your chauffeurs are kind and knowledgeable? It’s one thing to define what winning is, but to do what it takes to win is another.

“You lead people and manage process,” Steiner says. “That process is defining winning and making sure you are doing what it takes to win.” Perhaps the gap between the two is why you’re not where you need, or want, to be. “If you take some time to think and strategize, that’s what’s going to get you to the next level. Don’t be bashful about your ambition.”

Stay Hungry

To succeed and stand out, you have to tap into the vigor you had when you first began your entrepreneurial journey. “Get personal,” Steiner says. “Go back to when you were 25 and just getting your business started. When you cared about that person in the car; that they were getting married, just had a child, or that kid just graduated high school. Get back to making sure your vehicles have all the little things in them to make your clients feel comfortable.”

Steiner mentions the differentiating factor between limousine services and TNCs is the service. “In business there are three factors: Quality, price, and service. You feel an incredible pressure right now on the price. I wish I had a billion and two to lose in the first half of my year,” he says, referencing the incredible amount of money Uber has spent in legal fees.

“What I do know is in the aftermath, someone at Uber is going to figure out they need to make money at some point. When it’s personal and there’s value proposition and you are listening to your customers’ needs...those are the things the app can’t really do. You need tech, but it’s still not going to outweigh the little things.”

Little Things Matter

During his keynote, Steiner jokingly admitted he’s not the best driver, so limo companies are critical to his success. “I like to think I’m more useful with someone else driving and me working. I’m talking about some pretty confidential things, so the driver I have has to be someone I trust,” he says. When he gets in the car, he wants a professional chauffer who knows where he’s going. “I love when you guys go out of your way to make sure there’s bottled water in the car and the radio is set to the station I like to listen to. All those little things add up.”

In an attempt to explain the vital importance of these “little things,” Steiner told a story of a car race he once saw on ESPN when he was in college. After numerous laps around the track, the blue car beat the red car by just a hair. “Most of us want our businesses to be like a train. You have a set route,” he says. “But our businesses are nothing like that. They are more like a sail boat. There are so many different factors that can change your course.”

The reason the red car lost to the blue car could be the result of numerous factors: A difference in its tires, maybe the driver didn’t get enough sleep or ate too much the night before; perhaps it went around the curves a little too fast; or maybe the pit crew just didn’t have their act together and cost the red car a few seconds.

“The fact of the matter is any of those factors could be the reason why you lose. If you are listening to your customers, you’ll understand the red car and the blue car are always going to be neck and neck, as you are going through that with these TNCs invading your industry. Are you paying attention to the little things? Because those are the things that matter.”

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Related Topics: Atlantic city, business growth, company culture, customer service, Harrah's, keynote speakers, LCT-NLA Show East, staying competitive

Lexi Tucker Associate Editor
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