Five Lessons from Barbara Corcoran

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar where the guest speaker would be the famous Barbara Corcoran. I was determined to give her my caricature of her and was very excited to hear her speak. For those of you who may not know her, this woman turned $1000 into a Billion Dollar Business in the New York real estate market. She is also one of the few female stars on ABC’s Shark Tank tv show where she listens to entrepreneurs pitch their businesses in hopes of getting investment funding from one of the “sharks.”  After hearing a bunch of boring stuff, finally the star of the show arrives. She was petite, cute, and funny as hell. She shared her stories about how she grew up in a family of ten children and learned from her parents the importance of hard work, believing in oneself and having fun. Here are her top five takeaways from her hilarious talk:

1. Perception Creates Reality

Life in NYC is a different lifestyle than the kind of life Barbara Corcoran had growing up in Edgewater New Jersey. In order to adapt to the hustle and bustle of crazy city life, she had to learn and educate her self on how to adapt to her new environment. How did she do this? She took courses, went to seminars, and thought quickly off her feet. She had to learn to be a big mouth and reinvent herself. No one was buying real estate in NYC at the time. One of the brokers from hell named Lorraine Freedberg came into her office whom she worked for was screaming at her to advertisements. Ms. Corcoran had no money to invest in so while she was being screamed at, under pressure she came up with an idea to generate publicity – The Corcoran Report. So she created a report on the average sales price of an apartment in New York City and sent it via snail mail to anyone who wrote for the New York Times newspaper.  A week later she opened up the front page of the New York Times Real Estate section and the headline is, “New York City Prices Hit All Time Low.” And the first line is, “According to Barbara Corcoran of the Corcoran.” The publicity stunt was a huge hit and placed the Corcoran name on the map. So, put out there the projection of what you WANT to be – not what you are and the universe will respond.

2. There are two kinds of people at work: Expanders and Containers.
     Expanders are the kind of people who are usually the life of the party, see how far they can go, don’t mind risk. Containers whatever is going to happen will happen, really happen, like order, reason. Most people are in either one of these categories. When a woman named Esther Kaplan came in for a sales job, everything about her made Ms. Corcoran say “No, no no…” She was quiet, spoke softly and buttoned up.  After the courtesy interview,  Ms. Kaplan opened up her purse. What grabbed Ms. Corcoran’s attention was how organized and neat the purse was inside – it was like a mini filing cabinet! The interior of that purse impressed Barbara so much that she realized she needed her for her business to keep things organized and on track – aka “a container!” While Ms. Corcoran was out wheeling and dealing, Ms. Kaplan held the fort down. Over time, Ms. Kaplan ended up being the President of The Corcoran Group before the company sold for $66 million. 

3.  Remember to have FUN
    When you have a team of people working for you it is key to have fun on the job. This helps boost morale, encourages the team members to work harder and makes them want to come back to work the next day. Ms. Corcoran used to have manicures on Tuesdays for her staff and on Fridays they would have cocktails at the office. This also creates not only a fun atmosphere amongst staff members but brought an edge over her company to her competitors. Think of fun ways on how to get your team and staff members inspired and motivated by holding contests, having fun games or hosting an event at the office and be the envy of your competition.

 4. Trust your gut.
When a candidate named Tiffany Krumins walked onto the Shark Tank set she caught Ms. Corcoran’s eye when she was not easily intimidated by the Shark Tank Investors. The look of Ms. Krumins reminded Ms. Corcoran of her younger self. The pitch was a blue elephant medicine dropper created with the trunk due to Ms. Krumin’s work experience from being a nanny and trying to get the children to take their medicines. Ms. Krumins explained that she watched a child who had Down syndrome have difficulty in taking the meds so she designed her elephant to help the child more readily take his regular medication. Despite Ms. Krumin’s sweet demeanor, Ms. Corcoran trusted her gut knowing that underneath the sweetness was a young woman who had a steel backbone. She bought 55% of Ava the Elephant medicine dispenser which has projected to make over $1 million dollars in sales and is now sold in 10 countries and is available in more than 10,000 stores in the U.S. alone.

5. Be great at failure.
     Failure is going to happen in the cycle of business life and entrepreneurship. What separates from really successful people and everyone else is how they deal with failure. When something takes a hit at them the difference is how long they take to feel sorry for themselves. That’s it. Nothing else. Those who are excellent at bouncing back up are the ones that learn from the failure and try another approach or technique. Learn to be very good at bouncing back up. Have a five minute pity party and then get mad! There will always be a lesson to be learned or a new way of looking at the situation.