By Nancy Sarnoff
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Real estate powerhouse Barbara Corcoran drew frequent applause from the 1,300 real estate professionals on hand this week in Houston to hear the Shark Tank star’s “rags-to-riches” story of success. As the keynote speaker at the annual “Champions School of Real Estate,” this icon of women entrepreneurship shared how she parlayed a $1,000 loan from a boyfriend into a major brokerage firm she sold 15 years ago for $66 million.
When Barbara Corcoran was looking for ways to expand her Manhattan real estate business in the early 1980s, she sent every reporter at the New York Times a one-page flier that read: “The Corcoran Report: A survey of Conditions and Trends in the Greater New York Marketplace.”
The survey included the average price of the 11 sales her company had done that year: $58,542.
She picked up her newspaper that weekend and gasped when she saw the headline on the front page of the real estate section: “New York City prices hit all-time low … according to the Corcoran Group.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said this week during a speech to 1,300 Houston real estate agents, appraisers, loan officers and others packed into a meeting room at the Westin Galleria.
When she went into work the following Monday, “it was a different office,” she said. “For the first time, I heard my agents say, ‘Oh, you’ve heard of us?'”
Corcoran left a strong impression during the hourlong talk, drawing frequent applause. She told a “rags-to-riches” story of how she parlayed a $1,000 loan from a boyfriend into a powerhouse brokerage she sold 15 years ago for $66 million.
Since then, Corcoran has become an author, lecturer and star of the ABC investor show “Shark Tank.”
“We wanted to have her because she is a real estate icon and people identify with her,” said Rita Santamaria, CEO of Champions School of Real Estate, host of the annual Keynote 2016 Houston event.
Corcoran’s message was more than a motivational speech to those who paid $65 per ticket hoping to glean business tips or other bits of wisdom from the Realtor-turned-reality-star.
She shared stories of her rise from waitress to real estate entrepreneur and how she used real estate data to help her business grow. She also stressed the importance of failure and adversity.
When they split up, the ex who helped her get her start in real estate told her she’d never succeed without him. She called those words “the gift of the lifetime.”
“An insult can be the most damaging thing or the best motivator,” she said. “It became my motivator.”
Following are edited excerpts of some of the lessons Corcoran shared with the crowd:
Presenting an image
Perception is so much more important than reality when you’re building a brokerage business. My mom always told us, ‘The meek will inherit the earth. Don’t brag. There’s no need to show off. Be humble, you will inherit the earth — in heaven.’ I don’t want to wait for heaven. When I got to New York, I found the meek got trampled on. It was the big mouth that succeeded.
Building a team
At work there are two kinds of people. There are expanders, and there’s containers. An expander wants to see how far they can go. A container wants to see how well they can corral things. I did the publicity, the recruiting, the advertising, the speaking. Esther Kaplan, (Corcoran’s partner) did the filing, the personnel management, the finance, the banking. I met my opposite, and together we built this business. Every office I opened, I hired an expander and container.
There’s no such thing as balance. I had my first baby at 46. Something had to give. What gave was I sold my business. I could not do both. Here’s my thinking on finding balance: It doesn’t exist. When I’m at work I’m 150 percent at work. When my husband calls, he pretends he’s the New York Times so I’ll pick up the phone.
What do I get from fun? Creative energy. If you want to be a creative powerhouse in the industry, do you get people to sit around a conference table? Get people out at parties. You’ve got to get people out of their comfort zone. We became the party house of New York. What do you get when your employees and salespeople have fun? They don’t leave you. They adore you. They jump off a cliff for you. They like each other better. Creativity and innovation, it’s all like a kissing cousin to fun. They’re all rolled up somehow. You’ve got to have fun.
Real estate is a biz that has so many more rejections than pats on the back. You have to be good at getting back up if you’re going to be in the business.
Superstars take less time to feel sorry for themselves. My superstars were amazingly capable of feeling sorry for themselves and getting right back up.