Barbara Corcoran's Essential Shark Tools for Success
The New York real estate mogul turned television personality Barbara Corcoran is every bit as succinct and quick on her feet in person as she is on the hit show Shark Tank.
What does it take to build a multimillion-dollar empire? Who better to ask than a women with experience as a bootstrapping entrepreneur and an angel investor who swoops in and saves struggling companies? Here are four lessons for achieving massive success, Shark style, that I gleaned from my conversation with her at the Four Points Sheraton in Norwood, Mass., after her recent appearance at a Greater Boston Real Estate Board event.
1. Bootstrap a business.
It took 25 years for Barbara Corcoran to build her New York City real estate empire and she did it by bootstrapping. Today, she invests in businesses of all sorts on Shark Tank.
I asked her if, knowing what she does now about seed money, angel investing and venture capital, would she do things differently today to build a real estate firm from scratch.
Answering “no," Corcoran explains that bootstrapping is the way for an entrepreneur to go if she can.
“When you build your business by bootstrapping, every penny counts,” Corcoran says. This requires the entrepreneur keep operations lean and although it may be a tougher road for growth, she'll end up at the finish line with full control of her business.
2. Demonstrate selling power.
How does Corcoran decide which businesses to invest in? It comes down to the entrepreneur involved. Corcoran invests in companies whose owners can sell, exuding a mix of confidence, high energy, street smarts and absolute business knowledge.
What kinds of companies does she avoid? Corcoran usually won’t buy into a business started by a rich kid, she says, as she likes to collaborate with people with a strong work ethic. Corcoran prefers investing in the companies of those without a backup plan whose only option is absolute success.
3. Recognize the myth of work-life balance.
Corcoran has two kids, an 8-year-old adopted daughter and a son in his 20s. When asked if there’s such a thing as work-life balance, she says "no.” For her, work has always been a big part of her life and the perfect balance is impossible to attain.
That being said, she has found ways to leave her work at the office so she can truly be present when she’s with her husband and kids.
For example, if she’s taking her daughter to the park, she’ll usually leave her phone at home. If she’s having dinner with her family, the phone is left behind. Achieving balance is difficult, Corcoran says, but being really engaged with the people one cares about is something all business owners can strive for by taking small steps like putting down the phone.
4. Recover from hard knocks.
The best entrepreneurs are the ones who can take a blow and come back stronger, Corcoran says. For example, her original business partner was her boyfriend, Ramone Simone. He was 51 percent owner of a New York real estate business but Corcoran was the hustle behind its growth, she said.
When he announced that he was breaking off his personal relationship with Corcoran because he was dating the company's secretary, Corcoran was stunned. Instead of falling down and staying down, she used her anger and resentment to leave their joint real estate firm in favor of starting her own.
Simone told Corcoran she would never make it on her own, but she used those words as fuel to fight her way through the ups and downs of a tumultuous real estate market. Whereas his real estate business eventually went under, her company went on to become a massive empire that she eventually sold for $66 million.