6 Leadership Lessons I Learned in Conversation With Barbara Corcoran
Pitching your company to a panel of business savvy investors is no easy task. Doing so on national television can make it even harder. ABC’s Shark Tank gives entrepreneurs a very rare and unique opportunity to gain massive exposure for their business — but also opens the business up to the scrutiny of the Sharks and the show’s millions of viewers across the country.
When I appeared on Shark Tank to pitch my company, BrandYourself.com, each Shark gave me a different flavor of feedback, all of which have proven invaluable since my appearance. Despite walking away from a $2 million offer from Robert Herjavec, appearing on the show was one of the best things to ever happen to me or my company.
There was one Shark who wasn’t on set during my pitch: Barbara Corcoran. I had the great fortune to have a candid conversation with her afterwards about my pitch, my business, and the importance of an entrepreneur’s reputation. Just like the Sharks on set, Barbara gave me advice that I’m using to take BrandYourself.com to the next level.
Here are six major takeaways from our conversation. For the full recording, listen here.
1. Grow from your failures quickly.
When Barbara was building her real estate brokerage, The Corcoran Group, she had the greatest successes right off the heels of her biggest failures. She was able to quickly accept when something wasn’t working and spin the circumstance to her benefit. There’s a great lesson for entrepreneurs in this: don’t dwell on your failures. Instead, look forward for solutions. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself; instead, put all your focus on making the most of the situation at hand.
2. You need thick skin, but not all the time.
As an entrepreneur and company leader you become a target from a lot of different angles. People will always be there to agree or disagree with what have to say or what you’re doing. It’s important to be resilient and to stick to your guns, but also to remain open to feedback. It’s a delicate balancing act between holding your ground, and knowing when to listen to your team. The ability to innovate on the fly, while remaining true to your core values, is invaluable in startup territory.
3. Your reputation is important.
Being in the online reputation management industry, this is a point that at first seemed obvious to me — but the importance of your reputation goes even deeper when you’re leading a large group of people. BrandYourself.com now has over 70 employees, and whether I like it or not, they all have a close eye on everything I’m doing. Barbara reminded me just how important my role is in nurturing the company’s culture and defining its mission — and furthermore, my need to clearly communicate the company’s direction so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Personality makes the brand.
Defining a brand isn’t always an easy task. What Barbara did, instead of creating an abstract brand identity, was to use her name, face, and personality to represent her company. People have an easier time relating to a person — and if that person has a big personality, he or she will hold people’s attention. That’s not always easy for an entrepreneur, but the reward is a very cost effective way to get people to notice what your company is doing and how it stands out from the crowd. So if you’re an entrepreneur with a big personality, let it show!
5. You need to put yourself out there.
If you want people to know about what you’re doing, you can’t be afraid to let people know. Barbara has done an incredible job of building her personal brand and knows just how important that outreach work has been to her success. When I asked Barbara what she thinks of entrepreneurs who don’t want to put themselves out there online, she said, “That’s like saying I want to hide but I want people to know where I’m hiding. It’s just not going to work out that way.”
6. Plan for ridiculous fun.
Barbara reminded me that it’s the job of the company leader to implement clear communications channels by defining a philosophy for the workplace. At BrandYourself.com, I try to foster a culture that brings out creativity, and sometimes that means having a ridiculous amount of fun, whether it’s through our company soccer team, happy hours, or special events. Barbara agreed with the concept of planning for fun in the office: “I think drinking together, having fun, having days off doing stupid things, dressing in ridiculous costumes, whatever you mandate as a company culture, what happens is everyone really likes each other and you create a family.” It’s also a great way to bring out every employee’s creative side, so don’t be afraid to have some fun while you work.