Barbara Corcoran Always Bounces Back By Loving Her Work and Her People
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
After earning straight D’s in high school and college, she tried her hand at over 20 positions by the time she hit 23. Then she met her first business partner who saw her potential in sales, and loaned her $1,000 for a 51-percent stake in a real-estate business. The partnership -- in both business and romance -- ended badly, and on her way out of the door, he said she’d never succeed without him.
That was the push Corcoran needed to grow her small firm into a $6 billion dollar business. Now, she is an international star, appreciated by viewers and aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere for her for the warm yet candid advice “in the tank.”
In this interview, Corcoran shared seven tactics entrepreneurs can use to become more successful in business and in life.
1. Bounce back -- again and again.
In business, Corcoran explained that one of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is failing at an endeavor and then giving up on entrepreneurship.
“The saddest thing is to watch talented entrepreneurs... thinking they weren’t a true entrepreneur, no, they just bet on the wrong horse.” Find a way to bounce back with a new product, service offering or business idea before bowing out altogether.
Corcoran seems to have effortlessly bounced from one success to another, over and over again. She explained, however that there are many failures “in between those nice bylines.” She firmly believes that behind each setback or failure lies an upcoming opportunity, but it bouncing back can be an acquired skill.
“The ability to bounce back takes experience. Every time you push through failure, there’s always some prize for you on the other side. So all you have to do is keep doing it,” she explained.
2. Listen to your gut.
Corcoran credits a lot of her success to her ability to follow her intuition. She has made multiple business decisions throughout her life, because they didn’t “feel right” in her gut -- and her gut was always proven correct. If one can improve this skill -- Corcoran is not sure one can -- it’s by paying closer attention to occurrences and your feelings about those situations.
“I think intuition is what you can pick up between the lines," she says. "If you are naturally intuitive to some degree, you can get really good at it by paying attention.”
3. Use your strengths.
Corcoran transitioned from success to success throughout her life, from a realtor, to one of the largest real estate brokers in the country, to a VC and finally a TV personality. How did she do it? By capitalizing on her strengths.
“To succeed in different fields, and to keep moving forward, make an honest assessment of what your gifts are. Everybody’s got gifts.”
Corcoran highly recommends finding a partner with the strengths that you lack. She explained that her partner, Esther Kaplan, was vital to the success of The Corcoran Group.
“Would I have built a phenomenal business without Esther? Absolutely not.”
4. Create systems.
Corcoran cites her mother, who raised Corcoran and her nine siblings, as an inspiration and a great entrepreneurial teacher in her life. One lesson her mother taught her was the importance of organization, explaining “her processes had processes.” As a solo entrepreneur, one can get away with some disorganization, but that ends the second you want to grow.
“The minute you want to hire someone and build your business with other people, you better get organized," she says. "Unless you can create systems as you go, you won’t build a big business.”
5. Love the work.
When I asked Corcoran about the hours she put in during her early days, she answered, “How hard am I working today, now that I don't really have to work, ever? As hard as I was working when I started my business, endless hours to get done what I have to get done.”
She explained that if you want to do well at anything, you simply have to put in the those hours. She also shared that a byproduct of being hungry for success -- and part of the endlessness of the work -- is a sense that the job is never done. Thus, a key to success at such a high level, and fulfillment while working your way there, is to make sure you love what you’re doing.
“When I sold the Corcoran group, I knew I wanted to continue working and building another business -- because I love business! It’s fun, it’s my blast in life.”
It’s important to note here that another aspect of loving the work, for Corcoran, was deciding to wait two decades to start a family. She believes it’s almost impossible to build a business and raise a family and do a good job at both.
“I don't think there's enough credit given to moms on how hard they work, add to that building a business from scratch, it's an enormous challenge," she says. "I wouldn't have been able to do that, I'm sure of it.”
However, Corcoran had to put in the work required to build a multimillion dollar empire. If you have smaller goals for your business, it’s much more likely you can balance entrepreneurship and motherhood. The size of the effort needs to match the size of the goal, so women need to evaluate and adjust their goals accordingly.
6. Love people.
Like many successful sales professionals, Corcoran genuinely likes people. She even calls her entrepreneurs and employees her “children.” She refers to herself as a mom who’s trying to be a good parent to each of them. In order to motivate one’s “kids,” she shared, a leader must focus on what each team member wants for themselves.
“I think the most important thing is recognition. I think you have to acknowledge people and make sure they’re in the job they enjoy doing.”
How do you find the best kids? “Hire character,” she says, explaining she doesn’t look at resumes before interviews and instead tries to read the true nature of the applicant.
7. Stay grateful.
Humility, gratitude and a self-awareness are not just qualities Corcoran looks for in her entrepreneurs and employees. They are qualities she herself possesses, which explains her authentic charm on screen.
Yet, there are obviously downsides to the kind of work and lifestyle one must maintain to become a multimillionaire. For example, Corcoran had to wait until late in life to start a family. But you won’t find her focusing on those, instead she insists it’s all been worth it.
“What you get for being able to actually have the power and the experience of making your dream come true -- just like you see in the movies! -- is such a gift in life. I would give up so much rather than give up that.”
Watch more videos from "The Pursuit" on this YouTube channel.
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