How Barbara Corcoran Turned $1,000 into a $5B+ Empire (Plus: PR Stunts, Sales Techniques, and More)

How Barbara Corcoran Turned $1,000 into a $5B+ Empire (Plus: PR Stunts, Sales Techniques, and More)

Preview (00:00:00)

  • Barbara Corcoran viewed herself as a competitor, not a woman, in a male-dominated industry.
  • She was motivated by the insults and challenges she faced as a woman, which fueled her determination to succeed.
  • Corcoran believes that competing against men helped her success, as she had to prove her abilities and knowledge.

Barbara’s fake funeral. (00:01:09)

  • Barbara Corcoran planned a fake funeral as a surprise for her 70th birthday party.
  • She wanted to shock her friends and family and hear what they would say about her before she died.
  • Corcoran had two friends help her keep the secret and arranged for a rabbi and minister to perform last rites.
  • She dressed up in a beautiful gown and even practiced a Tango dance move to surprise her guests.
  • The fake funeral turned into a dance party, and Corcoran enjoyed the experience immensely.

Where Barbara’s knack for PR originated. (00:03:38)

  • Barbara Corcoran's knack for PR and shock value stunts originated from her father.
  • Her father was known for being fun and irresponsible, always thinking of exciting and unconventional activities for his 10 children.
  • Barbara realized the importance of fun and joy in life and strives to bring those elements into people's lives, whether at work or home.

Storytelling. (00:05:23)

  • Barbara's storytelling ability is attributed to her Irish heritage, as storytelling is a common trait among Irish people.
  • She believes that stories are memorable and resonate with people more than lectures or experiences.
  • In her sales career, Barbara used storytelling to captivate potential clients and generate curiosity.
  • Her PR strategies for her real estate company involved creating intriguing stories with spectacular beginnings or hooks to attract attention.

Early business wins. (00:06:48)

  • Barbara Corcoran used various PR stunts and creative marketing strategies to gain early wins and attention for her real estate business.
  • Some of her successful stunts included:
    • Promoting a penthouse apartment with a headline that highlighted its nightly maintenance cost, making it sound like an exclusive and luxurious experience.
    • Generating interest in the Guggenheim Mansion by inviting the Today Show to film the opening of a safe in the basement, creating suspense and attracting celebrity visitors.
    • Organizing a dog training event in Central Park in response to a controversial policy by New York building boards, which garnered media attention and showcased her brand's creativity.

What Barbara learned about competition as one of 10 kids. (00:10:02)

  • Barbara Corcoran learned how to compete and social dynamics from being one of 10 kids.
  • Her mother identified and encouraged her creativity, giving her the role of entertaining the family.
  • Barbara practiced entertaining constantly and developed great confidence in her abilities.
  • She invented creative games like the "snail game," which attracted neighborhood kids to her house.
  • Her mother's belief in her creativity and constant encouragement played a significant role in her success.

Early jobs: Barbara’s real education. (00:12:44)

  • Barbara Corcoran had various jobs before starting her company, including being a playground supervisor at age 11 and waitressing.
  • She learned valuable skills from each job, such as the power of the press from her first job and sales techniques from waitressing.
  • She discovered her strengths and weaknesses, such as being good at selling, hustling, and PR, but not good at working for difficult bosses or being a secretary.

Dyslexia and dodging the victim mindset. (00:15:49)

  • Barbara Corcoran's dyslexia made her feel like a failure and a nobody in the classroom.
  • She learned to get back up and keep going despite the constant put-downs and embarrassment.
  • This early training in resilience and reframing victimization has been a key factor in her success.
  • Successful people spend less time feeling sorry for themselves.
  • Barbara Corcoran admires her successful sales team members for their ability to get back up quickly after setbacks.

Barbara’s first company. (00:18:43)

  • Barbara was a waitress at the Fort Le Diner when she met Ramone Simone, a man who convinced her to move to New York City and start a business.
  • Ramone gave Barbara $1,000 to start the business and took 51% of the shares, while Barbara took 49%.
  • After seven years, Ramone announced that he was going to marry his secretary, which devastated Barbara and made her lose confidence in herself.
  • A year later, Barbara decided to end the business with Ramone and started her own company, The Corcoran Group, with her seven employees.
  • Barbara named her company The Corcoran Group because she knew she would need help from others to succeed.
  • The Corcoran Group started on the 11th floor of a building in Midtown Manhattan.
  • Barbara was able to get a phone installed over the weekend and buy all her desks on 42nd Street.
  • On Monday, The Corcoran Group was open for business.

Why Barbara didn’t begrudge her first business partner’s romantic betrayal. (00:22:44)

  • Barbara's business partner, Ray, left her for a younger, prettier woman named Tina.
  • Barbara did not blame Ray because she understood that Tina was more feminine, quiet, and adoring of him.
  • Barbara believes that Ray did her a favor by leaving her, as it motivated her to start her own business.

The value of enthusiasm. (00:24:45)

  • Ray saw enthusiasm as Barbara's most valuable trait.
  • Barbara was a happy, positive, and talkative person who made Ray happy.
  • Barbara's enthusiasm and confidence made her stand out from other candidates.

Early recruitment gimmicks. (00:29:34)

  • Used unique advertising strategies to attract potential employees.
  • Instead of stating "salespeople wanted," she used attention-grabbing captions like "join a company that's a lot of fun and cleaning up and having a blast."
  • For a larger hiring need, she organized "career nights" where she charmed and impressed potential candidates, leading many to want to work for her.
  • She used a pen and pencil trick to identify those she wanted to interview further.

Being the only woman in the room. (00:31:43)

  • Initially intimidated by being the only woman in the male-dominated real estate industry.
  • Recognized the cockiness of her competitors and saw it as an opportunity to excel.
  • Used her femininity to her advantage, standing out in a room full of men.
  • Never saw herself as disadvantaged but rather as a fierce competitor.
  • Drew motivation from being underestimated and turned insults into fuel for her success.
  • Believes that competing solely with women might not have driven her to the same level of success.

Rules and systems. (00:33:46)

  • Barbara Corcoran had a competitive drive and an attitudinal advantage.
  • She developed organizational systems to manage her information-based business despite her dyslexia.
  • She learned organization from her mother, who ran their household like a boot camp.
  • Corcoran color-coded everything, from file cabinets to listing cards, to create a visual organization system.
  • She used pictures instead of words in memos to make them more engaging and memorable.
  • Corcoran was proud of her company's systems and how well-run it was.

Experiments, innovations, and mistakes. (00:36:46)

  • Barbara Corcoran experimented and innovated in the early days of her real estate career to compete against established competitors.
  • She acted quickly on ideas, implementing them within a day if she thought of them on a Monday.
  • She tried different things, even if no one else was doing them, and kept trying until something worked.
  • One of her innovations was to start sharing listings in New York City, which was not the norm at the time.
  • This move was met with resistance from her competitors, who filed a lawsuit against her for false advertising.
  • The lawsuit was unsuccessful, but it was a difficult time for Corcoran.

Homes on Tape and puppy sales. (00:39:25)

  • Barbara Corcoran transformed a $1,000 loan into a multi-billion dollar real estate empire through innovative marketing strategies and sales techniques.
  • Inspired by a puppy sale, she hosted a "one-price sale" for 88 unsaleable apartments, generating $225,000 in just three hours.
  • To create a sense of exclusivity and urgency, she used word-of-mouth marketing and instructed her salespeople to bring only their two best customers, attracting a line of 180 potential buyers.
  • Corcoran's success demonstrates the effectiveness of creativity, resourcefulness, and understanding human behavior in achieving business objectives.

Esther Kaplan’s persuasive purse. (00:44:23)

  • Barbara Corcoran met Esther Kaplan, a petite woman who spoke softly and dressed in a little knit suit.
  • Kaplan opened her purse to put Corcoran's business card in it, revealing a well-organized file cabinet inside.
  • Corcoran was impressed by Kaplan's organized purse and decided to hire her as her right-hand person, teaching her everything she knew about selling.
  • Kaplan became a consistently hard worker and soul, helping Corcoran build her business.
  • Corcoran and Kaplan had a successful partnership, with Kaplan complementing Corcoran's strengths and weaknesses.

Sales 101 with Barbara. (00:46:44)

  • Barbara Corcoran's success in real estate is attributed to her exceptional sales techniques, including assessing customers' needs and urgency, qualifying customers, and prioritizing those most likely to make a purchase.
  • She taught her salespeople the art of hustling, which involved strategic apartment showing sequences, dressing appropriately, and finding creative ways to save money.
  • Corcoran's closing technique involved showcasing a range of properties, encouraging customers not to make rash decisions, and building anticipation by asking them not to buy anything on the same day.
  • Aftercare was crucial to her business, with Corcoran ensuring customer satisfaction and fostering repeat business through thoughtful gifts and maintaining strong relationships.
  • Corcoran's strategic marketing and sales techniques, such as using postcards with her face and brand, sending varied gifts to clients, and consistently staying in touch, turned $1,000 into a $5 billion real estate empire.

How Barbara stays active. (00:53:03)

  • Barbara Corcoran emphasizes the importance of consistency in exercise, regardless of the specific routine.
  • She has four appointments with a trainer every week, which she has maintained for 15 years.
  • Her routine includes weightlifting, stretching, and cardiovascular exercise, but she keeps it to a minimum as she doesn't enjoy it.
  • Exercise provides her with "me time," relaxation, vanity (looking good in clothes), and mental clarity.
  • She believes that exercise and pulling weeds are the two best therapies in the world.

Butting heads with Donald Trump. (00:55:03)

  • Barbara Corcoran transformed a $1,000 investment into a multi-billion dollar real estate empire.
  • Her success stems from her determination to fight for her beliefs, even against formidable opponents like Donald Trump.
  • Corcoran's childhood experiences with her abusive father instilled in her a strong aversion to bullies and a resolve to stand up for herself.
  • When Trump refused to pay her millions in commissions, Corcoran took legal action and emerged victorious, marking a significant turning point in her business.
  • Corcoran stresses the importance of seeking professional assistance when facing challenges, as exemplified by her decision to hire a skilled attorney who ultimately secured her victory against Trump.

Picking battles. (01:00:58)

  • Barbara Corcoran used to be a fighter, willing to justify fights based on principle.
  • As she got older, she realized that preserving her energy for high-leverage matters is critical.
  • She avoids fights when possible because they are always negative and not worth the energy.
  • She assesses fights based on how much energy they will take and how long they will last, not on whether she could win.
  • She has concluded that even when there is a lot of money at stake, it is usually not worth the energy to fight.
  • She has observed that people who are constantly in lawsuits are not happy people.

How Barbara fell in love with trailer park life. (01:03:43)

  • Barbara Corcoran purchased a mobile trailer in a trailer park in Los Angeles for $800,000, intentionally overpaying by $100,000, to use while filming Shark Tank.
  • The trailer is located just 30 minutes from her studio and offers a beautiful ocean view, a garden, and a peaceful environment.
  • Corcoran fell in love with the trailer park because of its friendly and genuine neighbors, who reminded her of her parents.
  • The trailer park community consists mostly of blue-collar workers from the Hollywood business.
  • Corcoran learned the strategy of overpaying for real estate and construction from successful New York real estate developer Harry Helmsley.
  • She believes that overpaying is worth it because you forget about the money once you own the property.
  • Corcoran also knocks on doors to buy homes that aren't for sale, even if it means being two years early.

Why Barbara only hires happy people now. (01:10:03)

  • Barbara realized that hiring unhappy people, even if they were great salespeople, created a negative work environment.
  • Complainers drain energy and make work unenjoyable.
  • Barbara decided to only hire happy people, which improved the work environment and overall success of her business.

Barbara In Your Pocket. (01:11:26)

  • Barbara In Your Pocket is the top business channel on Patreon.
  • Barbara started it to create a community of entrepreneurs who could support and learn from each other.
  • She wanted to provide honest advice and help entrepreneurs build their businesses.
  • The channel is still young, but it has quickly gained popularity and is helping many entrepreneurs.
  • Barbara feels like she is building her old consulting group again through this platform.

What gives Barbara the most energy these days? (01:13:44)

  • Barbara gets the most energy from making a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs.
  • She finds it satisfying to know that her suggestions have helped entrepreneurs succeed.
  • Barbara believes that everyone wants to make a difference in some way.

Barbara’s billboard. (01:14:46)

  • If Barbara could put a message on a billboard, she would write: "You're a lot more capable than you think you are."
  • She believes that people often write themselves off too early and that they are capable of much more than they realize.
  • Barbara has seen many people, including entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, overcome their self-doubt and achieve success.

Parting thoughts and proposals. (01:15:55)

  • Barbara invites people to find her on social media and Patreon.
  • She jokingly proposes marriage to Tim Ferriss, expressing her interest in meeting him in person.
  • Barbara compliments Tim on his engaging personality and interviewing skills.

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