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Barbara Corcoran's 7 Top Tips for Succeeding Against All Odds


Dec 18, 2022

She's been an icon of entrepreneurship for decades--first as a New York City real estate maven and then as a Shark. But even at 73, she still leans on some early lessons learned.

Before she was real estate royalty turned Shark Tank star, Barbara Corcoran accepted $1,000 from her then-boyfriend to quit her waitressing job and start her first real estate business alongside him. She led her second firm, the Corcoran Group, for 23 years, growing it into the largest real estate group in New York City before selling it for $66 million in 2001. Today, when she's not on the set or advising the companies she's invested in, or managing her own personal brand, she hosts her podcast, Business Unusual--and is eager to lend some helpful advice to up-and-coming founders.

1. Get good with falling down.

Today, a lot of parents protect their kids from failure. In my family, there were 10 kids, and my mother didn't have time to help us, so we failed at everything! We were in the habit of falling on our heads and getting ourselves back up. That's where you find your courage. Confidence is knowing that whatever hits you, you're always going to get up. You're always going to keep trying.

2. Stay in the game.

I once blew my entire year's profit--$77,000--making videotape tours of my listings. Then, no one wanted to give them out. By sheer luck, my husband, who was a Navy captain, came back from South Korea and told me about this new thing called the internet. I immediately registered, posted those listings, and had two sales that week. My next move: I registered my competitors' domain names, too.

3. Seek what you don't have.

My business partner was great at everything I was terrible at. Make a list of what you're good at and what you're bad at, and the minute you have a dime, hire your opposite skill set. Of the hundred-some businesses I've invested in, every successful one is a partnership of two opposites with mutual respect. To make it work, you need a line down the middle of the page, and to be crystal clear about what your jobs are.

4. Steal brilliant concepts.

I've gotten undue credit for being an innovator. It was all thievery! I got the idea for putting my face on billboards after faces on billboards attracted my eye. Once, I was in an airport in Italy, and the announcement board was color-coded. I thought, I'm gonna copy that, and I color-coded my listings. I don't think I've ever had an original idea in my life.

5. Value your intuition.

I don't listen to my head. Left-brain logic gets in the way. In the earlier years of Shark Tank, I used my head all the time. Now I'm really just sizing up individuals on the basis of my gut reaction.

6. Serve your people.

Being a phenomenal leader starts by loving people and helping them be the best they can be. Really get that straight in your head: You work for them. The minute you start thinking people work for you, you're not a good boss. If you focus on building others' success, they reward you with loyalty and extra work--and they drag you up the ladder with them.

7. Get out of your own way.

Your biggest enemy in business is not your competitor. It's the negative tapes you have in your head from some other era, some injury, some insecurity. It took me, gosh, probably 20 years to replace those negative tapes. It's key! People get held back by themselves.

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