Barbara Corcoran spoke at a GBREB (Greater Boston Real Estate Board) Conference and Expo on Thursday, October 16, 2014. The event occurred at the Four Points Sheraton in Norwood, Massachusetts. She was the keynote speaker and she addressed a crowd of about 500-600 Real Estate professionals after lunch.
Barbara addressed the GBREB crowd for a little over 90 minutes. She regaled GBREB attendees with stories of her family life in New Jersey, tales of growing her real estate empire in New York, and behind the scenes gossip about the Shark Tank. Throughout the whole conference, Barbara was engaging, amusing, and informative. She peppered her examples with many personal anecdotes and had the crowd in the palm of her hand the entire time she was on stage. Many of the stories she told were from her many books, but it was fun and interesting to hear her tell them in her own voice.
Many GBREB attendees were there for Barbara. The GBREB has conferences on a regular basis, but this one was PACKED because everyone wanted to hear Barbara speak. I asked 52 people at the conference if they would have come if Barbara was NOT speaking. All but one said they came because of her!
Barbara shared what she thought to be the impetus for her entrepreneurial spirit with the GBREB crowd. It seems her dad, a printing press operator in Patterson, NJ, was a headstrong guy. He got fired regularly for telling off his bosses. The ten (yes TEN) Corcoran children would crowd around the kitchen table whenever he got fired to hear the story. While the kids got a kick out of his tales, Barbara said it created a sense of “uneasiness” in the children that became ingrained in their psyches. All but one of her nine siblings owns their own business. Dad created entrepreneurs from his independent spirit!
She described a very happy family life. She said their house was “our own town,” filled with encouragement from her mother. Barbara’s mom “labeled” her kids – Barbara was the creative one, one of her brothers was the dancer, etc. – and the kids lived up to their mother’s expectations. Barbara claims being “the creative one” in her family made her think outside the box in later years.
Barbara Tells GBREB Crowd How She Built a Real Estate Empire
Barbara told the GBREB attendees that failure was a big motivator for her. The turning point on her path to success was when her boyfriend, whom she was business partners with, told her he was marrying their secretary. Barbara immediately moved to split their business down the middle and promptly leased space a few floors higher in the same building. When she left her old office for the last time, the boyfriend said “you’ll never make it in this business without me.”
She thanks him for that motivation to this day. Barbara strikes me as a woman who simply won’t take no for an answer and the staement by her former partner molded her into that type of person.
She shared many anecdotes about her successful sales people, her business partner, and her interactions with many of New York’s Real Estate “big wigs” (including Donald Trump), but the most telling stories were about her parties. Every February, Barbara threw outlandish, themed parties. She did it in February because banquet venues in NYC are cheap in February!
Her people enjoyed them, but Barbara saw even bigger benefits. The parties brought her sales team together by keeping the workplace fun. They also created buzz around the city. Barbara was able to parlay the buzz about her parties into a recruiting tool for her business. Real Estate salespeople wanted to come work for the Corcoran Group because they knew it would be a fun environment.
The other thing Barbara did was position herself as an expert. She printed up news letters about pricing trends in the housing market and sent them to all the newspapers in New York. One day, the Wall Street Journal quoted her news letter. Barbara didn’t claim to have hard data for her opinions on the market, but she positioned herself as an expert and the media accepted her as one! The newsletter concept led to a lot of recognition for her clients and she attributes her first “celebrity sale” (Richard Gere) to one of her news letters.
Perhaps the most surprising information Barbara shared with the GBREB group was her first foray into the internet as a marketing tool. Barbara had just wasted a bunch of cash on a video tape series she called HOT (Houses On Tour). The videos had footage of listing agents presenting all the Corcoran group’s listings. It seemed like a cutting edge idea, but the agents weren’t handing them out to clients. Barbara figured it was because agents didn’t want to lose listings or sales to other agents on the tapes. She was stuck with boxes full of tapes and she was feeling sorry for herself.
While she was wallowing in the failed video tapes, her husband, Bill, a Navy Captain, was off playing “war games.” He returned and was bubbling about a “new government thing” called the internet. Barbara, who comes across on Shark Tank as somewhat “anti-tech,” embraced the idea and registered domains for herself and her business. She cunningly registered domain names for all her competitors, too!
She wasn’t going to steal the domains, she registered them to see how long it would take her competitors to jump on the internet bandwagon. Barbara found the “smaller shops” came looking for their domain names (which she transferred) sooner than the bigger companies. Smaller companies, she claims, have to be more innovative, which is why she thinks they came knocking first. The end result of her “research” was she had a two-year head start on the internet over her competitors!
Behind the Scenes at Shark Tank
Barbara does two speaking engagements per month. Many of them are to real estate groups like the GBREB. One thing she’s found is people want some behind the scenes “dirt” about Shark Tank. The last fifteen minutes of her talk were dedicated to this topic, and she didn’t disappoint!
An interesting bit of information was Barbara was initially considered as a Shark, but producer Mark Burnett cut her at the last-minute. TJ Hale alluded to this on his Podcast with Barbara and Lori, but this was a more complete explanation. Barbara doesn’t like rejection, so she fired off an email, pictured below.
The text of the email says:
From: Barbara Corcoran
To: Mark Burnett
Subject: Still Swimming!
I understand you asked another girl to dance instead of me. Although I appreciate being reserved as a fall back, I’m much more accustomed to coming in first.
I think you should consider inviting both of us to LA for your tryouts. Here are my reasons why…..[reasons omitted]
I’ve booked my flight for the 6th and I hope to be on that plane.
Barbara got a call a few hours after sending that email and she did get on the plane! The rest, as they say, is history.
Barbara also dished some good-natured dirt at her fellow Sharks. She started with Kevin O’Leary – aka Mr. Wonderful. She called him a “pushover” off camera and said he’d do anything for anyone on the set if asked. He’s also the most meticulous dresser and takes a long time to get ready. One night, after 11 hours of shooting, all the Sharks were waiting on O’Leary who was taking a long time to get ready in his trailer. Barbara went in to speed things along!
She got him moving and told the GBREB crowd “Kevin may have a bald head, but he has a hairy ass!” That comment got the biggest laugh of the day.
She said Robert, loving father of three, must be a closet gay guy because he comes to the set with dozens of suits and is constantly seeking fashion advice from his fellow Sharks.
The first time Barbara met Lori was Lori’s first day on the set; she didn’t recognize her because Lori had her head wrapped in a babushka. Barbara said Lori takes three hours to do her hair and arrives on set at 5:30 AM. Barbara’s coiffure is far more user-friendly, so she gets to come to the set later than that to get her hair done. She thinks Lori’s done the best with her Shark Tank businesses on dollar for dollar basis. She sees a product she knows will sell millions and goes and gets it.
Daymond is Barbara’s favorite Shark, partly because he tells vicious, dirty jokes on the set (which never make it to air). She calls him the “X Rated Shark.” The real reason she likes Daymond is because she thinks he’s a stand-up guy who’ll do exactly what he says for an entrepreneur. She also says he’s a “chick magnet.”
As for Mark, she says the only difference between him and the other Sharks is money. Mark’s a BILLIONAIRE while the others are “merely” millionaires. She related a story about a deal (she wouldn’t name the business) where she teamed with Mark for $150K each. During the due diligence process, they found the entrepreneurs were lying about everything. Barbara backed out of the deal, but Mark went through with it because he “had to keep his guys busy.” Barbara says she’s focussed on turning a profit, whereas Mark was more concerned with keeping his team busy. THAT is the big difference billions of dollars brings to the table.
Once the conference was over, the crowd swarmed towards Barbara to take pictures, get books autographed, or just to say hello. I left the room to grab my camera equipment because I was going to a private room to do a one-on-one video interview with Barbara! I’ll be cutting the video over the next few days and the interviews will post next week on THE Shark Tank Blog.
In the mean time, see how Barbara answers THE QUESTION.