Special Guest Speaker: Barbara Corcoran
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome to the stage, Planful's chief marketing officer, Rowan Tonkin.
Rowan TONKIN: All right. How is everyone? Everyone caffeinated? Yeah? All right, I'm really pleased to be announcing a very special guest here. So this special guest, their eldest son's name is Thomas, they're a very successful podcast host, and they're ridiculously good looking. And it's not me. It's Barbara Corcoran, ladies and gentlemen.
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Barbara Corcoran.
Barbara Corcoran: People have to realize you can become who you want to be. I've employed thousands of people, men ask. Women don't ask. inaudible get in my way. You are now tuned into Business Unusual. Why don't you be quiet? You've got to give up this crying stuff. Okay. I'm out. Too bad, Damon. Too bad, Damon. I happen to think I'm worth more. Why don't you pick the prettiest girl? I'm right here. You get this shot once. I am your dream partner. For all of those reasons, I'm out. What a nice, happy crowd. Nice to be with you today. Did you actually see that video? I couldn't see it here. Oh, you saw it. How'd you like it? Oh, good, good, good. We just dolled it up a little. I was wondering what the response was. It's very, very nice to be here with this Planful crowd. I'd rather it be called playful, but I hope we'll have a little fun today. But more importantly, I'm hoping that I leave you with a few things you could use for your own business, day to day or in your thinking or what have you, and I'll do my best to do that. So let's get started. Sit back, relax. I'm just going to tell you a story for the first, maybe 10 minutes. Okay? I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, a very small town, one mile long, two blocks wide. We were the biggest family in town. We had 10 kids and we had one bathroom. My mother put her six kids, six girls rather, in the girls' room. Painted it pink every year, once a year. Put her four boys in the boys' room, painted it fresh blue every year. And my mother and dad made all those children from the convertible couch in the living room. It goes to show you don't need much for sex, if you're determined, right? My mom was the most organized person I've ever met. I would later use that organization skill to build a good sized business. She had probably a routine for everything. If she did something more than once, she made a routine of it. She had, in the kitchen, a sock drawer for the boys. Top drawer. It was really a bread drawer. All blue, all one size. And the bottom drawer was all girl socks. White, all one size. So all you had to do getting out to school in the morning is remember if you're a girl or a boy and grab two socks. They always matched. But she did that with every single thing in her house so that even though we had the smallest house in our entire town, we had the neatest house because when she blew her whistle, not literally, we all were able to put everything in order because we knew exactly where order was. My mom was also, probably far more important, a phenomenal motivator. She decided on the birth of each of her children, and she would decide the day they came home from Holy Name hospital, what that child's special gift was and she would announce it to the kids in the family. I distinctly remember, more than any other kid, my brother Tom coming home from the hospital. I was about eight and she unwrapped my brother Tom and she said," Meet your brother, Tom, he's going to be a magnificent dancer." And I remember thinking at eight years old," Oh, a dancer in the family. Now that's cool. Better than the other kids, right?" And she based her prediction simply on the fact that he had really fat legs and he was kicking like hell. But ironically, my mother's predictions for each of our children really came true. And I think the reason they came true is because she put that child performing that trait or that gift. That was their role in the family. So my brother grew up and became a ballet dancer for Alvin Ailey dance theater in New York. And to this day, he said," I don't really think I could dance but mom always said I could." For me, she said my gift was a wonderful imagination. She told me I had the most incredible imagination. And my job in the family was to put on Broadway shows in the basement when it was raining out, open a rock store in the backyard when it was sunny, and she would tell me," Make it a rock store." And I'd say," Well, how do you do a rock store, Mom?" And she'd say," You'll figure it out with your imagination." And I found out the kids do buy rocks as long as you paperclip or staple them in little white paper and they all look alike. They'd love to buy your rocks. So that was my mother's gift. She made us rise to who we were. And I would later try to do a probably a half bank mimic of that building my own business later on as a real estate agent. When I went to school in second grade, I found out that my imagination for my mother was the only thing that was important because Sister Stella Marie, which was the nun from hell, pulled my hair and said," You're always going to be stupid if you don't learn how to read." So I was summed up just because I couldn't learn to read. But when I went home crying to my mother, she said," Don't worry about it, Barbara, with your imagination, you'll learn to fill in all the blanks." And she didn't go so far and say," And you're going to be a real estate agent and be full of shit the rest of your life." That would've been better but she was close. My dad was my mom's 11th child. That's what my mother always said he was, and I would agree. He had the gift of knowing how to have fun. And so when he came home from work or had the weekend off, which he always did, if there was a snowstorm, he would put his 10 kids on a wooden ladder, shove us down the side yard. He'd jump on the last row. We'd go over the retaining wall into oncoming traffic. That was his idea of fun. When we opened a car wash in the town, he made us wait a whole year before we went to the car wash. When every other kid in town got to go to the car wash and we were complaining. And so when we went to the car wash, he said, keep your pajamas on. As we went into the car wash, he said," Quick, roll down the windows." My dad was a nut job. He was also a very hard working man. He had two jobs, his whole life. He worked as a printing press foreman during the daytime and in the evening he washed trucks for UPS. But on weekends was the time we had with my father to play and play and play and play. The other important trait he left us with, I'm not sure it's the best one to give to kids, was he could never hold his job during the day. He was constantly fired. But somehow he must have interviewed well because he always got another job about two, three weeks later. But he would come home early from work at four o'clock and we all knew daddy was home and we'd all run to the kitchen table early for dinner and sit there and wait for him. And then he'd have his seat and he'd say," Guess what, kids?" And we'd all scream," You were fired?" And he'd go," That's right. I told Mrs. Stein to take that job and shove it up his ass."" Yay, Dad." So we learned from my father not to like a boss, which is totally unfair. I had 22 jobs before I started my business. I had plenty of nice bosses, but I hated every one of them. I think my dad made us all entrepreneurs for sure, because in my family, we have 10 kids and nine out of the 10 each have their own business and I could say successfully. But it was because of my dad's influence. No doubt. We just wanted to work for ourselves. It was a bad attitude, basically. I was 21 when I was at the Fort Lee Diner competing with Gloria. We had two counters at the diner. She was washing. Pardon me, she was waiting on men at her counter each time while I was washing my counter. Gloria had a gimmick. Her gimmick was this, she could carry two coffee cups at each hand, two more double stacked on each breast. She had a huge breasts and the men would just wait on the line in the concrete steps going into the diner for her counter. They didn't want mine unless they were desperate. They were waiting for Gloria. I could not compete with Gloria. The night before I was telling my mom how unfair it was that Nick let the men sit where they wanted. He should do one for Gloria, one for me. And she said," That's not the way life is. Why don't you take your long blonde hair, put pigtails, get your own gimmick. Put some ribbons on your pigtails." I told my mother that it was a stupid idea, because I was 21 and all, and all mothers are dumb when you're 21. But I did do that that night. I braided my hair, and lucky for me, that was the night. Excuse me, one moment. I guess you can't cough away from your mic in this situation, right? That was the night Ramon Simone walked in. The moment I laid eyes on Ramon Simone, I knew I'd be losing my virginity within the month. He had dark... And it wasn't like I was saving it for anyone. It's just nobody had asked me for it ever. That's the truth. The God's honest truth. Ramon Simone offered me a ride home that night. I introduced him to my parents, which was a mile away. They hated him on site. My mother said," I can't understand why a man that age would have an interest in a girl like you." He was 10 years older than I was. And I knew why I was interested and I had the same interest back. But in short order, Ramon would suggest that I was sworn enough as a waitress. And I should just leave my job for a week and try out the big city. He said," I'll pay for your stay at the Barbizon Hotel for Women," a very respectable establishment in Midtown," And I'll pay for it for the week and you try out in New York." I told my mom and dad, I was leaving and I was going to be going to New York for a week. All expenses paid by Ramon Simone. That didn't go over so well. My mother accused me of being a prostitute, backed up by my father, which was ridiculous. But anyway, he gave me a ride to New York in his big yellow... What was it? It was a Lincoln Continental with a bump on the back. And as I was getting out of the car on 63rd Street, he handed me a fresh$ 100 bill. I was beginning to think my mother was right. But when he handed me the bill, he said," Go buy yourself a real New York outfit." A hundred dollars. I marched myself three blocks south to Bloomingdale's, bought myself a lavender stretch top, lavender bell bottom pants, and lavender high boots, all for a hundred bucks. You know how old I am. But as I walked back to the Barbizon Hotel, I was singing Georgie Girl in my head. I was like, whoa, am I cool? Am I cool? And then I got a job the next day answering phones for the Giffuni Brothers. A hundred times, thousand times a day," Good morning, Giffuni Brothers." And that was my start in New York City but I could also say my start in real estate because they were two elderly brothers who owned a lot of property in New York. And so I kind of just wound up in the real estate business, sort of on the back end. But a year later, Ramon Simone... Oh, I think I forgot to... Oh, I'm forgetting about my slides. If you don't see any slides change and say," Hey, change the slides." Okay? There's Ramon Simone. Let's not forget Ramon. Is he a handsome hunk? All right. He was shorter than me but you have to forgive some sins once in a while, right? That's me in New York City. I'm going to- I was starry- eyed right. The first thing that I noticed about New York City when I got there, truthfully, I was on East 86th Street, I had two roommates, and I walked to the news stand on a Monday on my way to work and the nice guy said good morning. A friendly guy in New York. Shocking. I walked to that news stand on Wednesday. The stand and the guy had changed. I walked again on Friday, a new guy and a new stand. And it wasn't lost on me. I thought," Wow, this is a city of change." And boy, I was about to learn that for the next 30 years building my business. The most magnificent city to build a business against, the city of change. Back to the story. I'm working at the Giffuni brothers for about a year. And Ramon Simone said to me," Barbara with your personality, you'd be great in sales. Why don't you start a real estate company and I'll give you a thousand dollars?" Do you know what a thousand dollars meant to somebody like me? A thousand dollars. He said he would own 51% of the company because he funded it and I could own 49% and I could be the managing partner. That felt pretty good to me, the managing partner, and off I went. I had one desk in an accountant's office. I spent an extra dollar a month on a pink princess phone because Ma Bell charged an extra dollar. But the first day I answered that phone on the first ad that I placed as that phone came to my head, I had a movie in my head, and this is what the movie looked like. I was the queen of New York real estate. I was the queen dressed in beautiful clothes. I had diamonds on my hand and people were waiting in line to come up and kiss my ring. I didn't realize it then, but a few years later, I realized that was a leftover from my mother making us watch the Pope on TV all the time. Because that was the important person I saw where people would come and kiss his ring. But I had that movie playing in my head and every time I picked up the phone, I was," Hello, Corcoran- Simone." When I made my first commission, thank God I made it early, the first week I was ahead of the game. I had only spent 120 in my overhead and I made a commission for$ 340. And I took that commission immediately and hired a salesperson because I knew I could afford to pay for me and for them for at least a month. And on and on it went and I never changed that formula for the rest of my life building my business. If I had enough cash to pay for one more person for a month, I spent it on the one more person. And that's how I was able to build the business into the largest real estate company... Or residential, I shouldn't say real estate. Residential real estate brokerage in the city. We were building our company, man by man. This is a group of my earlier managers at one of our retreats. And we had 14 people at the company and I was living with Ramon Simone, of course, by now in sin as my mother called it. And I was living also with his three daughters. I didn't know he had children until after I moved in with him, like surprise. But I was a good mom because I was one of the older kids. I knew how to raise kids fine. But he came home one night and he said," I have something really serious to discuss."" Oh yes, Ray?" I said. He said," I'm going to marry your secretary." I said," That bitch?" Who turned into right away. So I just couldn't believe my ears. And I said," You got to be kidding." He said," No, but take your time moving out." I took my time to grab my toothbrush. I was out of there in about a minute and I moved on to the sofa of my best friend, Kathy, on east 79th street. Thank God she had me. I lived there for a few months. And then a year later, and I don't know why it took me a year, but I had a year of heartbreak. Not so much that I was rejected. I mean, I got over that kind of, or pretended to get over it. But I was particularly bothered by going into the office every day and not being allowed to fire Tina. She's a perfectly nice lady of course, but I hated her guts. She was five years younger than me. Her hair was still long blonde. Mine was short already. I got why he liked her. She was pretty than me. I got it. But I couldn't stand seeing Tina in my old desk next to Ray, sharing the office, giggling and holding hands. It broke my heart. So about a year into that scene, I walked in one Friday morning and I said," Hey, guess what? Ray, I'm going to end the business today." I don't know where I got that idea from. It just came to me that minute. Sometimes it's funny where you find courage. Or maybe the lesson here is be careful, don't mess with your wives, they're going to come and get even. The vengeance of a wife or a woman. And so I said," We're going to chop up the business, just like a football thing, and you pick the first person. We have 14 people. I'll pick the second." And that's exactly what we did. He picked Norma Hirsch, the star salesperson. I picked Esther Kaplan who was a constant steady person. And we went right down the rank and I took my seven people into the foyer and I said," Guess what? On Monday we're going to be in a brand new office."" We are? Where?"" It's a surprise." But in those days you could call Ma Bell on a Friday and have your phones installed on a Saturday, when they were the big dog in town, so to speak. You could go to 42nd Street, which was derelict alley. It was a slum. And you could buy your desk for cash, black metal desk, and have the guys you bought them from run them up to Midtown. It's crazy. But by the time the agents came in on Monday morning, I had their possessions in a box with a ribbon on top with a note from me," Welcome to the Corcoran Group." We had 14 desks in the same office space, three floors higher than Ray because that's where I went, my landlord," Can we rent that space?" I was a good tenant. He gave it to me right away. And we started the Corcoran Group. I named it the group because I knew I was going to need the help of everybody there, if I was ever going to build a business. I had$72, 000 in receivables over five months, I had$11, 000 in cash and I knew what my overhead was. And we ran like hell to make a go of it. On the way out the door that Friday afternoon, Ramon Simone said to me,"You know, you'll never succeed without me." And when he said that to me, I swear to God, I knew I'd rather die than let him see me not succeed. I felt it the entire time in my career, at the times when I really didn't know where I was going to turn or how I was going to stay in business with the ups and downs of a real estate market, coupled with the ups and downs of New York City, I really didn't know how I could stay in business. And then I would think of those words, that insult, and realize for somebody like me, insult was a great motivator. And I would think of one thing to try, and son of a bitch, that thing would turn the business around. I'd get it just as the business was ready to recover and my life would be saved and I'd have a motion to stay, so to speak. The power of insult, I didn't practice this as a manager or a leader in any way, but for some people that can take an insult and turn it around and make it a life mission. I've even found investing in different entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, my best entrepreneurs are people who were injured when as kids, injured as adults, or have something burning to prove. They're also my most insecure people. But for some reason, when I can land a business like that, they always grow because there's something about proving that's a wonderful motivator. All right. Ramon Simone was obviously wrong. I sold my business for$ 66 billion in cash. Signed the contract on the eve of 9/ 11. That was simply pot luck on my side. And we closed the deal. I should also say, that if you've never experienced selling a business, this was the only one I ever sold personally outside of Shark Tank, but I had never known what happens in a business closing. All I knew is I was sitting for four hours signing papers. Any paper shoved in front of me, I was signing. It wasn't until I went to bed that night, I thought to myself," I wonder where the cash is?" Never questioned. I went to the Citibank machine to get my usual$ 200 per week with my little blue card the next morning and I put my card in, you know how it goes inaudible like it's printing money? It's so exciting. I got the$ 200. I get the receipt. I'm about to throw in the garbage can, I looked, there was$ 44 million in my checking account. The other 22 coming in about a month. I've gotten more joy out of that than having the money. I swear to God. Every time I go to the Citibank machine, the same machine in my neighborhood. Now I'm up to... I'm embarrassed to admit it, I'm up to$ 600 a week cash. But every time I put that in here, inaudible, I'm reliving that day again, like ground hog day. Love it. Okay, the best part about selling your business. Just how to share that stupid story with you. More importantly now the things that I feel might be helpful to you that I learned along the way. First of all, I learned right up front that I was a good salesman but I was a great manager. I didn't really realize till I started managing business that was my real gift. I thought my gift was selling people, which I was good at. So I started focusing, as quick as I could, getting out of sales and focusing on managing, which took out most of the income of the company because I was a star salesperson always. But when I made that leap of faith, everything changed. I was able to focus on building a business. And the first lesson I learned, I learned quite by accident, which is perception creates reality. I know you've heard that. I like to think I thought of it first, but who the hell knows. But here's how I discovered it. I was sitting in my office one day and Lorraine Friedberg, which is the broker from hell. She was such a complainer. She came into my office and was complaining that it's a real estate recession. She hadn't had any sales, nobody was making sales. I didn't advertise for them anymore. There are no ads in the paper. Well, of course, I was broke. How could I do that? But I said to her," I have an idea. I'm going to do something that's going to bring you a lot of business." And I would lie to her from here to kingdom come just to get that bitch out of my office. She left the office in a huff and I sat there and thought," What could I do? Really, what could I do?" And I just had just a spark of imagination, I guess. And I took my 11 sales for the year. That's all we made, which with based on the number of people, we should have had like 45 or 50, but I only had 11. I took the 11 sales. I added them up. I divided by 11 and I came up with an average sale price:$ 54,600 and some change. And I typed it on my inaudible typewriter," Average New York city sale price." And then I put on top, let me name it after myself, the Corcoran Report. And then it looked lonely. And then I said, I'll give it a byline:" Conditions and Trends in the Greater New York City Marketplace." And I took that, that single page, and I mailed it out to something like 42, 45 reporters that day who wrote for the New York Times. Sports writers, news writers, anybody because they put their bylines under the caption. So I just mailed them all out. Never heard anything. Two weeks later, I opened the front page of the New York Times and the caption is" New York City Market Hits All Time Low." I said," Holy shit." And I read the first caption. It says," According to Barbara Corcoran..." In the New York times, I'm like," I don't believe this. This is like the Catholic miracle mom always said would happen if we were good." What do you think happened that day? inaudible with the change in my business, I had the same agents doing the same routine, which is they'd come in on Monday and call the classified columns before the internet to get listings." Could we have your listing? Could we have your listing?" That day, for the first time I heard someone say," Oh, you've heard of us?" Nobody ever heard of us. We're the smallest company in town or one of the tiniest companies in town and they heard of us? The power of the press. I had stepped in the luckiest break of my life. From that point on when I talked, I wasn't Barbara Corcoran, this little company," Oh yeah, I read about you." So overnight, I had taken my little voice and blown it into giant voice and I learned the lesson to publish bullshit for the rest of my life. Two months after the Corcoran Report came out, the cover of New York Post said" Madonna pregnant" with four exclamation points. She was the IT girl of the moment. So I published a Madonna report. What Madonna would be looking for? I called it" The Madonna Report." She'd be looking for top security, more room, after all she's having a baby, views, sunshine, all the same stuff every rich person's looking for. Right? And I was on three different network news channels as a broker to the star. I'm like," Holy shit, again. This is how it goes." Amazing. Then an agent called me after the Madonna report, the last 11 o'clock news, and he said," I have a client named Richard Gere. I'm wondering if you consider working for him." Listen to the way they're talking to me, if I'd consider working with him. He was a drop dead god of the moment, of course I'd consider working with him. I sold him a little two bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village. He knocked down the walls, made it a temple. He was into some weird shit back then, I think. And then I published the Richard Gere report and on and on and on it went. When we had 20 people, people thought we had a 100. By the time I had a 100 people, people thought we had many, many more. I remember having about 50 people, having an agent from another company come in for an interview, and she looked around and said,"Is this it?" The power of a third party endorsement, the best way to steal a market share. If you have voices bigger and better than everybody out there, a bigger mouth than everybody out there, you steal the market share. It's as simple as that. And that's really was totally responsible for me climbing up the ladder in jumps versus one company at a time. The power of the press. If you can create the impression you're powerful, the power follows suit. It's opposite to what my mother said. She taught us the meek will inherit the earth but I got to believe she was never in New York City. All right, number two. There's only two kinds of people, expanders and containers. I really do believe this at work. This is... Okay. The day Esther Kaplan walked in for an interview. She was anything but the look of a salesperson. She had a tiny little knit suit on with little pearl buttons. She had very conservative shoes. She spoke so softly I could hardly hear her. And I was giving her the one, two quick interview to get rid of her really because I wanted to keep interviewing because I was needing sales people. And I handed her my card and she opened her little purse, a perfect little oval purse with a... I don't know what it was made out of, I think marble button or something, but it clicked when she opened it. A clean click. And she held my card with the side and she dropped it in her purse. And when she leaned her purse toward me, I saw inside her purse that she had a miniature file cabinet. She had partitions in her purse. And I looked at that purse and I thought," I want my business in that lady's purse." And I said," You'd be phenomenal at sales. I'm going to take you under my personal wing. You're amazing." I just want to rope her into the company. Esther became my 10% partner within that year and I could have never, ever built the company without her because she was good at everything I wasn't good at and I was good at everything she wasn't good at. I would do a new advertising campaign, which I loved, and the ad agencies would come in and give me three boards, three different directions. I'd run right into Esther and say," Which one did you do you like?" And she would take about an hour to study them. They were only headlines. And then she would say any one but not that one and that would be the one I'd run with. That's how bad she was at advertising. But I would go to the banks and have a$ 300,000 credit line. And it had tripled the size of my business. And I would say to the banks," I need more money. I just need for cash flow. I'm always paying you back and everything." I'd give them my one, two step and everything. I'd go with financial information. They'd love having lunch with me but I wouldn't get the credit line. I'd send Esther, she'd come back with$ 600,000. That's how bad I was at finance and how good she was. So she did everything I couldn't do well, systems, computerizing, personnel. I did everything she couldn't do well, recruiting, advertising, public relations. And together we built a phenomenal business. So I think it's important at work, never to ask what the background is or what's the resume. I don't even read resumes for the first 20 minutes because I want to get an impression on someone. But you just want to classify someone. Are they naturally a container or they naturally an expander? And believe me, I took more bookkeepers and made them great salespeople and salespeople made them not bookkeepers but some something at administration when they weren't meant for sales. Two different kinds of people so you're better off putting them in the categories as quick as you can and building on their strength versus building on their resume. Number three, I totally believe you should only hire happy people. I've only hired happy people since I made my first mistake of hiring an unhappy one. And I didn't spot a few unhappy ones undercover, but I always got them out after a while. I remember having this phenomenal salesperson, making me a lot of money, I didn't want to let them go, but boy was she miserable. And you know what's wrong with miserable people? They need somebody else to be miserable with and it sucks the energy of a team down. So I remember thinking to myself," I'm so positive and my team is so positive. We are so happy. We are going to overwhelm her." No, that wasn't true. I learned that if her mother and father didn't make her happy as a kid, there was no nothing I could do to make them happy as an adult. Happy people on natural team players, happy people aren't territorial. Happy people see the upside of something. Happy people give things a chance versus seeing the negative of what's going to go wrong. If you hire happy people, you enjoy your work more. You can create a bigger team and your company goes forward more. I also believed that you have to fire complainers right away. I love Friday more than anything else. My favorite day of the week, I would love to go to someone who I didn't realize was a negative person. Because at some point I wasn't doing all the hiring managers were, I'd go up to that price say," Hey, do you have a minute on Friday?"" What time? 11? Sure." I loved you. Probably think I'm mean, but here's how I looked at it. I love firing a negative person because I saw them as thieves in the night that were going to steal the positive energy for my firm and hurt my other children. Take my happy children, make them less happy. I'm not talking about people who criticize. That's so important in a company. I'm talking about just miserable people. So I say fire, fire the complainers. Okay. Next. I was almost going to leave that out because I didn't want to look mean, but that's honestly how I feel. So there you have it. Next one, recognition motivates so much better than money. So much better than money. Of course, you have to pay people what they're worth. I like to think I always overpaid people. But if you want, you can buy loyalty. No doubt. If you overpay people enough, but you won't own their heart and their soul. If you give them recognition, you'll own them forever. We in an industry that was notorious for having a 35% revolving rate per year in the industry, still the truth in the real estate industry. We had no turnover except for the complainers I fired or people who couldn't produce. But people didn't leave the company and you know why the people didn't leave the company? Well, for a lot of reasons. But one of the reasons were they were recognized for the individuality they had and the contribution they made and I made sure that was personally pointed out. And I also motivated my team through recognition. I'll tell you about a little problem I had to solve. When we were in business over 10 years, I couldn't break the high end market of New York City. Damned as I try, I couldn't do it. Because there were old guards who control the really rich market. And so, one day, I stood on my box at the Monday meeting and I held up a big gold horse ribbon. The kind those race horses they pin on the side of the head. And in the middle of the gold ribbon, it said$ 1 million in gold. Dollar sign one inaudible... However many zeros. And I held it up. I said," All right, for anyone who makes the first million dollar sale, you get a gold ribbon." I thought it would be a big hit. People laugh me off the damn box. But what do you think happened? I had a young salesman who was a professional ice skater, new to the field. He sat there, and I guess in his little head, he said," I want that gold ribbon." And so he went out and at his dentist that week with a dental hygienist, introduced him to a chauffeur who was a chauffeur for Mrs. Guggenheim, who in the mansion on 68th street. And he came in the next week with the Guggenheim mansion listing for three and a half million dollars. And I said," Our first gold ribbon today goes to Ron Rossi." Everybody hated him. He walked up. I gave him the gold ribbon. My business changed. Everybody aspired to the damn gold ribbons. Recognition. I could have said you get a$10, 000 bonus, if you get a million dollar sale. It was the envy of the recognition I gave him that encouraged them to run for the same goal. After about three years of my business, if your bulletin board wasn't covered with gold ribbons, you were nobody at my company. You were almost embarrassed. People never invited their customers to their desk, if they didn't have the gold ribbons. Motivation. If you want to create in a team, recognition's a power tool. That's been my experience. Number six, fun is good for business. I probably should have started with this. It's the most important thing. If you want to build a team, you could do everything right with a team. But if you're not having genuine, ridiculous fun, you'll never see the real upside of the people on your team. You just won't get there. What happens when you have a fun team is you have a creative team. It automatically happens. I know so many large businesses want to have a creative, edgy company, like an entrepreneur type company. The secret to having that is making sure people get drunk enough, have enough fun, have enough retreats, and play outside their normal venue where they feel uncomfortable, where they feel comfortable. So in my company, we had Monday shoe shine boys at the desk. We had Tuesdays and Thursday massages at the desk. Every February, because I could get parties at half rate, we had a February sweetheart party where everybody could come not... They didn't only have to bring their husband or wife, they could bring anybody they wanted. A lot of them brought their girlfriends. But they had a dress in what I told them to dress in. The theme this February is 1940s. The theme this February is... You had to be there to appreciate how much fun it was to see the Wald Astoria ballroom filled with 700 nuns. It was bizarre. And the last party, and I think the acquiring company was very happy to get rid of me was cross dress. Ah, isn't this dangerous? No, all the straight men who said I'm not wearing a dress for anybody all came in dresses. Bizarre fun. I think I have a... Wait. I think they were... let me see something. I thought I had a little roll here. Give me one second because it's fun to watch. Can somebody help me with that in the background there? Give me just... It's worth waiting for. No, we go way backwards. Ah, forget it. Okay. Wait, let me take control into my own hand. Let me try. You've seen all this right? One, two, three. Just give me a... No, because they're really... Pictures paint a thousand words, as you know. Okay. Ah, the first fun event. Here comes Harlem bus ride. Listen to this one. Pack your 11 agents on an open aired bus. Tell them you don't know where you're going. Bring them up to Harlem when Harlem was the scariest place on earth, in the middle of August when it was also hot, and have the bus driver leave the bus and say it's broken down on 145th street. But more bizarre the better. Okay. Now this should click its way around. If it doesn't I'm going to give up. No, it's not clicking. There's probably 150 slides there. Is it clicking? Oh, mine's not clicking. Okay. So you just see... Get the whole... That party there with the red painted on pants, my pants split and someone put a$ 50 bill in my butt. Go figure, right? Yeah. It's really funny. You'll being Midtown Manhattan in pajamas. Trust me. Those are pictures also of retreats with my entrepreneurs from Shark Tanks. It's interesting. You could take all these different businesses, the winning businesses, you have to qualify. You have to be the top businesses. But go on retreat with me once a year and what's our agenda really? Just have fun. And guess what happens in those retreats over three days? Everybody shares business ideas. Everybody leaves that retreat stronger because they've had too much to drink. They've left too much and they love each other. And so I've been able to manage to make a team of all my various businesses that have nothing really to do each other, except that they love each other. I think that's the end of that slide. So we'll move on. Okay. Number seven, I am great at failure and it's not just a trait in me. I have found it to be the recurring trait in every great salesman I've ever hired. Every great entrepreneur I've ever invested in. It never varies and I kind of think that of... Well, maybe this is a bad way to express it, but I like to think of people who are good at failure, like being Jack in the boxes. You know that toy box where you shove the head down and you wind it up in the head pops up and you shove it down again? It's almost like people who are great at failure are too stupid to know they should keep their head down. So they keep bouncing up and keep bouncing up. I always tell my most successful entrepreneurs, I'm sure you have the lowest IQ of all my entrepreneurs. They don't mind because they're just the kind of people that are good on their feet and just keep coming back at you. Keep coming back at you. I studied salespeople for 18 years building my real estate company. And I wanted to answer one question for myself. What makes a great salesman tick? What's the difference between the person making$ 6 billion a year and the person making a hundred thousand a year? What is the difference? I found it wasn't the educational background. I found it wasn't the contacts, which for many years, I thought it was having the right contacts. I found the only difference between the phenomenal people and everyone else is the phenomenal people took less time feeling sorry for themselves. That was it. They'd take a bad hit and they're out in the field the next second. I found the people that I had to fire through non- production or not enough production were always the people that injured deeply, took things personally and laid low for a period of time. So this kind of business of getting back up, which is kind of a low IQ, if you thinking. It's not that smart, right? But that was the key ingredient to every successful person, when you really separate the men from the boys, so to speak. I was giving a speech to a group of Citi bankers, honored to be talking to 300 men in the banking business. It was the first speech I ever gave. I got scared, even though I practiced like crazy. Lost my voice and was asked to sit down. When I got home to my apartment, I thought I never will go out in the streets of New York again, I don't know who was a banker. Who had seen me there. I was ashamed. But by the next morning, I thought to myself, I got to get over myself. So I made up a curriculum to teach how to sell real estate, the only thing I knew how to do decently, and I went to NYU's annex night classes and said," Can I teach this at night?" Because I wanted to get myself over the fear of talking to a group. The first night I was talking there out of 12 weeks, Carrie Chiang, short Asian woman, very well dressed came up to me and said,"Do you know how much money I make?" With a very strong accent so I had a hard time understanding her. When I finally got it, I said," No, how much?" And she said,"$ 200,000," she bragged. At a time when my best salesperson was making about 48, 000. And I said,"$200, 000?" She explained to me how and I made my goal to recruit her into my company. Eight weeks later, she came over to my shop with two of her Asian cousins working for free, not bad. If I hadn't made that course to get over my fear of speaking, I would've never met Carrie Chiang. If I hadn't gotten Carrie Chiang, my company could not have gotten that head start in those early years. It just would've never happened. I found that every great success I had that moved me up the food chain by a lot, like leapfrog, happened in the worst times. For some reason, I could never push my business ahead over the competition in good times. Because they were spending, they had power, they had inaudible reputation. But in bad times, I found that the big companies, the big guys lay low. They don't take risks. They vet their issues. They go to check with their accountant, their attorneys. Little guy can outrun them faster. Little guy just wants to get out there, be scrappy, and see what they could do. So this exactly happened with me. A pattern for my entire life. I blew my first$ 77, 000... We're on... Okay. I just want to make sure you're with me. I blew my first$ 77,000 profit. It was in my sixth year business I think on this great idea I had. I'm going to take all our apartments and video them. And now my agents could hand to them customers so they could see all the apartments we have and I'll do this every month. I don't know what I was thinking.$77, 000 a month? I doubt it. It was terrible disaster because I had all my agents name and phone numbers on it. And nobody wanted that customer to go to the other agent. So I was sitting, starting to feel sorry for myself or more importantly, wondering how I was going to tell Esther I blew the money, which was really scary. And my husband was a Navy captain and he came home from playing war games in South Korea. And he said," We played the war games this year on this new thing called the internet." I listened to how it worked in real time. And I took all my tapes, threw it on the internet under corcoran.com, and announced to the company," We're now going into cyberspace. Let me tell you what cyberspace is." People cheered. They thought I was a genius. The next stage. I didn't want to admit my failure. That's really all it was. First week, boom, boom. We had two sales out of London. Did I ever see that happening? It was just a scam, right? Two sales out of London. So I immediately registered every one of my competitors URLs because I had no idea what the internet was and they had a call and asked me for the back. It was great. But think of the advantage I had for two years before my competition, before the world woke up to the fact that the internet was going to totally change the way real estate was dealt. I had two years to horse around, what an advantage I had. All right. Next thing, again, a failure turning into success. That's what I'm trying to demonstrate. We were in one of our worst times, I remember it was 1991, 92. I remember I owed the New York Times, owed the ad agency, owed Citibank$ 700, 000. I was so ashamed of myself. I had no way to pay. And then a developer came to me with an insurance company and said," Can you sell these 88 apartments?" I looked at these loser apartments. First of all, nothing was selling. I went back said,"No, I can't possibly sell them. They're ugly. They don't have kitchens, bathrooms, in dumpy buildings, and they're in the wrong locations. It would take a miracle to sell these apartments." And talk about the power of positive reinforcement. The developer looked at me and said," You're a smart girl. You'll figure it out." He thinks I'm smart? Wow. Went home that night and son of a bitch. Right in my head, I remember my mother took us in Tom's river to a puppy sale by the farmer next door by my grandpa's house. And she said," Sit down and watch how smart that farmer lady is." And the farmer lady had seven Jack Russell puppies. And she had about maybe 15 people from New York City in fancy cars coming to see them. And there were not enough puppies to go around my mother pointed out. And these fancy new Yorkers almost tore each other to shreds to get their hands on those puppies. It's funny, really. It was like a good show we were all watching. Sitting on the gravel, inaudible. Anyway, popped into my head that night. And I called Bernie Mendick back the next day I said," I have an idea to sell those apartments." I took these apartments, one bedrooms, two bedrooms, three bedrooms in 17 buildings, I guess they were roughly. And I priced them all, got an average. And I asked him,"Would the bank give immediate mortgage?"" Yes. Anything to get rid of them." He arranged the bank and I announced the sale one week later. A secret sale only bring your best customer, not enough to go around. Only your best customer. I woke up to run around the corner of 83rd street and see 200 people at seven in the morning, two hours early, ready to grab those puppies. I made over a million two, I swear to God, in one hour. Opened a new office, paid off my debt. I went from poor to rich one day. Would it have happened in a good time? No. You had to have a market where nobody was buying anything. You had to have a market of duress. In times that are the worst times, you're crazy, if you don't see it as the land of opportunity. Everything's changing. The players are changing. The people are changing. The customer wants different things. Like the kind of time we're just coming through here. Everything changes is an open board to do whatever you want. After I sold my business, I had no personality. I didn't know what the hell I was going to do for the rest of my life. I decided to be a real estate expert and I got a gig on the Today Show. I would do something every Friday morning. Then I get a call from a producer in Hollywood or his assistant, and she says," We're wondering if you'd be interested in doing a show called Shark Tank." I said," I don't fish." She explained it wasn't fishing. And I said," Well, actually it sounds like something I might be good at." She sent me the contract. She confirmed that I had the cash in the bank because it was about buying businesses. You had to have the cash. I told all my friends I'm going to Hollywood. Said,"You know that Hollywood sign? I'm going to be by that sign. I'm going to be a star." I went to Bergdorf's, bought myself new outfits, bought brand new luggage, real leather. And I was like," Wow, I'm going to Hollywood." Signed the contract they sent me. Never even read it, sent it right back. And about two weeks later, I get a call from the same woman, she says," I'm sorry, we changed our mind. We hired another woman for the lone female seat."" You did how's that possible? I signed the contract."" Oh, but we didn't." And so I sat down, I guess I moved ahead too fast. And I wrote this email to Mark Burnett, who I didn't know at the time was the largest Hollywood producer, and she promised to walk it over and make him read it. And I said... I can't even read it. I guess I'll read it here. I kind of have a memorized, to be honest, but I'll say it right." I understand you've asked another girl to dance instead of me. I appreciate being reserved as a fallback." And I went, blah, blah, blah... And I said," But I do my best work. When my back is against the wall. I've had all my biggest successes on the heels of rejections. Sister Stella Marie told me I'd never read, I can read today. The old boy network said, I'd never take a chunk of their territory, I became their number one rival. The Donald himself told me I'd never see a penny of the$ 4 million commission he promised me and I beat him in federal court. I consider the rejection of you a lucky charm. I think you should consider both ladies out to compete for the job." And that's exactly what he did. Now, imagine if I hadn't stood up for myself. Thank God I wrote that text, but I was only doing what I had learned to do my whole life, which is the greatest opportunities on the heels of something that went wrong. Do you know I was on that set for about two weeks when my producer came to me and just offhandedly he said," I'm still amazed that you were the only one who ever objected to us dropping you." I said," What do you mean?" He said," Oh, we hired three times as many Sharks as we actually needed. Contracts out to all of them but you were the only one who wrote a protest." These are businessmen, wealthy people. They never wrote and complained? It's shocking to me. Thank God, I stood up for myself. So I've been playing fairy godmother, now of course, on Shark Tank for 14 years. Thank God. What else would I be doing if I didn't have that? And I'm blessed. I almost feel like every day I'm in that seat, I'm like the fairy godmother. You're going to be rich. Bing. You get the money. Bing. It's really a thank job until you start writing the checks and the reality hits in. So far today I think I have 112 businesses, probably about 15%, roughly are very successful. Another 40% are bumbling by. And then another 30 or whatever you got left over, don't know they're out of business, but they're really out of business. They just can't let it go. But here is the most wonderful thing about working on Shark Tank. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but there I am when I was 14 wondering what the heck I would be when I grew up and there I am. Guess what age that picture was taken at. My 70th birthday. Done by Hollywood. Look at that woman. She looks 30. There's not a line in her face. There's not a ripple in her body. And that's what's wonderful about being in Hollywood. You never get old. And I guess that's it. Thank you. Thank you very much. Oh, there we go. I was going to say, I think we're supposed to wait for Rowan. Hey, Rowan.
Rowan TONKIN: Barbara, that was awesome. Thank you so much. How you doing?
Barbara Corcoran: I'm doing pretty good.
Rowan TONKIN: So we got some questions. If you haven't yet, let's go grab the app. Download the Hopin app and register your questions now. I've already got some queued up for you, Barbara. So the first one comes in from Dino Dedonna. Dino, where are you? Would you like to go on a date with this man, Barbara?
Barbara Corcoran: That's what the question is?
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah.
Barbara Corcoran: Well, come on up here and let me... Turn around.
Dino: My wife is going to love this.
Barbara Corcoran: Yeah. Don't touch the merchandise.
Dino: She's got a lot of diamonds on. Wow.
Barbara Corcoran: Just spin around slowly.
Rowan TONKIN: Come on Dino, let's show... Yeah.
Barbara Corcoran: Come on, Dino. Don't be-
Rowan TONKIN: We got a yes?
Barbara Corcoran: Is there anyone better out there? Maybe, Dino. Ask you why, first?
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah. All right. So we've got some actual real questions here too which is good news.
Barbara Corcoran: Oh, that was a fake question?
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah. Well, it was a fun one. I mean, we're trying to make everyone laugh.
Barbara Corcoran: Yeah. I thought it was real. I was flattered. Go ahead. Yeah.
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah. So Vicky asked, what advice would you give your younger self if you had the chance?
Barbara Corcoran: Oh, that's a question I hear so often. It's like the best reporter question. They always say one last thing, what would the advice be? I always have a hard time with it because you can't really do that so I have a hard time relating. But I would say if you could do that, I would've told myself as I went through eight years of grammar school that was a jailhouse where I waited for that 3: 15 bell to go off every day. I hated every minute of it. I would've told myself this isn't life. Don't judge yourself. Life starts when you get out of this jailhouse. That's what I would've told myself. I would've told myself not to be so hard on myself. But you can't do that, right? And listen, I got so much out of the abuse, actually, if you think of it. That quick judgment. I made up for it. So I would've never been a success without it. That's what I think. So there is no answer to that question.
Rowan TONKIN: All right. Wow.
Barbara Corcoran: Okay.
Rowan TONKIN: Next one. So the theme about conference is called better together.
Barbara Corcoran: Yes.
Rowan TONKIN: We're all better together. What advice can you give our customers in order to serve their customers better?
Barbara Corcoran: I learned running my business, building my business that I never cared about my customers. Believe it or not. I know now this is weird, but I'll tell you why it made sense and why it worked for me. I cared about the people that worked for me. I treated them like they were each and only child, that I would kill for them, do anything they wanted. They were the apple of my heart. And each person felt that way. All right. I felt that if I treated each person like that every day of my life, managing and building that business, that they would treat their customers like that. And that's why I never worried about the customers. And can I tell you? That's exactly what they did. I mean, I got nothing but compliments from our customers constantly how exceptional so and so is. How exceptional so and so, because they shared or they mimicked what they saw at the top. Does that make sense? And so I think it's hard to control layers to the customer.
Rowan TONKIN: All right. Another fun question, are the Maine Lobster Cousins as good looking in person?
Barbara Corcoran: They are dropped dead, these guys. Let me tell you. But they're both married and they've just both had their second child. So I've really given up hope on marrying either of them. But let me tell you... Can I tell you what's great about them more than they looks? Especially, that Sabin and boy, is he good looking. Hey, here's an interest... I'm sorry, my mind's jumping, but this is worth sharing. Interesting story about Sabin. Sabin was born, never had a father, never met his father. Didn't know a thing about his father. I was with him in Maine when he met his father handling luggage at an airport. Could you imagine coincidence of that? But here's the more interesting thing. Sabin his whole life hated his father. Hated that he never had a father. He was kind of taken in by Jim's family, a big extended family in Maine. They were old cousins and that's why they named it cousins. But he was so angry with his father, vindictive with his father. And you know what? He told me when we met his father at the airport, his father said," So you're a big deal now." And he looked at his father, his birth father. And he said," I am. I'm a big success." And he said to me," That's what I worked for." Had vengeance to get even with that father, the passion that man. And I referenced that earlier. It's really a big chunk of why that business is so successful, phenomenally successful, and they deserve it. But did I answer your question? I like Sabin better. He's better looking but Jim is better on numbers.
Rowan TONKIN: There we go.
Barbara Corcoran: Okay.
Rowan TONKIN: All right. Another one. So let's see, what do we have? Did you ever forgive Ramon Simone?
Barbara Corcoran: You know, I did but my mother didn't. When I published my first book, I saw it on Sex in the City, she had a book party and I was going to have one just like her. And everybody's waiting in line and I had my mother seated on a tall chair beside me greeting everybody because the book was about her as much as it was about me. And when Ramon Simone came to the front of the line with Tina, she still looked good, which really bugged me. Came to the front of the line. I was stunned. I wanted to say," How did you get invited?" I don't know how that happened. But I said to mom," You remember Ramon Simone?" She said," Yeah, I didn't like you then and I don't like you now." And my husband Bill was standing next to my mother and said," Well, we know where you got that from." But I did forgive him. You know what's interesting? They went out of business the... What did he call his new firm? Pogg Simone, his wife's name. Terrible name. Nobody could pronounce it or spell it. I loved it. Pogg Simone. They went out of business in two years. The first crash we had in New York. I barely survived it. But when I heard they went out of business, it's like hearing the misfortune of a childhood sweetheart. I sincerely felt badly. I didn't feel any kind of satisfaction in that.
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah, that's good. All right. So one of the big themes I know you talk a lot about is being a missile for change. I heard you talk on podcasts about this. Tell us what that means to you. Why do you want business leaders out there seeking change?
Barbara Corcoran: Because if you don't seek change, you can't possibly succeed. I mean the world of business is all about change and the more change that's going on, the better it is for you. There can be movement in change. If you had a... Like if you grew up in a small town where nothing changes, no new jobs, no new people, no new anything, how could you ever be great? You need a fluctuating situation to strengthen yourself, to deal with obstacles, which always builds strength. It's the only way I know to build strength. And to see new opportunities. I find it so fascinating this last terrible trough we've come through that most people think of as a terrible trough. I think health wise, emotionally wise, and all of that, I think it's been terrible. Business wise, I think it's the best thing that's ever happened from my perspective, honestly. Every rich guy I know, mostly guys who own huge businesses, took advantage of it and they're bigger and richer today. I hate to say it, but it's the truth. My entrepreneurs, which are not giant businesses. I think my biggest business has$ 40 million in sale. That's a medium business. Most are much smaller. Those businesses, the ones that welcome change and saw the customer was different, inaudible, what could we do? Brainstorm with their people, came up with new things, most of which didn't work, kept trying change like it's a welcoming of change, got bigger and stronger and made more money. And so I have born witness to watching... Think of it, I have privileged seat of surveying people who own businesses or smaller businesses, at least. Watching what they do in a period of change. And let me tell you, it's about welcoming change. If you are sitting there and you're feeling a little resistance to change, delegate to a young person or something. Change it all up for yourself. Because there's no way to be more powerful if you aren't at home with change. That's what I mean by that.
Rowan TONKIN: That's great.
Barbara Corcoran: Yeah.
Rowan TONKIN: All right. So we've heard your life story a little bit.
Barbara Corcoran: Okay.
Rowan TONKIN: What's next in Barbara Corcoran's life story?
Barbara Corcoran: What's next in Barbara Corcoran's life story?
Rowan TONKIN: That was a good accent. inaudible, are you going to do Barbara's accent?
Barbara Corcoran: You really work here?
Rowan TONKIN: I do, yeah. I do. It's good. Yeah.
Barbara Corcoran: Okay.
Rowan TONKIN: See, I get to be the gag. It's great. Yeah.
Barbara Corcoran: I see. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Okay. I have a lot of things on the fire, but none of it's landed. Well, some of it's landed, but I'm a little nervous about it. So we're doing a TV series on my life, which is exciting, on FX. But that's two years away, they take forever to really produce. What else I'm doing is I'm having a grandchild in February. I should put that... Wait, wait November. I can't even keep the date straight. It's my first one. November. Don't tell my son, especially my daughter- in- law. She'd kill me.
Rowan TONKIN: Congratulations. That's super exciting.
Barbara Corcoran: And then we have so many social media projects. I mean, for me, my new love is social media. I love TikTok. Most of my speaking... Interesting, a little story about TikTok. I never ask where my speaking gigs come from. I never ask where my endorsement deals come from, which are the most productive part of my current career. But I've gotten in the habit of asking," Hey, I'm just curious. Why'd you find me?" And four out of five times, what do you think the banker says? The insurance company, the technology person says, whoever type of big business is hiring me. They say," TikTok. I love how you dance or TikTok you're so funny." Go figure has this world changed. Thank God, when my daughter said to me two years ago," Ma, you'd be great on TikTok because you're an asshole." I listened to her and I jumped on TikTok with the stupidest things and I have almost a million followers two years later. I was early because of my daughter, but my amount of business exploded. Which you think you wouldn't get it from something like that? The world has changed. You got to keep your eyes open and keep moving and keep moving along. Keep moving along.
Rowan TONKIN: Awesome. Well, I think we're out of time.
Barbara Corcoran: We are? Good.
Rowan TONKIN: So this has been awesome. I'm sure the crowd have loved this. So Barbara, thank you so much.
Barbara Corcoran: Thank you, Rowan. You can give me a hug.
Rowan TONKIN: Thank you.
Barbara Corcoran: Feeling healthy, right?
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah. I'm good.
Barbara Corcoran: Good.
Rowan TONKIN: Yeah.
Barbara Corcoran: Thank you very much. Thanks for listening.
Rowan TONKIN: All right, I'm going to...
Barbara Corcoran: Okay.
Rowan TONKIN: All right, everyone. So the main event is now over. All go back to the expo hall, go and talk to all of our amazing partners. Grab your lunch and we'll see you for the sessions this afternoon. Thank you.