The list of titles that describe Barbara Corcoran is long and varied: Real estate mogul. Reality TV star. Author. Celebrity broker. Morning show commentator. Wife. Mother. And, according to ASI CEO Tim Andrews, “Firecracker.”
Corcoran added the title of ASI Show keynote speaker to that list when she took to the stage at ASI New York in early May to dish out advice to a rapt audience of nearly 300 entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
“Never be ashamed of who you are” and “A true American success story” flashed on the screen as Corcoran began her presentation to the tune of the theme song from Jaws, a humorous nod to her starring role as a judge on ABC’s Shark Tank, in which entrepreneurs vie for investors’ money.
“It’s a fabulous act of the universe to actually be in business for yourself, having nobody tell you what to do,” she said by way of greeting. “Congratulations for having the guts to run your own business.”
Corcoran kicked off with a no-holds-barred rundown of highlights from her life, including the story of the boyfriend-turned-business partner who provided the $1,000 seed money for a real estate business in Manhattan that Corcoran turned into multibillion-dollar business – by the way, without the help of said boyfriend, following a split the couple had early in the company’s lifetime.
Then, the New Jersey native with nine siblings who has laid down roots in New York after her real estate business took off there, offered five tips to success:
Perception creates reality. “New York City is a competitive town,” she said. “From day one, I dreamed a picture of who I would be. I had an image. I discovered the keys to the magic kingdom.” By billing herself as a real estate agent to the stars, she seized the city’s imagination, along with sizeable publicity, cementing her reputation.
Corcoran is also a big believer in using public relations and the media to build a perception of your company that makes it seem even bigger than it is. “Create storylines through information and data that your local business journals will be interested in,” she advised. “Give them lists of interesting information and make sure they know you’re the source.”
This approach, Corcoran said, will create the perception that you’re the top marketing and promotional products expert in the local area – and it will provide you with clips and online links that prove your value.
“From day one, I dreamed a picture of who I would be. I had an image.”
There are two kinds of people: Expanders and Containers. Hire people who balance out your team. If you’re unorganized, hire someone who can manage the business smartly. “You can’t just bring on like-minded yes-people,” Corcoran said. “Find out what you’re weakest in and then make your best hires the types of people that are best at those things.”
Shoot the dogs early. After you’ve hired people, if you find they’re not working out, then you have to get rid of them quickly. Corcoran used to rank all of her salespeople, and the bottom 25% were immediately put on a three-month plan to improve or they would be fired. It’s vital, she said, to quickly rid your business of underperforming salespeople or employees.
“Our system was clear and fair,” Corcoran said. “Everybody knew the rankings and would know if they would be in line to lose their jobs. Everybody knew what the rules were when they were hired so there were no surprises.”
Fun is good for business. On the other hand, Corcoran said, you need to create a fun and unique corporate environment if your company is going to find big success. “I created outrageous fun,” she said, “instead of just boring Christmas parties.” Her costume parties and picnics helped everyone in her office bond, creating a stronger team, while helping lure top people from her competitors.
“Fun is good for your business,” Corcoran said. “Be creative with it and it will help build camaraderie and togetherness among your staff. Why would you want to work for a boring competitor when you can have more fun here?”
Be great at failure. With new hires, Corcoran watches for how soon they recover from failure and whether they indulge in pity parties. “Failing well” is a sign of strength, she said. “It’s the key to success for entrepreneurs and salespeople. You have to enjoy getting knocked down and then getting back up again. The singular difference between people is when they take a hit, how long they take to stop feeling sorry for themselves.”
Shark Tank judge Barbara Corcoran spoke to Counselor Editor Andy Cohen on camera just before taking the stage at the ASI Show New York. Her topic: How to succeed as an entrepreneur today. Using her decidedly New York humor and her vast experience at building her own business into a billion-dollar company from nothing, Corcoran provided tips in this video that are sure to help every ad specialty pro find success right now. Go to www.CounselorMag.com now to watch the video.
Finds From NYC 9 products that shined at ASI New York.
Call To Arms
Dye-sublimated sleeve helps with muscle fatigue, so it’s perfect for promotions targeting athletes. Think about local gyms, youth sports groups, and PTAs. Available from Pro Feet (asi/79707); www.profeet.com
This quarter-zip pullover is easy to care for and is moisture-wicking. The stretch material affords a comfortable fit and makes this item perfect for any campaign targeted to active lifestyles. Available from alphabroder (asi/34063); www.alphabroder.com
It’s A Wrap
Promotional condoms are available in a number of different packaging options, plus an imprint can be done directly on the foil. Great for college campus promos. Available from Say It With A Condom (asi/84989); www.sayitwithacondom.com
Bungie affixes to all styles of cellphone. Clip to a belt loop and when dropped the phone won’t hit the ground. Also keeps the user from losing it. Unique item for the tech market. Available from BCG Creations (asi/37693); www.bcgcreations.com