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Barbara Corcoran's Grand Revenge

The Manhattan real-estate entrepreneur says her ex-boyfriend gave her "an insurance policy for success" for life.
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Hell hath no fury like a Corcoran scorned.

"You know, Barbara, you'll never succeed in business without me," a young Barbara Corcoran's ex-boyfriend said as they split up the real-estate business they had built together.

As Corcoran, the New York real-estate entrepreneur, author, and investor who appears on Shark Tank, explained at the Inc. 500 | 5000 conference, the boyfriend had left her for her secretary, and she decided it was time for her to end their business relationship as well. In no more than 10 minutes, the pair divided the business in half, splitting receivables and picking salespeople like it was a football drawing.

Those harsh words couldn't have been better for Corcoran. "He game me an insurance policy for success for the rest of my career," she said.

Sure enough, Corcoran sold her business in 2001 for $66 million cash.

"You know what? I credit him for half of that success. You know some people are motivated by revenge," she said. "And I'm one of those people."

Corcoran offered five strategies for succeeding in business, complete with stories from her own life.

1. Perception creates reality. "I got very good at looking the part long before I was the part," Corcoran said, noting that one of her early secrets to succes was simply mastering the art of, well, bullshitting. "I got there because I just bullshitted. I got bullshit in my bones."

2. Use the news media to build your brands. "How can you pull the rug out from under your competitors? Steal the limelight." Corcoran says she began putting out a regular report on Manhattan real estate to the news media, complete with headline-ready statistics—and before long she was treated as an expert. "The press actually fell for the fact that my people were the power brokers. We weren't!" she says. "Soon I had a new business partner, and his or her name was The New York Times."

3. Everybody wants what everybody wants. Creating buzz around just about anything—be it a basket of puppies or a building with 88 vacant apartments—begets popularity.

4. Expand early. Can you afford extra office space? Buy it, Corcoran says.

5. Shoot the dogs early. "I fire the lowerst-performing 25 percent of my sales staff every six months," Corcoran says.

Is that sensible, or just too harsh? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter with #Inc500.

Last updated: Sep 23, 2011

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