For real estate mogul and Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran, building a company that came to be worth nearly $70 million wasn't an excuse to then turn into a workaholic.

Corcoran told the crowd at Friday's Canon EXPO in New York City that the reason why her business thrived was because Corcoran always prioritized maintaining a fun office culture--even when The Corcoran Group didn't have much money to spend on fun.

"You know when we came up with our best ideas? When we were half-drunk, partying, out too late, traveling, seeing an idea from a different angle," Corcoran said. "I never had a creative idea in my office. I never had a conference with my managers to brainstorm--we might create better systems to manage the business, but we never had out-of-the-box thinking until we were out of the field doing ridiculous things."

For one of Corcoran's first team bonding activites at The Corcoran Group, the entrepreneur didn't have much money to throw an elaborate party, so she rented an open-air bus to take her staff on a tour of Harlem. When they got up to 114th street, Corcoran and another employee decided to play a joke on the rest of the group. They told the bus driver to stop the bus, act like it broke down, and pretend to leave, leaving the group stranded. At the time, the stunt caused panic among Corcoran's employees--but come Monday morning, it proved to be a good watercooler topic. She saw two of her top salespeople, who were normally at each other's throats, laughing on Monday morning about how they reacted when the bus "broke" down. 

"What I did that night was create a common culture--a culture of bizarre fun," Corcoran said.

Corcoran went on to throw elaborate events at The Corcoran Group. The only rule: you had to show up dressed like the theme, or you wouldn't be allowed to come. Themes have included pajamas, cross-dressing, nun costumes, and the 1940s.

Kooky fun has always come naturally to her, Corcoran said. Corcoran's mother would announce to each of her 10 children what their special talent would be as soon as he or she was brought home from the hospital. Barbara's just happened to be imagination.

What if you're not a naturally creative leader? Find the most creative or free-spirited employee in your office, give him or her a budget, and tell that person "you're in charge of fun now."

"Once you set your employees free, you don't have to worry about coming up with a 'doctrine of creativity,'" Corcoran said. "The creativity happens automatically."

Published on: Sep 11, 2015