Shark Tank has undoubtedly become a part of the lives of entrepreneurs over the past nine years. It is exciting to watch as hopeful entrepreneurs walk into the tank, with high hopes of walking out with a deal; only to be greeted by questions on valuation, sales, marketing, and equity.
I believe it is safe to say that loyal fans of the show know the personalities of each shark. From the first day of the show, I have always been a huge Barbara Corcoran fan. In my early days as an ambitious grad student, while interning at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office on Montague Street in New York City, I used to daze at the pictures of staged luxury apartments in the window of the office of the Corcoran Group next door during my lunch hour and envision my first apartment on the Upper East Side post graduation.
I recently sat down for a one-on-one conversation with Barbara Corcoran to learn more about her resilience and how she turned her setbacks into her greatest successes. I quickly learned that the secret of her success is her ability to invest in quality people first. To date, her most successful investment on Shark Tank was a 10 percent stake of Grace and Lace, a husband-and-wife owned fashion company, where Barbara admits, "I just saw something in them."
Here is Barbara Corcoran's "people formula" for success:
1. You cannot build a company without people .
As she explained her journey in the real estate market, Barbara described the early stages as a sole real estate broker, showing and renting apartments on her own and the decision to expand by hiring more brokers. "The moment we calculated our annual overhead and I noticed we made a profit, I immediately went out and hired more people. At the end of 20 years, I learned I had a team of 1,000 people and many offices," she stated. "You are really not in business until you hire your first person."
2. Be particular who you allow in your company.
If you hire mediocre people, you will get mediocre results." Barbara credits the success of the Corcoran Group to her ability to let go of the wrong people within an organization with haste.
3. Surround yourself with positive people .
Corcoran reminded me of the importance of quality connections and the impact it will have on developing a solid business model. "If you surround yourself with capable and positive people, they will connect you with other positive people. This led to strong recommendations and connections," according to Barbara.
4. Hire attitude over experience .
Barbara admits she never looks at a resume when she is hiring, instead, she simply commences a conversation to gauge more insight into the person, rather than using a resume as a guide. "You can get an attitude barometer by starting a conversation with someone rather than settling for a set of rehearsed, standard answers. Besides, you never know who wrote the resume." She continued by stating, "Once we make a decision, then we verify credentials, of course."
5. Get ready for setbacks and criticism .
"After all of the setbacks and rejection, then comes success." Barbara believes that if you are committed achieving success, expect negative feedback but remain firm. "Sometimes, the worst feedback comes from within your own company," as she described publishing the first Corcoran Report, which was statistical analysis of real estate trends in New York City, "My own sales people were irate. However, the New York Times placed me on the front cover of the real estate section." In retrospect, she never allowed her critics to be her downfall.
6. Rejection is not personal .
I asked Barbara about the infamous email she forwarded to Mark Burnett in 2008 after she learned the production rescinded their initial offer and replaced her with another woman. "[Initially], I was angry, but, I composed myself. Then, I wrote one of the most powerful emails I had ever written and suggested an alternate solution. In the end, I won the seat," she recalls. Every leader is faced with tough decisions that may impact others, however, it is how you respond that matters. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself or angry."
My conversation with Barbara Corcoran was a reminder that people and time are valuable commodities. Barbara's long term view of her own success started by envisioning the power of investing in great people and taking the road less traveled during the most challenging times.