Barbara Corcoran is the Founder of The Corcoran Group & Shark and Executive Producer on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Corcoran has been an investor/Shark for the past eleven seasons on ABC’s four-time Emmy award-winning show, Shark Tank, investing in over 80 businesses to date. Corcoran is a frequent small business and real estate contributor on every major network. She is also a motivational and inspirational speaker.
Barbara Corcoran, the second of ten siblings, was raised in Edgewater, New Jersey and came from humble beginnings. Her father worked odd jobs, while her mother was a stay-at-home mom, making both income and opportunity scarce in the household. She lived in a two-bedroom apartment shared by her four brothers and five sisters in abject poverty but always dreamt of succeeding and building an empire of her own.
Her school life wasn’t great either, Corcoran was a straight-D student in high school and college at St Thomas Aquinas. She was frequently subjected to ridicule during her school years, leading her to develop an adverse relationship with school and learning. Before transferring to a second high school, she flunked out of several courses in her freshman year. But the thing that kept her going, she says, is her attitude to never give up.
In school, Corcoran also struggled with dyslexia, which affected her ability to read at the same level as her peers. It was not until her son, Tom, was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade that she realized she had been dealing with the condition throughout her entire life.
However, with the odds stacked against her, Corcoran was determined to change her life, and at 23, she had already worked 20 different jobs but struggled to find one that felt right for her. But, Corcoran relented until settling on a waitressing gig in New York City, where she met Ramone Simone. They fell in love, and in 1973, he lent her $1,000, with which she started a real estate business – Corcoran-Simone, giving him an equity stake. Regrettably, events took a negative turn in 1978 when he dumped her and married her assistant. Recalling the dreadful incident, she says, “He paused on his way out the door to inform me that I’ll never succeed without him.”
The experience, although difficult, served as a catalyst for Corcoran. Over the next 23 years, she built a thriving empire, the Corcoran Group, a New York City-based real estate brokerage, which became the largest residential real estate firm in New York. Eventually, in 2001, she sold the company to NRT for a whopping $66 million, one of the biggest deals in real estate history.
Corcoran’s relentless efforts and dedication led to the realization of her dream. The Corcoran Group rapidly established itself as a leading residential real estate firm in New York City. In addition to managing the successful enterprise, she also garnered recognition for her work by publishing ‘The Corcoran Report,’ a regular analysis of the real estate market, which helped to establish her as an authority in the industry and gain coverage in major publications.
She attributes her success to growing up in poverty. She also favors entrepreneurs from similar backgrounds on Shark Tank, believing that “poor kids have nothing to lose and nowhere to go but up,” She adds, “They have no parental pressure to be somebody when they grow up. They don’t have to succeed, but they have in spades the wonderful trait of being needy. They need to succeed. That’s the magic bottom-line juice I’m looking for, and it’s very hard to have that innately if you’ve grown up with privilege and a high degree of education. It truthfully is. You’re better off being poor.”
When it comes to entrepreneurs, the only thing that beats growing up poor, in her opinion, is growing up damaged. Describing her ideal Shark Tank investment, she says, “A bad childhood? Yes! I love it like an insurance policy. An abusive father? Fabulous! Never had a father? Better! My most successful entrepreneurs didn’t all have miserable childhoods, but somebody said they couldn’t, and they are still pissed.”
The adversity experienced by Corcoran has served as a catalyst for her success. Her father’s bouts of excessive alcohol consumption, while she never labeled him an alcoholic. “When he was socially drinking,” says Corcoran, “you didn’t know which dad you would have. You never knew what was going to happen.” This, in turn, created an innate drive in her to succeed and build something for herself.
She has been known for her ability to anticipate market changes throughout her career. One of the ways Corcoran has achieved this is by regularly seeking out the perspectives of young individuals, particularly those working in similar roles as she did earlier in her career, to gain insights on emerging needs and trends. She advises, “You’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open to change.”
Real estate is an industry that fundamentally relies on effective communication. Corcoran emphasizes the importance of staying up-to-date with current technological advancements; she says, “I’ve learned the importance of being proactive and trying to get ahead of the curve,” She has demonstrated this by adapting early to new technologies, such as using videos to showcase apartments before the widespread use of the internet. Corcoran also established and promoted a real estate website five years ahead of her competitors, establishing herself as a disruptor in the industry.
Corcoran says, “Real estate technology is booming and for good reason. It’s an industry ripe for innovation.” She stresses the importance of staying informed about the available tools in the industry, saying, “New tools are helping brokers and realtors to operate more quickly, efficiently and effectively, and if one is not adapting to these new technologies, they run the risk of being left behind.”
Despite all her success, Corcoran has always remembered her humble beginnings. She is an ardent advocate for women entrepreneurs and continues working hard to help others achieve their dreams.
In conclusion, talking about the booming industry, she says, “While new tech offers new opportunities, it takes creativity and flexibility to act on them. The real estate industry is rapidly changing and full of opportunity for up-and-coming real estate professionals.” She continues, “In this competitive field, it’s crucial to not just keep up with trends but to be a trendsetter yourself. Remember that the old boys get cocky and fall asleep at the wheel,” Corcoran adds, “It’s the new kid on the block that owns tomorrow.”