- Before taking a $US1,000 loan at age 23 to go into real estate, Barbara Corcoran was working at a diner in New Jersey – one of over 20 jobs she had while growing up.
- With that initial $US1,000, she built The Corcoran Group, a real-estate behemoth she sold in 2001 for $US66 million.
- From there she fought for a role as one of the hosts of “Shark Tank,” now in its ninth season.
Before finding fame on “Shark Tank” and before building her New York real-estate empire, Barbara Corcoran was one of 10 kids in a working-class New Jersey family.
“We watched my father get fired and hired and fired and hired — he must have interviewed well,” Corcoran said on Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It.” “He would always come home and tell the story as to why he was fired, and it always came down to the same bottom line: He would tell Mr. Stein where to take that job and shove it up where the sun don’t shine, and we’d go, ‘Yay, Dad!'”
If nothing else, she learned how to take a risk. She started with a $US1,000 loan from her then boyfriend to go into the real-estate business.
They broke up, then the company broke up, and she built her half into the Corcoran Group, a real-estate behemoth that she sold for 66 million dollars in 2001. From there, she landed a spot co-hosting the hit reality-TV show “Shark Tank.”
Corcoran discusses all this and more in the episode, including how she stands out in a competitive field. Her advice was pretty controversial:
“I wore bright-coloured suits, short skirts, I had great legs — that was my best asset. I flaunted them, no doubt about it.”
You can listen to the podcast below:
- Former White House press secretary and Fox News host Dana Perino
- Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff
- Lyft president John Zimmer
- Celebrity chef José Andrés
Following is a transcript, which has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Alyson Shontell: Thank you so much for coming, Barbara. Really excited to have you. I understand you are from New Jersey, from Edgewater, right across the river?
Barbara Corcoran: A stone’s throw away.
Shontell: Exactly. And from what I understand, 10 kids all fit in a two-bedroom house with one bathroom?
Corcoran: Yeah, but you have to remember, my mum was super organised. She organised us — it was run like a boot camp. She had a place for everything, and we made a mess like every other kid in town. But when my mother cracked the whip, boy we knew where to put things. We knew how to do it fast she’s very organised.
Shontell: And you were the second oldest, right?
Corcoran: Second oldest, but I’d like to say I’m the smartest. Not really. I’m the second oldest and the shortest in the family, and that always made me try harder.
Shontell: And nine out of 10 of you are entrepreneurs?
Corcoran: Nine out of 10 are entrepreneurs. Yes. We all kind of grew up thinking we don’t want to work for somebody. I had 20 jobs before I started my real-estate brokerage firm when I was 23.
Shontell: What were some of those jobs?
Corcoran: I was a playground supervisor. I was an assistant lifeguard at the kiddie pool. I was a dispatcher for the Bergen Evening Record delivering papers at night. And you know we dropped the bundles at night you drive the truck. That was fun.
And the most important thing that I learned the most from was waitressing. I had so many waitressing jobs. You had to keep everybody happy. It was a commission-based business. If you smile, you made people happy, you got a bigger tip, you had to do five things at once. You had to stay organised. I learned a lot through waitressing.
Shontell: And it seems like your mother was a particularly big influence on you. She was really organised she ran that house of 10 kids. Like it was nothing.
Corcoran: She was a drill sergeant.
Shontell: And so what kind of lessons did you learn from her that you think have helped you in your career?
Corcoran: Well, I really did a mimic of my mother in building my brokerage firm. I ran the firm exactly how my mother ran the house. We were super organised. We had a place for everything. And I can tell you the minute you have more than one or two people working for you, efficiency has a lot to do with building a big company.
On top of that, and probably the more important gift I got from my mum, was my mother was very inspirational. She would decide what your gift was, as a child. She would name one thing. For me, she said I had a wonderful imagination. And then she would cast you in that role in the family unit, which was like a small town.
And I am great at spotting the gift, and people I could interview — someone who’s trying for a bookkeeping job and totally convince them they’d be a star salesman. Which doesn’t fit into their résumé, but it sure fit into them. So I think those two things help me build my business more than anything else.
Shontell: And one thing that I think you’ve talked about some on “Shark Tank” is that you aren’t drawn to the rich kids.
Corcoran: I’m a little biased — it’s terrible because I have two rich kids now! Let me tell you, if you don’t have anything, you have a huge advantage over the rich kid. I feel bad — I shouldn’t say this but — I think a poor kid has a better shot than a rich kid. So my bias toward the poor person coming up is they’re usually hungrier. They’re more injured. They have more to prove. They haven’t been given a lot of privilege in their life to make their landing softer. So they have had a few bumpy endings and they’re used to failure, and, my God, what’s more important in building a business than failing?
It’s not that I don’t like rich kids. I love my children, and they’re rich kids now. But I think they, with their good education and the coddling that even I’ve given them and their father is giving them, makes kids a little softer in the belly.
Shontell: So how do you think about that as you’re raising them into great adults?
Corcoran: It’s a tough one. The values I learned in my family was my mother and father loved us to death and would do anything for us. I’m that kind of a parent of course for my children. But what we also saw without even trying is what struggle was all about and what team-menship was all about, and what ignoring the negatives and focusing on the positives is all about.
With my children, I try to go out of my way to teach good values, and I think they’re not spoiled kids — I hope to God you know, and all I know is I am doing the best I can — but where did they really learn those values? They stepped into my life, older in my life, when I had a lot of money. I had my first child at 46 and my second at 56 – they stepped into an affluent lifestyle. And so where would they learn those struggle values? They don’t see it among their friends. Right? And so what I do is I try to demonstrate how hard I work for what I do. I’m working as hard now as I ever worked. OK? And I certainly am older than most people working this hard, OK?
My son, when he was 17, and he called me from the street and said, “You know, Mum, my shoes are pretty bad, my loafers for school. Do you mind if I buy a new pair of loafers?”
I said, “Well, that’s so nice of you to call and ask of course! Go ahead — buy those loafers. No problem.” And I really hung up the phone thinking, “Wow, did I do a great job!”
Well, an hour later, he walks into the house with a shoe bag — they were $US600 loafers! And he walked in and trotted by and goes, “Hi, Mum!” and I see that bag and I want to kill him. I’m, like, “You didn’t say you were shopping for those loafers — you said ‘loafers’! Do you know how old I was before I had that brand of loafer!”
And he says, “Mum, if you want me to have your values, you could raise me in Edgewater with 10 kids. Rather than Park Avenue with the maid. And I thought, ‘Shit. That’s kind of true.’ Like, how does he learn those values? You know, all the kids at school had expensive shoes on.
And so I tried to do my best by kindness to other people, always being even-handed to everyone. I don’t care who they are. I treat everybody the same, and of course not to think they’re more important than the next guy. That is such a terrible trait in people, and it can happen very easily when people do well and make a lot of money. Too easily I’m afraid.
How Corcoran turned $US1,000 into a real-estate behemoth
Shontell: So let’s talk about you getting your start in real estate. Tell me who Ramone Simone is.
Corcoran: Oh, well, he was the dream date that walked into the diner, the Fort Lee Diner one night, and offered me a ride home. I hadn’t had a boyfriend until then. I was 21 or 22. Within a year he suggested I’d be great at real estate. I was working as a diner waitress. I quit that started working as a receptionist for Giffuni Brothers in New York answering the phone: “Giffuni Brothers! Giffuni Brothers!” And then a year later he said, I should start my own company. He’d give me a thousand dollars and he’d take 51% give me 49%.
And so that became the birth of Corcoran-Simone company. His name was Ramone Simone. I later learned his real name was Ray Simon — he just put “E” and an accent on each one it looked fancy.
And then seven years later of course he came home one night and said he was going to marry my secretary. So that was such a shocker. Like, I thought, we were an item, but we weren’t anymore. And so then, probably a year after that, I ended that company when I found the courage. Again — what did I have to lose? Not that much. And start again as the Corcoran Group, and that was the beginning of my own firm.
Shontell: If I think about starting a thousand-dollar business right now —
Corcoran: That was then.
Shontell: That’s right. So I think with inflation that’s $US5,000?
Corcoran: Yup, $US5,000.
Shontell: So how do you what did you do with that money? You bought some ads in The New York Times.
Corcoran: Well, I plotted it out. Remember I had an organised mother who made ends meet, and I watch her operate, you know, for Christmas gifts and things like that. What I simply did is I took that thousand dollars. I found out what an ad in The New York Times was. I forget what it was then, but let’s say it was $US12 for an ad, a three-line ad — that was the minimum ad. Most people were doing five lines but you could get a three-liner, OK? If he didn’t use bold type on the header, OK?
So then I got started that way placing my first ad. But what I did, because I had so little money, is very carefully placed that first ad. And so I went back to Mr. Giffuni and asked if I could have one of his listings to advertise, and he gave me the one next to 3L, the super’s apartment. Next, J was something where the super was.
And I went into it — it was an L-shaped living room like every other apartment in New York with a small bedroom in a doorman building. And I looked and looked and looked at the New York Times ads and saw there were hundreds and hundreds “One bedroom 320 month,” “One bedroom 330 a month,” “Doorman one bedroom: 340 a month,” and they all looked alike. And so I went back and said, “Could you build a half wall between the L and the living room so I could advertise as “One bedroom and den”? So that Sunday, my ad went in even before the wall was built, “1 BR Plus Den: 340.” It fit on one line, right margin, and I probably got 80 phone calls that next morning.
Because it was a gimmick. Because why would you call on every other ad if you get a one bedroom for $US340 when you get a one bedroom and a den for 340? And you know what: Within the first two days I had a check for $US340. So I always doled it out and you know even until I sold my business when I had a thousand people strong as sales agents I still use the exact same methodology. I was always running against the clock thinking, “Well, at least I have nine months now, I have 10 months now,” and carefully keep my overhead and spend every dollar like I was poor.
Shontell: So Ramon does the stereotypical ex thing. He’s got 51% of the company. You have to split it in two then.
Corcoran: I put the rules down. I said, “This is how we’re going to end the business. You picked the first person. I’ll take the second.” We divide our receivables, we divide our cash — the little we had. And then I moved two floors above him in the same building. I went immediately to my landlord to ask for a new lease on another space and it was a tough market. He happily gave it to me and it was cheaper than my other lease by a few hundred dollars a month. And I loved getting out of that elevator with Ramone Simone and his new wife every day and saying, “Sorry, I’m going up.”
Stupid ego lifts that you do in life, right! But somehow that made a difference. If I was below him, psychologically it would not have been good.
Shontell: And from what it sounds like, he said to you on the way as you guys are closing the business and closing the relationship, “You’ll never survive without me.” Which still sounds like it burns a fire in you today.
Corcoran: Oh my gosh. It’s almost as heated as the day I heard it. When I walked out the door that Friday afternoon to start my new business on Monday morning, he said, “You know, you’ll never succeed without me.” In his giving me those words a funny thing happened. It just hit me in the gut and I felt that fever in my body like, “I’ll be damned if you ever see me not succeed.” I felt like I would kill not to let that thing happen.
And you want to know? He gave me an insurance policy. Some people are motivated by insult. I happen to be one of them. I’ve succeeded on a lot of difficult situations by being insulted, even on things that I don’t really want, just to prove somebody wrong. Isn’t that sicko?
Shontell: So he burns this fire and you thrive off it.
Corcoran: I thrive off it, thank God.
Shontell: Yeah, and eventually you build this company to a $US66 million exit. What were some of the important steps you took to make sure that he wasn’t right about you, that you were going succeed?
Corcoran: Well, to stay in business as the No. 1 charge. I mean, you know, in real-estate brokerage, cycles go up and down. So that was the first thing I learned how to do. How the hell do you stay in business in the bad troughs? And what you have to do is you have to be more creative. I mean, whenever something’s wrong in any marketplace, any business — now I’ve learned with many years on “Shark Tank,” not just real estate — whenever something’s wrong in business, there is some huge opportunity there if only you have the foresight or the intelligence or the need to see it.
And so I remember I got through the closest I got to bankruptcy. I was literally writing the speech and making sure I had everybody’s name to thank everybody, for the Monday meeting, and bingo, as I’m writing and I was thinking of the Ramone’s Simone’s word, and bingo I think: “Wait, I could sell those 88 apartments that an insurance company owns who didn’t want an auction.” It just popped in my head and I went back and I priced them all alike, got the same dollar but I priced one bedrooms, two bedroom, studios, all alike, I sold them for the same price.
And for those 88 sales I went from owing 300 — I remember exactly — $US348,000 is what I owed out at that time. And I came in with over $US1.2 and commissions within a week. How did that happen? Bad times made it happen. I was desperate. And that’s what popped the idea in my head.
And that always happens. So surviving — the survival instinct of what could you come up with, where you jiggle out to get you through, is such — it’s probably the most important trait if you’re going to build a business. One thing for sure is you’ll have bad times; you can count on that one.
Shontell: It sounds like you built a strong corporate culture. Retention rates are incredibly high. Nobody ever left.
Corcoran: Yeah, we had a happy family is what we have. I did what my mother did. I adored my children. I would do anything for them. I would kill for them. And I nurtured them and I loved them and I tried to give them as much freedom as I could. I pushed them forward, got them to believing they could do a lot more than they were doing. And they did! Because people don’t really know what they’re capable of. And I made them love each other. I knew how to create teams where everybody got along and everybody respected the different attributes that people have and forgive the ones that were bugging them, you know?
I learned how to get rid of complainers. Complain in my company, I couldn’t wait till Friday to get you out, OK? So I felt like they were attacking my young.
And then what I was particularly adept at was what I learned from my dad: how to have fun. My father knew had more fun with our family than anyone in town, even though we had no money to do it. So what I learned in my corporate “culture,” if you want to call it — I wouldn’t call it a culture; it was just a gathering of sorts — is I learned to make sure everybody was having fun. We had bizarre … probably today maybe illegal-type parties, I don’t even know the way I had people dress for them at all. But we had parties galore. We had spontaneous events. All I did was think of, “What can we do that’s fun?”
And when you get people laughing their asses off and drinking too much and dressing in things that they have never dressed in before, guess what happens? You wind up with a creative company, so we wound up being in the creative hothouse as well but we never had anybody leave — except, of course, the people who exited quietly on Friday. “But why — I’m selling. Why? My sales are good?” “‘You just don’t fit in here baby — OUT!”
Shontell: Yeah, I think you said it well with the complainers. I mean, if you have someone who’s toxic in your work environment it can infect all the people around it.
Corcoran: One negative person will take the energy out of 15 great people quietly. That’s why I think of complainers as thieves in the night; they don’t work upfront. They quietly are zapping you.
Sex appeal, marketing the Corcoran way, and going all out in family and work
Shontell: So you had to make it in an industry that was traditionally owned by men. Salespeople were often women; the business owners were a lot of men. How did you do that? And I know that you’ve talked about some tactics you’ve used: I think you’ve talked about sometimes playing “the dumb blonde” card.
Corcoran: Yeah, that’s always useful. Or “the dumb anything” card. People underestimate you.
Shontell: Sometimes, like, even “the sex appeal” card.
Corcoran: Of course! I wore flashy bright-coloured suits, short skirts, I had great legs. That was my best asset. I flaunted them, no doubt about it.
Shontell: So do you think that would fly today if you were building a startup? Because like now we’ve got to deal with things like Harvey Weinstein, and Donald Trump even, and there’s this whole focus on women and sexual harassment by powerful men. I mean, do you — would you advise that same sort of strategy today?
Corcoran: Of course you know all that is is marketing, good marketing. What is good marketing on any level, whether it be individual or for a corporate campaign? Marketing is a point of difference. How do you stand apart from the pack? Who wants to be like the rest of the pack? You don’t get noticed. You could spend all the money in the world on it, you won’t get noticed, all right?
So any opportunity you have to stand apart from the pack — which starts with you, if you’re owning the company, you’re the leader of the company, you’re a billboard. As are your managers. So yeah, you have to use whatever you have. And that happens to be what I was particularly adept at: marketing. I knew how to work angles and market.
So sure, I would do the same today. The great advantage I had — and still have, because I travel mostly in a man’s world still — is just by being a woman. I stand apart from the pack. I never saw it as a liability. I saw that as an advantage. Like, “Look, I’m the only girl in the room.” They might not remember my name but they will say, “The girl in the room,” where they wouldn’t say, “One of the 50 boys in a room.” Right? So no, I think you just have to play up whatever you can to get positive attention, because attention brings business.
I got very good at creating noise in the press, cause story ideas — from the “What’s happening in the market” to “Teaching dogs how to shake hands in Central Park so we could get them through the co-op board.” Stupid stuff like that. Or smudging an apartment, rang bells, and burned incense — because the apartment couldn’t sell — and getting the New York Post and The New York Times are up watch it. All that nonsense stuff. Why? Because our name was always in the paper.
Shontell: Do you think that you can get ahead just by brains instead of beauty now as a woman?
Corcoran: I don’t think anyone — listen. Think about what a consumer has: They have ears, they have a mouth, they have a nose, and they have eyes. So you’re asking, can you get ahead trying to ignore the eyes of the consumer? No. The eyes of the boss of the colleague? No!
You’re in a visual world. No, you have to use everything. You have to be well-spoken, communicate clearly so people aren’t trying to figure out what the hell you’re saying. You have to look good. You have to look the part. You even have to smell good — you can’t go into work smelling bad — you’re not going to get ahead on that one right. So you’ve got all your barrels going. You know, you just have to use every advantage you can.
Shontell: Yeah. OK. Um, so, let’s see. I think that —
Corcoran: And lucky for you, you’re good looking. Now I ask you: Do you think that would be an advantage here, that you look exactly like the girl next door?
Shontell: I agree with you. I’ve definitely found myself underestimated because of how I look.
Corcoran: Yes. You look pretty and sweet. So ‘smart’ wouldn’t be the first word, someone wouldn’t say ‘god, she looks smart. They’d say first, ‘boy she’s pretty.’
Shontell: Thank you. But I do find that it works to my advantage and that people, especially in interviews, if you’re interviewing a man they might underestimate you.
Corcoran: But you know when they realise they’re wrong? When they see that steely gaze looking at me. You are absolutely spooky and scary.
Shontell: Oh good.
Corcoran: You don’t break eye contact ever, OK? That’s when they go ‘uh oh! We got something else here.’
Shontell: So yeah, no, I understand the instinct. But I was curious for your perspective. Thank you. So I know you mentioned you started your family after you had a hugely successful career. And I read that you did IVF.
Corcoran: Seven times actually. Yeah, I’m glad I had the money.
Corcoran: A lot of people don’t.
Shontell: Exactly. And I’ve heard people say now that they think that IVF will actually be as empowering for women who are in their careers as birth control and things like that.
Corcoran: More empowering.
Shontell: Yeah, because it basically makes it so that you could have kids later and essentially become like a guy.
Corcoran: It puts you in charge. You know, I know a lot of young women two generations down, early 30s, serious about their career who are producing eggs and banking them. I mean, that would have sounded absurd years ago, but I’m all for it. I just think anything that you can be in charge of yourself about is always good for everybody, not just you. The future kids you will or won’t have, your colleagues, the people you associate with. I just am so much a believer in not giving away your power to the universe, see where it will land. You know?
Thank God that I was able to take control back when I couldn’t get pregnant and have children. I did it with the help of my baby sister, honestly. In the end she produced the fertile eggs. All five of my sisters volunteered but I took my youngest, the one who is in best shape with the best grades. I’m like, ‘OK, this is an opportunity to create the best baby.’ And so thank God.
But then also I didn’t want to go back there again, but wanting more children I adopted a child. I mean, no, I’m all for anything that is going to put the power in anyone’s hand — man, woman, child. I mean, so you can make your own life as you wish it to be.
Shontell: And did you find that it was helpful to establish yourself to rise to the top of your career before having a family?
Corcoran: Helpful?! It had to play out that way. If I’d had my brokerage business and had kids on the side, I would have certainly made a good living as a real-estate salesman and perhaps had a smaller firm, but I would have put my kids first. It’s instinctive really, when you have any children and a job; in the end the children feel more important, and they are. Well, that’s my opinion.
So I could have never built a Corcoran Group if I had had children earlier. Never. It was meant to be. I kind of lived life like a free man, like a bachelor, I did whatever I wanted. I could put myself at risk. I think that I lived life kind of in reverse: I went all out on building my career. And then when that chapter — when I wanted to wind down, I went all out on building a family. But of course little did I know that I would be all out on both in short order.
Were it not for one email she ‘spent 8 minutes writing,’ Corcoran never would have been on ‘Shark Tank’
Shontell: That’s great. I’m glad it all worked out for you.
So let’s talk about your “Shark Tank.” You were obviously a hugely successful businesswoman. Now you are a hugely successful investor in tons of startups and nine years of “Shark Tank.” It’s amazing — congrats.
Corcoran: No, it’s great. I can’t believe it’s been nine years; it feels like four. But that’s what happens when you’re having a good time.
Shontell: Exactly. So at first you didn’t get the job, right?
Corcoran: Well, actually, I was offered the job, and I took the job and signed the contract and sent it back without even reading it. That’s how excited I was about getting my first gig, you know? And after all I had never been to Hollywood — “I’m going to Hollywood!”
Shontell: You had never been to Hollywood?
Corcoran: Never! I never been to California, but I think I told everyone I knew I’m going to Hollywood — I’m going to Hollywood!
Egg on my face of course. They call and say they have changed their mind; they have invited another woman for the one female seat. I just couldn’t believe it. It was like Ramone Simone all over again. It really felt like that, like how could that be? How could that be?!
At least I had the presence to get angry, right? And sit down and write a very potent text to Mark Burnett who owned the studio. And I had the people sense to make his assistant promise me over the phone that if I wrote it she’d print it out and how to walk it over to him. And I think I opened it with — I should have this on my wall in my office because it’s one of my proudest accomplishments — because it made a nine-year difference in my life. Think about it: Just for writing an email that took about eight minutes. OK, but it was really more than that. I was standing up for myself. That’s why I earned it. I feel in hindsight now.
But anyway, the first line I think I said, “Mark, I understand you’ve asked another girl to dance instead of me and I appreciate you keeping me as a fallback.” How insulting! Who wants to be a fullback? But anyway I said, “But all of the best things have happened in my life on the heels of failure starting with Sister Stella Maria who told me I’d always be stupid because I couldn’t learn to read or write. I’m not stupid.”
And I said, “I hope you invite both women to compete for the seat and I expect to be on the plane on Thursday,” and the next day I got the call: “OK, we’ll let you compete for the seat.” Thank God.
But the importance of standing up for yourself. I had learned that over and over again because even if it doesn’t work you feel self-pride. You’d think if you really tried something and you didn’t get it that you would feel embarrassed but I never found that to be the case. I felt self-pride that I tried and then of course so many tries you wind up getting a few yeses along the way and this happened to be one of those yeses.
Shontell: And as you said sending one email that took eight minutes changed nine years of your life.
Corcoran: Yeah, but it was an act of courage, you see, or an act of persistence or obstinance or craziness. Call it what you want, but it was a very little effort, but it was born out of a lot of years of experience of learning to persist and getting back up, you see? Or I probably would have rolled over maybe and cried. But I was near tears honestly because I couldn’t imagine why something I envisioned — I already had bought two new suits and signed autographs. I thought I was going to be like a Hollywood star. I think I got the movies mixed up with reality TV somewhere there.
But I just couldn’t imagine that what I had envisioned wasn’t going to come true because any time I dreamt of anything from the first day of dreaming about being the queen of New York real estate I saw it in my mind as clear as it happened 25 years later. So I saw everything so clearly and I thought, “How could that be? I saw this clearly! How could this be?” And I think it was that disbelief that got me to write down or write that damn email.
Shontell: Well, congrats. Huge win.
Corcoran: Thanks you.
Shontell: So I was reading actually in the Sony leaks there was an email from Mark Cuban about salary negotiations on “Shark Tank.” It feels like he thinks he’s irreplaceable. I mean, he was given, I think, $US30,000 an episode for season five.
Corcoran: He was insulted.
Shontell: He was very insulted. And he actually wrote to the producers and said, “Start taking me out of the promos now.”
Shontell: Do you have that same tactic when negotiating something like a salary for the show?
Corcoran: No, you know, I’m not as — I’m more clever than I am smart, actually. I’m a little foxy. What I did is found out who Mark’s attorney was a couple of years ago, because he’s the biggest man on campus, if you think about it. He’s the only billionaire on set — right away that qualifies him as the biggest guy on campus, in my opinion. OK? We’re all millionaires, measly millionaires. He’s a billionaire. That’s a big difference.
But what I did immediately is find out who his attorney was and hired the same woman. She’s about 6-feet-2 and intimidating! Smart as can be, scary when she walks into the room. So she negotiates both contracts. I mean, that’s my sneaky way of like being tough. Like, “Let me let me grab onto who’s got a tough person and go for the ride!”
Shontell: Smart. It works.
Shontell: So what is the day like on set for you? Talk about when you’re filming this show what time do you wake up. How do you get ready?
Corcoran: We spend about an hour in makeup and hair maybe an hour and a half. Then it’s pressure, pressure, pressure get on the set. We shoot from … we start usually eight in the morning and we finish at maybe 7 at night, so we have generally the 11-hour days. I actually had to think about that. They don’t feel that long as they click by. We sit on the set and we’re hearing pitch after pitch after pitch. We know nothing about the pitch.
Within two minutes I know I’m definitely out on without even knowing a thing about the business. OK? Because they just fall apart. You can see them falling apart in front of the big cameras in their faces. And so the day goes on and on and on – we’re literally exhausted. The lunch is like, I think we have 20 minutes, we’re back in makeup and hair. Back on the set. It’s a marathon. And the day goes on and on and on. It’s a lot of fun, it’s very competitive. You’re spending real money, which adds a layer of pressure to you because you really don’t want to lose your money. You know?
I think Mark had said it last time. I wholeheartedly agree — the hardest part of “Shark Tank” is coming up with a new reason for going out. Because a lot of times basically, my attitude in my head is, “You know what, I don’t like you. I’m out,” but you can’t say that, you gotta go, “You know about those projections.”
Shontell: Yeah, that’s true. I guess you have to get creative.
Corcoran: I mean, there are a lot of outs in a season of “Shark Tank” — you’ve got to make them sound all different.
Shontell: Absolutely. Well, sounds like a long day but a fun one. Do they tell you like what kind of personality they want you have, like they say, “Kevin, we want you to be like Simon Cowell of the show” or anything like that?
Corcoran: No, Kevin picks that one for himself. Mark picked the billionaire for himself. OK, you’re a big, tough billionaire. Lorry picked the merchandise person, the smartest one on the set that could sell anything. But we’re not told what to be.
You know, it’s interesting, for the first four or five seasons of “Shark Tank” our producers would always meet with us before the season, “We’d like to see more of this, less of this, more of this, less of this.” And it used to make me so neurotic. And then one day Mark Burnett — I think it was season three, when we knew we were starting to have a hit on our — invited us all to his beautiful Malibu home for dinner on the cliff, just like a Hollywood set.
Anyway, we get over there and he says, “Here’s my advice: Ignore what everybody says and be yourself” and my shoulders went down. It was so much better to just have to be yourself, and that was great advice, and he’s the smartest guy in the whole industry. So I listened to him.
Shontell: So you said when you got out to Hollywood for the first time you thought you’re going to be movie-star famous. And I would argue that you are pretty much there. Like I think you’re a household name at this point. Everyone knows you as Barbara Corcoran businessperson and Shark. What’s it like to be famous? Is there good, is there bad?
Corcoran: Well, fortunately for me, I love people. So I’ll talk to anyone and really enjoy the conversation, not pretend to enjoy it, because I find people eternally curious, odd, interesting in every way. OK? And so with having people constantly come up and talking to you like they know you. The minute they introduce themselves like you’ve been pals.
So it can intrude on your personal life, so I don’t go out for restaurant owners anymore, period. It’s work because I just have to really pose for selfies, right? I don’t do a lot of things. I don’t do parties anymore. ‘Cause I almost feel like a paid entertainer. I don’t do a lot of stuff anymore. But it’s all right with me because I’m really a homebody want to be cooking myself. I want to be home with my kids and my close friends and family, so it works out. Yeah, so that’s what it’s like.
Shontell: Bringing it back to the entrepreneurs. You’ve made a lot of investments and you’ve made a lot of impact on their businesses. And by now you’ve seen so many people. What what’s your advice for people who want to start their own thing, to get going, and what is the trait that you see them at most the people who are successful?
Corcoran: Well, I’ll do it and reverse. The successful trait is identical in every one of my most successful businesses. They’re street smart. And when they’re slammed they don’t feel sorry for themselves. That’s it.
I’ve talked to more entrepreneurs after I’ve invested within the first of maybe eight, nine months, after the shine of “Shark Tank” is gone after the rush of sales is behind them, where something goes wrong and then I’m on the phone or on a Skype call with them and I hear them blaming it on someone else, like, “The shipment never came in! The guy didn’t do this such and such.”
Right! It’s another version of “Oh, poor me.” The minute I hear that, I go right to my wall where I have all my entrepreneurs and frames, beautifully matted, and I hang that picture upside down. And why do I do that? Just to remind myself that I shouldn’t spend any time with that person, because they’re never going to succeed. Every one of my successful businesses are run by entrepreneurs who are so good at taking a hit and getting back up. They just don’t feel sorry for themselves. That’s a trait.
Well, Barbara, thank you so much. It’s been really inspiring and just awesome to talk to you.
Corcoran: Very easy to talk at those starry eyes you have.
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