Barbara Corcoran never dreamed of being an entrepreneur as a kid.
She graduated college in 1971 with a degree in education, but a couple of years later her then-boyfriend Ramone Simone, who worked in real estate, suggested they start a real-estate business together. The Corcoran Group began in 1973, and though she and Simone went their separate ways and split the business, she sold her half for $US66 million to NRT Incorporated in 2001.
In 2009 Corcoran joined the cast of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a show that became not only a surprise hit, but her full-time job. As she looks back at her life, she finds she has had “two great role models.”
Simone was the person who inspired Corcoran to be her own boss, a concept that was foreign to her, a New Jersey native who grew up in a neighbourhood in which nearly all the men took factory jobs.
“And so I never saw anyone who worked for themselves,” she tells Business Insider. “But Ramone Simone did, and he had a big fancy car, and he had nice suits on, and he laughed, and it seemed like he had endless money. It was like, ‘Whoa, this is easy!’ So when he said, ‘You’d be great in real estate. Why don’t you start a real estate firm?’ [I was like] ‘Yeah, OK!'”
Corcoran borrowed $US1,000 and took to the real-estate business, eventually becoming a high-profile member of the industry in New York City.
And while Simone began as an inspiring model of success for Corcoran, his negativity would become an equally powerful influence when their relationship turned sour.
In the early ’80s, Simone left Corcoran to marry her secretary. After they reluctantly split the company, Corcoran says, Simone told her as he walked out the door, “You’ll never succeed without me.”
“He’d never said anything mean to me, but he was so angry we chopped up the business,” she says. “But that was the ‘advice’ that got me through the thick and thin, mostly because it slammed me in my gut, and I didn’t want to let him have the satisfaction of seeing me go down. That’s what I always leaned on when things were bad. I’d be like, ‘Damn, I’m not gonna let him see me [like this].'”
Corcoran’s other role model came from a purely positive place: her mother, a longtime housewife.
“[I]n my household — which had two bedrooms, 10 kids, and one bath — you would have recognised her as a phenomenal businesswoman,” Corcoran says. “She was just super organised, definitely in charge, had everybody doing what she wanted, motivated everybody. She was just in charge. And so her house was her business.”
Corcoran says that even though her mum never actually made a corporate deal or managed employees, her resolve and success in raising a huge family left a lasting impression.
As Corcoran got older, she says, she may have looked to her boyfriend Simone as an example of what a successful businessperson looked like, but her mum “kept proving to be the best role model for business.”
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