Barbara Corcoran was already well-known as a straight-talking, self-made, multi-millionaire real estate broker and creator of The Corcoran Group when she took a very memorable cab ride and realized that her life was about to change — “and I didn’t like it,” she admits, laughing.
It was the first season of “Shark Tank,” which is now an ABC hit but was then just a new show she wasn’t even sure anyone would watch. But the limo driver taking her to the airport certainly knew the premise, where wannabe entrepreneurs present their ideas to a panel of mega-successful moguls including Corcoran, the keynote speaker today at the National Women Business Owners Corporation national conference at the PGA National Resort and Spa.
“He said, ‘You’re on that new ‘Shark’ show! Let me tell you about a business idea I have,’” she says. “I knew I couldn’t allow that or I’d never get through the grocery store without being pitched. At my daughter’s birthday party, I was still singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and someone was waiting to pitch me. So I just say ‘I’m sorry! I’m not allowed to hear pitches outside the show.’ It saves a lot of time.”
While birthday parties are off-limits, Corcoran is happy to talk about business, in her many speeches and books like “If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom” and “Nextville: Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life.”
In a conversation with “The Palm Beach Post,” she had a lot to say about the show, what she looks for in a “Shark Tank” contestant and why women need to take more credit for their success.
Question: Your books have given advice about business, success and finding happiness. Has any of that advice changed over the years, specifically in the current economy?
Answer: When the economy is terrible, the times are ripe with opportunity, even more so than other times! When the old boys are asleep at the wheel, that’s a terrific time.
Q: What’s the thing you most look for in an opportunity or a business to invest in in real life, or on “Shark Tank?”
A: The only thing I invest in (in real life) is real estate, because it’s what I really love. I don’t invest in other businesses except on “Shark Tank.” I’ve learned from my many opportunities that 95 percent of it is the people, not the business, that interests me. There are some people who could have been doing anything else, and do it well. Part of being an entrepreneur is the energy, the hustle. I have a laundry list, really.
Q: What’s on it?
A: I look for tons of energy. I’ve never seen success without having super-high energy. Number 2 is grace under fire. I don’t like to see a bloodbath (on the show) — I just stay out of the fights and let the other ones go at it. I have clean hands (laughs). But the entrepreneur has to want it. You have to see how they handle those challenges. And you have to be grateful in nature.
Q: That reminds me of a guy who was on one of my favorite episodes where he saw a $1 million offer from two Sharks drop to $100,000 because he was being so cagey that he couldn’t see that he was talking his way out of a whole lot of zeroes. What did he do wrong?
A: He didn’t have clarity of thought. He thought he had a great opportunity, and put it on the table and examined it. He took too long. When you see an opportunity, you’ve got to spot it and wrestle it down.
Q: As successful as you’ve been, is there anything you’d have done differently, knowing what you know now?
A: I think I would have learned earlier to take credit for it. You see men — it starts when they’re boys on the playground — who yell “I’m king of the mountain” when they’re just halfway up. Women can have gotten up the mountain, built a house and had to paint the kitchen, and still say (tentatively) ‘I think I’m queen of the mountain?’ I would have owned it sooner.
IF YOU GO
Barbara Corcoran: Thursday, 12:15 p.m. at the PGA National Resort and Spa.
For more information, visit www.nwboc.org or call 800-675-5066.