Real Estate Mogul: Barbara Corcoran

May 13, 2018

Barbara Corcoran grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family in Jersey – with nine brothers and sisters. But she used her charisma to conquer the streets of Manhattan and build the real estate company, The Corcoran Group. She then reinvented herself as a shark – on Shark Tank. PLUS, for our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Aryel Rivero and Vanessa Clavijo for an update on their business, Gift Wrap My Face, which designs and prints custom gift wrapping featuring the faces of people you love. (Original broadcast date: April 24, 2017)

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hey really quick before we start the show just want to let you know that tickets for our one day how I built this Summit are now on sale don't miss your chance to meet world-changing entrepreneurs and hundreds of other builders just like you it's happening October 16th in San Francisco it's being sponsored by American Express and you can get your tickets at npr.org Summit

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when Barbara Corcoran came into the studio for her interview she was well kind of as you expect interesting funny full of stories and a lot of bad language which we had to cut out but we did keep some of it in so just a warning if you're listening with younger listeners this episode originally ran in April of last year but it is well worth hearing again if you've already heard it if not enjoy

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she came to me and she knew I had a fire a lot of people because you could just see that everybody knew something was going to shake out and she said why don't you publicly fire me if you fire me that she said no one else could be angry with you and you fire them and she was right so at that Monday morning meeting we always had at 9:30 I said so surprised how bad things are going to have to make a lot of changes and it's going to be very hard for me to do but the hardest change of wolves me fired my mother

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Robin PR it's how I built this a show of that innovators entrepreneurs idealists and the stories behind the movements they built I'm guy rosin on the show today how a Jersey girl conquered the streets of Manhattan built a real estate company worth millions and then reinvented herself as a shark

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on Shark Tank

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one of the most surprising things about the entrepreneurs we've interviewed so far at least surprising to me is that most of them aren't necessarily book smart or Street Smart yes all of them but only a handful of people we've had on went to Elite universities or were academic Geniuses most of them I just figured stuff out along the way and use the tools they had which brings us to Barbara Corcoran who is probably the most likable

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shark on the TV show shark tank as you're about to hear Barbara wasn't the best student in fact she didn't excel at school at all but what she had or rather has is something so much more valuable Charisma it's how she'd eventually build one of New York's most successful real estate firms but more on that later Barbara grew up poor a big Irish Catholic Family nine brothers and sisters a cramped apartment in

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Edgewater New Jersey but even though they had almost nothing but she remembers a childhood that was basically happy I mean we all had our issues as every family does but it was well organized my mother was like a drill sergeant so even though we all lived in such Close Quarters it was meticulously clean and everything was put in order when my mother snapped her fingers okay we had a side yard which we controlled it was a skinny little side yard but most of the house in Edgewater were back

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Axl we felt wealthy even though renting the ground floor we felt Wealthy by comparison and also my dad was a printing press form and I had to wear a suit to her and every other guy in the town seemed to work for the aluminum Factory or the coffee company in a uniform so I kind of thought of us as like the Kennedys Like Whoa We were something you know at school it was a different story Barbara struggled a lot but every day when she get home from school her mom

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was right there she never told you what was wrong with you she always told you what she thought was amazing about you and she pinned one thing on each kid so each kid knew what the thing was you know my thing was she said I had a wonderful imagination so when I couldn't pass any subjects in school and I was really upset I remember distinctly when the nun from Hell sister still Marie told me I'd always be stupid and I was so upset to hear that word stupid but get a label finally and my mother said oh don't worry about it with your imagination you learn to fill in

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the blanks so I didn't learn to read or write but I thought oh good I could fill in the blanks and I fell for it you know and she's right because I did have a good imagination or at least maybe I learned to have it because of her by the time she was 22 Barbara was working as a waitress at a diner in New Jersey and one night during a shift and older man Dapper confident charismatic walked in for a bite to eat and when Ramone Simone a walked into my life and sat at my counter call what

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you want it was a lucky break it was like you could tell that he was something else and he had a suit on and he didn't have just a suit he had like a pressed collar with a shiny tie and shiny shoes and he had all navy blue Aviator Shades I couldn't really see his eyes also he told me he was from The Basque country and I didn't know where that was but I it wasn't a New Jersey and he told me it was a warrior tribe of some kind of like whoa cool

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now later I learned his name wasn't Ramone Simone with an accent is Mother Vicki who I got to know many years later said his name was Ray Simon big difference right but good good for him he fixed it up yeah and he wasn't from The Basque Country use fondant 45th Street Harlem but good for him again what a merchandiser right yeah and so he had a lot to teach me okay and I got a new family which were his three girls who moved in with us after I moved in with him I didn't know you had children this is your first true love really yeah well I'm not even sure

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a true love but someone who is different than anyone I had ever met before older successful in life had a big car I hate to be so trade us to say that impressed me but it was a Lincoln Continental with real leather seats and when he offered me that ride home from the diner that first night I remember thinking he had sprinkled talcum powder on this on all of his seats because I was sliding around that's just cold real leather you know so when you moved in with him

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when was that I mean was that we would your life was going to be I mean did you have bigger Ambitions to know honestly I have never had that thought and I can even say along the way of building a successful life it's not like I really had any big thoughts about when I be successful I just had more of a curiosity as to see how far I could go that was it how curiosity no one in my family had ever

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to college when I got into a college I just couldn't believe it but it was an old girls college that had previously the year before been a nunnery that made nuns I forget what you call that and there were only 30 spots they were just opening they took me I thought basically not realize they took anyone but that was just a lucky break and it didn't interfere with my work I was holding three jobs all the way through college I would always work Round the Clock so it just kind of happened you know that I one thing led to another so how

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did you find your way to to real estate I was working as a receptionist for the jephunneh brother's here in New York City answering their phones a million times a day good morning chef Tony Brothers this is after I quit my job as a waitress and who were the giffany brothers Joseph giffany was a large real estate holder in Manhattan he owned probably 50 apartment buildings in New York so well yeah they're they're very wealthy it was Joe and his other kind of gadfly brother Andrew who ran the business but Joe is really the power

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they hired me and then within a couple of months Ramon said Trina was your personally barbecue be great at real estate sales so I said okay I'll try it I mean why not add it I think I'd count up 22 jobs maybe 23 by then I thought why not and I'll give it a whirl and Ray gave me $2,000 I started my own firm just like that yes so he saw Ramon gives you a thousand bucks and then how did you how did you start your own real estate firm the only person I knew was

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mr. Giovanni and I asked him if he would just let me rent one of his Apartments the same building where I answer the phone every day and he gave me a listing to try to rent the apartment 3L and so when I saw 3L and what he was asked I think it was 3:30 a month of roughly there I looked at him thing and I how do I say it was a dungeon he gave me the worst one maybe it was a challenge maybe nobody could rent it who knows it was in the back was like a Super's apartment but when I saw the listing and looked in the New York Times and saw Reams and reams

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of EDS that's red identically one bedroom 341 bedroom 335 one bed it was all the same I'm thinking how do I spend my three-line head wisely because remember I had a thousand dollars I divided it by my overhead and I knew I had it seven weeks to stay in business according to my math okay and so I asked him if he'd build a half wall to divide the you know straight part of the living room from the L next door with a double entrance and I told him I thought I could get him 360 a month which is another 20 $25 more than he wanted

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yeah and he said he yeah he build a wall and I got it for him because my head then read one bedroom and den for the same price that everybody else was offering a one bedroom and I got that first Sunday I must have gotten 60 phone calls while attendance and so I easily rented that apartment and then got others and got others and it just built from there and you were you were basically making a commission off each rental I made exactly what the what the monthly rental was and when I rented that first apartment I did the the smartest thing in the world knowing I

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ahead of the game because I collected the commission within a week that's what's beautiful about rentals you have to wait for a sale closing so I collected that check for Mischief uni I cash it Citibank and I ran right over to Bergdorf Goodman's and I blew it on a new coat and it was a smartest thing I could have done because I dress like a poor kid from a joiner nothing looked you know I just looked not the part but I bought the fanciest damn coat of brown and white herringbone was real pearl buttons down 3/4 length of the fur real fur not fake fur

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and I wore that coat for the next three years and you want to know it was a smartest thing I could have done with the money because in and I felt powerful Jim think I just felt like I'm cool man I'm a cool girl and by the way what did you what you guys call a business it was called corcoran's ammonia with an accent on the Simone I kept the axons I really thought it was pretty sophisticated all right with this because because Raymond don't on part of this right yes so why you were like why you were going out and working as an agent to rent a

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ments what was Raymond's mom doing well Ramone Simone say it's really most of Simone little flash their Ramone Simone was building one family houses in New Jersey usually clusters of three or four houses and making a very good living and that went on for probably three years or so as I recall and then one day we drove to his accountants office and Hackensack New Jersey and he had me wait in his car with the car running he comes out he said well guess what I'm bankrupt what I thought it was a joke

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joke and we moved immediately out of his fancy apartment and moved into his mother's Hackensack house and that was the bad year as where we he kind of had to go not undercover but had a come up from the Earth all over again and he did he was a great entrepreneur but it took about three years and those were the very very tough years but lucky for both of us the rental business was paying for itself and we were able to eke out a salary were you you were running this from your from that apartment derive no no

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oh no no no I had an office I initially ran Corcoran Simone from an apartment I shared with two roommates on 86th Street but then when I could afford to I subleased a desk from an accountant on East 60th Street and by the time we moved into Ramon Simone's mother's house we still had the office on 60th Street we already had I guess maybe ten or eleven deaths occupied by rental agents so you were going into Manhattan every day yes definitely

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yeah it was like it was like the Land of Oz you know the minute I stepped foot into Manhattan I I saw for what it was it was like where have you been all my life well this is like the the violent 1970s in New York when you work was bankrupt like the Son of Sam are like what was it like to I mean was was it hard to to get tenants to rent apartments it's crazy to imagine today of course but back then was it was it hard to get people to rent no it's saved my ass in those days

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was you had Corporate America very well implanted in Midtown hmm granted it was dangerous he wouldn't dare park your car on the street you know gets broken into Sirens or always going off everywhere so it was not easy but fortunately you had employees young employees coming into New York City who had to live there working for these corporations if not for that I don't think I would have stayed in business because I went door to door and knocked on all these corporate Personnel departments to try to get business I saw with the traffic was

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coming from and I had great accounts that fed their people to me one after another after another and so I had a huge Edge over my other small competitors because I had a steady stream of people coming at me yeah that was key or I don't think I could have stayed in business so how did you make the transition from renting from looking for renters to selling Apartments really quite by accident I had gotten a referral of a young engineer from Union Carbide I don't recall this name and I lined up a

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bunch of stuff to show them like I usually did because I had learned by then in sales if you could control someone's time they can't go to anyone else I would say I'll pick you up at the Drake Hotel it's now new name at nine o'clock and be aware we won't be finished till at least five thirty this way you can't even entertain going with another broker in town and then I would tell Midway to I've got everything set up for tomorrow you just control Park them in your garage and don't let the character out right so I had this young guy and I showed him the first two apartments he said well one

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am I going to see the ones for sale I said oh no these are fur and he said no I want to buy something I was like oh crap so I said well that's excellent so I said I was going to take them on a tour of all New York it was very important for him to learn all the neighborhoods to see what he could choose from to see what he reacted to best and that the next day we would show him the sale Apartments of course I had no Silla permits so I got him in a taxi walked him around every street showed him every every place in town and then that night I went home and I hit the

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for running I dropped him off at like 515 as early as I could called every single apartment where the owner Ed which was very common in those days and said I have a young engineer he's looking exactly for your apartment on Sutton Place he's looking for a small tears I'd read them they had back and go but he must see it tomorrow yes come on over and I booked everything that night and the third apartment we saw he bought the next day that's what got me in the sale business and when I got that commission check in my hand it was 38

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8,500 so it's at 6:12 I can't do the math anymore shame on me but six percent of that do you know what I got that check in my hand on closing and I thought God has given me this to open up a sales department I hired to sales agents and that was the birthing of the sales business wow and all the while you're still I mean you're stupid I'm Ray is still part of this thing he's still in your life yes Ray was still part of my life because that was within the first 7 years we stayed together

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seven years until he married my secretary which was really like so emotionally discouraging for me it real upheaval wait he cheated on you with your secretary yes she was kind of innocent they fell in love I was angry with him but of course direct my anger at her as women tend to do and so when I wanted to fire her because I said I can't come in the office every day and see your fiance they were getting married in three months was very fast I'm mortified I was mortified

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fide and and then he moved Tina into our combined office I had a look at them through the glass wow it's really it's such a stupid thing I must been so young at heart to be so injured over some stupid thing but here's the thing I said I have to fire said no I'm looking trolling partner you can't fire her I mean he he owned half of this company and know he owned 51% and that's how I found out the value of that 1% oh that's how it works well yeah but that didn't last for long one year later I stopped

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in there finally Built My courage and told him I was ending the business I said Ray I'm going to end the business today and this is how we're gonna do it we're gonna do it like a football drawer we got 14 salespeople you can pick the first I'll pick the second that kind of thing so we each got seven okay like there were children in a divorce they didn't know what was happening and we also had close to 70 some odd thousand dollars in receivables which I remember at the time thinking half of that would get me through a month and a half of overhead you know and so

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so I had the ability to take my half of the money and start all over and lucky for me I went to my landlord in our existing building we were on the eighth floor and I asked him if I could lease another floor we had always paid the rent on time and he rented me the 11th floor above Ray which I love being above him isn't that weird and sick I really need a shrink he started he started his own company and then you stayed there and renamed it pokes them all because his wife's name was Pogue and I moved up to

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Evan took my seven people I told him on Monday would be moving they're like oh wow where we moving to I said it's a surprise because it was a surprise to me even but by Monday you could open an office in New York you could buy the desk down on decrepit 42nd street and have those guys actually physically run the desk up to the location well they did you could order a phone which I did on late Friday morning and had installed on Saturday and by the time my agents came in I called him over the weekend gave them the new address which was simply a different floor

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they came in they had all their stuff in a neat box on top of the new desk like nothing had happened

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here's a question but I mean yeah is it that I mean are you are you just sort of hardwired as a tough person I mean that that I mean emotionally that must've been pretty pretty rough right I mean in this is the guy that you're with for seven years you think you're in love and and and meanwhile he's having an affair well Hey listen the truth be known I'm not at all a hard person I mean the idea ask any woman who's been cheated on

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guy all right you feel like such a fool and you burn so deeply inside know I could barely walk Iris oh decimated by that it wasn't that I even so much lost faith in him I mean you're allowed to fall in love so let's be real right now with somebody else but it was that I fell out of love with myself I actually thought my God I was nobody before he found me he got me to believe in myself he put me in business he you know was my mentor he was a man of the world

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world you know and all of a sudden he's going off as somebody else it was like I'm nobody I never I actually questioned whether I was capable of anything until he insulted me on the way out the door but he same he said you'll never succeed without me wait he he was having an affair and then he rubbed his salt in your wounds by saying you're never going to succeed without me yes and you know what he knew me remember we lived together

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almost seven years I was his business partner he may have even been wanting to motivate me knowing that I'm good when I'm insulted and you know I have learned that it was every one of my great successes building the business the ones that were Bell where the changes that I thought wow did that make a change they were always a result of an insult isn't it weird it was like it was like fuel to your fire you he says this and you are I mean of course obviously devastated inside but you you just think the the greatest Revenge

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has I'm going to prove that he was wrong well wasn't even a Revenge thing honestly it was like I couldn't stand the idea that he might see me fail it was more the opposite and you want to know something I got to believe that was all tied into because it injured so deeply and became my motivation I have to believe that that was tied into being the dumb kid at school because he was basically damning me to hell yeah yeah and that's how I felt in school every day like I'm a loser you'll go nowhere and so

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he hit my hot button for sure you know for sure

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so did you from day one when you go to the 11th floor and you start your your company are you thinking I mean we was he your main competitor was his company the one that you were oh no no I moved off of that I just I was in survival mode figuring out the math knowing I had six a six-week run to stay in business in six weeks you that's how much cash you had on him yeah because I had a bigger overhead by then you know in the beginning when my thousand dollars gave me a little bit longer run because

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just one ad per week in the New York Times three line Ed whatever it costs then a my sublease charge for my desk so now it was more complicated when I moved to the 11th floor I also had 14 desk but I only had seven agents that's a problem you know it's a big overhead no no income and classified ads we're really expensive at that time well they always were going up in price yes so they didn't go very far but you know that was the bloodline in the real estate business was pre the internet if you wanted to get a little crazy yeah you put an ad in the

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the paper yeah were you freaking out you know surprisingly no I never freaked out about pressure I never have because it is what it is you know I kind of have matter-of-factness in other words something okay give it a shot if I'm going to fret about oh my God oh my God it's going to get against me if I get cocky and big head like oh this is no big deal I'm going to get cocky so I just kind of okay this is what I got let's see how hard and fast I can run however I did have one Vision I must admit

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today open the Corcoran group I remember sitting at that desk and paying the extra dollar a month for a pink princess phony pay $2 extra to rent it was pink because it looks fancy and I remember answering that phone sitting there and thinking I'm going to be the queen of New York real estate

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Barbara Corcoran in a moment how she actually did become the queen I'm guy Raj and you're listening to how I built this from NPR

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hey welcome back to how I built this from NPR I'm guy Roz so at this point in Barbara's story she may have thought she was going to be the queen of New York real estate but it was going to be an uphill battle she'd broken up with her moan they split everything up she had a pink princess phone and her new office and she had to figure out how to get more attention for a company in one of the world's most competitive markets I distinctly remember the day I sat and pause and said to myself

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holy shit we are going to be successful what happened I came up with the idea of taking our 11 sales for the year we had 11 sales so far whatever time of the year that was and dividing by 11 which was good I was always good at eleven times table and I came up with an average sale price and I typed it on piece of paper and I named it after myself the corporate port and it looked lonely one number average apartment price I didn't even say Corcoran group I just put average New York City Apartment price

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and on the top I put the Cochrane report and then I thought it needed something more excellent empty and I put Market I can't remember some long-winded like market report of conditions and Trends in the greater New York City Market are some long thing to fill up the page and I mailed it out to everyone wrote for the New York Times that day everyone and I never heard from the times at all but about two weeks later I open up the real estate section which was a giganto thick portion the main generator that in the automobile sector

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and for the New York Times before the engine and I opened it up and the front page read New York City prices hit all-time low because we're in a recession again and the first line said according to Barbara Corcoran president of the courtroom like holy shit I can't believe this I knew my business was going to be successful you just made this this I mean you just took your sales numbers which was 10 properties for a young 11 palabra and you divide that divided up and then you said hey this

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this is the average price of a Manhattan you know I didn't really say never I put I put average New York City Apartment price and now that sounds misleading I could see now from where I sit that is Miss Lee I didn't intend it that way you know I didn't tend to trim it up with that long conditions and Trends but you know it was amazing to me that the newspaper printed my number they liked your letter yeah but also there were no numbers remember there

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there was no public data of apartment prices and in the vacuum of no numbers I supplied a number and they wanted to do a story on the bad market and I put a label on it how bad it was right so did you start getting calls from people who said oh but what is this car can group we got instant credibility we called for listings on the for sale by owner ads and most of them had heard of us in one day simply because it was in the times well everybody read the Times the front page

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if you are looking to sell your home you're reading the front pages in York Times real estate section without a doubt and when they didn't hear of us my broker started saying things like I'm sure you've read about us in today's times will last week stock that didn't take them long to use it so we got listings more easily we got credibility more easily and we got more phone calls and all we cause we were quoted as an expert that's it wow and so presumably that was the birth of the Kirkland report you didn't stop sending that

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that newsletter out I got a out every three months wow and eventually it was normos incredible based on thousands of sales you could really trust the information but initially if I had been a big company and I'd run it by attorneys vetting committee decisions it would have never gone out the beauty I had is a little guys I had the freedom to run

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but Barbara was it like this is late 70s in New York I mean was real estate business was it a more welcoming place for a woman to to be leading a company or was it still I mean you know you hear about that time and you hear how women were sort of relegated to being secretaries and typist and things like that did you feel like you were respected and treated you know with dignity you know I never paid attention of that hunting give a crap really you know the the whole

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was 90% female wasn't like women were not in the real estate brokerage fee yeah but just happened that all the firm's were owned by the men bosses were all men okay so yes so there were female owned businesses that I competed with but that was that was not even important detail what an important detail my mind was was that I had 14 agents and the largest company in town at that point Douglas Elliman had like maybe 80 90 agents that seemed to me like IBM

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self like yeah how am I going to compete with them my I was on that ball

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how did you know Barbara how to even run this business I mean I know we're talking now night and early 1980s and you've been working with Ray for a few years but I mean you don't have an MBA you don't have formal business backpack God right I got you know how to you know how to deal with a management issues how to deal with had to pay people would battered price things how did you know that stuff it's I think you make it sound more sophisticated than it is all you needed to know is

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how to work with people and that's all the business ever is all the work I do today it rests entirely any success or failure rests entirely on my ability to work with the people at hand so learning how to recruit people I learned how to recruit because I made friends with every store clerk every waitress every stewardess everyone I ever met I made friends with because I'm very friendly and if I saw a spark in them which was said to me Sills personality I would say have you ever considered doing real

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estate sales I recruited everywhere everywhere I went I recruited pit and from what I understand you yourself actually didn't go out and sell many houses or my name is a permits right I saw that I sold the engineers first house yeah and then from Merrill Lynch I Got a referral of David Palmer who's a really big wig and I sold him to apartment side-by-side on the Upper East Side and East 89th Street to new cotton to new co-ops in like Condominiums and that was it that was it you didn't sell any

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property I should I you just you hired people that because that way I guess you recognize that your talent was not in selling property but in what managing people know I was great at renting apartments however I realized that if I were to continue to sell because it's time-consuming to be a great salesperson a very time-consuming I realized that if I were to continue doing that I could only build my business on the side and I just took a leap of faith especially when I sold David Palmer to apartment side by side for

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a total value of it was a little bit more than 350,000 which today would be the equivalent of say a 10 million dollar property yeah it was a landslide victory for me I took that check I remember collecting it from the developer and 89th Street and walking it to 60th Street in my office was skipping down Madison Avenue and singing Georgia girl to myself I quit that Day sales and I decided to use that money to hire three new salespeople right there I knew I could afford it and then I hired six more and then 10 more and then before you knew we had a thousand people I don't

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you make it sound like it's over night but it was just that same methodology whenever I had spare money I would divide it by an overhead monthly figure out how many bodies I could afford like a mother paying for the kids and then I would go out and hire that many people you know that's it was a simple formula I never changed and it was really very useful yeah I'm wondering I mean sounds like like in the first few years there was you know quite a bit of success but I mean in a short period of time you must have hit the the stock market crash of 1987

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when writing does it huge crash I mean how did that affect your business that was a bloodbath for a good reason when the economy crashes or even really waivers a terrible thing happens if you're in the real estate brokerage business buyers and sellers do nothing hmm nothing is terrible for brokerage a big sellers Market is great because it's action of horrible Market is great because people have to sell but in the beginning when nothing happens you go out of business well what happened was the great majority of

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of my competitors went out of business the bad news to that is it's hard to stay in business a very good news in that is I realize I lost half my competitors that's a motivator what happened to you guys well I was really on the brink of declaring that it was over but I was ashamed and trying to make back the money I owed to various suppliers like my agency the New York Times but I owed over $300,000 and there was no business coming in there was nobody

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business know when the market stops it's like it's like the silence yeah it's a terrible terrible the end you have to remember you have sales people many of them supporting their family who have no money coming that's the worst part never mind the business it's the pressure on the people did you have to let people go oh my gosh I always let people go anyway but it was interesting I had my mother working for me then for two years of my life because all of her kids are grown and she was working at the 5 and 10 on to

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15 stream walking across the George Washington Bridge and she was getting older and as a mom you can't do that you got to come to work with me she she was delighted so she was the file clerking a boy did she keep oh God she kept grade file she color-coded them tag them she was a genius at that all right but anyway when the shit hit the fan which is what my mother always called it by the way I get it from her my filthy mouth she came to me and she knew I had to fire a lot of people because you could just see that everybody knew something was gonna shake out and it was fast and she said

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Ed why don't you publicly fire me if you fire me she said no one else could be angry with you and you fire them and she was right that's all what genius so at that Monday morning meeting we always had at 9:30 I said you know every it's no some surprised how bad things are going to have to make a lot of changes and it's going to be very hard for me to do but the hardest change of wolves me firing my mother as I can't afford to keep her on

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I mean you must have been really close to going out of business if he had to make that decision well I was going out of business I own the 300 some odd thousand but I came up with a great idea to sell burning mendax Apartments nobody wanted which was owned by Equitable Insurance who but he was like a big real estate guy was one of the he until his death about guess 10 years ago he was the largest developer in New York

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him and his Larry Silverstein were partners for many years who built the World Trade Center I'm sure you know that name anyway he asked me to look at 88 apartment scattered throughout the city in a number of properties and he said I want to find out from you how you can sell them I knew every broker in town had been in to see them there was no way to sell them no one is by were just they were the dregs of the market that is some of them didn't have kitchens are caught Midstream when the market collapsed so they were in see rated buildings everything was wrong with it anyway I went and I visited me

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eight or nine of the apartments through the supers and right away I thought they were dumps they were dumps they could not be sold we needed a market to sell my desperate Market we had no Morgan so anyway I went back and I told him there was no way to sell it except a public auction if you want to do a public option he said we can't do a public auction we don't want the publicity of failure and I said well there's no other way you can't sell these and I'll never forget what he said he said Barbara you're a smart girl you'll figure it out and I went back and thought about

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about it and boom right in my head came a memory of my mom take in like seven or eight of us however many were born then down to Toms River New Jersey watching a puppy sale with the farmer lady across the street from my grandpa's house and my mother satis on the grass and watched all these fancy New Yorkers arguing over puppies are little Jack Russell puppies really cute and anyway my mother said to us look at all these fancy people do you know why they all want those puppies it's because Louise was smart

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to invite them all here at the same time and so that popped in my head and I went back to Bernie mendick the next day and I said I have a plan I'm going to price all the apartments alike same price well I price all the one bedrooms like all the two bedrooms they were like a ten thousand dollar difference between the categories but somewhere on 22nd floors with Gorgeous views somewhere on the third floor was no kitchen they were so uneven yeah first come first serve we're gonna have a secret sale we're not going to advertise it I'll announce it to my sales people only let them bring the best

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customers but I need you to give me two years free maintenance you're not going to unload these two years anyway maintenance is like association fees monthly maintenance yeah like a condo condo fee monthly maintenance fee I said because it's going to erase the terrible maintenance and their head nobody thinks Beyond two years and pricing them all alike it's going to create a hype and so he said okay give it a whirl and I said we haven't a secret sale to my salespeople I was really going to that Monday announced we're closing the business that's how close we were because I felt unconscionable

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pressures a wonderful thing in life isn't it makes you think and so I announced it to my people as a but get there early and don't bring too many people just a family member if you want and you're single best customer don't bring don't spread it around we don't have enough to go around and I'm telling you I arrived on 81st Street where we had that makeshift office that morning at 7 a.m. and we had a line of 60 people waiting to see those apartments to see those apartments and I'm telling an hour and a half I had a more than a million dollars in that commissions wow and

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I closed it was a closing they sign the contracts and boom it was like a fire sale and but boy were people happy they got the deal of the century yeah I bet they're really happy today but not as happy as I was that day yeah cuz I went from being near desperation of being filthy rich in real estate you'll see Rich you got and one right out and I rented myself a full floor at 660 Madison Avenue because I had the cash to do it and it like everything I've read about you people say you know Barbara's

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wasn't about selling homes it was about marketing she was an incredible marketer is that apps absolutely right where did you is it just an instinct is it just trial and error is it is it just being you know kind of a hustler no I think it has more to do with creativity it's not a black-and-white game marketing it's a the softer side of things right it involves exaggeration involves an Acumen for seeing what a storyline is

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is or what would capture people's interest in it definitely includes people smarts and you know what I actually started realizing I was best when things are bad because I would go into any bed real estate cycle in say say 15th position pecking order within the industry and I would come out of it and eighth position because a lot of people got knocked out yeah so you you decide I guess in your like mm mm mm to sell the Corcoran group to get out yes why did you decide to sell I mean you love

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game you love that that Geo energy in that like pressure so why did you do things happen one I had my first baby at 46 I gave birth to my son Tommy after eight years of in vitro that was nothing short of a miracle something I desperately wanted to finally happen once I had that child my heart changed over or not and it played out my heart every day I was home and my grand old age nursing my son and feeling guilty about it because my kids at work or with Spyro is Barbara and

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so it took me about four years and then I'm wonderful thing happened when the evening Esther and I were doing the Corcoran report numbers as your partner yes Esther my business partner we're doing the Corcoran report numbers one night which took us hours because we wanted to have accurate numbers are very particular both of us I don't know why my first report had no accurate number right it was just some fun by then we were very respectable and making sure all the numbers are accurate and we also did monthly a report of who control the market share on listings because his

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was no mls in New York for still many you jealous is the multiple listing service that showed you who had what listings like you couldn't just go to one place to see all the listings know and we broke the market into price categories and east and west side Uptown downtown so we had those categories and we would go through the listing count together and she'd say 575 Upper West Side I put a stroke don't but we had a categorize by all the top agencies

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in town the top seven and then that night we did all the add up and we could clearly see that Corcoran was number one we had more listings in every category from the highest to the lowest Uptown downtown east west not by a lot but a smidgen over Brown Harris Douglas element and I turned to Esther I said let's sell this drink just like that yeah big thoughtful move but also to be fair it was the first year that I had made over a million dollars myself

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and I figured it's probably worth something you sold a for 66 million dollars within Shashank important because I remember being on a ski lift with my roof for Brother John who still lives in Edgewater we were out in Utah I think and we're going up a chair lift and I get on my cell phone call from my attorney who said I've got great news he said I have an offer of 23 million dollars I seated that I said to him 23 million dollars he goes yep 23 million dollars

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old cash and I said Jim great comeback when you get 66 million cash and he said why 66 million I said because it's worth it and I hung up and I said to my brother John just got 23 million think of that John imagine us having $23 and he said but why did you say 66 it's all because that's my lucky number and would you say those that those accountants kill themselves to try to figure out why 66 it was until the closing I was got great set

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faction telling the whole bunch of oh was my lucky number and it was I proved it

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did you when you sold the company did you did you regret it I would have to answer that honestly on some level yes and in a more important level not I felt enormous sense of freedom to be a phenomenal mother hmm and so that was exactly what I wanted and I had the enormous satisfaction of knowing I had become the queen of New York real estate and financially now set for life at that point yes

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but I never understood how much I loved the people I worked with and how much that team meant to me hmm it was my lifeblood I had found them recruited them train them lived with them gotten through good times bad times I had sales managers 11 of them that I adored and they adored me we were such a tight team and I felt terribly lonely and I really thought I was going to get depressed and probably needed a shrink because I really didn't know what to do with myself

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elf I yearned for good morning borrowed good morning Bart good morning Barbara and all of the hoopla that went with being somebody in a business it was gone so that part I thought what did I do what did I do to myself until of course I don't want to say reinvented myself starting all over again and trying to build a new career I mean that's that's a thing right because obviously you did go on and build a second career because I think most people listening to this would know you as one of the Sharks on

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Arctic not as the head of the Corcoran group yes do you when you're on that show DUI it seems like you have a bias toward people who you know who have similar backgrounds to come from no money I'm very biased they have a much better shot at succeeding why lot of reasons the more desirous they've never had the fancy vacation the delicious new car the private schools the higher education in many instances and

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they aspire to it so they get more satisfaction out of climbing that ladder and getting to it and they've seen their parents struggle through life to give them whatever they've given them the more appreciative they don't take things for granted and you know what else which I should have started with the totally free from expectation do you know how

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how lucky I was to never for a second ever think I wonder what my parents think of this hmm all it was was just let's see how far I could go yeah I had nothing to lose a nowhere to go but up to you know how freeing that is to take risks so they're not risk aversive and you strive harder so so I really am biased I'm not saying that you can't succeed I mean God willing I have I have privileged children I hope they'll succeed it's much harder for me not to let them feel

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my success even if I don't say a word you know and so they're not as free as I was you know God bless them it's harder for them do you feel I mean when you were a kid you were told that you aren't smart do you feel now that you've convinced yourself that you are smart well yes and no I'm certainly Street Smart I'm certainly PeopleSmart I have an instinct when trouble is brewing where's the best accountants in the world will wait till the wall hits them so I trust my math instinct

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I think I'm a smart person for sure but more than that I think I'm going to normally hardworking person and I have great Confidence from my ability to work hard through anything and I think I'm very good at not feeling sorry for myself and I think that's important how much of your of your success do you think is is because of just skill intelligence hard work and how much of it is luck

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well I do believe in luck I've had many many many lucky breaks including meeting Ramon at the diner that night was the beginning yeah or the very good luck of having my parents as parents huh not bad right yeah once you grow up you make your own luck definitely make you look I think all the lucky breaks I had were more result in me staying in the game and just believing something would break just hanging around long enough that's more important than luck in my opinion being

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that every opportunity and standing up for yourself yes more important than luck Barbara Corcoran by the way she was initially rejected for her spot on Shark Tank they went with a younger woman so Barbara wrote a letter to the producer and I said I consider your rejection a lucky charm because everything that ever happened in my life came on the heels of failure the next day

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I called her said he reconsidered and help you know what happened

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and please do stick around because in just a moment we're going to hear from you about the things you're building but first a quick thanks to one of our sponsors SC Johnson a family company everything is chemistry whether its natural or synthetic wood matters is whether it's safe for your family and the environment see what's inside their products at what's inside SC Johnson.com

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hey thanks so much for sticking around because it's time now for how you built that and today we're going to update a story we had on the show last year this one starts about 10 years ago when our yellow Rivera was scrambling to get something together for his girlfriend's birthday I don't believe the gift was actually very good it was just I think like a box of chocolate just some random gift that I had given her so a box of chocolates not super creative right but Arielle actually is creative in fact he's a graphic designer so

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well maybe I'll let least do something cool with the wrapping paper so I think I had my picture just on my computer and I just clipped out the head really quick and I decided to just repeat it on a piece of paper with a funny background so he duplicated his face 15 times and then he photoshopped them onto a backdrop like a Cheesy yellow Starburst pattern and he printed the whole design onto plain paper here at the chocolates and then he handed the gift to his girlfriend Vanessa and

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her reaction oh my God this is hilarious you know like what what did you do and why is your face on this you know it was so funny and clearly it worked because three years later Vanessa and Arielle got married she also happens to be a graphic designer and now and again they would do the same thing that would make wrapping paper for friends and family and put their faces on it and just about every time we give this something that I call you should start a business out of this you should you should make a website you should make a website So eventually

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Arielle and Vanessa did just that and that's first it was tough because we are not web designer to you know I mean now I guess we are but back then we weren't but after some trial and error they started the website and then they named their business gift wrap my face so you upload a photo they duplicate it and print dozens of your tiny little faces on to whatever image you choose we have the statue of David the Mona Lisa the cupid bride and groom we have anyway went

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Ariane Vanessa launched a few years ago they got a few hundred orders at first and about a year and a half later Oprah featured the wrapping paper in her magazine when you finally hit and we see over holding our paper and I think she was in her kitchen holding up a box that's wrapped in our paper which I know that I printed for her it was wild it was really wild even with that boost from Oprah sales have been kind of modest since the company launched about three years ago but very soon Vanessa

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and Arielle are hoping to partner with a printing service that will let them move their production out of the garage in the meantime they both still have their day jobs and another pretty important one raising their two kids ages 6 and 3 so it's either talking about the business or talking about the kids that's pretty much our life now

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to find out more about the company gift wrap my face head to our Facebook page and of course if you have a story about something your building please tell us about it go to build that npr.org and thanks for listening to the show this week if you want to find out more or here previous episodes you can go to how I built this dot npr.org you can also write to us at HIV T at npr.org and if you want to send a tweet it's at how I built this our show is produced this week by run the abdul-fattah original

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music composed by rum team Arab Louis thanks also to newer could see me but Gramps Anna's mesh contour and Jeff Rogers I'm guy Roz and you've been listening to how I built this from NPR