Barbara Corcoran

Desiree Patno

As the CEO & President of Women in the Housing & Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE) Real Estate Brokerage, Advisor & Investor for AmicusBrain—AI for Aging Population, CSO for ZuluTime, Publisher, Connector and a National Speaker, Desirée Patno’s network and wealth of knowledge crosses a vast economic footprint. With three decades specializing in the Housing & Real Estate Ecosystem and owning her own successful brokerage, she leads her executive team’s expertise of Social Impact, Gender Equality and Access to Capital, and provides personalized consulting services to the Real Estate and Family Office community.

Real Estate Mogul and Business Consultant

Barbara CorcoranBarbaraCHeadshot

She took a bite out of the real estate world and turned her extensive knowledge into exhilarating  opportunities on the hit television show “Shark Tank.” As one of the most sought-after investors, she shares how women business owners can achieve success.

NAWRB: You’ve revealed your struggles with school and establishing your career as a young woman. What sparked your transformation into the powerful mogul you are today?

Barbara Corcoran: I don’t think there’s such thing as transformation. For me, it happened inch by inch. I had  many setbacks along the way that I got very good at moving forward. I wouldn’t call that a transformation but definitely moving forward, no matter what. I was like many of the entrepreneurs I work with now. We take a hit, but we keep popping back up. We don’t lay low in recovery. I learned how to get back up and move forward. Taking those hits can inspire people to achieve what they want.

NAWRB: At the beginning of your journey, you started your real estate business, The Corcoran Group, in 1973 with only $1,000 to invest in the company. What challenges do you see for women who want to start a business in our country’s current economy, and how can they overcome them?

Barbara Corcoran: Remember, $1,000 in 1973 is probably equivalent to $10,000 today. When you’re speaking real estate, what you need today to start a brokerage firm is exactly what I needed when I started. You need a license so you’re legal, you need enough money to put an ad in the paper or online or however you’re going to communicate that you have something and you need a listing. I have to say, not a lot has changed. If anything, the one thing that has changed is the ease of access to everyone else’s listings. I think a very easy way to get started in real estate, and what I wholeheartedly believe in, is starting with rentals. The rental listings are easier to get. With rentals, you also have much more practice. You don’t work with one customer for four months. You don’t have to compete with well-entrenched sales agents with a tremendous following and a lot of clout. You can go in under the radar by renting apartments and what you get is 1,000 people to work with over six months and really train versus you might get eight people over eight months for the sale sector. Today, you have access to properties online. It’s public information. The listing issue of ‘what can I show if I’m licensed’ is all there for you.


NAWRB: You’re bringing up some excellent points. Starting out with rentals and getting out there to promote listings is crucial to being successful. However, creating and maintaining a small business can often be overwhelming. Did you have any mentors or influential people to guide and support you along the way? In what ways did they help?

Barbara Corcoran: Ramon Simone loaned me $1,000. That was clearly influential. Was he my mentor who told me what to do? No, he was a developer. He did the building and I did the brokerage. But, I had something better than a mentor. I had a role model: my mom. There’s no better mentor in the world than someone you can watch and do a knockoff of. That’s basically what I did, what my mother did with her kids, and what I did with my company. What a head start that is to have someone super efficient, who’s very talented at motivating people and a hard worker! I do nothing but hard work because my mother and father were tremendous hard workers. I also have the advantage of competition with our family of 10. Think of what an advantage that is coming into the business world. I mean, 10 kids to compete with for attention. I was pretty good at getting attention and, of course, that led me to being very good at generating publicity.

NAWRB: Along with having a role model to look up to, many entrepreneurs rely on other resources to elevate their business, such as technology. You once said the “best thing that was going to ever happen to the world of real estate (was) the Internet.” What role do you think the Internet and technology plays today for business owners?

Barbara Corcoran: Technology is your partner or your enemy; take your choice. You can use Twitter or Instagram to build followers to give information. You can write a blog locally, nationally or internationally. If you are not using the Internet to make friends, which I think is what it’s intended for, to give data that’s useful, to share amazing pictures, to present things differently than anyone else has, then you’re out of your mind because it’s there for the taking. And so, does it play that role in building your identity? Yes. The other thing it does is give the power to the buyer and business owner. It gives the canned information out of the broker’s hand directly to the buyers and sellers. The buyers and sellers will be as smart as you are. What it’s really done is also put the emphasis on service because if you can’t provide service and give anything more useful, what do they need you for to open the door? It’s totally changed the playing field but what’s wonderful about it is that it’s a great equalizer. You can look as powerful as the largest firm out there while being a single operator depending on how clever you do it.

NAWRB: Technology has greatly evolved, just as a woman’s role in society has with more women leading businesses as CEOs. What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs who are trying to do it all, such as be a successful business woman, raise a family, take care of a home, and find time for herself?

Barbara Corcoran: That’s an easy one. There’s no such thing as balance. End of story. To try to find it is such a waste of time. The closest I’ve gotten to balance is chopping time so that for me, I definitely have my family

time without business and my business time without family. I really can have two lives. When I’m at work, I’m hyper-focused. My family doesn’t bother me here. But when I’m home with them, I’m really focused on them. I have that iron-clad wall, but I can’t say I don’t breach it because traveling is my Achilles’ heel since I fall behind on my work and I’m trying to catch up on emails. I’m guilty of not being with my family; that’s my pitfall. But on a more normalized schedule, I definitely cannot find balance but I have built a wall between the two pieces of my life. It’s so stressful trying to be two people and men do it much better than women. They have the option to do it better than women since they have a mom at home. The only other thing I can offer is to plan your fun in advance. For example, if I didn’t plan in my calendar when I’m going on vacation, those vacations wouldn’t happen.


NAWRB: Love your idea of chopping time. It’s very cool; you start a project and if you’re working on it at home, you feel guilty. It’s so easy to combine your work and family time, forgetting to make a clear distinction.

Barbara Corcoran: It’s especially hard if you’re a neat person and have to leave the day organized. You’re very vulnerable to addiction. One other thing I used to do was plug in my phone, just out of habit, next to my bed. The minute I woke up in the morning, the alarm would go off on my phone. But I got myself a real alarm clock and now my phone is in my entrance hall. I don’t see it; I don’t hear it. It’s an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. When I plug it in, I have to go out of my way to get it. It literally is that easy to break the addiction, that physical change has helped me tremendously. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not holding the alarm anymore which was my phone to wake me up and scroll down to see what my texts are.

NAWRB: Scheduling time for yourself and making those small physical changes like plugging your phone elsewhere is important in order to maintain a happy and successful career. However, success can be measured in many different ways for many different people. Based on your personal experience as a business owner and investor, what ways can women expand or promote their business and become more successful?

Barbara Corcoran: I think the easiest way is to create a statistical report where you keep data on your own business. For real estate, what you have in your job is access to information in your field better than people who are in a different field. We tend to, as we work day in and day out, think of it as not exciting information. But it’s all in how you package it. Think to yourself, “What do I know about my business statistically that other people don’t?” Chopping up whatever information you have and putting it into a different format is always intriguing.  That’s how I make my living on TV with real estate segments. It has converted the best for me but that was a result of me publishing my progress reports. I had 11 sales, added them together, divided by 11 and published a report that gave the average price of New York City apartments. I got business doing that. I used statistics to build publicity for anything. I have a clear theory that I’m in the process of testing that I know is going to be accurate, where you can figure out if you are an entrepreneur or not, so you don’t waste your time if you’re not. You can move forward if you test well. I think producing statistics is the easiest way to generate publicity for yourself. And now that you can publish online, you can get it out there yourself, however you want to do it. Any kind of survey versus opinions is always more effective with any kind of publicity effort. People always need statistics but they don’t necessarily need your opinion. If you give statistics, they’ll come to you for your opinion.

NAWRB: You mentioned your time on television doing real estate segments and now you’re one of the stars of the popular television show, “Shark Tank.” How did you become involved with the show and what aspects of the show do you enjoy the most?

Barbara Corcoran: I simply got a phone call asking if I’d be interested. I was on a CNBC show with an elevator pitch of analyzing someone’s business. I think that probably triggered it. But also, my secretary of many years, Cheryl Martinelli, had a close friend from childhood, Holly Jacobs. I worked with Cheryl for many years, and Holly was into the TV world and became the head of reality TV for Sony, the top dog. Over the years that Cheryl worked for me, she talked to Holly about me. Holly lived in Los Angeles but they always got together. I think it was Holly, because of what Cheryl said, who instructed someone to make that call.


NAWRB: On “Shark Tank” you witness many entrepreneurs fortunate enough to receive capital for their businesses. What resources, such as angel funding, would you recommend for female entrepreneurs who do not have the opportunity to appear on the show?

Barbara Corcoran: The easiest one today that didn’t exist a short while ago is crowdfunding. Go online, make your pitch, and ask for money. Let me tell you, it’s amazing how many people need money to get started. I saw a project over a year ago that I couldn’t believe. One of the quickest funds raised was from a beekeeper in Vermont who had no bees. He stood in his bee suit and told the camera that he wanted to make honey but he didn’t have any bees. What was the payoff? If you sent him $500, you got the first run of his honey. Looking at that, I thought, who would give this man money? But, he got like $78,000. He was authentic and you believed him. Crowdfunding is the big Kahuna today. All you need is a good video and a relatively logical business plan, which of course makes no difference once you get going.

NAWRB: So what do you love most about the show?

Barbara Corcoran: I enjoy everything after filming is done because that’s when I get to work with the entrepreneurs. That for me is a repeat of what I did to build The Corcoran Group. They’re just like my top sales people. The good ones are always pushing the envelope seeing how far they can go. They listen to me and ignore me, just like my top sales people. And, they make it to the finish line. They’re great at rejection and don’t take much downtime at all. They just keep going and keep ticking. All of that is very comfortable to me because I love that. So that is the part I really like, growing their businesses. It’s immensely satisfying in the same way that growing my own business was satisfying when I did it for myself. It’s great to see. You feel like you make a heck of a difference but also the process of making the difference, which I happen to love.

NAWRB: How do you feel about the ratio of female entrepreneurs on your show? Do you feel like it’s a fair ratio?

Barbara Corcoran: Lately, there have been more female entrepreneurs. It was male dominant for seasons one, two and three. And it wasn’t because of the show but it had to do with the ratio of women that applied to men. Women have a harder time showing off, standing in front of a camera and thinking they look good. But in the last season of the show, my sense of it is that it’s exactly even. It seems like there’s as many women entrepreneurs as there are men whereas in other years, I feel like I invested in more male-owned businesses. Not because I chose to but because that’s just how the numbers broke.

NAWRB: As an investor on “Shark Tank,” you are able to negotiate whose business idea you want to select. What qualities in contestants lead you to choose their business plan?

Barbara Corcoran: I don’t choose their business plan really at all. Their business has to make some common sense. There has to be a need for the product or a semi-need. But I would say that just about all of the products make sense. The only thing I’m looking for is in the contestants themselves, the entrepreneurs. I’m looking for a partner. I’m going to have to be working with this guy or gal, and push them as hard as I can. What is the entrepreneur made of? If you want to drill down from there, I’m looking for the same traits over and over again, which is wild enthusiasm and the ability to sell. I like to ask about themselves. I’m trying to get a sense of who they are, background-wise, not just how they came up with the idea. I’m really trying to find someone a little insecure, someone with something to prove because that often takes the form of a phenomenal business person.

NAWRB: You’re investing your time and energy. If you don’t have a sense of their makeup and where they come from, then they’re taking advantage of you. Do you have a specific trait that tells you right away that a person is worth the investment?

Barbara Corcoran: I really want someone who’s spiteful. I know that’s a weird trait in business to look for but you know what, I’m going to work with them for the next four, five, six years. When there’s a lot of money on the table, I want someone who really appreciates me. I’m a human being. I want them to be thankful for the opportunity because I am thankful for them.


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