Barbara Ann Corcoran founded the Corcoran Group, a real estate brokerage in New York City, that she sold to NRT for $66 million in 2001. Her story isn’t just of multiple rejection, but of pure hustle. You will love this!


2/ Barbara is born in a factory town in New Jersey and shares one room with 9 siblings in her parents’ 2 bedroom flat. Her parents sleep on a black vinyl couch in the living room. She’s a straight D student and is mis-labeled as a “dumb kid” due to her undiagnosed dyslexia.
4/ She lands a receptionist job at a real estate firm called Giffuni Brothers and her intrigue for the industry grows. After a few months, her boyfriend lends her $1,000 so she can start a real estate company called Corcoran-Simone. In return, he gets a 51% stake in the business.
5/ This is where her knack for finding business opportunities starts to shine. She reaches out to her old boss Mr. Giffuni and asks for a chance to rent out one of his cheap 1-bedroom apartments. Then she opens up the Sunday New York Times classified ads and starts brainstorming.
6/ She goes back to Mr. Giffuni and suggests a plan that can get him $20 more per month than his asking price. She tells him that if he puts up a wall separating the living room from the dining area, he’d have a unit that will be different from all the other 1 bedroom apartments.
7/ This is in the 1970s. While many people section off living rooms today, no one was doing this back then. Mr. Giffuni is hesitant but goes along with the idea. The next Sunday, she gets an ad in the NYT that says “1 BR + DEN – $340.” The next day, she rents her first apartment.
8/ As her reputation grows, so do the word of mouth referrals. New clients come to visit her at her apartment to ask her to rent out their units. One month later, the owner of her building, Campagna Real Estate sends a letter threatening to evict her.
9/ She’s bewildered and shows up at Joseph Campagna’s office to ask why he’s trying to evict her. He looks uncomfortable and after some awkward conversation, it’s revealed that he thinks she’s a prostitute because of all the people coming in and out of her apartment.
10/ Instead of laughing it off, Barbara turns the situation into an opportunity. She asks Mr. Campagna who rents his apartments. He says that he has an exclusive agent, Herbert Cramer, who manages all his properties and gets guaranteed commission upon closing.
11/ She lives in one of his properties and knows everything about the building. So she ask, “if Herbert Cramer rents all your properties, why are there so many apartments vacant in our building?”
12/ Mr. Campagna is speechless so she pushes harder, “Why don’t you give me an apartment to rent? Just give me the one you like the least.” And that’s how she gets her first exclusive agreement on Mr. Campagna’s building.
13/ 5 years into building the business, disaster strikes. Barbara’s boyfriend / business partner comes home and tells her that he’s leaving her to marry her secretary. She’s furious and tells him that she’ll leave to start her own company called The Corcoran Group.
14/ He agrees to the split but as he walks out the door, he turns around and says “You know Barb, you’ll never succeed without me.” That day, she vows to herself that she’d rather die than let him see her fail.
15/ At her new company, she’s desperate to fill sales team roles. She wants to place a job ad but she knows her firm has no reputation and she doesn’t want to sound desperate. She proceeds to come up with one of the most ingenious recruiting strategies that I’ve ever heard of.
16/ She takes an ad out that says: “Sales, Real Estate. ONE EMPTY DESK. Only one desk available for a positive, high-energy position wishing to earn large commissions. Exceptional company. No experience necessary. The Corcoran Group. 212-355-3550.”
17/ The next day, when someone calls about the job, she sets up a script. The receptionist picks up first and puts the candidate on hold to be “connected to the company President.” Barbara picks up and proceeds to tell the candidate that the position has already been filled.
18/ The candidate is shocked since the job listing ad has only been up for one day. Barbara explains how her company has a long waiting list and that positions are often filled right away before the ad even shows up in the newspapers.
19/ The callers are always disappointed. Before they hang up, Barbara says “new positions open up from time to time, so why don’t we get together and meet in case of another opportunity.” She sets up 16 appointments this way and schedules them all within the same 3 hour window.
20/ The next day, each candidate shows up to see 3 other people already waiting. The receptionist gives each person a 4 page application. Well groomed candidates get a pen to fill out the app, while others get a pencil. This lets Barb easily filter applications and hire the best.
21/ Barbara continues to think about how to get more people in NYC to recognize the company brand. She takes a list of 11 apartments that her firm has sold in the past 6 months and calculates their avg. sale price and avg. price per room.
23/ This report is one of the first creative uses of content marketing by a real estate firm. She sees the credibility her firm receives and she continues to release the report every 6 months for the next 30 years.
25/ Barbara wants her firm to be recognized along the Trump properties. She creates a Top 10 Condo List for The Corcoran Report but when she calculates condo sales, Trump Tower comes in 4th. She knows he’ll be furious so she creates a plan and mails Trump the report.
26/ Trump tries to convince her to “shift” around the data to publish a dishonest report. She refuses to lie but she knows how to play to Trump’s ego. She’s already done the calculations beforehand and tells him that she can calculate prices on a cost per foot basis.
28/ With an equal mention in Trump’s full page ad, The Corcoran Group is instantly recognized as a major player in the New York real estate game.
30/ She was asked to audition and 3 weeks later, she signs the Shark Tank contract. 2 weeks before she boards a flight to Hollywood, Mark Burnett’s assistant calls and says that they’ve found another female shark so Barbara won’t be needed anymore.

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