7 Business (and Life) Lessons From Barbara Corcoran

You already know a bit about Barbara Corcoran if you watch ABC’s Shark Tank – “went from working as a waitress in Manhattan to building the city's preeminent real estate empire,” – but I gained a new respect for her spunky sass after reading a recent Fortune Magazine profile dedicated to her career. There aren’t many women that would openly admit to wearing “short skirts and bright colors to stand out” and give such advice as, If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons In Your Pigtails, which is the title of her first book.

Business Lessons You Must Know | Barbara Corcoran | Fortune Magazine

Barbara’s an unapologetic, unstoppable force who knows how to play to her creative strengths, but doesn’t pretend to do it all when it comes to business — she freely admits to never knowing “what the revenue was” during the early years of The Corcoran Group.

Building her empire from the ground up has taught her a lot of lessons, many of which will come in handy as you build your own business. Take heed of the seven below.

Lesson 1: Fake it ‘till you make it.

Barbara started as a rental agent in NYC, but wasn’t afraid to dive in feet first when a client decided to buy instead.

How You Can, Too:

Don’t be afraid to go for positions, jobs, or take on clients just outside of your knowledge base. Confidence is overrated. It’s when we’re uncomfortable and looking for answers that we learn and grow the most.

Lesson 2: Stand out from the crowd.

Barbara chose to wear her signature red color and short skirts to stand out in a sea of male-run agencies.

How You Can, Too:

While you don’t have to put your gams on full display to get attention these days, you can become a big fish in a small pond by narrowing your businesses’ focus. So you’re starting your own PR firm? Instead of swinging open your doors to everyone who walks by, make yours an exclusive club to be accepted into by specializing in one kind of client; Say female-owned craft businesses, small batch breweries, or organic bakeries. Don’t think that will draw enough clients? Once the word gets around that you’re the best in the biz

Lesson 3: Save where you can and spend where you need to.

Barbara hosted Christmas parties in February in order to save on costs, and re-invested the cash into her company and employees with unexpected perks.

How You Can, Too:

You can’t live like the big boys when you’re a micro business, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yo’self for all the hard work, long hours, and endless tasks you perform day-in and –out. Get a massage twice a month. Buy proper office equipment. Enroll in courses that will help make you a better businesswoman.

Lesson 4: Know where your money is.

Barbara was quick to spend revenue, but once she got real with her balance sheet, her business could thrive with extra cash in the bank.

How You Can, Too:

Put your business on a budget, and sock away a percentage of your revenue to savings for strategic investments later.

Lesson 5: Be there first.

The Corcoran Group was the first real estate firm to sell online, and while Barbara was registering her own URL, she snatched up the ones of her competitors as well.

How You Can, Too:

Social media plays a big part in business, so even if you’re not ready to jump into the Pinterest, Vines, and Google+’s of the web, secure your brand or business name now. And if you’re just starting out, check all the big social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and perform a basic Google search - to make sure your “perfect” business name isn’t already being used. That would suck.

Lesson 6: Demand what you’re worth.

Barbara wouldn’t settle for the first offer she got when selling her company. She counter offered for what the company was worth, and sold for exactly that.

How You Can, Too:

Setting your rates is a scary practice. You think that if you price yourself too high, you’ll lose clients. Too low, and you’ll end up working like a dog for little returns. How about instead of justifying your rates, tell clients the money they’ll save, and even better – earn from hiring you.

Lesson 7: Stay positive.

Barbara quickly gets rid of “chronic complainers” in her businesses.

How You Can, Too:

Negativity is a blood sucking, poisonous, good-for-nothing weed that kills any creative spark you have in business and in life. Keeping an optimistic attitude no matter what life throws at you allows you to look for solutions, forge ahead, and create new pathways to goals, rather than drowning in (perceived) failure.

What lessons have you learned while launching your own empire?

Source: CNN Money via Fortune Magazine