Barbara's Blog post March 27th, 2017
Are We Having Fun Yet?
This we have been told countless times: work is work, not fun; that’s why it’s called work.
If you’re an entrepreneur or small businessperson, I don’t have to tell you that most every minute of your business day is not about having fun. You’re tasked with a never-ending, heavy load of hard work, as well as a lot of hard knocks.
As I always say, your success depends on how you weather the storm. And sometimes, you just have to simply lighten up, even if the sailing isn’t smooth. Smiling, laughing and having fun is not a roadblock to being productive or successful. Besides, life is short. How much time do we all spend working? I’d hate to actually calculate it.
Although you do have to hustle and grind to become a success, you also have to give yourself – and your people – an occasional break as well.
There is something to be said about how unproductive “all work and no play” can be. Research has shown that work without play can lead to burnout, anxiety and absenteeism.
There is something to be said about how unproductive “all work and no play” can be. Research has shown that work without play can lead to burnout, anxiety and absenteeism.
Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, says that there is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.
The Millennials have it right – visit any co-working space hosting young companies and you’ll see large wall screens for videogames, comfy couches, healthy snacks, ping pong, chessboard and foosball tables, and exercise bikes.
At companies like Google and Linkedin, employees play volleyball, scale walls and even bowl, on company time.
Think about what hours of computer screen gazing can do to your eyes – and your mind. That’s one of the main reasons why you need to get your team offline for a while.
Of course, play is no substitute for work – play has to “work” with work. Fun is not meant to be an all-day play date. Your team has to know how to handle fun in a responsible way.
This first work-related fun event I ever had was so simple – and I discovered it by accident.
I was able to rent an old, open-air bus for $850 for the entire night – which included the driver. At the Monday morning sales meeting, I gave the staff a heads-up to keep their calendars open for Friday night, and to dress up like they were going out on the town.
Needless to say, the excitement and anticipation kept building throughout the week, and the energy in the office was electric.
Friday night finally arrives. Dressed to the nines, the staff gathers on the corner of 62nd and Madison. And here comes that old, open-air bus! Surprise!
The gang climbs on board, and the bus heads north. The final destination: a slow tour of Harlem! And this is during the time when Harlem wasn’t the real estate goldmine it has become today. Back then, it was more interesting and fun.
Sound a little ridiculous? Yep. I wanted it to be ridiculous. That’s part of the fun.
Sure, I could have given a cocktail party. But I don’t think those are so much fun. At a cocktail party, the two people in my office who hated each other would not be standing next to each other, laughing with each other, like they did on that bus.
Well, once I saw that, that’s when it hit me. Here’s the magic juice to building teams.
The power of fun in the workplace is often so underutilized.
When I was in the process of selling my business, I was a little nervous about the way the financials would be analyzed, in regards to all the fun I had created. I had asked my partner (and numbers cruncher), Esther, how much the fun was costing us. She said, “Believe it or not, it only came out to less than one percent of our budget.”
Imagine that. We were having so much fun that I thought we were spending half of our money on it. But in reality, that’s how much it bought. Compared to all the other expenses of a big business, it added up to very, very little.
Of course, workplace fun never has to be extravagant or expensive. An extended lunch, a pizza party, an aerobics or yoga break, or even just some chat time away from the computers can help motivate the team and keep them bonding and energized.
This quote is usually attributed to the philosopher Plato (but the jury is still out as to who actually said it): you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
Fun is good for business. Work hard at bringing it into your life.
Barbara's Blog post March 20th, 2017
How To Win Friends And Influence People
I’m often asked which business books I recommend, but I always answer with this caveat: read all the business books you can, but read them “as you go.”
In other words, don’t wait to start your business, thinking you first need to brush up on Business 101. Don’t accumulate all that knowledge first, while putting your own plans on hold.
That’s always my first bit of business advice: if you’re gonna do it, get to it.
Any business book you read and any advice you get will have more meaning and be more applicable while you are taking action and making things happen. If you’re reading a book without a business to apply it to, it won’t mean as much to you.
Venture out first. Read all the business books you can, but read them while you’re building an actual business.
That said, my all-time favorite business book is the Dale Carnegie classic, How To Win Friends and Influence People. And I’m not the only fan.
It was published long before I was born -- way back in 1936 – at the height of the Depression. It was an instant bestseller. In fact, it went through seventeen editions in its first year, and sold a quarter of a million copies in its first three months. Over the next few decades, it would sell more than thirty million copies worldwide.
That should give you an idea of its value. And it’s astounding that most all of the advice in the book is just as relevant today.
Why did the book resonate? Its message was strong and easy to understand. Dale Carnegie shared a common-sense-but-revolutionary concept about self-improvement, long before Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins.
The objective: to get ahead in life, you simply need to retool your way of thinking.
Yep, I know, it sounds simple, but if it were that easy, we would all be happy billionaires. As basic as this advice is, it takes work and discipline to develop these skills.
Sometimes even the simplest advice needs to be placed squarely in front of us so we can see it; let it continually tap you on the shoulder; let it keep reminding you to follow it. Once you master this skill set, your life will change.
Carnegie’s book walks us through the ways we can find success through developing attractive personal traits, strengthening self-confidence, and getting people to genuinely like us.
His ideas speak to millions and millions of people from all walks of life, but the most successful business people often refer to this book as one of the most useful resources of all time. In fact, Life magazine named Carnegie as one of the most important Americans of the 20th century.
He came from the most obscure of backgrounds. Carnegie was born in rural Missouri and worked a number of odd jobs. One of those gigs was teaching a class on public speaking at the YMCA. While there, he developed his ideas about how to cultivate a dynamic personality – more specifically, how to understand and connect with people’s deepest emotions – and make that work for you.
The idea is to cultivate and rely on your personal image to get ahead and grab success. The book grabbed me, that’s for sure.
Here are just a few takeaways from How To Win Friends and Influence People that have helped me along:
Be interested in other people. How often do you dread having to interact with people who talk only of themselves? It’s not a conversation; it’s one-sided borefest. In those situations, how fast do you want to make your exit? It would be different if that person took a genuine interest in you instead, asking all about you with a natural, sincere curiosity. Keep this in mind the next time you are talking with someone. People love being asked questions about themselves. They love those who take an interest in them, and are good listeners.
Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. The next time you are tempted to do any of these three things, bite your tongue. These are some of the most difficult bad habits to break. If you really think about it, there is always something nice to say. With practice, this gets easier and the three c’s (criticize, condemn and complain) fall away.
You can’t win an argument. Nobody wants to be told they’re wrong. People don’t like to lose face, or be pushed or humiliated. Instead, if you are respectful of them – even if their opinion differs -- they’ll be on your team and think the world of you. Carnegie himself said, “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it, and if you win it, you lose it.”
Emphasize the things you agree on. This works like magic. If you are willing to find common ground, you’ll win people to your side, and get them to see your point of view. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll find common ground with someone who seems – on the surface -- to be the polar opposite of you. Dig deeper.
Smile. Take a quick check around you. How many people are smiling? I bet not many. Smiling is contagious, and it’s also a mood and confidence booster. Smiling will attract people to you, but we often forget to do it. Keep it front of mind and front of face!
Remember names. Someone once said that “a person’s name to them is the sweetest sound in the English language.” We tend to like people who use our names in conversation. Get good at remembering people’s names, and use them when talking to them.
These are just some broad stroke points. I strongly recommend that you get your hands on the book and devour it, cover to cover (it’s one of the easiest books to find, even at the library).
Are you getting Carnegie’s idea? All successful people call attention to people’s good qualities, and make them feel important and heard. Successful people offer emotional support and trust; they radiate positive energy and bring a smile.
Sounds easy, but it take practice. Are you ready to win friends and influence people?
Barbara's Blog post March 16th, 2017
Terrified of Public Speaking? Here’s What To Do.
Because you see me every week on Shark Tank, you probably assume that I’m very comfortable speaking in front of large audiences. I also do a fair amount of public speaking at events, lectures and seminars, so it would seem that talking in front of crowds is just second nature to me.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. Public speaking is something I struggled with my entire life. Even in grade school, when I had to stand in front of the classroom and present a project, I felt like I could never find my place. I would stutter, lose my voice, and my thoughts would get all bunched up and entangled. Worst of all, I experienced panic attacks. It was horribly embarrassing, and it left its scars on me.
Let me tell you about my professional public speaking debut, way back in 1973, when I first started my real estate brokerage, The Corcoran Group. I had been invited to speak at a seminar for homebuyers. I figured, what the heck -- it would be free advertising for my new brokerage. What I wasn’t expecting was 800 people in the audience, and me being called up to the podium before I could turn around and run.
I decided to start with a joke, but the punch line floated away before I could get it out of my head. It was all downhill from there. I toggled between mumbling incoherently and opening my mouth with nothing coming out. Real smooth. I slunk back to my seat, mortified. The moderator – and the crowd -- were stunned, but not as stunned as I was.
Okay, so that happened. In a way, I’m glad it did, because that was called “hitting rock bottom.” There was nowhere to go from there but up. And that’s where I headed. I was not going to let that moment define me. I worked on my fear so that I would never be put in that position again.
Let me share with you what I’ve learned about public speaking since then. Here are a few basic rules of thumb I recommend:
Face your fear. If you’re afraid of public speaking like I was, guess what my advice to you will be: go do it. In fact, go out of your way to do it.
Here’s how I did it: I signed up to teach a nighttime real estate course. And I faced my fear every single night, in front of a full classroom of people staring at me. I did this for six straight years.
As my career grew and speaking invitations started to come my way, I fought every fiber of my being to turn them down. Instead, I forced myself to accept every one that I could. Practice makes perfect.
Public speaking is like an instant report card. I know how I score, right away, in real time. I get genuine, real-life feedback, from real people, in ways that I could never get from TV appearances and print interviews, or even tweets.
Be frank with your audience. Don’t be afraid to tell your crowd that you’re nervous or afraid. Most people are very forgiving and understanding, and it’s better that they hear it from you than see it on you, without an explanation. It will put you – and them – at ease.
In fact, they’ll like you even more when you share your anxiety with them. It makes you more human. You’re telling them, “Ya see? I’m not such a big shot.” Not that I ever thought I was!
Be prepared. Don’t wing it. Before your engagement, practice multiple times, and out loud, in front of the mirror and people you trust. The more you practice, the more you’ll work out the kinks and sound more precise. This will give you more confidence when you finally get up there.
Don’t try to be perfect. Nobody is expecting you to be. The more perfect you try to be, the more it will show, and it will actually detract from your message. Nobody’s perfect. Instead, loosen up and try to relax. Focus on what you want to share with your audience.
Like anything else in life, public speaking gets easier with practice and experience. Yep, you’re going to mess up and possibly embarrass yourself, but it’s truly the only way you’re going to learn and grow and get better. And let me tell you something else: most times, people don’t realize you’re messing up; most people don’t even remember that you goofed. Only you do, and you’ll tend to magnify the mistake in your head, while most everybody else in the room has long forgotten the incident.
Also, if you think public speaking is a gift given only to the most successful people in the world, think again. Apple’s Steve Jobs, who was considered one of the most charismatic business speakers in history, was terrified of public speaking at first. The same thing happened with Warren Buffet. He had to work very hard to overcome his fear of public speaking. Imagine that.
If you’re an entrepreneur or own a small business, public speaking is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader. If the crowd likes you, they start to follow you on social media and attend your future speaking events. It helps you gain credibility and puts your company on the radar.
In a way, public speaking is like entrepreneurship. You shouldn’t be afraid to fail. And you have to learn how to recover quickly, and spend no time feeling sorry for yourself. You should jump in with both feet, and keep moving on, no matter what.
If this is a skill you need to master, you know what to do.
I’ll tell you another added benefit to mastering public speaking. It gives you the confidence to confront your other fears. Hey, you just slayed a dragon. Bring on the next dragon!
Barbara's Blog post March 10th, 2017
Should You Patent Your Great New Idea?
If an idea for a product or service comes to you -- practically out of nowhere -- and it sticks with you and follows you around, you really may be on to something. And if you have what it takes to turn that idea into a profitable reality instead of a failed experiment, then I don’t blame you for wanting to protect your idea from being stolen, right from the get go.
However, that precious idea, which is called your intellectual property, could cost you a heck of a lot of money to protect. The way to safeguard your intellectual property is with a patent.
If you’ve watched enough episodes of Shark Tank, you know that the question “Do you have a patent?” is asked so often that entrepreneurs know to answer it before it’s even asked. So, yes, it’s an important consideration.
But what exactly is a patent? A patent is granted to an inventor by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It prevents others from using or selling the idea throughout the United States (or importing the invention into the United States).
There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant. They last for about 20 years from the date of the application, and are publicly disclosed.
Here is what patents are not – they are not a trademark, service mark, or copyright. And the USPTO does not enforce patents after they are issued. That’s your job, with the help of costly legal counsel.
Here are the things you should do first, before even considering getting a patent: get the product out of your imagination and into real life. Sell it and get some impressive sales. Make the big guys envy you. Then get a patent.
Like my Shark Tank bud, Daymond John, says, “If you can’t prove your concept when you’re broke, you won’t be able to prove it with money either.”
My opinion on patents may not jibe with my other Shark mate and good friend, Lori Grenier. Lori, who holds more than 120 patents, urges entrepreneurs to get a patent as soon as possible. Her reasoning is logical, I’ll admit: for marketplace protection and insurance for investors.
However, my view tends to synch a little bit more closely with Daymond. If you’re spending lots of money – right upfront – trying to secure a patent on something that you may not yet know if customers even want, I think you’re throwing money away.
That money could actually be put toward your business, which is the real test to see if your product will be successful.
Even Lori agrees that, ultimately, getting a patent is a personal choice.
Here are a few less costly alternatives to patents:
File a patent-pending application (PPA). This documentation protects your idea for one year, buying you time to prove yourself. And it only costs $100!
Ask your associates to sign non-disclosure agreements (commonly called NDAs). This way, you have a record of a promise from them not to give away your secret without your permission.
Ask your workers or collaborators to sign non-compete agreements (NCAs). This will protect you from anyone involved in your project running off and starting a competing business.
Apply for a trademark. They’re certainly not cheap, but they’re a heck of a lot cheaper than patents. A trademark can help establish evidence that proves that you own the idea.
Remember, in order to get a patent, you’ll need the help of a patent attorney, who is highly specialized. And even then, you need to drill down even further to find a patent attorney who specializes in your line of work, whether it is technology software, retail products, and so on.
Be prepared: there is a lot of paperwork and writing involved, and patent laws can change often, based on court cases.
Patents are only worth something if you have the money to defend them, and most entrepreneurs do not. Make a prototype first and see if it sells, before you lose time and money.
Barbara's Blog post March 2nd, 2017
Consider This When Finding A Business Partner
Did you ever hear the expression “opposites attract?” I definitely find it to be true in business (if not marriage!)
Your business partner will be one of the most important relationships you will ever have in life. Your decision should not be based solely on finding someone who thinks and acts exactly like you do, as logical as that may seem.
I don’t think you can build a successful business on two people being exactly alike, with a shared skill set.
Think of a crayon box -- you certainly don’t want all the same colors in that box. You want different colors, and lots of them. And by that, I mean different strengths and skills. All of these qualities will create a synergy and complement each other.
Entrepreneurs who want to hire their pals and buds are always a red flag for me. Your friends may be fun, or even smart, but if they don’t bring you the skills you don’t have, you are going to have a very hard time getting your business to the finish line.
The best example I can give you is about the best business partner I ever had. When Esther Kaplan first walked into my office to interview for a sales job, everything about her was wrong. She was too buttoned-up, too careful. In short, she was the complete opposite of me. Nevertheless, we continued the interview, but I was already gone. I didn’t think of the two of us as a fit.
Here’s the thing that changed everything, though: I handed her my business card. She took the card, and was about to put it into her purse. The purse happened to be tilted in my direction, so that I could see inside. And guess what I saw -- partitions!
Something in that moment spoke to me. You know what I saw in that purse, besides partitions? I saw the opposite of me, but in a good way. Try finding something in my purse – good luck. There are things that have been in there for years. What Esther showed me in that purse was the very opposite of my personality – her ying to my yang.
I suddenly took a new look at Esther; I now had a different perception of her. Fast forward: Esther became my equity partner and served as president of The Corcoran Group for the next three decades.
Good thing she opened that purse.
Of all the businesses I am introduced to on Shark Tank, the most successful ones – hands down – are the ones run by two people with polar-opposite skills and talents.
The great advantage of the power of two: in most cases, the partnership involves two completely separate personalities, to go along with the opposite abilities. You would think something like that would be a recipe for disaster, but it’s quite the opposite (no pun intended). And yes, somehow these opposites find each other, which says a lot about how the universe works.
Perhaps you may be a good marketing or promotions person, naturally good with public relations, networking with people, good at throwing the baloney around. Who would you want as a partner? If that were me, I would want somebody who is good with numbers, somebody who can color code everything, and raise money from banks. In other words, somebody with partitions in her purse. It’s the perfect partnership, and a huge advantage.
I find that there are two kinds of people in business: expanders and containers. Expanders like to push the envelope, take risks, network like crazy (and also spend your money). Containers are more detail oriented, conservative, and like to keep on top of things. They keep you from losing money.
Both of these types of people are equally valuable. Those traits are actually natural talents. You may be one type – search the world for the other. They just have to be matched to the right needs.
In a way, think of it as dating. Before you get “married” to your business partner, allow for a long dating period to find out all that you can about them. In a marriage, you share responsibilities – taking out the trash, washing the dishes – and in a business partnership, look for the partner who can remember to pay the bills while you remember to change the batteries in the smoke alarm. You get the point.
Discover if your potential partner is more of a creative type, or a schmoozer, or good with numbers, or adept at technology. If they’re great with the things you’re not, that sounds like a partnership to me.
Barbara's Blog post March 6th, 2017
Take The Cash-Only Challenge
Oh, those credit cards are so seductive. What can be better than buying what you want now, and paying for it later? Problem is, most of us really do pay for it later, in painful and burdensome ways.
Impulse and convenience can be a lethal combination if abused and unchecked. Credit card debt has sent many of us down a rabbit hole that often allows us no escape or breathable air.
But here’s my challenge to you, and I’ll admit it’s quite a challenge: Try spending a week where you only use cash for everything. Charge nothing to a credit card.
Just one week. Think you can handle it?
Take it from one who knows. I’ve been there. In fact, I was one of the worst offenders. When I was in my 20s, my spending was out of control. I moved from New Jersey to New York, and got swept up in the excitement of living in the city. I was charging things I knew darn well I couldn’t afford, and eventually bouncing checks left and right.
Credit cards never felt like “real” money to me. They’re so convenient too. But when I use cash, it feels real. With cash, I understand immediately exactly what I am spending.
The turnaround came by the time I was in my early thirties – better late than never. I finally figured it out. I continued to work my butt off as I always had, but this time, things were different. I had a new mantra: cash only. I pledged to work to get what I want, rather than spending money before I had it.
It was only then that my course changed, as I started on my way to become a Manhattan real estate power broker. I was no longer charging purchases; instead I was charging ahead in life by living within my means
I find this interesting: a Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend 12-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash. In fact, McDonald’s reveals that its average purchase is $7 when people use credit cards instead of when they use cash. With cash, that average purchase is only $4.50.
Here’s another eye opener: Research scientists Promothesh Chatterjee and Randall Rose conducted a study which revealed that consumers who use credit tend to focus on the products’ benefits as opposed to their costs. That’s all well and good until you start dealing with suffocating debt.
Don’t stop at the cash-only challenge. Drill down even further and set up a budget for yourself. All of us need to stay on the straight and narrow – a budget helps us do that. A budget is a great way to keep an eye on your financial progress and expenses, and keep them in line.
If you’re currently in debt, don’t fret. Adversity like this – if you are truly paying attention to it and determined to triumph over it – is a chance to master some incredible skills that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and have a long talk with myself about this. If you are in your 20s and reading this – or any age, for that matter, because it’s never too late to get your house in order -- please consider making cash-only a habit. Start with trying it for a week, and feel the powerful difference.
Barbara's Blog post February 28th, 2017
Pipsnacks: Why Exclusivity Is Not Always The Exclusive Answer
Jen and Jeff Martin are a brother-and-sister team from Brooklyn, who appeared on Shark Tank on November 14, 2014
At that time, the duo introduced us to Pipcorn, the company’s premiere product. It’s a special kind of popcorn that Jen had discovered while working in a Chicago health-food store. A local farmer produced a mini-corn kernel, barely known by most of the world. It doesn’t get stuck in your teeth—and it makes great popcorn.
Jeff and Jen struck a deal with the farmer in order to make Pipcorn. The product is vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO – the perfect snack for a health-conscious, popcorn-crazy population. It comes in Sea Salt, Kettle, Rosemary, Cheddar, Salt and Vinegar, Ghee and – be still my heart -- White Truffle.
Even before Shark Tank, Pipsnacks was doing just fine. At the end of 2013, they had three employees and about $200,000 in sales. Jen and Jeff wanted to take their dream to the next level, and these two were just the type of entrepreneurs to do it.
All the Sharks loved Pipcorn. The burning question, though: there are countless popcorn products on the market – if the only thing differentiating Pipcorn was its special, tiny corn, that could be a shaky proposition.
My Shark mate, Kevin O’ Leary, wanted to know if this special type of corn was exclusive to the Pipsnacks peeps. The answer: no. Jeff told Kevin that there is no exclusivity deal yet, but the product was growing so quickly that the deal should be a reality sometime in the future.
Whoops. As you can imagine, that’s not the answer – or the explanation – that Kevin wanted. And he had a point: Pipsnacks had given themselves a very generous $2 million valuation, and Kevin – as always – wanted to know what would justify that number.
Mr. Wonderful’s wiseguy summation: with $2 million, he could pop his own corn and hire two people to run the business for a fraction of the amount.
“You’re not worth it,” Kevin said. “There’s nothing proprietary about the seeds.”
Jen and Jeff were quick on their feet, and had a beautiful comeback. They said that they had already been running their business for two and a half years by that point, giving them more experience than anybody Kevin could hire.
In addition, the numbers were impressive: in all, Pipsnacks had over $400,000 in sales, with sales increased over 125% from the year before. Customers were buying them as fast as Pipsnacks could pop them.
It made me think. Sure, exclusivity is always important, and always needs to be considered. But exclusivity does not always transfer to good business sense and vision. Exclusivity, as vital as it is, does not always guarantee success and sales. And these two kids surely had success and sales.
Good news, for sure, but there was still a downside: the company had only three employees, with no outside help, and all the manufacturing was done in house. Once again, Jen and Jeff were thinking of the big picture. They said they wanted a co-packer, which is a company that packages and distributes the company’s product so that Jen and Jeff could focus on sales. This co-packer could cut costs in half, and Pipcorn could double its sales by year’s end.
Hmmm. Well, Robert Herjavec made an offer first: $200,000 for 20% of the business. Kevin pointed out -- as Kevin would often do -- that Robert was cutting the value of the business in half.
My turn. As an investor, what appealed to me were Jen and Jeff themselves, as people. These two were winners. I believed in them. My offer was the very offer that they had originally asked for: $200,000 for 10% of the company.
Robert wanted in, but the Pipsnacks duo gave me the green light. Why? My success in the food industry, and my long track record of being a dedicated mentor.
One of my other Shark Tank success stories is also a food business: Daisy Cakes is an online bakery and one of the biggest success stories in the show’s history. And let’s not forget Cousins Maine Lobster, one of my best Shark Tank investments ever.
Since then, I haven’t regretted my offer for a second. Sales went supernova (how does $6 million lifetime sound!)
In fact, now is the time for that exclusivity agreement with that corn farmer. So just like they predicted, the exclusivity happened sooner or later. It was later, but it was worth it. And the right entrepreneurs were steering the right product and the right success.
Pipsnacks has since expanded its presence. It went from 40 stores, which included 18 Whole Foods, to being sold in over 3,000 stores nationally including 431 Whole Foods Market stores, as well as select Target, Wegmans, and Fresh Market stores!
The employee count is now up to 30 (that’s a long way from the original three). Way to go! Creating jobs! I like that.
I’m so proud of Jen and Jeff, and all of my Shark Tank companies. I’m the luckiest kid in town.
Click here to find out more about Pipsnacks.
Barbara's Blog post February 7th, 2017
Believe It: The One Life Experience That Can Make You Rich
We all come to the table as the sum of our life experiences. No matter how high up the ladder you climb, or how you build your company into a powerhouse, you’re bringing along your childhood and your awkward teen years; basically, the person you once were.
I never fool myself for a minute. No matter where my career and my life take me, I’m still that little girl from New Jersey, and I bring along with me all that came with it.
That’s sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. What I see in most of my successful associates is all the challenges and experiences that make them the winners they are today. It’s what makes their motor go. Me too.
In fact, there is one life experience I find to be most useful when it comes to holding the keys to success, even before you become successful.
It’s this: poverty.
Yep, out of adversity come the grit and the motivation and the worldview you need to succeed. And I’m Exhibit A.
Take the good news/bad news story of my dad. Edwin was the fun dad on the block, and all the kids loved him – not just my nine siblings, all the kids in the neighborhood. But that “daddy’s home!” feeling came with a very steep price. Because he was outspoken and didn’t ever take any guff from the boss, he never held a job for very long.
The good news: Dad would often return home early from yet another short-lived job. We were thrilled to see him. It meant more fun, games and dad-time for us.
The bad news, of course: our family finances were constantly unstable. He was the sole breadwinner, and he rarely won that bread on a regular basis. Thank goodness a friendly grocer would deliver free food to us until we were able to pay him.
We would never really think of ourselves as poor. As far as being fiercely loved and intensely happy and very close-knit, we were hardly impoverished. But let’s face it, with dad’s resume the way it was, what else could we be but poor? At least financially.
I think Dad’s career track (or lack of one) is part of what inspired me to become an entrepreneur – and kept me motivating up every hill.
My Shark Tank cast mate and pal Daymond John wrote a book on this very subject – The Power of Broke. In it, he says that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, or a trust fund or a network of well-connected people.
However, he did have the good fortune to get a job sweeping floors in a bodega after school, and there he learned what it took to run a busy, successful, local business. That was only the humble beginning, and we all know the rest of his incredible story.
Daymond says that being broke is nothing to be ashamed of; it isn’t a flaw or a drawback or something to be avoided. It could be your greatest asset. He says that when you face hardships, you learn life’s biggest lessons in the shortest amount of time.
He adds that being broke teaches you how to work hard – harder than everybody else. Being broke makes you realize what you need – and what you want. It makes you smarter.
I agree with Daymond. I truly believe that poor kids have nothing to lose and nowhere to go but up.
On Shark Tank and in business, the entrepreneurs who attract me the most are the ones who grew up poor, or with adversity. I like the ones who take the investment money and sit on it, saving it for a rainy day. They spend their newfound money smartly, because most of their lives, they never had enough.
That was me. Coming up in business, for every dime I made, I had to think about its best use. The kind of money you’ve worked your butt off for is the kind of money you are not going to lose so fast.
Given the choice of a trust fund or the childhood I had, I would choose my own life every time, and not change a thing. Where would I be today if not for all that adversity?
Barbara's Blog post February 2nd, 2017
The Tweet That Generated Heat
Last spring, I tweeted a thought, which brought on an avalanche of criticism. The backlash was intense, and I was accused of giving “retro” advice. But I haven’t backed down from what I said, nor will I, to this day.
Here’s my tweet (and brace yourself):
I find running a #business in a man’s world to be a huge advantage. I wear bright colors, yank up my skirt + get attention. #womeninbusiness.
Yep, you could hear a pin drop after that one. Salon responded to it with this headline: Barbara Corcoran’s career advice to women: Hike up your skirts. CNN called it “pretty outrageous advice.” And Eileen Carey, a cofounder of Glassbreakers, an enterprise software company, called my comments “the opposite of progress.”
I stick by what I said, though. Look, it doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man. What I said really has nothing to do with what sex you are.
In fact, I’m one of the biggest feminists you’ll ever meet. I hope that I’m included when counting the first women who succeeded in what was once a man’s world. Don’t even get me started on how dismissed I was when I first started out, and the sexism and wage inequality I have dealt with all of my working life.
Yet all the time, I see female entrepreneurs who feel that they have to purposely dress in androgynous clothing – maybe black blazers and baggy khakis – because they’re thinking that we should all be judged by our vision and our ability, not in what we wear.
I agree wholeheartedly, but I also live in the real world. I understand – from a lifetime of experience -- that human nature remains the same, even if times change.
All I meant in that tweet is that women should not look like the guys in order to be successful. I truly don’t think that works in business. If you’re beautiful, just be beautiful. Don’t play it down or deny it.
Let’s face facts: 92% of senior investment teams at top venture capital firms are male. That’s according to a study conducted by The Information, a tech industry watchdog.
What I’m saying is this: you’ve got to play up what you got. Use it to your advantage.
Take me as the best example. I never felt that I had the best face or the best body. But one thing I do know that I have is great legs. So guess what I do when I want to get attention: I show them off. I wear my skirts really high. I yank up my skirt at the midriff, and here I come.
I don’t think of it as sexual in any way. I think of it as a gimmick – an attention grabber. And it works.
It’s simple math, really: in business, you’re ultimately judged by your numbers – what you bring in. But let’s take one step back: to get those numbers, you have to stand out in the crowd. You’ll never, ever succeed by just being and looking like everybody else.
I even wrote a book in 2003, with a title that probably would stir even more controversy than that tweet: If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails. That advice came from my mom. She didn’t have business experience, but she knew how the world worked.
You can be outraged all you want, but I know that in the end – man or woman – it comes down to brains. If you’re not using your brains, you are not going to succeed in business. No exceptions. You need to use every ounce of your common sense, your street smarts, and your gut instinct in order to succeed. You have to be thinking all the time.
Guess what, though: there are a lot of intelligent people out there – all using their brains -- but there is only one you. The person who knows how to grab attention is the one who is going to get noticed, and surge ahead.
The key to success: be different from the pack.
Use what you got to get what you want.
Barbara's Blog post January 30th, 2017
The One Word Entrepreneurs Should Never Say
Entrepreneurs make lots of mistakes when starting out (I know from personal experience). But one of the biggest mistakes they make is that they use one word that often gets them into a lot of trouble.
That word: yes.
The problem with saying yes is that you are saying yes to somebody else’s agenda. And it’s always for the same reasons -- because you are a nice person and you want to please people. You really do not want to let anybody down.
I get it. I’ve been there. I know that feeling.
But, listen, pal, you’re going to have to make friends with the word no if you expect to get anywhere in business. If you are a successful entrepreneur, you must always mean what you say, and you must be accountable for every commitment you make.
You can’t – and shouldn’t -- do everything that is asked of you.
To learn the fine art of saying no, ask yourself this one question: “Does it serve me as well?”
Nothing is wrong with helping a friend or associate, but when it comes to your business, you have to ask, “Is there something being asked of me that serves my business? “
If it doesn’t, you’d better say no.
I’ve seen entrepreneurs going though the first ten years of their business saying yes to everything. This could be because they are being flattered and courted by slick or aggressive people. Or it could be because they are desperately trying to be accepted in a startup world of constant rejection. Or it could be that they are people pleasers, with that drive to not disappoint anyone.
So what happens? Those ten years go by, and your anger and resentment fester for these people – the very people you were trying to please and not disappoint.
The only person you should really be angry with, though: yourself. You’ve “yessed” yourself into being non-productive.
You’ll see the art of saying no practiced on Shark Tank, over and over again. Not every entrepreneur will say yes to an offer if it doesn’t seem to serve their business.
Sometimes I’ll be pissed off at a rejection after I offer a deal, and other times I’ll understand why I didn’t get a yes – and maybe even agree with them. Maybe I was told no because my deal wouldn’t serve them or their business.
One of my most profitable Shark Tank companies, Cousins Maine Lobster, is one of the most wildly successful companies to ever appear on the show. But even the cousins, Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis, are finding that they have to say no to other entrepreneurs who are coming to them with all kinds of ideas and proposals. Everybody loves a winner, and everybody likes to hitch their wagon to a star.
“The growth is a challenge and it’s exciting,” Jim said to Fox Business, “but we’re not saying yes to everything.”
Worry less about letting people down and focus on doing things that serve your business.
Saying no shows people that you are willing to be direct, focused and honest. It shows that you know where you stand. And most importantly, when you do say yes, it makes that yes more powerful.
Here are a few ways to keep “no” in mind:
Say no to the request but not to the requester. Let that person know how positively you feel about them, but you simply cannot accommodate their request this time. It will leave them feeling less rejected personally.
Also, listen to your gut. Your gut is usually right, and it’s trying to save you a lot of hassle. Your instincts won’t lie to you. If it feels like the answer should be no, go with it.
The best leaders in business know how to say no. In fact, they gain respect for saying so.
Barbara's Blog post January 27th, 2017
Keep Your Customers By Practicing This One Thing
As an entrepreneur with your own company, you may think you’re the boss, but in actuality, there is only one boss: the customer. And that boss can fire you at any time.
Sometimes losing a customer cannot be avoided, despite your best efforts. In most cases, though, keeping them boils down to one simple thing.
It’s this: empathy.
That means the ability to truly hear and understand your customers’ feelings – that you can genuinely feel and share what they are going through.
How? By simply listening – really listening. And if there is a problem included in what you’re hearing, put yourself in your customer’s place and solve that problem – quickly.
I’ll admit that this is easier said than done; it takes practice, and sometimes situations escalate or veer off the tracks. Yep, real life and drama often get in the way of your most important goals and best intentions.
But look how far you’ve come. On a daily basis, you’re getting better at rolling with the punches. It won’t take long for you to grasp the value of truly listening to your customer, and putting yourself in their place.
Here’s how I mastered the skill: I grew up as one of ten kids. Do you know what it means to be paid attention to? It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. That’s how your customer will feel when you give them your full attention.
Here’s another way that I learned to better understand and listen to customers: by getting to know them before I meet them.
When I had a real estate company, I created a form for each salesperson to complete after each sale. In fact, I would not pay the sales commissions unless each questionnaire was carefully filled out. It was that important.
The objective: to find out how the salesperson made the sale so that we could better know and understand what customers want.
The detailed form included questions like: how did the customer find you? What is the age of the customer? Are they single or married? Did somebody refer the customer to you? If so, who were they?
These questions may seem like a drag to answer, but it led to a very precise way to predict customer traits and behavior. With time, we had a really amazing resource, a predictable track record, and a better knowledge of what kind of customers were coming to us. In a short time, we had a good grasp of what customers wanted. It helped us to understand them.
Let’s face it, though. Some customers will simply drive you crazy. I get it. I’ve been there too.
In many cases, some customers are unhappy with you because they are unhappy to begin with. Nobody wants to lose business, but sometimes you’re much better off moving on and finding a new customer to replace them.
I’ll admit that I’ve sometimes found myself on the phone yet again with the same miserable customer. It’s times like these when I realize that life is short. I hang up in mid-sentence while I'm talking to them. They assume we lost the connection. When they call back, I don't answer because I’ve already moved on to a more productive use of my time, and to customers who could really benefit from my help.
It sounds awful, but let’s be real: that miserable customer will most likely continue to spread the misery with somebody else.
This situation is extremely rare, but it’s the exception that proves the rule.
It really boils down to this: entrepreneurship is all about coming up with creative solutions, and of course, this includes getting and keeping customers – by understanding them.
If the customer wants to spill, listen. Lend an ear. And if there is a problem or concern, understand it from your customer’s point of view, and solve it.
Every interaction with a customer should be a valuable lesson. Hopefully, your relationship with each customer is mutually beneficial.
Barbara's Blog post January 17th, 2017
Six Business and Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Mark Cuban
By the time I got to Shark Tank, I brought decades of valuable business experience with me – both the mistakes and the triumphs, and all of it experiences worth sharing.
Just when I think I’ve seen it all and have nothing left to learn, I’m amazed at the lessons and valuable advice that continue to come my way and benefit me. It just goes to show you that you never stop learning, especially when you’re learning from the right people.
All of the Sharks have taught me lessons that have strengthened me as an investor and as a businessperson. Every Shark has their specific area of expertise, and I never stop learning from them.
I was flattered when Mark Cuban told Business Insider that he liked working with me because I have a “unique spin on things.” I can tell you that the feeling is mutual. I really respect Mark and his approach to business, and I have learned so much from him.
I think the biggest reason why Mark is successful is because he’s smart. All of the Sharks are smart in different ways, but I notice Mark’s special brand of intelligence in the way that he knows right away what he wants and what he doesn’t want.
On the show, I always feel that my odds of winning are always good when I team up with Mark, without a second thought or an ounce of remorse. One thing that Mark and I both share: sizing people up quickly. It’s definitely a gift – I don’t think it’s something that can be learned. It’s a sense, an intuition. Nobody fools me – I get that from my mom, but I see that Mark can do that too. Just like that. He knows when someone is trying to con him, or if someone is not genuine. His antenna goes up – he can smell it a mile away – and so do I.
Here are just a few valuable lessons I’ve learned from Mark that I want to share with you:
Be efficient. Mark does due diligence fast – so if a deal is going to happen, it’s going to happen. Boom. No hedging or hesitating. No long, agonizing debates, no hand wringing.
Be prepared. Mark says that being prepared is the best way to reduce risk. When you walk into a room, if you don’t know more about your industry, your customer, and your own business than anyone else in the world, your ass is going to quickly get kicked.
Sales cure all. It’s so simple, and so brilliantly correct. Mark says that no business has ever succeeded without sales. You can work on your business plan or infrastructure all you want, but without sales, you have nothing.
Develop a deep understanding of technology – or find a partner who does. These days, technology seeps into every aspect of business, and you certainly can’t be successful without it. I’ve come a long way in being more technical than I once was, but I always look to Mark when it comes to technology. If Mark is putting his interest and money into any type of technology, chances are it’s a winner.
Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you. How beautiful is this advice? I realize that I had been doing this all of my life without actually summing it up this way, but it’s true. There is always going to be someone who is willing to work harder than you. Maintain the mindset that what you have can be taken away from you at any time.
“Every no gets me closer to a yes.” I can really relate to this statement. Mark says that we should not take “no” as a failure or rejection; instead, “no” is a part of our story, and if you keep working hard, the “no’s” will eventually lead to many yeses.
I can tell you that I’m living proof of that.
Barbara's Blog post January 9th, 2017
The One Thing You Must Give Up In Order To Succeed In Business and Life
Show me somebody who can take a hit, and I’ll show you a good entrepreneur. The ability to get knocked down and keep on ticking is one of the most important qualities an entrepreneur needs to succeed.
For many lucky people, this is a natural trait; for the rest of us, it’s a learned skill that we have to work at in order to achieve it. No way around it. It never gets easier, but it always remains vital to success.
One way to master this skill faster is by removing one very soul-sucking roadblock that almost always keeps us from reaching that finish line.
It’s this: feeling sorry for yourself.
I’ve found the big difference between the superstars and the strugglers is how long they feel sorry for themselves. Some people will take a hit and be out of commission for two weeks. Others will take the hit – and they were hurt just as much – and they will jump right back up and work right through it.
Having a pity party is sometimes comforting, and gives your stressed mind a rest. But think of it this way: licking your wounds won’t make them heal any faster.
Also, in that act of bouncing back fast, you will always find something good. That refusal to feel sorry for yourself is like a battle cry that goes out into the universe, and draws people and opportunity to you.
Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, say to yourself: I’ve come so far. I’ve done a lot to get here. I have just as much a right to be here as anybody.
Each time I have this talk with myself, it gives me a little more confidence and an increased ability to step forward.
This is true for me, but I also see it all the time in my best entrepreneurs and business associates. The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves. The less time, the better.
I’ve proven this theory to myself again and again. Here are just a few quick examples:
When my boyfriend and business partner left me for another woman, and also said that I would never succeed without him, of course I was devastated. But here’s the difference: instead of allowing that feeling to fester and keep me down forever, I decided instead to toughen up. The reason why: his parting words to me were a lifetime insurance policy that I would never let him be right. He would never have the opportunity to say, “I told you so; you didn’t succeed without me.”
When the old-boy network in New York didn’t give me the time of day because I was a woman, did I retreat into a corner and roll up into a ball? Hardly. I became their biggest competitor. Plenty of hard work was involved, but the one thing I didn’t allow was self-involvement and feeling sorry for myself.
When Donald Trump said I wouldn’t see a penny of the $5 million dollar commission he owed me, did I slink away and mumble to myself? Did I think that he was too big and powerful for me to stand up to him? Nope. I sued him in federal court and got every penny that he owed me.
When I was first cast as a Shark, I received a letter from the production team that they changed their minds about hiring me – they decided instead to give my Shark slot to another woman. That was a perfect opportunity for me to sob and cry and spend the rest of my life wondering why I didn’t measure up. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I wrote a letter to Shark Tank producer Mark Burnett, and I said: “I think you should invite both women out there to compete for the seat, and let the ‘better man’ win. I’ll be on that plane on Thursday night – I’ll buy my own ticket – and I’ll see you on Friday.”
You know how that story ended. Thank God I did that! Thank God I spoke up for myself instead of putting any energy into feeling sorry for myself.
You have to be able to take rejection, handle failure, deal with disappointment, and have no down time. Spend no time feeling sorry for yourself. All that time that you are thinking, “poor me,” your competitor is inching closer to that victory – the victory that could have been yours.
It’s all in how well you get back up. Fight!
Barbara's Blog post December 28th, 2016
Commit To This One Simple New Year’s Resolution
We all make them and we all break them, but I think that New Year’s resolutions are an important marker in seeing and feeling where we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are going.
However, committing yourself to too many resolutions may set you up for failure and disappointment. In most cases, you can’t make every single one of them happen.
Instead, concentrate on a few much-needed but more easily achievable goals that will surely make a difference in your life – and will open the door to more opportunity, happiness and ways for your life to improve.
There is one resolution that I promised to myself last year that I really worked at – and it really worked well for me. I hope you can see the value in it as well, and I hope it pays dividends for you the way it did for me.
It’s this: attempt to see one friend every week.
By that, I mean to actually see them – in person. That doesn’t mean texting or emailing or even calling them on your smart phone.
When I finally got around to realizing that my very small circle of intimate friends had become “texting friends,” I decided to take action.
We’re all busy with our careers, our families, and our lives, but I suspect that the conveniences of the digital age have actually reduced and diminished the time we spend with our friends face-to-face. And there really is a difference in quality between a face-to-face experience versus a digital one.
It’s truly as simple as it sounds. And, like most commitments, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. And the more you make it happen, the more your friends will make it easier for it to happen, because they’ll see where you are going with it.
Once a week, invite a friend to coffee, or a brisk walk, or have them join you in something interesting that may be happening in your life. You’ll notice the great difference between that and, say, an email or text exchange. The bond between the two of you will become stronger.
You’ll also notice that your friend will be grateful for your thoughtful action, that you care enough about that person to make this effort.
Make more time for the person who means so much to you – in person
Barbara's Blog post December 19th, 2016
How Cousins Maine Lobster Is Paying It Forward
For an initial investment of $55,000 and a 15% stake in the company, I became a partner in Cousins Maine Lobster. I’m proud to say that my partners, Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis (actual cousins), are two of the most successful entrepreneurs ever to appear on Shark Tank.
Their backstory is amazing, but the way they give back to their community is downright inspirational.
First, their backstory: Sabin and Jim started Cousins Maine Lobster in a single food truck in Los Angeles in April 2012. A pretty humble start.
How they pulled ahead during the lunch truck boom: authentic, sustainable lobster rolls -- high-quality lobster product, flown fresh to California from Maine.
One of the main reasons for their success: in Los Angeles, lobster was often perceived as an expensive delicacy, served in small portions at expensive restaurants. Now, customers on the street could enjoy delicious lobster – in generous portions -- served in split-top rolls and with plenty of butter.
Who’s hungry? Apparently, a lot of people: the business grew to 20 trucks nationwide and now also includes a fast-casual restaurant in Los Angeles. By 2016, the company reached $20 million in sales, serving over a million customers.
The plan for 2017: 10 new trucks on the streets, and international expansion.
Now, let’s take the story back one more step before we pay it forward. Long before he found success with Cousins Maine Lobster, Sabin grew up in a single-mother household in southern Maine.
He was a troubled teen. His list of bad behavior often ended with run-ins with the police, getting suspended from school, and/or nights in jail. What was his trouble of choice? You name it: drinking, drugs, fighting, and graffiti.
His mom, Jeannie, hooked him up with the Big Brother Big Sister program (BBBS), and the fate and direction of his life changed for the better. Through this experience, he learned the importance of mentoring.
When Sabin was 14, he was matched with 22-year-old Stephen Lacovara. Stephen found BBBS through a small ad in a local Pennysaver magazine. At the time, he was a telecommunications specialist with the Coast Guard, and would eventually become a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was stationed nearby and looking for somebody to mentor.
The two of them hit it off right away. Sabin, at last, had a male role model in his life – somebody he could trust, confide in and answer his questions, both big and small.
Stephen faithfully attended Sabin’s soccer games, sitting right beside his mom. He was a constant presence in Sabin’s life, helping him navigate the rough waters of those teenage years.
Today, the two of them are closer than ever. Sabin was the best man at Stephen’s wedding, and Stephen named his son Anthony Sabin.
The only thing left for Sabin to do to show his appreciation: pay it forward.
In 2013, Sabin and Jim formed Cousins For A Cause, a non-profit organization that partners with BBBS in Los Angeles to help raise money, resources and awareness for BBBS.
These days, Jim and Sabin run a super-successful business – and yet both cousins find the time to be Big Brothers.
Sabin’s little brother, Lawrence, says that having Sabin as a role model has changed his outlook on what he can achieve. Sabin’s advice to Lawrence: focus on what’s best, on achievement. Don’t hang around people who will drag you down. Sabin says he’s most proud of Lawrence for stepping up to the plate and being responsible.
Jim’s little brother, Jake, calls Jim his best friend. Jake admits to getting into trouble a lot, because he didn’t have a male role model in his life. Jake admits that every time he thinks about doing something bad, he then thinks about what Jim tells him and, instead, does something good.
The organization recently recognized Sabin, who also serves as a board member of the LA chapter, as Big Brother of the Year.
The Cousins say that if you want to help, the two most important things you can give are donations and time. 100% of your donation is given to BBBS, so that more lives can be changed like Sabin’s was.
BBBS keeps proving that the best way to help kids facing adversity: mentoring.
Do you need to have the same background and ethnicity as the kid you mentor? Nope. Sabin tells me that what ’s most important is that there is a person who needs you and your guidance, and that you are willing to give it.
It’s definitely something to think about during this giving season and as we head into a new year. Consider how you can pay it forward.
Click here to find out more about BBBS.
Click here to find out more about Cousins For A Cause.
Find out more about Cousins Maine Lobster here.
Barbara's Blog post December 12th, 2016
Stop and Smell The Roses
Spring seems so far away, but my love of flowers is always close to my heart and soul, year round. I always have flowers nearby – I like to surround myself with them and share them with the people I love. It really does make life and living more beautiful.
You don’t always need a reason to give or receive flowers, but for me, flowers have always played a significant role in my life, and, like flowers themselves, have taught me simple and beautiful lessons that I have never forgotten.
I had 22 jobs before I decided to start my own firm, but I did begin one business of my own before my real estate career: a flower delivery club. For $3.95 per week, you’d get flowers fresh to your door. I’d pick them, and I’d bring them to you, and you pay for them -- that kind of thing.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it failed miserably, and then I was back working as a diner waitress.
Ironically, the guy who put me out of my first flower business was none other than a real estate broker. He owed me for 47 weeks of flowers for both him and his mom--at $3.95 a week! I had a cash flow problem and went under.
It seemed like the end of the world at the time, but without me being able to step back and see the forest for the trees, I realized (later) that fate had bigger plans for me.
At the same time, I always think back to that flower business and feel good about myself, because I had the courage to give it a try. Even though the business itself did not bloom, it made future tries feel more possible.
Once I became involved in selling real estate, I learned quickly that the busiest buyers’ market of the year is in the spring. I became aware of a little trick sellers can do to make their houses more appealing to any buyer who stops by, especially in a highly competitive market.
It’s this: if you can, spend ten to fifteen dollars on a big bed of flowers that can color and cheer up the front of your house. I’m telling you, prospective buyers’ responses will immediately be positive.
It seems like such a little detail, but you will be amazed at how much weight and persuasion a small thing like that carries.
Flowers can make a big difference in the way a buyer responds to your home, particularly when you know that the busiest real estate season is in the spring.
Another important flower-related lesson I’ve learned is the importance of sending flowers when building your business. For instance, if your business depends on sales, you are going to need to recruit the very top salespeople.
Here’s how I did it: anytime any salesperson at a competitor’s firm won an award, I would send them a bouquet of flowers to tell them congratulations. My note would say, “Congratulations on your award. Your boss must be so proud of you.” And, of course, this made the salesperson think about that: did the boss seem really proud?
I must have sent thousands of bouquets every year, and you know what it did? It made those award-winning salespeople think that they can get more attention with me. Eventually, they stopped by to meet with me, and believe me, once I had them, I wasn’t going to let them go.
In my real estate career, I’ve faced many competitors, including none other than Donald Trump. There was a time that my company won a lawsuit, requiring him to pay $4 million – or more specifically, $44,444 every month -- until paid up. With each payment, I sent Donald flowers and a note of thanks. He sent every one back, but at least I had flowers on my desk – like clockwork—every month, for years.
The bottom line: I try to think of someone I can thank, and I say it with flowers. It’s the best game changer in the world. Think about it: you’re all wrapped up in yourself and then you help someone up, or at least lift their spirits. They appreciate it and you are spreading kindness and love.
So you may think of me as all-business when you see me on the Tank, but I’m a softie when it comes to flowers. I buy them in bunches, in the hopes of making someone’s day.
Barbara's Blog post December 5th, 2016
The Reward of Being Under Pressure
I usually don’t get my best ideas and solutions when I’m daydreaming or losing sleep or even scheduling time for brainstorming.
The best ideas and solutions I’ve ever had came about directly as a result of being under intense pressure.
Here’s my best example:
I’m sure you’ve heard the name Donald Trump mentioned over the last few months or so. As early as 1983, his name was front-of-mind for me.
I was a young broker then, and he was already a power player, marketing the new Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue – the building that was going to make him a legend. He went to a lot of trouble to let the world know that it was the most expensive address in the world.
Good enough, except that in a data sheet I was about to publish, called The Corcoran Report, I listed Trump Tower as 9th or 10th among The Top 10 Condominiums in New York. You can imagine how well that went over with The Donald.
Fortunately for me, I sent him a rough draft of the report before it published, just to show him how the numbers played out. Of course, he called me to his office to read me The Riot Act.
I’ll never forget the pressure and stress I had felt, riding that mirrored elevator in Trump Tower, up to his office. In those mirrors, I could see the reflection of my own panic and fear, and without a solution in sight. That meeting with him was like a scene out of The Apprentice. He sat me in a tiny mini-chair that he purposely made low, and, from behind his desk, which was the size of an airport hangar, he shouted at me in every way you can imagine.
For whatever reason that is now lost to history, I suddenly lifted my terrified self out of that little chair and went over to the side of his desk. I found the courage to put my hand on his shoulder and say, “I have an idea.”
Did I actually have an idea? Yes. Suddenly, I did. The idea itself isn’t important – I think I suggested we calculate Trump Tower’s price per room rather than its price per foot – something along those lines, but a solution!
The result: Trump became a winner in my report, and his property became indeed the most expensive address in the world.
My take on that: the universe opened up for me, as a reward for my courage.
I find that there is great power in just moving forward, whether you are moving in the right direction or not. Of course, you have to be savvy and learn to make good judgments, but I also think it’s important to make the best judgment you can make at that moment and move on with it.
Embrace the pressure. Let it work for you – not against you.
You want to talk making decisions under pressure? Watch any episode of Shark Tank. I see countless entrepreneurs prove themselves under intense pressure, in front of me, the cast and crew, and millions of viewers.
What keeps me from saying “I’m out” right away – how they handle themselves under pressure. I need to see that grace, that eye contact, the logical answers, the steadiness, in order for me to consider investing in them. Sure, they may be sweating bullets and weak in the knees, but how they bounce back is what keeps me in the game -- and eventually scoring.
The bottom line: you’re more resourceful than you think you are. You’ll always think better on your feet, with the heat turned up, rather than sitting or analyzing or worrying. All it takes is that first baby step.
Push through. You are not always going to have all the answers in your hip pocket. Sometimes you’re just going to have to live in the heat of the moment. It’s actually one of the many things that I find wonderful about life.
Barbara's Blog post November 22nd, 2016
The Unlikely Thing I’m Most Thankful For This Thanksgiving
As the holiday season approaches, I can honestly say that I am genuinely thankful for the wonderful cast of characters in my life: my family and friends, my co-workers, my entrepreneurs, and the cast and crew at Shark Tank.
All of my life, I’ve been very blessed to be surrounded by good people, who have made me what I am today. I truly believe that I am a better, more successful and accomplished person because of the amazing people who have been a part of my life, and my story.
In addition, there is one other thing that I am most grateful for; something that has made a positive impact in my life and, had it not been for this one thing, I know I would not be where I am today:
Yep. All the best things that ever happened to me happened on the heels of rejection. Believe it or not, I consider rejection to be a lucky charm.
A long time ago, my boyfriend loaned me $1,000 to start my own real estate brokerage business. I seized the opportunity. He took 51% of the stock, and together we built a small but strong company.
Good so far, right? Wait – here comes the rejection: after seven years of blood, sweat and tears, he announced he was marrying my secretary, who was younger and prettier than me. Damn. The rejection was unbearable. It took me over a year to leave the business partnership, but I eventually got up the nerve; his going-away gift: telling me that I would never make it on my own.
I think you know the rest of the story. And I’m here to tell you, without that rejection, I wouldn’t be the same person – in the same place – today. I’m stronger, tougher, ready to face anything.
Here’s another rejection example that changed my life:
Getting cast for Shark Tank involved rejection. In fact, my being a part of that groundbreaking show almost didn’t happen.
At first, my casting was signed, sealed and delivered. I was all set to get on the plane to California to start filming. I even bought new outfits. I could not have been more excited.
But wait, here comes the rejection: the production team notified me that they had decided to hire somebody else instead of me. Ouch.
But here’s what I did: I wrote a letter to Mark Burnett, who is the executive producer, to let him know that I did not consider my dismissal as a failure, but as a prelude to greater success. I guess I’m like the title of another one of his shows: I’m a survivor!
A thank-you note for a rejection? Believe it. The letter must have stuck a chord, because you know what happened next. And that initial rejection led to opportunities in my life I never would have imagined.
There are about a million more examples along the way, with clients who didn’t stick with me, deals that fell through, and so on. But here I am. And, despite so many rejections, I didn’t do so badly.
Rejection is never easy, and it certainly doesn’t tickle, but I hope that maybe the next time you feel the sting of rejection, you can remember what it has done for me, and how you can turn that pain into something positive and constructive.
What helps: a positive attitude, and knowing that rejection is actually a valuable learning experience. In fact, sometimes rejection is a door opening to better opportunities that you never would have gotten if you weren’t rejected (take it from me).
Every Thanksgiving, rejection is one of the many things I am grateful for.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Barbara's Blog post November 17th, 2016
The Only Advice My Mother Gave Me That I Didn't Take
My Mom was great at giving advice, but nobody – not even Mom -- is right 100% of the time.
When I was 23, I was waitressing, but also psyching myself up to start my own business. Mom, with the very best intentions, advised me that I should hold onto my waitressing job while building up my resume. She urged me not to rush into anything, to latch onto the little job security I had until I was further along.
I often imagine what my life would have been like had I listened to that advice.
Don’t get me wrong: Mom’s recommendation was heartfelt and filled with love and good intentions. She was actually looking out for me.
It’s sometimes difficult to take risk advice from somebody who loves you. In most cases, the more they love and care for you, the more they will insist that you avoid risk. They don’t want to see you get hurt.
It starts with “look both ways before you cross the street.” That’s practical parental guidance that can save your life. And, as you navigate your way, most advice from loving parents involves playing it safe.
I completely understand Mom’s advice, and I hope she –eventually – understood why I opted not to follow it.
Not all risks pay off, that’s true. Some risks even lead to regret. But let me tell you what’s great about taking chances: I’ve never met anyone who regrets taking a chance, even if that chance doesn’t work out. In business, I see it all the time. For entrepreneurs, it’s all about taking risks, all the time. Some pay off, some don’t. So you fail up – you learn as you go.
What’s safe isn’t always what’s best. Sometimes, if you want what’s best, you have to take some risks.
Of course, all of Mom’s other advice I took, and it was practical and helpful and good -- and greatly appreciated.
There is, however, another piece of advice that Mom would always give to me, over and over again, and I think it’s wonderful and insightful. The problem, though: as much as I believe it, I have a difficult time following it, even to this day.
She said, “Everything always works out. Just keep working hard. You’ll see. Everything works out.”
If you really think about it, it’s true. I must admit, though, that, as true as it is, it’s often very hard for me to think this way -- even after all I’ve been through, the good and the bad. But I do keep it in mind all the time, because that’s advice that keeps proving itself. Everything really does always work out. I didn’t listen then, but I say it all the time now.
Mom knows best.
Barbara's Blog post November 10th, 2016
6 Red Flags I See (And Can’t Unsee) During A Shark Tank Pitch
When I’m weighing the pros and cons of an entrepreneur’s idea, what carries the most weight for me is not the actual product or service, but the person doing the pitching. An entrepreneur’s people skills -- and the grace and steadiness they show me -- tell me everything I need to know before I even consider a next step.
With that in mind, here are six red flags that always steer me away from a world of trouble, both in and out of the Tank.
The entrepreneur is not a salesperson
If I don’t see a show of sales savvy, I’m out. Somebody has to sell that product, and for starters, it better be the head of company. In that pitch, I’d want to hear -- immediately and convincingly -- why their product is the greatest thing on Earth.
Somebody else owns – or shares ownership – of the patent.
Usually, that other owner – the missing link -- is not in the Tank, and that’s an automatic pass for me. If an ex-husband, silent partner, or other “interested” party is in on the deal but not on the set, that doesn’t sit well from where I’m sitting.
Taking mom and dad’s money.
In most cases, when I hear that an entrepreneur took a “loan” from their parents to get the business going, they usually do that without regret, or without any intention of paying them back. What that automatically signals to me: they won’t pay me back either. That tactic may get them further along faster, but it doesn’t show me a fire in the belly, or an ability to deal with adversity. Too soft, too easy – that usually doesn’t translate into hustle.
The entrepreneur is just there for publicity.
He’ll often deny this until his dying day, but it’s a sense I get: he’s not expecting a deal; he’s just there to promote his business. And yes, there is an amazing phenomenon called “The Shark Tank Effect,” where sales immediately surge after an appearance on the show – deal or no deal -- but I can assure you that without the right kind of business savvy and know-how, that effect is not long-term.
The talk is only of projections, not profits.
Entrepreneurs should be big dreamers, but more importantly, they need to be big doers.When I hear forecasts about what will be, or could be, but I’m not hearing actual sales numbers that have brought the business to Shark Tank, it’s time for me to go.
And here’s The Big One for me – my pet peeve:
This is when an entrepreneur tries to impress me with ten-dollar words that I would need a dictionary to understand. Usually – but not always – these words come out of the mouths of entrepreneurs who are overly educated and overly confident, to the point where I wonder what deficiencies they’re hiding or covering up. Here’s my take on that: they are trying to level the playing field with the Sharks, and it’s painfully obvious – and awkward. Stop showing off and trying to impress us with your MBA vocabulary – just cut to the chase! Nothing fills me with more doubt than a know-it-all.
Here’s what does sell me every time:
High energy, a natural charisma, an ability to relate to people, and a sense of genuineness and passion. In other words, entrepreneurs who keep it real.