Building Businesses, Growing Teams, and Surviving Tough Times With Barbara Corcoran 'Shark Tank' | Coronavirus Update May 7th

Building Businesses, Growing Teams, and Surviving Tough Times With Barbara Corcoran 'Shark Tank' | Coronavirus Update May 7th

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Posted by Ian H., President

May 8, 2020

Barbara Corcoran from ABC's Shark Tank shares why it's important for small business owners to stay in touch with customers. Download Barbara Corcoran's best 10 small business advice now:

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May 7, 2020 update quick update


Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard

is reporting 3,836,215 global cases, 268,999 deaths and 1,278,449 recovered.

1,254,750 million US cases and 75,543 deaths and 195,036 recovered as of 3:32pm on May 7. 

To give us some context, when we first started doing these evening updates in March we reported 30,000 cases and 400 total US deaths.

According to John Hopkins university, in the United States the overall incidence may


to have reached a plateau, but this does not necessarily capture variations in transmission dynamics across the country. For example, the New York metro area—including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—has been the epicenter of the US COVID-19 epidemic. When you

separate data for these states from the rest of the country

, a different trend emerges. The New York City metro area exhibits a considerable and consistent decline in COVID-19 incidence that spans several weeks; however, the rest of the country has an upward trend over a similar period. Some of this may be attributable to increased testing, but likely not all of it.

Johns Hopkins is continuing to monitor COVID-19 incidence trends in states that have started easing stay-at-home measures. We may begin to see indications of changes in transmission over the next several days.



White House officials have reportedly

rejected proposed guidance

developed by the US CDC that aims to assist states in implementing appropriate measures as they relax social distancing. According to several

media reports

, first reported by the Associated Press, the CDC presented the White House with a series of recommendations. Reportedly, White House officials viewed the draft guidance as “

overly prescriptive

,” desiring instead to allow state governments to develop and implement their own requirements.



A bill has been introduced to the US House of Representatives that would forgive student loans for frontline US healthcare workers responding to the COVID-19 epidemic. The

Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act

, aims to provide further financial support for healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients.


suspended federal student loan interest accrual and loan repayments through September 2020, but no other measures have yet been passed into law.




National Football League

(NFL) issued guidelines for teams to resume operations at their training facilities. The NFL directed teams to develop plans to reopen training facilities by May 15, initially limited to non-player personnel. A timeline for resuming training and practice with players will be determined later. The league is also coordinating with the players’ union to develop appropriate protective measures for players. Additionally, the NFL announced that it will

debut the (tentative) schedule

for the 2020 season tonight. The NFL already announced that

international games

scheduled for the upcoming season will be cancelled and, instead, played in the United States.

May 7 Topic: Building businesses, growing teams, and surviving tough times with Barbara Corcoran

Special Guest: Barbara Corcoran

Top Ten Business Takeaways

  • All the innovation never comes from your own industry. Look across to different industries and see if you can apply learnings from other industries. 

  • If you want to be an innovator, you have to have fun with your people. I never had a good idea sitting at my desk, but I always had great ideas when I was playing.

  • What the customer needs is what the business is about. Survey your customers and pirate ideas from them.

  • It’s amazing to me how few entrepreneurs know their large sources of business. You have to know where your customers are coming from and think to yourself, could you do more of it?

  • If even your business cannot open at the moment, you can stay in touch with the customers. Reach out to your customers and let them know you’re available to offer virtual estimates. Let them know that you are still in business instead of waiting for things to resume without doing anything. 

  • I only hire happy people. Happy people are team players by nature. They collaborate well, they’re territorial, and they create a can-do attitude. 

  • You will not build a business unless you can hire people and manage them well. Hire someone who is good at the things you’re not good at.

  • The greatest compliment in any business and the only insurance policy that your business will survive and grow on is when people refer, and that is true for every industry. 

  • Owning a business is an eternal journey of not only opportunities, but before the opportunity arises, it is also a journey of overcoming obstacles as creatively, as directly, and as persuasively as you can. You need to have the work ethic to power through the bad times.

  • You must institutionalize the repetitiveness and the many touch points of recognition if you plan to build a well-motivated business, because recognition is as important as money reward.a


Do you mind just sharing your story with us and how you built a real estate empire?

Before my brokerage firm, I was an experienced worker for sure. I had had I think a total of 22 or 23 jobs because I worked since I was 11. I had done every kind of job, but you learn when you work. I also had the advantage of being a horrific student. So what I couldn't do in the classroom, I welcomed outside the classroom and I learned to use my mouth versus my reading ability or mathematical skills.

When I started my brokerage firm, I had the huge advantage of having nothing to fear and nowhere to go, but up. The goal for me, and my siblings growing up was for us to be nice people. And so without that monkey on my back, which so many kids have, I was free as a bird to fail. And so I thought why not try this one. I've tried 22, 23 other jobs, I'll give this a whirl. But on the first day in the business, I knew it was for me because it was like playing, not working. I made my own hours and I trucked people all up and down Manhattan, a city I knew nothing about and talked all day, which is what I was good at, and they trusted me. And they should have because I was trustworthy. Selling apartments in the early seventies, I just had a knack for doing it because basically I really wanted to make my customer happy.

To me, the greatest compliment in any business and the only insurance policy that you will survive and grow is when people refer. And that's true of every industry. The more people that refer you, it's your report card and real life in business that allows you to dictate really how far are you going to go.

The real challenge and what became my forte, is I knew that I didn't want to stay in sales once I had it down. I did it for about two years, renting apartments and then I realized, I don't want to do this and so I realized the only way out of that is to hire people to replace me. And I hired my first person. Hiring your first person when you're in any kind of trade, I think is the hardest hire in the world because you don't know what you're doing. 

You want someone to do it as well as you do it.

I learned the very valuable lesson that 80% is good enough.

And I became very, very good at hiring people, hiring talented people, seeing what their talent was, getting them to believe in it because I believed in it and seeing how far they could go. And so I was good at inspiring people, putting people in the right jobs. And I was extremely good at delegating once I realized I didn't need perfection because perfection gets in the way of business growth. I like everything just so just talk to my husband Bill, he'll confirm that.

But in business you could only get someone who's going to do it 80% as good as you. And that's good enough because it's on those people that you will build an empire.

And that's what I did for the rest of my career until I sold the business.

I think I was just very good always, even as a child, at seeing the gray between the lines because I was a terrible student. What that teaches you is how to dance between the raindrops, how to go undercover, how not to be found out. What it teaches you as an adult or what you come into your adulthood with is especially a gift. You become excellent in empathy because you can't look down at anyone ever, if you've walked in the shoes of the loser. You can feel the pain and people. I think I have great empathy. I could pick up people's vibe very easily. 

The idea of rags to riches, this incredible arc to your story. How much of that is luck? How much is hard work? Do you believe in one or the other or something else? 

I certainly believe in hard work. I don't think you'll ever meet anyone who works harder than me. You need the hard work to get through the bad luck. Everybody has their share of luck. Everybody gets lucky breaks. But it's having the work ethic to work through bad luck. That's what counts, because if you're going to be business for yourself, it’s an eternal journey of not only opportunity, but before the opportunity arises, it's an eternal journey of overcoming obstacles.

That's what business is. It's overcoming obstacles as creatively, as directly and as persuasively as you can. And if you can have the work ethic to just power through those bad times.

You've got a podcast and there's a couple of themes that come up very often that I feel like you keep coming back to. One of them being surviving through change and creating opportunity in every crisis. So what kind of advice may be around some of those themes do you think are particularly useful for our home service pros, given that some of them aren't even allowed to do some of the work right now. What are some words of wisdom that you can kind of impart on them? 

Even if you cannot work, you can stay in touch with your customers.

If you're not staying in touch with your customers, you're out of your mind.

Let me give you an example that happened to me here. We have around the corner a UPS store and we have two blocks on the other side of me, almost equal, another UPS store. And when I closed my office down very quickly and had people work from home, I still had a need for mail services, package deliveries, things of that sort to stay in business. At first both were closed but then I got a call on my cell phone from one of the entrepreneurs. He said, I just want you to know Barbara, I'm here for you. I didn't even know who I was talking to. I guess it's the guy that owns it. He said, I'll come to your building, I'll pick up packages. I'll figure out the postage you could pay me later. I just want you to know I am here to service you. I'll do anything to make you happy to service you. I want to service all my customers. He called every single customer he ever had. The other guy still has a closed sign in his window and I haven’t heard from him. 

It's more than anything, an attitude that yes, you are still in business and you're living for the future versus waiting for things to return as to what has happened in the past.

Wrong headset never gets anywhere in business. And in the worst times it's a death toll. You cannot wait for things to resume because when you get through this, you're going to find that they don't resume. 

Nothing comes out of a tragic period without undergoing extreme change

, all industries will be changed. And so if you can stay in touch with your customers and find a way to do or offer something, you will have your ear to the ground and you'll be able to spot change faster and know what road might work, what could we do differently.

But if you're just sitting it out waiting, you might as well just decide to throw in the rag and save your overhead. Because what's going to happen is the smart people are gonna come out on the other side with a lot of ideas and a lot of them will be already put in place, or at least the framework's done.

And you're going to just then decide then, oh, okay, well I guess I'll go out and I'll sell my cabinets again. 

No, it ain't going to happen that way. Everything's going to be changed. 

If you've got six people, you've got six idle minds. I'm telling you, I got my best ideas in business and my most creative ideas very often from the receptionist versus the manager. Get everybody thinking, brainstorming, brainstorming, anything goes. Everything counts because you don't know where your ideas come from and if you're in touch with your customers, you can ask them to, they'll give you great ideas. So it's about really staying in the game, 150% in the game.

What are some tips to encourage this creativity? 

Well, the earliest device I used to encourage creativity was to establish a shoe box with a slot on top and it had a light bulb painted on it and “Good Idea $1”. Anyone could drop any idea into that box. I even found it helpful for the complainer's that you come to complain about something and you say, you give that some thought and tell me what the solution is and put the solution in the idea box. I would publicly hand out the dollars at every Monday sales meeting. I opened the box in front of the agents in that particular office, read the idea and whether they were good at bed, they got the dollar. And so

I equalize good and bad ideas and to keep them coming


Now, I'm on Zoom with them once a week or sometimes twice a week saying, okay, what can we do? Any ideas? How can we reach out? How can we replace this piece of business? We lost it and it ain't ever going to come back. That's fine. What else can we do to replace that? Where else can we make money? What's the new version of that same thing that we used to get paid so well for. Everybody's brainstorming and there is no fear of failing. I always found it so useful that

innovation never comes from your own industry. That's what I learned. I never looked at the big brokers, I would look across to different industries that had nothing to do with real estate and see if I could apply what they were doing in my own industry.

Do you have any insight or any ideas for our pros on thinking about hiring and management, process or philosophy?

Only hire happy people. Happy people are team players by nature. They collaborate well, they're less territorial, and they create a can do attitude.

There are really only two kinds of people at work by nature, they are either expanders of containers.

Expanders are the stereotypical salesmen who are always asking what can I do? What can I do with it? Oh I know we're going to make that deal,we are going to make that deal. What could I do differently? 

Containers are the people that are able to anticipate that money coming in and not spend it.They figure out what they need, and put a system in place. They make sure you have insurance and make sure your files are in order.

When you meet people, you should ask yourself, are they an expander or container by nature? People are one or the other, people are not both but you will need both in your business. 

You will not build a business unless you can hire people and manage them well. How are you going to build a business if not through people? I don't care what you do for a living. You build on the backs of the people that support you. And you've got to choose the right ones that are able to build that pyramid and get you higher and higher and higher as a business.

My partnership happened to work for the 22 years I built the business. But I have seen with my entrepreneurs from shark tank, many of them have unsuccessful partnerships and go out of business, but they were going to go out of business either way. It wasn't a partnership that ruined it. But all of my most successful entrepreneurs that I've invested in, they're all partnerships, every one of them. And I tend to be biased toward wanting to invest in partnerships because it's hard to get everything in one person. 

In an interview on How I Built This, you talked about some incentives you've used over the years to motivate your people. Would you mind sharing some of your ideas on that front? I know our pros are always looking for ideas for how to incentivize their tech. 

We all tend to think you motivate through money and money counts. If you can pay someone more than the next guy., you’ve got a better shot at keeping that employee happy. But equally important, and I used it even when I had money, is recognition.

If there is one thing people yearn for, it is to be recognized for a job well done, for a good idea, for helping out any positive thing where the hand goes out, anything that they accomplish. I believe you should find a way of recognizing it and be acutely aware of how needy people are for recognition.

Once the business got bigger I made sure recognition happened in an automatic fashion so that it was never forgotten. One of the best recognition things I did in the business, totally changed my business from being a low price firm to a premium firm. Nothing more than a simple gimmick. I  announced one sales meeting that anyone who made a deal over a million dollars was going to get a gold ribbon. I got big horse ribbons, you know the kind they put on the side of the horse and the middle said $1 million, and I said, whoever makes a first million dollar deal is going to get this ribbon. People laughed me off my box that I used to stand on. One new agent, a young guy got excited and he got the Guggenheim listing for 1,000,006 on Park Avenue from an introduction through his dentist. When he raced in with his first million dollar listing, I had him stand on the box and announced that Ron Rossi had just made the million dollar first listing. Soon,you were a nobody if you didn't have gold ribbons on your bulletin board in front of your desk, and it's a culture. It was recognition. 

Just recently you've been talking a lot about just finding opportunity in crisis. I think it's important for our pros to really understand what you mean by that. So maybe you can kind of grow on that and tell them a little bit more about what you meant?

Crises mix up the playing board because what it does, everything that came before the rules changed, the players change, the chips change, the needs of the customer change. It's more of an attitude toward the future, which I think I've mentioned a little bit earlier. 

Something you said on the coronavirus episode of your podcast was you have to be the hero when you come out of this, but also take this time to dream and reimagine what your business is going to look like after this. And that was something that really stuck out to me. And that's a theme that we've been trying to weed through these broadcasts now for the past eight weeks. Don't just sit there. Think about who your new ideal customer is. Think about the different marketing techniques they're going to be putting forth right now, not after this right now. So that was something that stuck out to me on this same note. 

If you really can't think of how your business might change or what the customer's need is going to be, you can survey your customers.

What the customer needs is what the business is about.

You've done work with them before. You can dig out your files for the last six years and say, Hey, remember me, I'm looking at my business and I'm wondering if you could spend a few minutes with me. You've got Goodwill established there. You could just pirate ideas from all your customers. You know, you could really walk in their shoes and get good ideas. I have no doubt if you'll take the time to do that and believe that they're there to be had. They are. 


What would you do with that thousand dollars today that you got at the beginning of your career that you built your multimillion dollar business into? 

I would bring my trade to where people are and tailor my pitch to what people are afraid of to cover that fear and try to give them a healthy, something that's gonna make them happy. Think about your marketing and your messaging. Hey look, I can give you a safe option, right? I've thought about you, my customer. Here's what I've done for you and to make this a safe opportunity for both of us, right? And that like that mindset was a big deal for a lot of our pros to figure out early on. They can't just use old messaging. It's a whole new world now in COVID-19, they gotta change everything about how they sell their emphasis and their offering.

What do you look for when deciding what service based customer you use in your life? 

I always go for recommendations.

So I really needed a dog groomer and my regular guys closed the business and I haven't heard from him. I called and there wasn’t even a message on his machine. So I called a few of my friends and said, “Does anybody know a good dog groomer?” I found one this morning and biked my dog across the park and dropped him off on the West side. I wasn't necessarily going to leave him with my dog if I didn't like them. Even though I had an appointment, I left my dog in my basket until I sized up the guy. But within 10 seconds I said, what a winner. This guy is twice as good as my old guy. It was his dedication to wanting to please. That was so obvious. 

That's typically the route I will do. I always ask for recommendations and then I interview in a phone call. It's not so much around what you charge. I usually get on the phone and I chat and ask them how are you doing? You know Francine recommended me to you. Have you worked with him for very long? You get a feel for the individual. You can sense quality individuals. I think if you just ask a few questions and then that's how I hire everything. Everything through referral and then through a brief interview trying to get the person as relaxed as I can get to talk about other than factual answers 

That's such a great point. You're not just doing business with them. It's not just transactional. You're starting hopefully what's a lifelong relationship with this customer so keep that in mind when you're talking with them.

Do you have any advice or keys to balance on growing a business and a successful family life?


Yes. You have to divide your time. I have managed to do that. I value fun as much as I value my business, as I love to have success, but I want a very fun filled life with my friends and my family. And so I would plan my vacations every six weeks without fail. Every six week I was on vacation. And you know what I found? I found that I not only had a blast on the vacation regardless of how much money or how little money I had to spend, but I had six weeks to look forward to it. Not only that, I knew in six weeks I was pulling out, creating a psychological deadline to get stuff done. So I won by that all the way around. And when I went on vacation for the week, I refreshed my mind, my body, my sense of fun, and I came back with lots of ideas. I never had a good idea on my desk. I always had great ideas when I was playing.

For the people in my organization, I make sure I have fun with them. It's such an important part. If you want to be an innovator, you have to have fun with you people. I don't mean just the Christmas party, which is so boring. Let me toast you. You're wonderful. Nah, people have enough of that in their life. I'm telling you about a drag party. Something really fun.

If you can get people out having fun you will have an innovative company.

Is there one thing that our pros, our customers should think about doing tomorrow?

Sit down and make a list of where you got every single customer from. It’s tedious but put their name and what the deal was and think where did that customer come from and put the source. It's amazing to me how few entrepreneurs know their large sources of business. You have to know where your business comes from. Once you have the source of every piece of business, think to yourself, could I do more of it? How do I do more of it? And if it's gone away, that source and it ain't going to come back, what could I substitute?

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