Fall 1999

Barbara Corcoran
Chairman & Founder
The Corcoran Group


Barbara Corcoran is the chairman and founder of The Corcoran Group, Manhattan's largest privately owned real estate firm. With over 25 years in the real estate business, she has earned the title "Queen of New York Real Estate." Barbara began her career out of her Upper East Side apartment in 1973 with an initial investment of $1,000. With an unwavering will to succeed and a penchant for creative ideas, Barbara developed a spirit of teamwork within her growing company. The Corcoran Group has since evolved into a ten-office operation with over 450 sales agents and international affiliates in 31 countries around the world. Today, The Corcoran Group generates more than a billion and a half dollars in sales a year.

Ms. Corcoran's innovative approach to the real estate business has distinguished her as a leader in the New York brokerage field. For example, her brainchild, The Corcoran Report, has become the bible of the real estate industry, providing a barometer of market conditions and emerging trends on a semiannual basis. She also opened the first video real estate gallery and initiated special one day/one price sales promotions to generate excitement in stagnant markets, a tactic that is now canonized in the industry.

In 1995, Barbara launched www.corcoran.com, one of the first real estate firms online. The leading real estate website in the country, www.corcoran.com generated more than $90 million in sales in 1999. The site provides detailed information about The Corcoran Group, the properties it represents, and each of its agents. The Corcoran Group sells a property a day off the site. This number has grown exponentially since the site's inception four years ago.

Despite the vast size and depth of her business, Barbara remains a hands-on and approachable manager. She consistently chooses the right people and works closely with her staff. She has developed an extensive training program (a rare amenity in the real estate field) to maximize her employees potential and their mastery of the latest technology. The Corcoran Group is, among many other superlatives, one of the most desirable places to work.

Barbara, who calls both Manhattan and upstate New York home, shares her time with her husband Bill, six-year-old son Tommy, and her four stepchildren. In her free time she enjoys skiing and playing golf and tennis.

Barbara Corcoran on Success in Business: Don't Fear Failure

"The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is to look back on the things that they should have done," says Barbara Corcoran, the dynamic chairwoman and founder of The Corcoran Group and the widely acknowledged queen of New York real estate. "To be successful, you have to let go of the 'why nots'."

Corcoran, whose high-end real estate firm is among the city's most profitable, shared her business perspectives with the Lubin community as one of last semester's Entrepreneurs in Residence. During her visit to the New York City campus on December 6, Corcoran lectured to both undergraduate and graduate students. At an evening reception, students also had a chance to talk one on one with her. Corcoran, who has an engaging speaking style, mapped out her life for the students and the seminal events that shaped it.

[Barbara Corcoran]
"When I was growing up, we never knew where the money was coming from," recalled C o rcoran. But despite modest means, the Corcoran family refused to develop a pessimistic attitude. "I learned the benefits of living in the moment and having fun," she added. This outlook on life would later serve as Corcoran's armor when—at twenty-three—she started a real estate business out of her apartment on east 86th Street. Up until that point she had pursued several different ventures, including running her own flower business, but failed at all of them.

"A great entrepreneur has to have a lack of fear and a great deal of common sense," said Corcoran. "I think my youth and inexperience helped me [to persevere], because education and book knowledge can breed fear and uncertainty in people." Like many of today's most talented entrepreneurs (Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Jerry Yang and others), Corcoran said she had "the wonderful advantage" of not knowing too much. In other words, she didn't obsess about the possibility of failure because she didn't know enough to be afraid. Had she been more informed about the 1970s real estate market, Corcoran might never have placed that first $16 ad in The New York Times that started it all. Both the city and its property values had taken a sharp nosedive. But after convincing her landlord to let her find a buyer for one of his vacant apartments, placing an ad in the paper, and making her first commission, Corcoran was hooked on real estate. She borrowed $1,000 from a boyfriend and began working full time from her home. Whatever money was left after the overhead she used to hire additional salespeople.

After years of extremely hard work, ("twelve hours a day, seven days a week," recalled Corcoran) she managed to build up the second largest real estate business in New York. The Corcoran Group is now a ten-office operation with international affiliates and over 450 sales agents. The company generates more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue. In 1995, Corcoran launched Corcoran.com, one of the first on-line real estate ventures. The site, which racked up more than $90 million in sales in 1999, provides information about the company, its properties, and sales agents.

Despite her personal achievements, Corcoran said she never lost sight of the key to success in the real estate industry. "It's all about people—how well you treat them, and how well you read them," said Corcoran. "I have never met a winner in the business who wasn't an expert at handling failure. So I closely observe how salespeople handle rejection and how soon they bounce back up. Based on that, I can tell you whether or not they'll become exceptional salespeople. At the same time I have to have confidence in my salespeople, recognize their abilities, and figure out how one individual person can have the impact of fifty." To that end, Corcoran has developed a comprehensive training program for her employees and encourages them to stay abreast of rapid technological changes.

She said she has also discovered that "hype is the way to go in business. It's not just about selling, but about looking like you're selling and making sure people know that you're big and successful. We grew to fit [the image] that we created for ourselves. But from the outside, people always thought we were a bigger firm than we actually were. Back when we had fifty brokers, it was thought that we had one hundred."

These days Corcoran divides time between the office and the home she shares with her husband and six-year old son. But despite her increasingly complex lifestyle, she retains the upbeat attitude of her youth. "Even now, every time I think I've had a dismal failure, I know somehow that there's a chance that something good will come out of it. And sooner or later, I'll see the light and I'll get another idea. I would tell anyone interested in running a business to keep this in mind. All successes are the results of past failures."