Allison Ziefert and Barbara CorcoranThis week I had the pleasure of seeing Barbara Corcoran speak at the Hilton in Short Hills. Refreshingly funny and easy to relate to, she grew up one of 10 kids in a barely middle class home in Edgewater, NJ. Founder of The Corcoran Group, a residential brokerage based in NYC, she sold her business in 2001 for $66 million.  As a Maplewood, NJ realtor this was a very exciting night for me.

One point that really stuck with me is her belief that what separates successful people from less successful ones is how they handle disappointment. Here are some more takeaways from her talk that are applicable to any business (summarized in a Forbes article from 2011

Perception Creates Reality

Corcoran shared how she created the “Corcoran Report” early in her company’s history, which declared official median home prices in Manhattan. The report was really based on a small sample size of 15 deals she had done, but Corcoran sent the “official” publication to major press outlets and, within a week, even The New York Times had cited the report. This coverage gave legitimacy to her new company—and brought in a whole lot of new business. “In New York City, the meek don’t inherit the earth,” she said. “The big mouth does.”

Everybody Wants What Everybody Wants

When certain real estate properties in Manhattan were difficult to sell, Corcoran took it on herself to create urgency for the properties. One tactic: rather than show available properties to one family at a time (the industry norm), Corcoran would invite dozens of families to showings at once. The competition among visitors to put in an application meant that the homes would sell faster. “In business, you’re the Chief Salesman,” she said. “Create a sense of demand, rather than waiting to have demand.”

There Are Two Kinds of People: Expanders & Containers

When hiring, Corcoran would quickly assess whether the prospective employee was an “expander,” a more sales-oriented extrovert, or a “container,” a fastidious organizer. Both were critical to her organization—but she saw that employees typically fit one or the other role, not both. And being able to characterize them quickly helped her put the right people in the right positions.

Fun is Good for Business

The Corcoran Group became famous for its themed parties (cross-dressing one year, Roman-themed the next) that would get people out of their comfort zone. Corcoran expected her employees to work hard, but she made sure fun excursions and experiences were a part of her company’s culture, too.

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Allison Ziefert, Keller Williams Midtown Direct Realty, Maplewood