Known as the “Queen of New York Real Estate,” Barbara Corcoran has experienced many ups and downs in the market while actively investing in real estate and many small businesses. Her 12-year role as a “Shark” on the hit television series Shark Tank has her currently investing in more than 80 companies. As an investor, entrepreneur, and business owner, we sat down with Barbara to get her expert advice on how to become (or stay) successful in these uncertain times.
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Use adversity to your advantage
If you’ve seen just one episode of Shark Tank, you know that Barbara plays favorites with business owners that have previously faced adversity. Many times, in fact, she doesn’t pay as much attention to the business concept as she does to the person.
“The best ideas in the world are useless unless they’re carried out by the right person,” she says. “The stronger the business owner is, the greater their odds of winning will be.”
Barbara believes past failures, grudges, or hard times only motivate investors more to get the business back up and running—so focus on your current strengths and use your past to push you through these times. “Hardship makes your acumen very sharp,” she says.
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Grace and Lace, a popular online boutique owned by Melissa and Rick Hinnant, has become one of Barbara’s favorite Shark Tank investments.
“Winners never took the time to feel sorry for themselves during this crisis,” Barbara says. They took this idea to the next level and focused their work on charity.
Instead of producing more clothing that wasn’t selling, Grace and Lace arranged for their clothing manufacturer to ship 10,000 face masks to the U.S. Melissa and Rick Hinnant then donated those masks to hospitals and first responders in need over the next 10 days. Once they were able to procure designer fabrics, Grace and Lace pivoted their strategy to include selling designer face masks in their shop. Online mask orders came flooding in and traffic to their site overflowed into their clothing line as well, clearing out their backstock quickly.
“They started out with charity first, but the donations gave them the space to think outside the box for the long-term,” Barbara says. The common thread among her businesses that are thriving? “Nobody sat there worrying—they were proactive in their plans.”
Realize that every downturn creates opportunity
Barbara is no stranger to recessions: The Corcoran Group, the New York City real estate business she started in the ’70s, survived multiple downturns, recessions, and the trauma of 9/11.
“Every bad turn is an opportunity,” she says. “I became the leading broker because of the downturns—the competition thinned with every recession.”
Barbara also believes that the world will be open to new ideas after the COVID-19 crisis (remember when kids “couldn’t” learn online, and companies “had” to work in-person?).
“There will be a new normal on the other side of this. With less competition
and a greater acceptance of new ideas, why wouldn’t you push to keep your business thriving today?” she says. “It pays to stick through it.”
Focus on what you can control
With the constantly changing news, smart investors need to be tuned into the world without letting it control them. “Make a list of what you can control and what you can’t control, and then promise yourself you won’t pay attention to what you can’t control,” Barbara says.
“Half of work is what you do, and the other half is the attitude that enables you to do it,” she says. Barbara warns to be wary of what news you expose yourself to as it’s easy to declare war on your motivation and attitude by hearing nothing but constant bad news.
“I’d rather be ignorant enough to think that anything is possible,” she says. “and still focus on what I can change and work hard to change it.”
Barbara believes that focusing on what you can control in today’s real estate market means watching every house that comes on the market now and looking for the right deal despite all the bad news out there. The pure quantity of houses that you look at is something in your control—never has there been virtual property tours like what has become the norm in today’s market conditions and there is a deal to be found in every market if you’re aware of the numbers.
Trust your gut
“One silver lining is that if you have a lot of guts, you’re going to find a deal,” Barbara advises. You can feed your analytical brain all the facts, figures, and data but it should never outweigh what your gut tells you—and that’s something she practices on every episode of Shark Tank.
“Gut is an accumulation of everything you’ve lived and experienced up to that moment,” she says. “Why wouldn’t you trust your life experience over data provided by other sources?”
Of course, investors also need lived experience and the matched courage in order to trust that gut. “Courage,” Barbara says, “and a little bit of chutzpa.”
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Republished with permission from the BiggerPockets Wealth magazine June/July 2020 issue.