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Barbara_CorcoranThe Shark Tank Investor Who Cut Her Teeth in Real Estate Shares Her Frank, Feisty, and Homespun Formula for Success in Business and Life

You’ve seen her on TVs ‘Shark Tank’ – the savvy, short-haired blonde investor in her signature power dress and pearls, buying into novice companies over the past five seasons and turning more than a few of their innovative entrepreneurs into almost-instant millionaires.

But it might surprise you to know how Barbara Corcoran came by her own fortune.

The New Jersey-born ‘Shark Tank’ investor got straight D’s in college and held 20 low-end jobs by the time she was 23. Then she borrowed $1,000 from her boyfriend, quit her waitressing gig, and started a small real estate company in New York City.

“Success was a question of charisma and drive,” Corcoran said in a recent interview. “That’s the key to great salesmanship and the key to any great business.”

Over the next 25 years, Corcoran parlayed that $1,000 loan into a $5 billion dollar business empire, pulling herself up by her well-worn bootstraps to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country.

She sold her real estate company, the Corcoran Group, some 12 years ago for a reported $66 million. Today, in addition to trolling the ‘Shark Tank’ for would-be entrepreneurs, she criss-crosses the country as a sought after motivational speaker, columnist, and business consultant, and has authored a handful of best-selling books imparting her wit and wisdom, including one – If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails – that clearly showcases her outspoken, practical approach to making it big in business.

We asked her what she believes consumers – and real estate professionals – need to do to succeed in today’s market.

“The fact is that brokers in the top 10 percent of the market produce 90 percent of the business,” Corcoran said. “So it behooves consumers to choose a top-notch, experienced agent to represent them, and agents need to do what it takes to become – and/or be readily perceived as – a market leader.”

That means using every shred of your energy, know-how, and enthusiasm to convince your clients you can do the best possible job for them, she said.

“For example, since the vast majority of today’s buyers and sellers begin their search online, it’s crucial that agents show every listing in its most favorable light on the most widely used and powerful consumer websites.”

First, she advised, help the homeowner understand how important it is to clean out the clutter.

“Some sellers need to put a third of their belongings in storage before the first prospect walks in,” she said.