Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran — The Ultimate People Person
By Randall Kenneth Jones
Originally published in the Naples Daily News
We can all approach critically important business meetings with a certain amount of anxiety.
For the more imaginative among us, this painful situation can even be musically underscored. (Insert “Jaws” theme here).
Our hearts race. Our heads swim in anticipation.
Our bodies—our spirit—preparing to be devoured.
Da da dahhhhh
Take the above scenario—multiply it several times over—and prepare to meet television’s most feared business beast, the SHARK.
dun dun dun dun Dun dun Dun dun DUN dun DUN dun DUN DUN DUN DUN
(SFX: Entrepreneurs screaming. Music out.)
In truth, a shark tank—televised or otherwise—can’t possibly contain all that is Barbara Corcoran, one of the stars of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
To begin, look up the words associated with “shark” and they appear tailor-made for television: tough, ruthless, deceitful.
However, as most of us seek a workplace with less spectacle, take comfort that the real Corcoran is markedly less “shark-ful” than her male co-stars—men who seem to revel in the smell of entrepreneur blood.
Growing up as one of 10 children in a two-bedroom home in Edgewater, New Jersey, young Corcoran witnessed her parents navigate practically every developmental, behavioral and financial obstacle imaginable. However, according to Corcoran: “My mother could find the positive in anything, focus on it—and make it grow.”
As for the “nature vs. nurture” debate, the success of Barbara Ann Corcoran proves: Florence and Ed Corcoran won on both counts.
Sure, Corcoran’s bio proudly highlights: “straight D’s in high school and college” and “20 jobs by the time she’d turned 23.” However, what is not written is easier to understand: Barbara Corcoran doesn’t respond well to boredom.
As a young adult armed with a $1,000 loan from her boyfriend, Corcoran quit job #20 and opened a small real estate firm in New York City. This very personal project evolved into a five-billion-dollar real estate business—a company she sold in 2006 for $66 million.
Equal parts mother, mentor, teacher and taskmaster—with a hint of “party animal” thrown in for “good leisure”—Corcoran celebrates the parallels between parenting and management. “Tough love is the most essential tool in the box,” says Corcoran.
After all, she has witnessed this pillar of parental power work equally well in the living room and in the board room.
Option One: “Sit down and figure this out or you’re both grounded.”
Option Two: “Sit down and figure this out or you’re both fired.”
Her secret: Corcoran manages to achieve an enviable balance between professionalism/respect and honesty/candor—a skill desired by many but mastered by surprisingly few.
She describes her style as “the truth, wrapped up with a bit of courtesy” and feels equally passionate that “Nothing replaces sincerity and a smile.”
According to 2009 “Shark Tank” entrepreneur and Corcoran mentee Brett Thompson of Pork Barrel BBQ, Corcoran’s televised authenticity follows her into real life. “She makes us feel like a part of her family. She creates a connection that goes well beyond business,” says Thompson.
As Corcoran puts it: “I’m more inspired by the people involved than I am by the product.” Though she understands the emphasis placed on the bottom line, she heralds a different view: “It’s actually all about the people, not about the numbers.”
Take that, Wall Street.
When choosing projects, Corcoran says: “I’m old enough and successful enough to stay away if I’m not 150% committed to the person and their product. I also ask myself: when they become successful, are they going to be appreciative?”
After spending time with Corcoran, one quickly realizes: her warmth, self-confidence, laser focus, fearless sense of humor—and above all—extraordinary knowledge base can never be adequately illustrated in the media.
Why? Barbara Corcoran is a “people person.” To fully appreciate her, you must experience her, (symbolically) hold her close and never let go of her—or her principles.
Just like her beloved mother Florence—a woman too busy to waste time and too caring to not give of her time—Barbara Corcoran is a shark with a heart.
After all, it’s not just business—it’s personal.
Marketer, publicist, business humorist, professional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.
Photos: TOP — Barbara Corcoran; Photo 2 — Barbara Corcoran; Photo 3 — Barbara Corcoran and Randall Kenneth Jones (photo by Kevin Randall Jones); Photo 4 — Florence and Barbara Corcoran (Corcoran Family photo); BOTTOM — Randall Kenneth Jones.