Guest Blog: Secrets from a “Shark:” Shake Up the Status Quo

April 29, 2013

Long before I became a “Shark” investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, I realized the importance of redefining the game and playing by my own rules. Since my early days, I’ve liked to do things differently. In fact, most of my success can be attributed to shaking up the status quo and finding unconventional ways to do business.

For example, when I was starting out in real estate in the early 1970s, The Corcoran Group was the littlest guy on the block in New York City. We had nothing to lose and nowhere to go, but up. So, to promote the company, I published a market-wide statistical report on New York City real estate prices based on the eleven sales we had for the year. A week later, my report was on the front page of The New York Times. That report put us on the map as an “industry leader” and pushed us toward growth.

Then, in the early 90s, we were on the verge of bankruptcy as the economy receded. A large insurance company asked us to sell 88 apartments that couldn’t be sold. Every broker in town had tried to sell the units without a single sale. Also working against us were mortgage rates at 19 percent and a lack of available buyers. Leveraging the #1 rule in sales – “everybody wants what everybody wants and nobody wants what nobody wants,” I priced all of the apartments exactly the same. We invited our best customers to a private, one-day sale with the warning that the limited units would only be offered on a first come, first served basis. Amazingly, all 88 units sold within the hour, including the unappealing ones with no kitchen, no bath, and no view. The result? Some scrappiness and creativity netted us over one million dollars in commissions at the depths of the real estate recession.

In the mid-90s, we continued to make our own rules. At that time, we had no celebrity clientele. When the New York Post announced that Madonna was pregnant, I seized the moment. I published “The Madonna Report,” a laundry list of what Madonna might be looking for if she were shopping for a new apartment – from more space for her new family to doorman services and a pretty view. That same night, I was introduced as “the Broker to the Stars” in a story on Madonna’s pregnancy on the 11o’clock news. The next week, we got our first celebrity client, Richard Gere.
I continued to show my determination and willingness to live by my own rules during the biggest deal The Corcoran Group ever closed. This deal involved 14 city blocks on the Hudson River, $90 million, and Donald Trump. When we met The Donald and the Chinese buyers at the Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel to finalize the $90 million deal, I realized my sales agent had forgotten to bring the commission agreement for signature. So, I hastily wrote a one-line $4 million commission agreement on a paper doily from the table and had Donald sign it. Sadly, I lost that doily. However, I used its existence to bluff Donald into signing a standard $6 million commission agreement two months later.
So, what is the lesson here?

Un-limit your thinking and create your own rules. When you know what you want to achieve and un-leash your imagination, your business is sure to grow into the success story most other people just dream about.

In addition to serving as a “Shark” investor on ABC’s Shark Tank television show, Barbara is the popular real estate contributor for the Today Show and CNBC. She writes a weekly real estate column for the Daily News and monthly columns for MORE Magazine and Redbook.  Barbara just recently released the book Shark Tales which includes material from her experience on Shark Tank.