BookReview: Shark Tales, How I Turned $1,000 Into A Billion Dollar Business

shark tales

Since last year when I started commuting to Sand Hill from SF, I have been listening to many Audio books. Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 Into A Billion Dollar Business by Barbara Corcoran is the most entertaining book I’ve listened to so far.

Before listening the book, I didn’t know much about either Barbara Corcoran or the real estate industry. All I knew was Barbara was one of the Sharks (judges) on the show, Shark Tank.

Her story blew my mind. I adored this book. Here are some parts that I want to share:

1.Move on:

Barbara began as a waitress at a diner. In 1973, she borrowed $1,000 from a boyfriend to start a real estate office in New York City. Later, her boyfriend ended his relationship with Barbara to marry Barbara’s secretary! Instead of drowning in sorrow, she moved on. She negotiated with her boyfriend and cut the company in half. With half of the employees, she started Corcoran Group, her own real estate company.

Her boyfriend told her, “You will never succeed without me” and left her. Barbara says his comments made her keep going, and she promised herself she would rather die than let her ex-boyfriend see her fail. That was her turning point.

2. Lessons from mom: 

Barbara grew up in Edgewater, New Jersey as the second eldest of 10 kids. She learned how to manage people from her mother. She says, “my mom knew how to efficiently manage a 12-people-household.” This book is more of a memoir of Barbara Corcoran’s personal rags to riches story. Each chapter of her life has a simple lesson that came from her mother. The business lessons that she learned from her mom are simple but very helpful! My favorite lesson is, “use what you got.” When Barbara was working as a waitress, she didn’t have many customers since her co-worker with huge breasts attracted all the male customers. She complained about this to her mom. Her mom said, “if you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons on your pigtails.” Barbara took her advice and put ribbons on her pigtails. Ironically, that is how she met her boyfriend. Her boyfriend came to the diner and chose to sit at Barbara’s counter, not at her big-breasted co-worker’s counter. And her journey began from there.

3. Right Fit: 

She was not a good student. She had learning disabilities when she was at school. It was her boyfriend who gave Barbara the idea of jumping into the real estate industry. He recognized that Barbara had great people skills and encouraged her to quit her full time job to start a real-estate business. It didn’t take long for Barbara to realize that she was perfect for the real estate business. Considering that she had 22 jobs before starting a real estate business, it is not surprising that she could quickly tell when something was right for her.

4. Rejection:

Eventually, Barbara sold the Corcoran Group for $66 million in 2001. But her success story does not end there. She was already successful and she had everything she wanted: family, money and fame. However, she was hungry and wanted to be on TV. Therefore, she applied for the role at Shark Tank. Shark Tank’s director initially rejected her application and wanted to hire the other female candidate (younger, better looking) for the show. Barbara wrote an email explaining why she was the right person for the show and why the director should invite both Barbara and the other candidate to his LA office and let them compete for the role.  She was bold. I love this part since it shows how Barbara was not afraid of rejection. Most of people are afraid of hearing ‘No’ and when they actually hear ‘No’, people feel ashamed or discouraged. However, the truth is, it is better to ask “Why? Why not me?” and if they give you unwarranted reasons, it is OK to ask them to give you a shot. In the end, that is how Barbara got the role at Shark Tank and it opened her doors in becoming a famous TV personality.

*Tips for people in real estate: 

Barbara emphasizes on hiring great sales people. The only difference between ‘good’ sales people and ‘phenomenal’ sales people is simply how well they took a hit. Her great sales people can take a slam dunk of rejections and disappointment. They are human, they feel the pain but they know how to avoid feeling sorry for themselves.

 5. Learn from failures

People only count your successes. Barbara was invited to speak at CITI Bank. She was excited and spent lots of time preparing. However, when she was finally standing up at the podium to speak, she felt nervous and lost her voice. It was a disaster and she felt mortified. But, she decided to get over herself. She used it as a chance to improve her public speaking skills by signing up to teach at NYC. In that class, she met a powerful Taiwanese real estate broker, Carrie Chiang. Summing up, Barbara failed but got back up. It gave her the opportunity to improve her public speaking skills (you can see her recent speech here: ). On top of that, she met Carrie, who became a rock-star sales person for the last 25 years at Corcoran group.

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