VIDEO: Why Barbara Corcoran Believes Best Investments are in People
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Barbara Corcoran, the self-made “queen of New York real estate,” has always put her customers and her workers, first. That mantra is guiding her businesses out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t buy businesses. I buy people,” Corcoran told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the latest WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
“The reason I was able to build such a large company is because I adored my employees and would do anything for them at any time – anything for them – they came first,” she said. “You have to have that attitude toward employees if you want to do well with them.”
A tight labor market has left many job postings unfilled. The “Shark Tank” star said the businesses that have survived the pandemic are growing, but their biggest challenge is hiring and retaining workers.
“It’s not just at your local restaurants, it’s at your dry cleaners, it’s at your technology companies. Everyone across the board is having a hard time attracting employees,” she said.
Corcoran noted one way to limit turnover is to pay more competitive salaries. She explained many customers are willing to support small businesses in their communities.
“They’re very amiable to helping small businesses if they think they’re helping a good business get ahead. So, you can pass on a lot of those costs, but you have to pay people more,” said Corcoran.
She told WCBS 880 businesses must be more flexible with remote work, too.
“You have to give them the latitude and the freedom to work different hours, which now, people have been spoiled by because of COVID. Anybody who’s dictating that you must be here 9 to 5, come every day of the week, is not getting the employees because employees have other choices. They just move on and get a better boss so you have to be a phenomenally good boss and do everything you can to help that employee and that’s how you get them,” Corcoran said.
She describes “good bosses” as those who put the needs of their customers and employees before their own. She believes that’s the primary reason that The Corcoran Group blossomed into a $5 billion company when she sold it in 2001.
Corcoran called companies that are still not embracing remote work “stupid.”
“If you’re not budging, you’re stupid because you’re not doing what is the basic, core essence of all business: it’s called change,” she said, noting the seismic shifts businesses have been forced to adapt to over the past 19 months. “Let me tell you, if you don’t acknowledge the change that happens, you don’t stay in business.”
The famous entrepreneur said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight that the job of the business owner is to spot trends early and direct their team “on which ways to run.” That’s how, she said, small businesses become big businesses.
“You know, the great advantage I saw early in my business when I looked around and saw my big competitors was I picked up on their attitude. They were big shots. The minute I saw everyone playing ‘big shot,’ I knew I had a shot,” said Corcoran, adding, “Most big businesses think they’re competing with other big businesses. They’re not. That’s not the enemy. The enemy is the little business that’s going to come up from behind and bite you in the butt.”
She said she tells companies like Ernst & Young in corporate speeches to think small. As for small businesses, Corcoran advises to learn everything about operating the business; those that are hungry will win the race.
Corcoran turned a $1,000 loan from a boyfriend in 1973 into a multi-billion dollar real estate empire. She told Connolly and Carousso that she budgeted every cent and hustled for every sale to keep her little business alive in the early days. That’s what she’s seeing new entrepreneurs doing today in season 13 of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
“So many of the entrepreneurs that were standing before us either got fired or left their job,” Corcoran said. “They had part-time things they liked to do and they just decided they had time to think about it. They weren’t happy with their life and that was the time to make a big change and they took their part-time gig and they made it a full-time business. And, ironically, those were the strongest businesses we saw.”
See what it takes to make your dreams a reality on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight featuring Barbara Corcoran above.