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Small Business

Barbara Corcoran's Golden Apple

Q: When you started your own business, your ex said that you could never do it without him. How much of a driving force was that?

A: It was the equivalent of a business insurance policy that guaranteed I wouldn't fail, mainly because my ego was vested in [the challenge]. For a long time, I thought he had been responsible for my success, so I was vulnerable that it might be true. Nothing is more powerful then putting your finger on someone's vulnerability. Because the doubt was there, it really motivated me.

Q: When you were building The Corcoran Group, what hiring strategies did you use to develop a strong sales team?

A: If you put a crowd of people in an office, there's always someone playing the role of helper. Helpers make great managers. I don't try and find someone with a big ego or someone who's bossy. In sales, the companies that do very well are those that understand the managers work for the salespeople. That's how I choose my managers.

Q: How about the salespeople?

A: I focus on the only two important things: empathy and ego drive. I use a strategy in interviewing where I half insult the person to see if they really want to reach across the table and ring my neck.

Q: How exactly do you insult them?

A: I tell them that, though they seem to have the empathy part down right, I'm just not picking up a big enough ego drive. Then, I sit back and watch. People who really feel insulted become great sales people. You can't fake passion, and that's what I want to come across.

Q: In your book, you emphasized hiring women over men, is that a policy you still follow?

A: I built my business hiring great women. The reason I hired women was that most had something to prove. They were usually coming back into real estate after not working or they were coming back into the workforce after having left to raise their families many years earlier. They were making up for lost time, so they came in with a lot of passion.

A second reason is that women are not afraid to hold hands. They are great team-builders, mothers, and collaborators. I never had problems with territorial women. If I had to take one person's job and chop it into three new departments because the nature of the business was changing, women wouldn't claw to their old roles. They would see the big picture and welcome the new person taking on their old function. I really found they had great traits that accommodated the growth of my business.

A: What is the turnover like at the Corcoran Group?

B: Obviously, if people aren't selling, we can't afford to keep them. In a sales organization, you have to sweep the corners, which means getting rid of the bottom 25%. But usually, there is little turnover here. People like their jobs because I create positions around people's gifts. I don't put people as a peg in some hole. You get so much more out of someone who loves their job then someone who doesn't.

Q: Why did you decide to sell your company after so many years of work?

A: I felt guilty when I spent inordinate amounts of time at the office and guilty when I spent time with my son and husband. To do a job well, you have to give it 150%. I didn't feel I was doing enough, either at the office or at home. I just didn't feel like I was doing a great job. Once I realized I had an equity, I realized I had an option. I knew my business was completely self-sufficient, from new technology to state-of-the-art office space.

Q: How do you balance work and home life?

A: I don't. I accept that I don't have balance in my life. But I do try as hard as possible to be "in the moment." When I'm at work, I don't think of my family, I just focus on what has to get done. When I'm at home, I would never answer my cell phone, and no one would dare call me.

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