Some of the books I select for TCC Book Club are current best-sellers, others are recommendations from friends, and others come from research. Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business by Barbara Corcoran was one that came up in my search for entrepreneurial inspiration and information.
I’m not going to lie—the current cover looks a little gimmicky. It’s a picture of Barbara holding her puppy. They both look great, but there’s something about authors posting photos of themselves on book covers that makes me want to skip over the book. (Spoiler: We learn quickly in the book that Barbara actually loves a good gimmick, and considers it an important business tool.)
But you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and it came up over and over on lists of “must-reads” for female entrepreneurs. Plus, I’m a Shark Tank fan! So I bought it, and I’m glad I did.
This was a quick read, equal parts funny and educational, and will leave you feeling like you can do anything.
Author: Barbara Corcoran
Read It When: You need a reminder that common sense, drive, grit and hustle are all it takes to succeed.
TCC Elevator Pitch Review: Before she was Barbara Corcoran, New York City real estate mogul and Shark Tank investor, she was just Barbara from Edgewater, N.J. (Shoutout to a fellow Jersey girl!) Barbara was one of ten children and a poor student, but her tough-love mother taught her to celebrate her strengths, and helped her understand that her weaknesses did not make her any less of a smart and talented person.
Part I of the book jumps back and forth between Barbara’s childhood and her path to building her real estate empire in her early 20s. The chapter names are lessons that Barbara’s mom doled out to her ten children (“You have the right to be there,” “If you want to be a cheerleader, you better know the cheers,” If you want to get noticed, write your name on the wall”) that Barbara would later use as she navigated the New York City apartment market.
The beginning of Barbara’s business days read like scenes out of a bad rom-com: Small-town diner waitress meets mysterious, charming man. They begin dating, and the charming man whisks the waitress away to New York City, against her mother’s warnings. The two eventually open their own real estate business together, the man leaves her for their secretary, and the waitress-turned-business owner takes her half of company, picks up her bruised ego, and goes on to write her own success story.
Except this is not a movie, this is real life. After splitting half of her business assets with her ex-boyfriend, including employees, Barbara started her own real estate company: The Corcoran Group. Her claim to fame came when she started producing the Corcoran Report, a study of the New York City luxury apartment marketplace trends. The New York Times picked up her report and helped put her on the map.
Over the years, Barbara used clever tactics to promote her personal brand, and even caught the attention of Donald Trump more than once. (Side note: Since this book was published in 2003, and documents Barbara’s experiences in the 80s, before Trump became a reality TV star and then President of the United States, it’s really funny to read in 2019.) Eventually, Barbara went on to sell her business for $70 million—not bad for a waitress from Edgewater.
Throughout all her ups and downs, Barbara never forgot her mother’s lessons, which I find to be the most relatable learning of all.
Part II of the book was written later, and documents Barbara’s journey to becoming an investor on Shark Tank. While I love me some Shark Tank, and, perhaps embarrassingly, only know of Barbara’s success from Shark Tank (hey, I wasn’t around in the 80s), I found the first part to be much more interesting and valuable.