The Fordham Real Estate Institute (REI) hosted its first “Titan Talks” event last week at the Lincoln Center campus, featuring Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group. The conversation was led by Bess Freedman, CEO of Brown Harris Stevens and member of REI’s Executive Advisory Council (EAC) of industry and business leaders.
Ryan O’Connor, REI EAC chair and CEO of Clinton Management kicked off the sold-out event by welcoming students and real estate professionals to the campus, teeing-up the series as a unique opportunity to “be in the same room as a titan of the industry – and help answer the question, ‘How do I get there?’” Upcoming events will offer attendees first-hand lessons and advice from leaders in real estate.
Corcoran’s mother always said her strength was her imagination, and in the real estate industry being unwelcome amidst an “old boys’ club” gave her an opportunity to be different and stand out.
“If people ignored me or fought against me at a Real Estate Board of New York meeting, I knew I was doing something right,” she said. “I think of my office as a giant R&D facility. Out of every dozen things we try, two are successful.”
Freedman called Corcoran a “pioneer” and a personal role model who inspired her confidence.
“I find my confidence in knowing that no matter what happens, I tried my hardest,” said Corcoran. “I’ll out-try anybody.”
She explained there was an advantage to being “small” in the early days of The Corcoran Group – like turning a speed boat rather than an ocean liner. While the big firms over-analyzed every move and checked with their accountants and attorneys before doing anything, “I was out on the street doing what I wanted, free as a bird.”
She even heard about the internet early-on and bought all of her competitors’ URLs two years before anyone else “woke up.”
“And the small firms were the ones to call and ask for their URLs,” she said. “The big ones were unknowingly asleep at the wheel.”
Corcoran attributes much of her success to her ability to “stand back up.” A poor student who had trouble making friends as a child, she learned early on how to bounce back from rejection.
“There’s power in insult. Take it, own it, and prove them wrong. Take less time feeling sorry for yourself,” she advised the students in the audience.
Freedman added, “Resilience is a muscle, you have to use it.”
When Freedman asked what individuals need to be successful in the real estate industry today, Corcoran stressed “having a passion for your business.”
“It all comes down to attitude,” she said. “That you’re going to find a way to get it done.”
She also noted that there’s so much pressure on young people to “know what they want to be when they grow up.” As someone who had 22 jobs by the time she was 23 years old, she feels everyone should try “all kinds of stuff” to “find out what you’re good at.”
“Find your strength and build around it. I was good at bullshitting,” she said, and the room erupted in laughs.
On the topic of empowering yourself, Corcoran urged the audience to ignore the competition. She shared an anecdote about a year span when she was tracking what her competitors were doing to get intel for ultimately moving up on the list of the top firms. Her time and energy went nowhere when that was the only year The Corcoran Group didn’t move from its spot the previous year.
“You can’t look left and right,” she said. “You have to pretend you’re the only one in the world and just do what you do.”
Watch video clips from the event here and here.
For information about REI, the Executive Advisory Council and Scholarship 250, click here.