Making Mother Proud

By Mariwyn Evans, REALTOR® Magazine

If you’re not heading up a top-performing real estate brokerage company, it’s probably because you didn’t listen close enough to your mother. At least that’s what Barbara Corcoran, founder and president of New York City’s The Corcoran Group. In Use What You’ve Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom, (Putnam, $24.95) Corcoran combines humor and practical advice to show how she translated the life lessons of a struggling New Jersey childhood into real estate success.

Many of Corcoran’s 24 tips won’t come as startling news. Dressing well to impress clients, thinking creatively to solve a problem, and the value of setting up regular routines to increase productivity are all fairly standard tips from success gurus. But the author’s charming stories help make the points in a memorable way. For example, in advising practitioners to dress well, Corcoran relates her indecision of whether to use her first commission check–$340—to buy a new coat. She makes her decision after recalling her mother’s efforts to beautify her Jersey yard. After several failed attempts, her mother gives up on failing flowers and decides to paint the decorative rocks on her walk white. Just this little amount of freshening gets her a compliment from the neighborhood’s house-proud matron. With Mom’s success in mind, Corcoran buys a great coat at Bergdorf Goodman and never looks back.

Other lessons focus on:

  • Hiring. Cut out deadwood early by telling new hires that have only 90 days to make their first sale.
  • Motivating by making your business fun. Create a sense of fun by taking sales associates out of their normal routines and looking for offbeat outing ideas—such as a hit Roaring ‘20s party Corcoran hosted for her staff.
  • Web marketing. Don’t develop your own software, except as a last resort. There’s almost certainly an off-the-shelf package that will fit your needs with just a little adaptation.
  • Litigating. Look for an attorney to represent you who’s a great presenter. “Careful preparation and presentation of the facts is more important than the facts themselves,” says Corcoran.

The book also contains multiple tips lists, or lessons, on how to build your business. For example, to get more publicity and name recognition for your company, Corcoran suggests such tactics as publishing a statistical report of area sales under your company’s name, making presentations that have visual interest—and thus photo opportunities for media, and learning how to comment on already breaking stories to get your name in print. The book also includes a “Bonus Manual” of tips for salespeople. Again, these don’t contain much you haven’t heard before, but the concise numbered lists serve as good reminders of sales principles. Nevertheless, ideas such as practicing your presentation until it’s perfect and always sending a “thank you” note, even if you didn’ t get the business, are good reminders of tried and true principles. Perhaps most important, Corcoran emphasizes the need for getting out there and doing face-to-face selling. “Nothing really fun every happens at the office, and all the good ideas are on the outside.”

Use What You’ve Got is an easy read with short chapters and whimsical line drawings of Corcoran and her family. And while the ideas may not be new, they have the validity of being tested through Corcoran’s own experience and proved successful. Maybe after all, mother knew best.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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