Neil's Heroes: Barbara Corcoran

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 8, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

Click here to watch the interview

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: On a day we remember a man who smiled in the face of adversity, I want to meet a woman who does the same pretty much every day. There’s a reason I included real estate legend Barbara Corcoran (search) in my list of heroes in my book "More Than Money," because she’s still making a difference now. But it wasn’t always that way. Like Reagan, there once was a time people dismissed her, even laughed at her. But that was then, today Barbara Corcoran is on top of a real estate and public relations empire the world has never known. Barbara Corcoran is the founder and chairman of the Corcoran Group.

Barbara, good to have you.


CAVUTO: You know, every time I see you I always think, you were a lousy student, and look at you today.

CORCORAN: I don’t look like a lousy student?

CAVUTO: No, you don’t look like a lousy student at all.

CORCORAN: You know what the tip-off is for a lousy student, they all talk well, that’s can’t write and read well, so they make up for it with how they can talk.


CORCORAN: I really think that is true.

CAVUTO: But you were a D student. You were struggling, what was the problem?

CORCORAN: A charity D student.

CAVUTO: A charity D student.

CORCORAN: Yes, it really was a charity D. But for me, I just couldn’t learn to read or write, which is not uncommon. There are so many people like that. And for me I couldn’t learn to read or write until I was in almost 7th grade. So, I just became a very quiet student, more than anything else. So fearful that someone would find out how stupid I was. You know, there is so much peer pressure in school and you are judged so much by grades and how well you can perform next to the next kid. And so for me it was a terribly painful experience, actually for me it was a jail sentence, I couldn’t wait until the day I got out of school.

CAVUTO: But did you use any of that or hearken back to any of that to make anything of yourself, to put the doubters to rest? I know some of the ones I’ve talk about have all sorts of learning disabilities, almost felt vindictive, you know, all these teachers that are dismissing me, these friends who are laughing at me, I’m to spite them all and success will be my revenge.

CORCORAN: Well, I don’t know if I felt exactly that way, but for me I really felt as though I learned to fail early, and I learned to feel like a loser every day early. And so, when you grow up, real life hits everybody and I wasn’t the A student and nothing came easily. So it was easy for me to struggle. It felt like Old Home Week, if someone looked down on me or made fun of me or just made me feel that I wasn’t welcome in a situation, I was accustomed to being the outsider, so for me it was like, oh, OK, I have been here my whole life. And so it was like breathing for me. And so it was a huge advantage. It wasn’t about getting even, it was just an advantage not to be welcomed in.

CAVUTO: But you weren’t welcomed into the real estate world.

CORCORAN: Of course not. And how lucky you are, do you know the pressure that comes with any industry being welcomed in, it is filled with expectation. With me there was no expectation. Do you know how free it is?

CAVUTO: But here you are coming in, you borrow a thousand bucks to start in a real estate business, why real estate?

CORCORAN: Well, because someone loaned me the thousand dollars to do it. It could have been any old business, and by God, I had so many jobs before I came into real estate. But at least someone gave me the thousand dollars to start a real estate business. So it was the luck of the draw that I...

CAVUTO: But what did you know about real estate?

CORCORAN: Not a thing, and what do I know about real estate now? Not an awful lot more. But you know what, all business is, it has little to do with the subject. Anyone can learn the stats, anyone can make conclusions based on information, rightfully or wrongfully. But I think it is all about being good with people. Any business is, so if you can really work through people and you can really befriend people, and again my learning disability was enormously helpful there, because I could spot a loser in a crowd and make anyone feel comfortable immediately.

CAVUTO: How did the learning disability do that?

CORCORAN: Because you are accustomed to feeling the pain of people. And I think you said in your back, very aptly, you said empathy is what you get. You can empathize with people readily when you have had some experience yourself and felt the pain.

CAVUTO: Does it make you a more empathetic boss?

CORCORAN: I think I’m a great boss, and I don’t want to brag but I think I’m the best boss I ever met. But I think it is because people trust me because I truly treasure them. And you know, life is funny with people. You give what you get. It all ricochets around, whatever you give and you get.

CAVUTO: But how do you deal, and your profession is so cutthroat, with the slower worker, the worker who isn’t quite getting it, you want to be empathetic and sympathetic, but you also want to also do good business?

CORCORAN: Well, business is business. I don’t want to come across like a pushover. I know for my business, for every year of my life I eliminated the bottom 25 percent of my sales safe staff. Now it doesn’t sound like a very nice woman but I couldn’t afford to keep them if they were costing money and not making money. And I felt it was a drain on everyone who was productive and in the right business. Nothing is sadder than a person who is in the wrong business, so I always felt that firing a person with due notice and doing everything you could to make them productive was the most charitable thing to do.

CAVUTO: And for the workers who stay on.

CORCORAN: And for the workers who stay on, they get the benefits of more power under their wings.

CAVUTO: Were you the first person to put a face with real estate offerings?

CORCORAN: I don’t really know that, I would like to think I am.

CAVUTO: I think you’re certainly the most prominent.

CORCORAN: Probably the most prominent because New York is a big media-buzz town, so it was probably noticed here. I’m sure I wasn’t the first. But it did serve me well, and it was very — what’s the word, cathartic? What’s that word again?

CAVUTO: Cathartic, yes.

CORCORAN: Because I — in my family, we weren’t supposed to brag about anything. So putting my face on all of the real estate ads was really a high for me, it was like, there I am, I’m out there, look at me, you know?

CAVUTO: Yes, look at you now, Barbara Corcoran, the world is her oyster, you can read about her more in the book, and her book, too, by the way that we’re show there.

CORCORAN: In your book.

CAVUTO: All right.

Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.