MOTHER KNOWS BEST
Many entrepreneurs pay lip service to a parent’s influence, but Barbara Corcoran, founder and CEO of New York City’s largest privately owned real estate firm, wrote a whole book to share her mother’s wisdom.

“I’ve been quoting her for years at sales meetings,” says Corcoran, whose Corcoran Group has grown to almost $3 billion in annual sales since she founded the company in 1973 with a $1,000 investment. “Her words just express complex thoughts more easily.”

Florence Corcoran’s maxims have guided Barbara through slumps, booms, and occasional feuds with the likes of Donald Trump. A few pearls from Use What You’ve Got: And Other Business Lessons I Learned From My Mom (Portfolio):

There’s always room for one more. “Hire first, then find a place for them,” says Corcoran. “If you throw yourself into a problem situation, take on a high overhead, open a new office, you take that leap of faith and you have no choice but to measure up.”

If you want to get Noticed, write your name on the wall. Corcoran thrives on creative advertising and “good old-fashioned grandstanding.” When she took on a building reputed to be unsellable, she had it painted pink and renamed “the Pink Elephant.” It was leased out in three months. For other problem properties, Corcoran has ordered well-publicized “smudging” rituals, a kind of Native American exorcism.

You’ve got to bully a bully. Memories of a neighborhood heavy helped Corcoran win a tussle with The Donald, who threatened to sue her over disputed commissions. “I was all set to hire a respectable, reasonable attorney,” she says. “Then I remembered what Mom said, and I hired a killer lawyer. He beat the crap out of Trump in court.”