Book Review – Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business

Rob LynchUncategorized

“Contrary to common belief, the most effective way to build a brand is not by spending millions in advertising, but by finding a clever way to keep your name in the press.”


I picked up Barbara Corcoran’s “Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business.” I can see why it’s a national bestseller.

To provide some context, Barbara was one of 10 children growing up in a three flat house in New Jersey. She made her money in New York real estate (sold her company for $66 million).

Barbara frames her business decisions using childhood lessons learned from her mother and father. Some touching. Some painful. All of them engaging. She flips between the two almost like a movie. It’s a really smart storytelling technique. And aside from pulling you in to her stories, it humanizes her. We can relate with her.

She offers some really good tips on how one might run their business.She also offers some good PR nuggets as well:

Share your expertise: Early in Barbara’s career, she contacted a publicist who suggested she create a report that reporter’s would find interesting and would likely publish. My friend and fellow publicist, Phil Chang, and I call it the state of the industry report and we usually refer to Challenger, Gray & Christmas as the gold standard example. CG&C is an outplacement firm that helps people make job changes they can’t do on their own. They have a number of reports (Job Cuts Report, CEO Turnover Report, Startup Activity Report) they release throughout the year that provide a snapshot of what’s happening in the industry and see their quotes in the press as a result.

The Halo Effect: There’s a reason a lot of non-profits try to work with celebrities. There’s built in credibility and it elevates the organization. In the book, Barbara shares how she elevated her company’s profile by working with Donald Trump.

Be Opportunistic: Barbara shares a story about how Madonna was pregnant and looking for apartments in New York, so she sent reporters a checklist of what she might be looking for. It’s a brilliant move. Always look for opportunities to create news.

Turn lemons into lemonade: This is a big lesson throughout the book. She bombs a high profile public speaking opportunity and decides to teach at a college to improve. She spends $71,000 on video that sits in her basement, but, with the growth of the World Wide Web, her video content later takes off and she becomes a pioneer in the use of video to promote her business on the Internet.

The second half of the book focuses on her Shark Tank experiences and offers some practical tips, including hiring and firing, publicity, trusting your gut, and ultimately, having fun.

It’s a really good read. I highly recommend picking it up.

What lessons have you taken from your youth and applied to your business?