Weld Community Credit Union

Barbara Corcoran

She floundered through her education, earning straight D’s all through high school and college. By the time she turned 23, she’d already had 20 different jobs. Barbara Corcoran was looking at a life of financial struggle and the futile chase of success.

But then, she started her next job and everything changed. This is the story of the small-town girl who turned a $1,000 loan into a real estate company worth $5 billion.

The early years

Corcoran grew up in Edgewater, N.J., the second-oldest of 10 children. Her father worked as a printing-press foreman and her mother was a housewife. She struggled through school, and in 1971, she graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College before setting out to earn a living.

While working as a server shortly after graduating, Corcoran met New Jersey-based home builder Ray Simone. The two began dating, and soon after, Simone lent Corcoran $1,000 to establish her own business. The couple then founded Corcoran-Simone, an apartment locator service in New York City. The girl from Edgewater who’d struggled through school was now a business owner.

Building a business

The couple worked out a fair agreement, with Simone owning 51 percent of the company and Corcoran acting as the agent dealing directly with clients. One day, Corcoran was showing a rental to an engineer who decided to buy the unit instead of renting it. The $3,000 commission earned from the sale was too great a reward to ignore. The next day, Corcoran decided to shift the firm’s focus to sales. She posted an ad for a sales agent immediately.

The young company was soon on the path to explosive success using a simple business plan: Every time Corcoran earned $180, she used the money to post a 3-line ad in The New York Times for a new sales agent. Each new agent generated more money for the company, and within two years of its founding, Corcoran-Simone had a team of 14 agents while earning more than a half-million dollars in sales annually.

Everything was going smoothly until Simone broke up the relationship between the two owners and asked to divide the company. It took several years to complete the task, but in 1978 the job was done and Corcoran was on her own. As they parted, Simone told Corcoran she’d never be able to succeed without him. Instead of serving to discourage her, his words fueled her ambition. She was going to be a success, no matter what it would take.

At the time, the NYC real estate market was dominated by men, but that did not deter Corcoran. She’s been blessed with a fighting spirit and has never been afraid to fight convention. She wasted no time launching the Corcoran Group, the first female-owned real estate firm in the Big Apple. Within a year, the company was pulling in more than $350,000 in revenue.

A tough leader

Corcoran was a demanding leader. She handed the reins of everyday operations to her employees, and claims she didn’t even know what the firm’s revenue was, placing complete faith in her accountant. The Corcoran Group thrived.

Always the innovator, Corcoran started selling real estate online in 1993, a full two years before most competing agencies in the city. She also cleverly seized web domains that would likely be sought out by her competitors. This way, her rivals were forced to call her when they wanted to start selling on the internet, alerting her each time a competitor was entering the online market.

Selling out

In 1988, Corcoran married her second husband, Bill Higgins. The couple wanted a child, and after eight years of fertility treatments, they welcomed a son, Tommy. It was a dream come true for the couple, but a game-changer for Corcoran.

In 2001, the Corcoran Group reached an impressive level of growth and had more listings in every category than any real estate firm in New York. Corcoran was now the top broker in the entire city. That was when she had her watershed moment. As she says, she realized she needed to be there 150% for her family at the Corcoran Group, while also being there 150% for Tommy. Since it was impossible to divide herself in two, Corcoran decided it was time to sell.

Corcoran continued to push herself forward until 2006, when she actively began seeking out a buyer. With a powerful sales force of 850 agents and annual revenues approaching $100 million, the Corcoran Group generated lots of interest from real estate firms in and around the city. At the time, New Jersey-based NRT, Inc. was aggressively buying up firms in New York, and Corcoran sought them out as her buyer. In a brilliant move, she hired an attorney who was also a member of NRT’s board of directors. The lawyer brought Corcoran an offer from NRT for $20 million, but she refused to sell at that price, saying she wouldn’t take less than $66 million. She claimed 66 is her lucky number and instructed the attorney not to get back to her unless he had found a buyer who agreed to her price. Just a few days later, a contract was signed.

The next stage

Today, Corcoran is a who’s who in business and her self-help books include the bestseller, Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business!. She has also become a motivational speaker and a popular TV personality, with regular roles on NBC’s Today Show, and on ABC’s hit Shark Tank, through which she has invested in 80 businesses to date. She also hosts her own business podcast, Business Unusual with Barbara Corcoran.

Corcoran openly talks about her academic struggles in school and the fight to get to the top. Her feisty attitude and fiery ambition continue to inspire women and business owners around the world.

Henry Ford

His father wanted him to spend his life working on the family farm. His friends told him his idea was crazy. But Henry Ford defied all odds, paving the way for today’s automobile industry through his audacity to challenge convention and to persevere through all obstacles.

Let’s take a look at how this unlikely hero built a legacy of triumph and success that lives on years beyond his passing.

The early years

Henry Ford was born in Greenfield, Mich., in 1863. When his mother died in 1876, his father wanted him to work on the family farm, but Ford had no interest in farm work. From an early age, he displayed a remarkable talent with machinery. He built his first steam engine at the age of 15, and when he took apart and rebuilt a watch his father gifted him as a teenager, he soon gained a reputation as a skilled watch repairman.

After his marriage to Clara Jane Bryant at the age of 25, Ford reluctantly returned to farm work to provide for his young family. But his heart was clearly elsewhere.

In 1891, Ford joined Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. Just two years later, at the age of 30, he was promoted to chief engineer. Ford’s work sparked his fascination with gasoline-powered engines, and he devoted all his spare time and resources to building one of his own. After achieving his goal in 1893, Ford turned his time and energy to chasing after his next, much bolder dream: to build a gasoline-powered automobile.

The Detroit Automobile Company

The “Quadricycle,” a crude contraption made of two bicycles placed side-by-side and powered by a gasoline engine, was Ford’s first triumph in the world of automobile production. It took more than a decade to build, but in 1896, it was finally complete. Ford was enormously proud of his hand-built “horseless carriage.” He took Detroit lumber tycoon William H. Murphy for a ride. By the time the ride was over, the two men were in business.

The Detroit Automobile Company opened in 1899, with Ford as superintendent in charge of production. Unfortunately, the business folded by the end of the year. Ford was skilled in building cars, but he couldn’t build them quickly enough to keep the company solvent.

Instead of throwing in the towel, Ford moved to a new plan: build a racer and use racing as a means to spread his name and his company throughout the country. Though he held a personal dislike for racing, Ford learned the art and quickly became a skilled racer. His efforts paid off, and in June of 1903, he had the financial support he needed to launch the Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company

Ford founded his second company as he was nearing age 40. At the time, “horseless carriages” were outrageously expensive and owned by a wealthy few. Ford’s dream was to build an automobile that would be cheap enough for the average person to own while still enabling his company to turn a profit.

Ford quickly set to work designing and producing automobiles, rolling out the Model A in early summer of 1903. By the year’s end, more than 500 Model A vehicles had been sold at $850 each. The company’s next model was launched in 1907. The Model N retailed at $600 and was well received, with 7,000 sold in just one year.

But Ford was still unsatisfied. Where other automobile manufacturers poured their resources into making their cars more luxurious, Ford was after the simpler and the cheaper.

In 1908, Ford Motor launched his dream car: the Model T, retailing at $850. The no-frills automobile was more reliable and cheaper to build than the Model A and the Model N. Nicknamed the “Tin Lizzie,” the Model T was so popular, 6,389 cars were sold within a few months and the demand for the car quickly outpaced the supply.

Ford now had a new problem. How could he increase the production rate of the Model T without raising the price?

The moving assembly line

Ford’s innovative solution to his quandary also became his legacy. His idea for a moving assembly line was built on the assumption that, if each worker remained in one place and performed one assigned production task, they could roll out completed automobiles at a much faster pace.

Ford’s assumptions proved to be correct. After the completion of a new 60-acre production plant in Highland Park, Mich., the Ford Motor Company was able to churn out a completed Model T in less than six hours. This cut the old production time of 12+ hours by more than half. After Ford worked on perfecting the system, the factory was producing a new car every 93 minutes.

The reduction in production time enabled Ford to slash hundreds of dollars off the price of his car and helped him realize his lifelong dream of building an automobile the average person could afford. Sales continued to climb as the price continued to drop until the price tag for the Model T reached its low of $290 in 1927.

A legacy that endures

Ford’s work transformed the automobile industry and the moving assembly line sparked a modern-day industrial revolution. The Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th century. With 16.5 million cars sold between 1908 and 1927, the Model T continues to hold its place in the top-10 list of the most-sold cars of all time.

Unfortunately, the twilight of Ford’s life brought a slew of challenges, among them a decreased mental capacity and the loss of his only son.

Yet, Ford’s legacy endures.