Barbara Corcoran on the 5 Traits All Successful Entrepreneurs Share

If you have a great idea, don't wait too long, says the 'Shark Tank' star.

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Barbara Corcoran on the 5 Traits All Successful Entrepreneurs Share
Image credit: Barbara Corcoran
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
4 min read

How do you know if you truly have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

As the founder of the Corcoran Group and an investor on ABC’s Shark Tank, Barbara Corcoran has a firsthand understanding of the traits and skillsets necessary to turn your vision and dream into a thriving and profitable reality.

Recently, in an effort to help aspiring entrepreneurs get a better understanding of their potential strengths and weaknesses, Corcoran teamed up with Columbia Business School students and consulting firm GreenLight Partners to create the Entrepreneur IQ Test.

“I wanted to save people a lot of time, energy and failed enterprises,” Corcoran told Entrepreneur about the inspiration behind the test. “I had been watching the entrepreneurs that I invested in over the years. Some succeeded, some flew phenomenally and the great majority failed, and I was becoming an expert at what makes somebody fail. So I decided to test my entrepreneurs so I could spot the winners and the losers faster.”

So what exactly are those traits that jump out to Corcoran?

Related: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran: 'All the Best Things Happened to Me on the Heels of Rejection'

1. They know themselves.
Corocan says that successful entrepreneurs are highly attuned to what makes them unique and they channel their energy into developing that expertise.

“They have a single-minded focus of what they do well. They are acutely aware of what their skillset is," Corcoran says. "With me, I realized that my great strengths are marketing and sizing up people. So I integrated me into every piece of my business when those two things were important, and delegated everything else so that I could hyperfocus and put all my energy behind my skillset.”

2. They understand that persistence is everything.
In her experience, Corcoran says that successful entrepreneurs are resourceful, have an ability to navigate around obstacles thrown in their path and have a competitive spirit. Successful entrepreneurs, Corcoran says, are open-minded, curious about change and they pay attention to what their gut is telling them. And of course, “if someone can’t sell, they aren’t going to succeed in business.”

3. They are not afraid of uncertainty.
Successful entrepreneurs, Corcoran says, don’t lose interest when the novelty begins to wear off. They don’t run at the first sign of trouble. “They are not afraid of being at risk," she says. "Everyone who starts a business looks like they are going to be comfortable with risk, but very few are. They are comfortable with quitting their old job, and they are comfortable with ‘isn’t this the greatest thing?’ But that has nothing to do with risk. That has to do with beginner enthusiasm.”

Related: We Interviewed Barbara Corcoran Live -- You Told Us What to Ask Her

4. They remember that business isn’t about fairness.
Corcoran says a sure sign of a successful entrepreneur is how they handle setbacks and failure. Even if they are dealt a bad turn, the mentality is always about moving forward. “There is a missing gene in all my good entrepreneurs -- they never blame anybody for anything. They’ll take responsibility 150 percent of the time,” Corcoran says. “My most exacting and reliable tip off is that great entrepreneurs take less time feeling sorry for themselves.”

5. They jump at opportunity.
So what is Corcoran’s top tip for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start their first business but may be on the fence? “Go and do it right away,” she says. “Do it immediately, before you have three kids and a mortgage. Life gets in the way. And while you’re analyzing something, someone else is running away with the cheese.”

And if you have an idea that you think is great, sit and write it down. “You gotta grab it the minute you have it," she says. "Pin it down to your desk with a nail, and then figure it out.”

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