With more than 29.6 million small businesses in the U.S., there’s no doubt we are a country of dreamers and entrepreneurs. In fact, small businesses make up 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses. Perhaps you’ve been considering business ownership have resolved that 2018 is the year to make it happen. While the falling of the ball in Times Square happens literally overnight, starting your business will take time, planning, and funding. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into business ownership in 2018, here are four steps to set you on the path to startup success. \t Set Goals Now Even if your business startup plans are in the very early stages, it’s not too soon to start setting specific goals. Instead of waiting for the new year to begin, take the next few weeks to put some goals in place. Setting goals now will help you see where you want your business to be in 3 months, 6 months, and even into 2019. When writing down your goals, remember to adhere to the five rules to goal setting. \t Specific \t Measurable \t Attainable \t Realistic \t Time Sensitive Keeping these rules in mind will guide you to making better choices for your business, and it will help you refocus, reconnect, and start the year out right. \t Write a Business Plan Now that you know where you want your goals to take you, writing a business plan will help you get there. It should begin with a one-page executive summary detailing the name of your business, the product/service it will provide, how it stands in the local market, what sets it apart from competitors, who will be the management team and what is their experience in the industry, your marketing plan, and your financial projections. Your business plan will also help you refine your mission, vision, and direction before you become focused on day-to-day business operations. \t Find Funding Starting your small business will involve an initial investment as well as the capacity to cover operating costs before you start making a profit. Many entrepreneurs bootstrap their businesses, i.e., finance their ventures using personal income, but if you don’t have enough resources of your own, asking family and friends to help fund your business may be right for you. If those aren’t viable options, you’ll need a startup loan. There are multiple types of startup funds including business credit cards, term loans, and SBA loans. Having a solid business plan that demonstrates the value of investing in your company is sure to help you secure the funding you need. \t Be Prepared You never know what can happen when starting a business, so it is best to prepare yourself for the worst possible situation. Consider keeping your job and main source of income until your business can replace that, or ensure you have enough savings to cover any gaps in income you may experience. A sizable nest egg of three to six months’ worth of your basic living expenses is a good guide to follow. If you have a monthly budget, multiply it by six. If not, now is the time to sit down and make a rough estimate. Many new businesses take longer to start and cost more than anticipated. Make sure you can survive the transition period. If you have a unique business idea, the flexibility to adapt to the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the desire to build your financial independence, apply these four tips, and you’re well on your way to successful business ownership in 2018.