It's easy to see the appeal of starting a small business. It can be a path to the American Dream, and along the way, it gives entrepreneurs a shot at controlling their own destinies and creating something for themselves and their families.

So it should come as little surprise that when surveyed on behalf of Lending Tree, nearly one-third (31.6%) of Americans responding said they have thought about starting a business in the past year. But for a range of reasons -- money being the most common -- nearly half of them haven't taken any steps to actually do it.

A group stands near a grand opening sign.

It takes a lot of work to get from idea to reality with a small business. Image source: Getty Images.

Why are people hesitating? 

The two tops reasons for not moving forward are "not having access to sufficient capital" (42%) and lacking a plan (24%). And nearly 20% said they did have a plan, but were waiting for a better time to act on it. But regardless of the reason, inertia abounds: 44.6% of those who said they want to start a business hadn't taken any concrete steps to do it.

"Of the many hats small business owners wear, CFO is perhaps the most critical," noted LendingTree Senior Vice President Hunter Stunzi in a blog post. "Managing capital requires you to build and maintain relationships with multiple lenders; don't put all your eggs in one basket. While one lender may take months to approve you for a large equipment loan, an online lender may approve and fund you same day. Both lenders have a place on your balance sheet."

About a third of the 1,067 Americans who said they'd thought about opening a small business are at least considering a Small Business Association loan. One in four, however, said they won't need to borrow any money to get their entrepreneurial plans under way.

There was a fairly wide range of views in terms of how much of a financial sacrifice people were willing to make in pursuit of their goals: 20% of the would-be small business owners said they were willing to take no salary while they got their company up and running, while 16% said they were unwilling to accept any decline in income. In a similar vein, 23% of respondents said they weren't willing to take on any personal debt to launch their business, while 19% were ready to risk $25,000 or more.

Have a plan

It goes without saying that starting a small business takes planning, hard work, and an incredible amount of resolve. It's risky and full of financial pitfalls: About half of all small businesses don't make it past their fifth launch-iversary.

That doesn't mean you should allow fear to stop you from following your dreams. Instead, plan your way to a better chance at success. Study the market, work out how much money it will really cost you to get started, and be pessimistic. Be critical when it comes to your financial plan, and build some negative assumptions into every aspect, from expenses to customer acquisition to ramp-up time.

Once you do that -- if the numbers still look plausible -- go to it. Craft a firm plan, but be willing to adjust when it runs up against a more complicated reality. And one final tip: Your odds of launching a business that succeeds will be greater if you start by applying the same degree of skepticism to your own idea as you would to someone else's.