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Developing A Living Business Plan

Is there anything more forbidding than developing a business plan?

For many business owners and/or program directors, this task evokes the same reaction as a request for public speaking … “do I really have to?”

Seriously, the need for a comprehensive business plan is constant. Many shy away from it because:

  • It seems like a daunting task (it can be);
  • There is not enough information to put a plan together;
  • There is not enough knowledge to put a plan together; or
  • Some combination of the above.

What if there was a way to structure a business plan so that it was a living, moving, breathing, evolving document?

The good news is that there IS an answer! It still takes work, but if you examine the 8 key areas and the 96 checkpoints that all service businesses need to address, you will have an organized method to evaluate the areas that you are strong in as well as the areas that you need to improve.

One way to approach this is with the BusinessGrades® Management System. When your “system” is also your “business plan”, your company can make rapid progress to the next level.

Systems are to business what progressions are to teaching skills. Imagine teaching in a Sports Instruction or Educational setting without a curriculum, or running a busy front office or handling a birthday party without a “script” of some sort to follow.

However, many small businesses run exactly like that … with no SYSTEM to run their day-to-day operations. Thus, they have no business plan. Here are some analogies:

  • If a “turn-key” business is the vision, then the roadmap is a systematic approach to continuous improvement. This is basically a “business plan in constant motion”.
  • Just as conditioning is the key to the development of a top level athlete, business systems are the key to profitable and smoothly-flowing business operations!
  • Business operational checklists are equivalent to skills learning progressions.
  • With respect to business issues, there is usually no one “right answer” because every business or program is at a different stage of development. Therefore, having a business plan that generates a range of successful business practices is your best path. A “range of solutions” available to a company is equal to “range of motion” when building flexibility in an athlete.

The components of a living Business Plan in most service businesses are:

  • MANAGEMENT/ADMINISTRATION (strategy, systems, business value, leadership)
  • MARKETING (internal, external, public relations, social media)
  • PEOPLE (the entire lifespan experience of a person in your company)
  • INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (database, front office, customer service, company data)
  • FINANCE (principles, analysis, pricing, financing expansion)
  • FACILITIES (space allocation, space productivity, space maintenance)
  • RISK MANAGEMENT (safety, insurance, legal, handling crisis moments)
  • INSPIRATION (motivation, success formulas, goal setting, change, innovation

Service businesses must get the systems components in the right order. If the systems are addressed in order, it makes tackling the next system that much easier. Each area in turn has 12 main checkpoints that can be rated on a scale of 1-5. These checkpoints have a very positive compounding effect when addressed in successive order.

The business plan journey is an exciting and rewarding one. See you on the path!

Frank Sahlein is the CEO of 3rd Level Consultingthe also the owner of the Wings Center (BoiseIdaho USA since 1976). He is the author of the Business Management Success Course series and the book “Building Your Business Potential”. He is a two-time USA Gymnastics Business Leader of the Year. He can be reached at or (208)869-3656. 

For more information on the BusinessGrades® System or any other 3rd Level Consulting service, visit


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