How to Create a Business Blueprint

Businesses, like buildings, require a blueprint or a design plan. Could you just start building and putting up walls? Sure, you can start enthusiastically and creatively, but there will come a point where parts aren’t coming together as they should and your efforts begin to feel unproductive, confused or even wasted.Entrepreneurs begin businesses in many ways based on their personalities and belief systems. Some need detailed, well researched plans. Others jump in, get clients and are rolling before they’ve even decided what business they choose to be in. Then there is everyone in between.For some, planning dampens their enthusiasm, for others, it’s an absolute necessity. Regardless, the planning process itself is a great exercise, pushing the business owner to develop clarity and goals in key areas.Where it gets interesting in my opinion, is after the plan is finished. How is it used? Is it used at all? Does it prove to be a guiding light or a rigid limiter?For one to adhere to very detailed plans, the business owner, the organization and the plan have to be well aligned. The plan should be reviewed and revised regularly, quarterly or monthly, so that congruency remains intact.For the non-planner types, a business blueprint provides vision, structure and general form. It’s a useful framework, providing structure, direction and purpose, while leaving plenty of room to shift and create over time.Here are some key components of a business blueprint that can serve as the foundation for your developing business:1. Your Vision – There is something you envision when you go into business. Capture that vision on paper. Why are you driven to be in business at all? Who do you serve and how? At its future best, what does it all look like as it plays out?Specificity in your vision is key. This is the “down the road” snapshot that you hold in your mind as the prize. The plan is designed to help you reach this vision, so the clearer the vision, the more helpful the plan.


2. The Why – Document and regularly remind yourself of why this vision matters to you. Your “big why” is any reason you have that is meaningful enough to drive you through challenges and difficult times. Identify your most significant reasons for being in business and remind yourself of why you are willing to do what it takes to recommit each day.3. Unique Brilliance – Your unique brilliance is that special life force that you bring to your business that makes it authentically you and gives it power. If you examine what you have always loved (from childhood), attach words or qualities to it, you have something truly special that brands and differentiates your business because of the qualities you bring.Your brilliance isn’t a technique or skill, it’s a talent that emanates from you and permeates your work. For example, a unique brilliance statement might be: “I spark innovation.” Keep it simple yet powerful. Think of Walt Disney. I believe his childlike imagination was his unique brilliance, and look how that played out.4. A Stand – What is an overarching principle of your business? Are you taking a stand for something in your business that transcends the products and services? State what you stand for that is expressed through your business. For example, “I am a stand for people communicating effectively to make the world a more harmonious place.”5. Expertise – What are you an expert at? This is still aimed at the business owner, but is more related to the work he/she is doing. What expertise do you have (and should your team have) that will drive the business forward. An example might be, “I am an expert at making people beautiful.” This expertise will be used in the business and in the branding.6. Brand Values – Identify the brand promise you are making to the market you serve. This is the promise of an experience they can expect to have when working with you regardless of the product or service. What values are necessary to provide that consistent experience? As an example, consider Four Seasons Hotels and the experience you have there whether you stay in a suite or just have dinner in the bar.7. Target Niche – Who specifically is your ideal customer? Choose as narrow a niche as you can so your marketing can be very targeted and specific. This is not intended to turn people away, but to give you as clear a picture as you can get of the client or customer who is best served by what you have to offer and your expertise. These are the people you need to speak to in your messaging as they will be most willing to engage.8. Products/Services – Define and describe exactly what you are offering to your niche audience. What products or service does your business provide and why? What is the intention for each one? What results should customers expect from what you offer? What differentiates your products and services from similar ones on the market?9. Marketing and Sales – Provide details of how you will market your products and services and what your sales process will look like. Regular attention should be paid to the optimal ways of reaching your audience and turning them into paying customers. Identify mechanisms for tracking what works and what doesn’t. Great communication and consistent branding is key here.10. Delivery System – How will customers receive the products or services being offered? From beginning to end, there is benefit to designing and implementing good systems for efficient and high quality product/service delivery. Consider detailing this out for every category of service or product.11. Operations – What are the front and back office activities that make the organization work seamlessly and efficiently? Who are the players? There is a flow of production, communication, information, transaction, and follow up that happens in every business. Design the best operational systems for each area of your business and document the desired flow and the team necessary to make it work.


12. Pricing – Identify pricing structures for your goods and services that cover costs and provide reasonable profit margins. This requires that you do your research into the cost structure of your business in all areas, as well as gaining an understanding of the range of comparable pricing in the marketplace.13. Financial Goals/Tracking – Every business must have financial goals to strive for and ways of tracking key financial targets. Identify five to ten key revenue drivers and set up tracking and reporting mechanisms to see where you are headed and if your strategies are yielding results.14. Personnel/Team – Whatever your current size, plan how your organizational chart will look when you reach your goals. In your future vision, how many people are working in the organization and in what capacities? Assign a value to your time as the business owner. If you can hire someone for less than the value of your time, you want to work to that end. Continue that analysis throughout the organization. Prioritize future hires, and plan how delegation can take the business to new levels of growth.A plan, written in this manner, will automatically combine critical mindset pieces with more practical business strategies. This gives you a solid foundation from which to ramp up. It’s your best shot at building a solid, sustainable business. At that point, you will be rewarded with the opportunity to add those creative details not shown on the blueprint.

Alternative Financing for Wholesale Produce Distributors

Equipment Financing/Leasing

One avenue is equipment financing/leasing. Equipment lessors help small and medium size businesses obtain equipment financing and equipment leasing when it is not available to them through their local community bank.

The goal for a distributor of wholesale produce is to find a leasing company that can help with all of their financing needs. Some financiers look at companies with good credit while some look at companies with bad credit. Some financiers look strictly at companies with very high revenue (10 million or more). Other financiers focus on small ticket transaction with equipment costs below $100,000.

Financiers can finance equipment costing as low as 1000.00 and up to 1 million. Businesses should look for competitive lease rates and shop for equipment lines of credit, sale-leasebacks & credit application programs. Take the opportunity to get a lease quote the next time you’re in the market.

Merchant Cash Advance

It is not very typical of wholesale distributors of produce to accept debit or credit from their merchants even though it is an option. However, their merchants need money to buy the produce. Merchants can do merchant cash advances to buy your produce, which will increase your sales.

Factoring/Accounts Receivable Financing & Purchase Order Financing

One thing is certain when it comes to factoring or purchase order financing for wholesale distributors of produce: The simpler the transaction is the better because PACA comes into play. Each individual deal is looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Is PACA a Problem? Answer: The process has to be unraveled to the grower.

Factors and P.O. financers do not lend on inventory. Let’s assume that a distributor of produce is selling to a couple local supermarkets. The accounts receivable usually turns very quickly because produce is a perishable item. However, it depends on where the produce distributor is actually sourcing. If the sourcing is done with a larger distributor there probably won’t be an issue for accounts receivable financing and/or purchase order financing. However, if the sourcing is done through the growers directly, the financing has to be done more carefully.

An even better scenario is when a value-add is involved. Example: Somebody is buying green, red and yellow bell peppers from a variety of growers. They’re packaging these items up and then selling them as packaged items. Sometimes that value added process of packaging it, bulking it and then selling it will be enough for the factor or P.O. financer to look at favorably. The distributor has provided enough value-add or altered the product enough where PACA does not necessarily apply.

Another example might be a distributor of produce taking the product and cutting it up and then packaging it and then distributing it. There could be potential here because the distributor could be selling the product to large supermarket chains – so in other words the debtors could very well be very good. How they source the product will have an impact and what they do with the product after they source it will have an impact. This is the part that the factor or P.O. financer will never know until they look at the deal and this is why individual cases are touch and go.

What can be done under a purchase order program?

P.O. financers like to finance finished goods being dropped shipped to an end customer. They are better at providing financing when there is a single customer and a single supplier.

Let’s say a produce distributor has a bunch of orders and sometimes there are problems financing the product. The P.O. Financer will want someone who has a big order (at least $50,000.00 or more) from a major supermarket. The P.O. financer will want to hear something like this from the produce distributor: ” I buy all the product I need from one grower all at once that I can have hauled over to the supermarket and I don’t ever touch the product. I am not going to take it into my warehouse and I am not going to do anything to it like wash it or package it. The only thing I do is to obtain the order from the supermarket and I place the order with my grower and my grower drop ships it over to the supermarket. “

This is the ideal scenario for a P.O. financer. There is one supplier and one buyer and the distributor never touches the inventory. It is an automatic deal killer (for P.O. financing and not factoring) when the distributor touches the inventory. The P.O. financer will have paid the grower for the goods so the P.O. financer knows for sure the grower got paid and then the invoice is created. When this happens the P.O. financer might do the factoring as well or there might be another lender in place (either another factor or an asset-based lender). P.O. financing always comes with an exit strategy and it is always another lender or the company that did the P.O. financing who can then come in and factor the receivables.

The exit strategy is simple: When the goods are delivered the invoice is created and then someone has to pay back the purchase order facility. It is a little easier when the same company does the P.O. financing and the factoring because an inter-creditor agreement does not have to be made.

Sometimes P.O. financing can’t be done but factoring can be.

Let’s say the distributor buys from different growers and is carrying a bunch of different products. The distributor is going to warehouse it and deliver it based on the need for their clients. This would be ineligible for P.O. financing but not for factoring (P.O. Finance companies never want to finance goods that are going to be placed into their warehouse to build up inventory). The factor will consider that the distributor is buying the goods from different growers. Factors know that if growers don’t get paid it is like a mechanics lien for a contractor. A lien can be put on the receivable all the way up to the end buyer so anyone caught in the middle does not have any rights or claims.

The idea is to make sure that the suppliers are being paid because PACA was created to protect the farmers/growers in the United States. Further, if the supplier is not the end grower then the financer will not have any way to know if the end grower gets paid.

Example: A fresh fruit distributor is buying a big inventory. Some of the inventory is converted into fruit cups/cocktails. They’re cutting up and packaging the fruit as fruit juice and family packs and selling the product to a large supermarket. In other words they have almost altered the product completely. Factoring can be considered for this type of scenario. The product has been altered but it is still fresh fruit and the distributor has provided a value-add.

The idea for factoring/P.O. Financing is to get into the nuts and bolts of every single deal to ascertain if it is doable.