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How to Write an Executive Summary for Your Business Plan
By Bernardo Barbosa
Published on 12 January 2024
13 mins read
Do you want to know how to write an executive summary for your business plan? Then, you have come to the right place! In this article, we have cut the nonsense and provided you with just what you need to create the perfect project proposal for your company.
Below, you can find out what an executive summary is, what are the steps involved in creating one, and even access useful resources such as a free executive summary template.
What is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a concise document summarizing key points and essential information of a business. It is normally included as the first section of a business plan, and it's designed to give busy executives and decision-makers a quick understanding of the contents of the entire document without having to read the whole piece.
In a nutshell, executive summaries serve as snapshots of a business plan and are used to capture the attention of investors, stakeholders, or potential partners. A persuasive executive summary should be well-written, clear, and compelling, encouraging the reader to delve deeper into the details of a business.
Executive Summary Components
The components of an executive summary can vary depending on the specifics of your business, but tend to include the following:
- Business name and location.
- Project overview or business concept.
- Market analysis (including your target market and target audience).
- Financial information (including key metrics).
- Strategic plan.
- Overview of the management team.
- Funding requirements.
A Call to Action can also be a critical component of an executive summary, as does a concise company description. In general, your executive summary should encapsulate all the details that make up your business plan.
How to Write an Executive Summary (Step-by-Step Guide)
Like most summaries, an executive summary should follow a larger document. Think of it as a book synopsis: you wouldn't write it without reading the book first, right? Well, executive summaries are like the synopsis of your business plan! This means that you should only start to write an executive summary once you have a solid business plan in place.
To do so, just follow our lead:
Step 1: Before Starting to Write an Executive Summary
Before writing any business document, entrepreneurs and business owners are expected to know their business inside out. If you have a business plan for your company, then you have probably already defined your target audience, set clear business goals, and developed a business model fitting such goals.
Now, it's time to read and re-read your entire business plan looking for critical information and key findings that deserve to be in your executive summary. Before starting to write the document, make a list of all the important points you want to include in it.
It's also vital to have a clear idea of the purpose of your executive summary. Is it for everyone, or just for potential investors? What do you want to achieve with it? And who is going to read it?
Step 2: Making a Great First Impression
First impressions matter in the business world, and your executive summary should greet its readers with confidence and assurance. To do so, start with a strong opening paragraph that captures the reader's attention.
Don't forget to include your unique selling points in your introductory company description. It should summarize your project plan in just a few sentences, focusing on the main points that make your products and services great, unique, or simply better than the alternatives.
Step 3: Highlighting Market Analysis
By now, the readers of your executive summary already know what your business is about. But where does it stand in relation to its industry? Market analysis is fundamental for conveying this information to potential investors and partners, informing them of the viability of your business idea. Creating the first machine learning company in Portugal, for example, is very different from creating just another Portuguese machine learning company!
Market analysis can be incredibly thorough in your business plan, but it should be relatively short and straight to the point in your executive summary. Critical components include a market research overview, a target market description, target audience and customer needs, market trends, distribution and pricing strategy, and even any broader regulatory details relevant to your business model.
Step 4: Showcasing Financial Information
No business plan is complete without financial projections, and a good executive summary should always showcase relevant financial information regarding your business.
Consider the following key metrics:
- Revenue: Revenue is a fundamental indicator of a business's top-line performance because it represents the amount of money flowing into the business before deducting expenses.
- Profit margins: Profit margins help assess the efficiency and profitability of a business, with higher margins generally indicating better financial health.
- Growth projections: Growth projections provide insights into a business's future potential, demonstrating the scalability and sustainability of such a business.
- Market share: Refers to the percentage of total sales in a particular market that a company captures, measuring its sales performance relative to the total size of the market in which it operates.
To capture the attention of your intended audience even further, make sure to include an estimated timeline for each of your projections, as this shows to any prospective investor that you have clear business goals in mind. Speaking of which...
Step 5: Outlining Clear Business Goals
In the end, an executive summary is about the future. Every business plan is built on top of hard facts and concise analysis while ultimately trying to sell a dream. For potential investors, your company objectives can be as important (or even more important) than your annual reports.
For this reason, executive summaries should outline clear business goals with a project proposal that hits the mark. Show readers not only that your company is expected to grow, but also how you intend to make it grow with a well-defined business strategy.
This is usually where your marketing plan should be taken into account. Make sure to provide investors, stakeholders, or potential partners with a high-level overview of your marketing efforts, focusing on your competitive advantage. Finally, list your project's objectives in clear milestones while also referencing what your business has already achieved so far.
Step 6: Introducing the Team
The small business world is fundamentally about people, and your executive summary should always include an introduction to your project team members. Let your readers know who the project managers are, and provide brief background information relating to each one of them, focusing on why they're vital for your business plan and project proposals.
Step 7: Ending with Funding Requirements (If Needed)
Last but not least, a powerful executive summary should specify funding requirements whenever needed. Most times, an executive summary acts as a business proposal, almost like a research document designed to secure funding. If that's the case with your business, make sure to state clearly how much funding you need and what you need it for.
When it comes to business funding, grabbing the reader's interest isn't enough. You also need to convince prospective investors that your company has the necessary innovative solutions to get them hefty returns in the long term. So, make sure to address any potential concerns that may be raised by investors, stakeholders, or partners.
To leave a lasting mark, end your executive summary with an inspiring Call to Action.
Step 8: After Writing an Executive Summary
Once your executive summary is fully written, revise it carefully to detect any discrepancies, missing relevant information, and grammar/syntax issues. When it comes to executive summaries, a longer document isn't necessarily better, so make sure to keep it brief by sticking just to the most important information.
Finally, talk with industry experts, partners, and even customers to get some feedback on your executive summary. A business plan isn't static and needs constant updating, and the same applies to a well-written executive summary.
Tips For a Well-Written Executive Summary
Just like in the song, the road to the perfect executive summary is long and winding. However, these key recommendations should help you stay on the right track:
What You Should Do
1. Be concise: Aim for clarity and brevity, providing essential information without unnecessary details. It's called an executive SUMMARY for a reason!
2. Address a specific reader: Tailor the executive summary to your specific audience, whether it's investors, potential partners, or internal stakeholders, emphasizing what matters most to them.
3. Use clear language: Avoid jargon or technical terms that might be confusing to those unfamiliar with your industry. Using fancy words simply doesn't make you look smarter (much on the contrary).
4. Be engaging: Start your executive summary with a strong hook, use bullet points to highlight the most important information, and incorporate infographics and other visuals for added clarity (especially for financial projections).
What You Should Not Do
1. Include too many details: Your document's purpose is to provide a brief overview of your business operations. If readers want more details, they can always consult your business plan.
3. Overlooking risks: All businesses have challenges, and these shouldn't be overlooked or hidden away from investors, stakeholders, or partners. Be as transparent with the bad news as you are with the good news.
4. Forgetting to proofread: This one's a bit obvious but of the uttermost importance nevertheless! Proofread your executive summary to identify typos and grammatical errors that can detract from the professionalism of your project plan.
Benefits of an Effective Executive Summary
If you already have a solid business plan, why do you need an executive summary? Well, executive summaries are incredibly beneficial for businesses for the following reasons:
1. An executive summary provides a brief overview of a business plan, helping you and your readers to have a more structured and holistic view of your company.
2. An executive summary saves time for decision-makers, allowing them to access all relevant information about a company without spending hours reading comprehensive business plans.
3. An executive summary is a valuable tool for communicating the main points of your project proposal in a succinct and compelling manner.
5. An executive summary can be used for benchmarking and comparison purposes. Comparing executive summaries over time or against industry standards helps assess performance and areas for improvement.
6. In cases involving intellectual property, an executive summary can help you put your innovative business idea out there at the right moment.
Free Executive Summary Template
Now that you know how to write an executive summary, you're probably ready to fill in the gaps on any executive summary template. This free template with suggested questions should help you keep things organized:
Executive Summary Free Template
[Business name]: What's your company's name?
[Introduction]: What's the mission and Unique Selling Proposition of your business?
[Business concept]: How do you summarize your company description?
[Market analysis]: What's your target market? Who are your competitors? What kind of market trends are pertinent to your business?
[Financial highlights]: What's your current and projected revenue? What are your profit margins looking like? What are your growth projections?
[Key strategies]: What's the strategic plan that will allow your business to fulfill its goals?
[Achievements and milestones]: What has your business already achieved?
[Team overview]: Who are the project managers and team members of your company?
[Funding requirements]: Are you looking for funding? If so, how much and for what exactly?
[Call to Action]: In the end, why should anyone pay attention to your company?
Congratulations! By answering all of the questions in our free executive summary template and cross-checking information with your business plan, you will be more than equipped to write your own executive summary.
Executive Summary Examples
It's rare to find a company that shares its complete executive summary with the public. However, the "About Us" sections in most business websites can be seen as proper executive summary examples despite generally ignoring financial highlights and funding requirements.
To write a perfect mission statement for your business, take inspiration from the executive summaries of:
- Tesla, which includes information on the company's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy, covering electric vehicles, energy products, and achievements.
- Netflix, which includes information on the company's history, content strategy, and global impact on the entertainment industry.
- Warby Parker, which details the company's mission to offer affordable eyewear while promoting social responsibility while also covering the brand's history, values, and impact initiatives.
For more complete executive summary examples, consult with industry professionals, talk with other business owners, or search business repertoires.
Incorporating Executive Summaries into Business Plans
Incorporating an executive summary into a business plan involves strategically placing it at the beginning of the document to provide a quick and comprehensive overview of the entire plan.
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to effectively incorporate an executive summary into your business plan:
1. Place it at the beginning of your business plan.
2. Keep it concise and well-formatted (readability is a must).
3. Don't miss out on any of the essential information of your business plan.
4. If needed, provide some contextual information.
Executive Summaries: Key Findings
- An executive summary is like a synopsis of a business plan.
- A mission statement, Unique Selling Proposition, and project plan are some of the main components of an executive summary.
- You should start writing your executive summary only after having a pretty good idea of what your business plan looks like.
- A well-written executive summary should be concise and engaging, use clear language, and avoid unsubstantiated statements.
- An executive summary is great for time-saving, communication, and benchmarking.
- An executive summary template is a useful tool for writing an effective executive summary.
- Your executive summary serves the purpose of summing up the fundamentals of business plans.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How are executive summaries different from business plans?
An executive summary is a concise overview of a business plan, whereas a business plan is a larger document containing vastly more detailed information regarding a company's operation.
What's the difference between an executive summary and a project proposal?
They serve a similar purpose, but an executive summary is a document, while project proposals are more of an action employed by businesses to convince investors, stakeholders, or partners.
What are the key points of an executive summary?
Make sure to include your business name, company description, market analysis, financial highlights, key strategies, past achievements, team composition, and funding requirements in your executive summary.
An executive summary serves for what?
The purpose of an executive summary is to highlight the main objectives, findings, recommendations, and other important elements of business plans.
What's an executive summary template?
An executive summary template is a fill-in document containing the main points that should be included in an executive summary.
Do all executive summaries need to include a marketing plan?
Marketing plans are essential for a business's growth and communication strategies, so it's recommended. However, you don't need to go into much detail here: just focus on the essentials and list them using bullet points and other general guidelines.
Written by Bernardo Barbosa
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