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Why your business plan's executive summary is so important (+ how to write one)
If you plan to launch your own small business , then you'll need to write an executive summary as part of your full business plan. In this article, we'll answer all your pressing questions, including: What the heck is an executive summary, anyway? What’s the purpose of an executive summary? And how do I actually create a well-written executive summary?
Executive summaries are arguably one of the most critical sections of a business plan —and they're also one of the trickiest to write. The executive summary is the first part of your complete business plan that someone will read, so it needs to be compelling in order to convince someone to read the whole thing.
But here’s the catch: 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds actively reading content, based on data published in Time Magazine . This means the limited window of time you have to convince someone your business plan is worth their attention depends on a strong executive summary. No pressure or anything.
For that reason, it’s important to know how to draft a concise executive summary that makes an impact and communicates the goals of your small business. But have no fear, just read on to learn how!
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is essentially an outline of your business plan. If your full business plan is a roadmap, your executive summary is your roadmap's roadmap. It gives your readers a heads up about what you'll talk about in the rest of your business plan. For all intents and purposes, your business's executive summary is your elevator pitch.
The purpose of an executive summary
If there's one section of your business plan everyone is going to read, it's the executive summary. Your business plan's executive summary exists to give readers an overview of the entire document. It should outline what they can expect to learn and motivate them to keep reading on.
“Investors will read the executive summary to decide if they will even bother reading the rest of the business plan. It’s rare for an investor or lender to read an entire business plan, at least in the initial stages of analysis and consideration for funding,” says Eric Markowitz , Inc.com Staff Writer.
Keep your goals and purpose in mind when writing your executive summary.
If your business is a startup, the purpose of your business plan (and executive summary) will likely be to get banks or investors to provide you with financing. So, when writing your executive summary, highlight the financial requirements of your business and why your business is worthy of funding.
If you're a more established business owner, then your executive summary will talk more about your achievements, evolution, and goals for the future.
How to write an executive summary for a business plan
Your business's executive summary should be as short as possible, ideally only one or two pages long.
Remember that you're vouching for yourself and your business in your executive summary, so make sure your language is confident and positive!
Bad example : We might not be the best or the most established protein powder brand, but we probably have the most passion and love out of all our competitors.
Good example: With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.
It's best practice to avoid talking about more fluffy, subjective points and cliches (like passion, hard work, etc.) so you can focus more on the practical information and facts your readers want to know about (like why they should actually invest or partner with your business). You also want to seem confident in yourself and your business, so avoid words like "might," "maybe," or "could" and opt for more definitive words, like "will"!
Remember that your executive summary should fill in the blanks for your readers. Keep your target audience in mind and try to answer their questions, rather than create new ones, or they may get confused and stop reading. Give them a reason not to go back to checking their current value of Bitcoin.
"Put yourself in the business plan reader's shoes and think about what you would like to know in the report," Marius Thauland, business strategist at Leiekontor, told Business News Daily . "Get their attention by making it simple and brief yet still professional. It should also attract them to read the entire document to understand even the minute details."
There's no specific way to order the different sections of your executive summary, but you'll want to put the most important information or your strongest points first . The first sentence and paragraph of your executive summary is especially important, since these are what will reel your readers in.
We'll give you an idea of how to do this below.
What to include in the executive summary of your business plan
Despite being the first page of your business plan, it’s a good idea to write your executive summary section last. This trick allows you to get a clear picture of what specific material from the full business plan you need to introduce in the executive summary. So if you haven't written the rest of your business plan yet, stop, maybe check out our articles on writing a business plan (wink wink nudge nudge), and come back here once you're done.
Since the goal of a business plan is to persuade the reader to invest in your business, your executive summary needs to demonstrate why this investment would be a smart financial decision. The kicker is: you need to do all of this in 1-2 pages.
To get started, The Balance Small Business suggests including the following eight sections. Choose the topics most relevant to your business and write one or two sentences about each of them. And remember to order them from most important to least important!
1. Business opportunity
What demand or need is there for your business and how will you meet this demand? Talk about a problem or a gap in the market, and why your business alone has all the answers.
2. Target market
What demographic do you intend to reach as your customer base? Who's going to be buying your product?
3. Business model
Use this part to give more juicy details about your business idea. What products or services will your business offer, and what makes them desirable?
4. Marketing/Sales strategy
What will your methods be to create brand recognition for these products or services? You might want to consider marketing techniques like social media, paid media, or email marketing.
Give your readers the low-down of your industry. What businesses will you compete with for market share, and what does your business offer that your competitors do not? How big and competitive is your industry? How will you stand out against other small businesses? Are there any industry trends you should bring up?
6. Financial analysis
Investors and banks will be especially interested in this part. What is your plan to manage your business finances, and what is your projected revenue for the first three years of your business? You should go into detail about how you will distribute your funding and spell out what your investors will get out of it.
In this section, you can give a brief overview of your business's history. Who are the owners and lead staff members of your business and what important skills or credentials do they bring?
8. Implementation plan
What is your framework and timeline to move from a concept to launching an actual business?
Effective executive summary examples
Sitting down to start writing an executive summary and putting all the pieces together can be challenging .
To think about it differently, you might consider grouping the above details into a few specific categories:
What are the core values and central purpose of your business?
What products or services do you offer, how long has your business been in operation, who are the owners and lead staff members, and how many business locations do you manage?
What is the current and projected state of your finances and do you need an investor to help you expand?
What objectives or projects will this financial investment be used for?
Keep in mind that, as you write your own executive summary, you should consider the industry and market that you are entering, the customers you’ll be interacting with, and the things your business will need to succeed (financial backing, upfront costs, additional workforce, etc). Here’s an example of a good executive summary template to guide you as you embark on writing your own executive summary.
Executive summary/business plan example: Vegan Protein Blitz
Company: Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-free protein powder
Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder offers 25 grams of protein per serving without any use of animal protein—similar to, and in many cases, more than, the average amount of protein in similar products. We intend to appeal to those within the fitness community who are looking for a great-tasting protein powder without compromising on the amount of protein per serving. With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.
The Company and Management
Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder was founded in 2018 by Sarah Bailey, a certified personal trainer and former food scientist, who couldn’t find a vegan protein powder that tasted good and provided the amount she needed to fuel her fitness routine. Her kitchen is based in San Diego, California, where she employs two full-time employees and three part-time employees.
Along with Sarah Bailey, Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder has a board of advisors. The advisors are:
- Laura Henry, partner at Food Inc.
- Kristin Smith, CEO of Just Nuts Vegan Health Bars
We offer animal-free protein powder that is made with all-natural sugar sources and no preservatives. Our customers are health-conscious and serious about fueling their bodies with animal-free whole foods. We plan to grow quickly, with an initial goal of building a full-time marketing team of fitness advocates and professionals who understand the industry and our customers’ needs.
Our Competitive Advantages
While there are other vegan protein powders on the national market, there are none that are made with all-natural sugar and with a comparable amount of protein as that of an animal-based powder. With the expertise of our founder Sarah Bailey, we also stand out as a company that truly understands the audience. Please see our market research (Section 3) for more information on why consumers are demanding this expertise.
Our sales projections for the first year are $600,000 with a 10% growth rate over the next two years. By year three, we project 55% gross margins and will have ten full-time employees. The salary for each employee will be $60,000 USD.
Startup Financing Requirements
We are seeking to raise $250,000 in startup funds to finance the first year. The owner has invested $40,000 to meet working capital requirements, and will use a loan of $80,000 to supplement the rest.
More executive summary templates
Need more business plan examples, or ready to create your own executive summary with a template? Here are a few we found around the web:
- US Small Business Association
Final tips for writing an executive summary
Earning investor interest in your business is critical to getting access to the things your business will need to succeed, and a solid executive summary can help you do that. Writing your full business plan first can help you get clarity on the strongest key points of your business proposal, which you can use to build out your executive summary.
Most importantly, keep this section of your business plan straightforward and concise, making it easy for the reader to understand what you’re doing and why it matters.
Brush up on your writing skills
You're an entrepreneur, and you probably didn't start your business to write business plans . Free online editing tools and resources like Hemingway and Grammarly can help you punch up and polish your writing. Just copy and paste your executive summary into the software, and it will let you know where your writing needs to be more clear.
Get to the point
Remember what we said about keeping it short? We mean it. Even if there's a really clever sentence that you're super proud of, it's gotta go if it doesn't contribute to your summary. You don't want to give too much detail (that's what the rest of your business plan is for!) or repeat yourself.
Always proofread your work a couple of times before calling it a day! Reading your executive summary out loud can help you identify awkward phrasing and catch any typos you might have missed. Another idea is to copy and paste it into a text-to-speech program to hear what it sounds like out loud. It also helps to print out your executive summary and edit the physical document, which helps you see it from a fresh perspective.
If you have a kind friend, family member, or fellow business owner, you should ask them to take a look at your executive summary/business plan and give their constructive criticism. If they understand your goals and plan and seem excited about your idea, that's a good sign! If they give your business plan back to you with a bunch of red marks and a confused look on their faces, that's probably a sign for you to make sure your executive summary flows more logically.
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The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.
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How to Write an Executive Summary (Example & Template Included)
Here’s the good news: an executive summary is short. It’s part of a larger document like a business plan, business case or project proposal and, as the name implies, summarizes the longer report.
Here’s the bad news: it’s a critical document that can be challenging to write because an executive summary serves several important purposes. On one hand, executive summaries are used to outline each section of your business plan, an investment proposal or project proposal. On the other hand, they’re used to introduce your business or project to investors and other stakeholders, so they must be persuasive to spark their interest.
Writing an Executive Summary
The pressure of writing an executive summary comes from the fact that everyone will pay attention to it, as it sits at the top of that heap of documents. It explains all that follows and can make or break your business plan or project plan . The executive summary must know the needs of the potential clients or investors and zero in on them like a laser. Fortunately, we’ll show you how to write and format your executive summary to do just that.
Getting everything organized for your executive summary can be challenging. ProjectManager can help you get your thoughts in order and collaborate with your team. Our powerful task management tools make it easy to get everything prioritized and done on time. Try it free today.
What Is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a short section of a larger document like a business plan , investment proposal or project proposal. It’s mostly used to give investors and stakeholders a quick overview of important information about a business plan like the company description, market analysis and financial information.
It contains a short statement that addresses the problem or proposal detailed in the attached documents and features background information, a concise analysis and a conclusion. An executive summary is designed to help executives and investors decide whether to go forth with the proposal, making it critically important. Pitch decks are often used along with executive summaries to talk about the benefits and main selling points of a business plan or project.
Unlike an abstract, which is a short overview, an executive summary format is a condensed form of the documents contained in the proposal. Abstracts are more commonly used in academic and research-oriented writing and act as a teaser for the reader to see if they want to read on.
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Executive Summary Template
Use this free Executive Summary Template for Word to manage your projects better.
How to Write an Executive Summary
Executive summaries vary depending on the document they’re attached to. You can write an executive summary for a business plan, project proposal, research document, or business case, among other documents and reports.
However, when writing an executive summary, there are guidelines to ensure you hit all the bases.
Executive Summary Length
According to the many books that have been written about executive summaries, as well as training courses, seminars and professional speakers, the agreed-upon length for an executive summary format should be about five to 10 percent of the length of the whole report.
The language used should be appropriate for the target audience. One of the most important things to know before you write professionally is to understand who you’re addressing. If you’re writing for a group of engineers, the language you’ll use will differ greatly from how you would write to a group of financiers.
That includes more than just the words, but the content and depth of explanation. Remember, it’s a summary, and people will be reading it to quickly and easily pull out the main points.
You also want to capture a reader’s attention immediately in the opening paragraph. Just like a speech often opens with a joke to break the tension and put people at ease, a strong introductory paragraph can pull a reader in and make them want to read on. That doesn’t mean you start with a joke. Stick to your strengths, but remember, most readers only give you a few sentences to win them over before they move on.
Don’t forget to explain who you are as an organization and why you have the skills, personnel and experience to solve the problem raised in the proposal. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy biography, often just your name, address and contact information will do, though you’ll also want to highlight your strengths as they pertain to the business plan or project proposal .
The executive summary shouldn’t stray from the material that follows it. It’s a summary, not a place to bring up new ideas. To do so would be confusing and would jeopardize your whole proposal.
Establish the need or the problem, and convince the target audience that it must be solved. Once that’s set up, it’s important to recommend the solution and show what the value is. Be clear and firm in your recommendation.
Justify your cause. Be sure to note the key reasons why your organization is the perfect fit for the solution you’re proposing. This is the point where you differentiate yourself from competitors, be that due to methodology, testimonials from satisfied clients or whatever else you offer that’s unique. But don’t make this too much about you. Be sure to keep the name of the potential client at the forefront.
Don’t neglect a strong conclusion, where you can wrap things up and once more highlight the main points.
Related: 10 Essential Excel Report Templates
What to Include in an Executive Summary
The content of your executive summary must reflect what’s in the larger document which it is part of. You’ll find many executive summary examples on the web, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus on business plans and project proposals.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan
As we’ve learned above, your executive summary must extract the main points of all the sections of your business plan. A business plan is a document that describes all the aspects of a business, such as its business model, products or services, objectives and marketing plan , among other things. They’re commonly used by startups to pitch their ideas to investors.
Here are the most commonly used business plan sections:
- Company description: Provide a brief background of your company, such as when it was established, its mission, vision and core values.
- Products & services: Describe the products or services your company will provide to its customers.
- Organization and management: Explain the legal structure of your business and the members of the top management team.
- SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis explains the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business. They describe the internal and external factors that impact your business competitiveness.
- Industry & market analysis: This section should provide an overview of the industry and market in which your business will compete.
- Operations: Explain the main aspects of your business operations and what sets it apart from competitors.
- Marketing plan: Your marketing plan describes the various strategies that your business will use to reach its customers and sell products or services.
- Financial planning: Here, you should provide an overview of the financial state of your business. Include income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.
- Funding request: If you’re creating your business plan to request funding, make sure to explain what type of funding you need, the timeframe for your funding request and an explanation of how the funds will be used.
We’ve created an executive summary example to help you better understand how this document works when using it, to sum up a business plan.
To put all of that information together, here’s the basic format of an executive summary. You can find this same information in our free executive summary template :
- Introduction, be sure to know your audience
- Table of contents in the form of a bulleted list
- Explain the company’s role and identify strengths
- Explain the need, or the problem, and its importance
- Recommend a solution and explain its value
- Justify said solution by explaining how it fits the organization
- A strong conclusion that once more wraps up the importance of the project
You can use it as an executive summary example and add or remove some of its elements to adjust it to your needs. Our sample executive summary has the main elements that you’ll need project executive summary.
Executive Summary Example
For this executive summary example, we’ll imagine a company named ABC Clothing, a small business that manufactures eco-friendly clothing products and it’s preparing a business plan to secure funding from new investors.
Company Description We are ABC Clothing, an environmentally-friendly manufacturer of apparel. We’ve developed a unique method of production and sourcing of materials that allows us to create eco-friendly products at a low cost . We have intellectual property for our production processes and materials, which gives us an advantage in the market.
- Mission: Our mission is to use recycled materials and sustainable methods of production to create clothing products that are great for our customers and our planet.
- Vision: Becoming a leader in the apparel industry while generating a positive impact on the environment.
Products & Services We offer high-quality clothing products for men, women and all genders. (Here you should include pictures of your product portfolio to spark the interest of your readers)
Industry & Market Analysis Even though the fashion industry’s year-over-year growth has been affected by pandemics in recent years, the global apparel market is expected to continue growing at a steady pace. In addition, the market share of sustainable apparel has grown year-over-year at a higher pace than the overall fashion industry.
Marketing Plan Our marketing plan relies on the use of digital marketing strategies and online sales, which gives us a competitive advantage over traditional retailers that focus their marketing efforts on brick-and-mortar stores.
Operations Our production plant is able to recycle different types of plastic and cotton waste to turn it into materials that we use to manufacture our products . We’ve partnered with a transportation company that sorts and distributes our products inside the United States efficiently and cost-effectively.
Financial Planning Our business is profitable, as documented in our balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. The company doesn’t have any significant debt that might compromise its continuity. These and other financial factors make it a healthy investment.
Funding Request We’re requesting funding for the expansion of our production capacity, which will allow us to increase our production output in order to meet our increasing customer demand, enter new markets, reduce our costs and improve our competitiveness.
If you’d like to see more executive summary examples for your business plan, you can visit the U.S. small business administration website. They have business plans with executive summary examples you can download and use.
Executive summaries are also a great way to outline the elements of a project plan for a project proposal. Let’s learn what those elements are.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Project Proposal
An executive summary for your project proposal will capture the most important information from your project management plan. Here’s the structure of our executive summary template:
- Introduction: What’s the purpose of your project?
- Company description: Show why you’re the right team to take on the project.
- Need/problem: What is the problem that it’s solving?
- Unique solution: What is your value proposition and what are the main selling points of your project?
- Proof: Evidence, research and feasibility studies that support how your company can solve the issue.
- Resources: Outline the resources needed for the project
- Return on investment/funding request: Explain the profitability of your project and what’s in for the investors.
- Competition/market analysis: What’s your target market? Who are your competitors? How does your company differentiate from them?
- Marketing plan: Create a marketing plan that describes your company’s marketing strategies, sales and partnership plans.
- Budget/financial planning: What’s the budget that you need for your project plan?
- Timeline: What’s the estimated timeline to complete the project?
- Team: Who are the project team members and why are they qualified?
- Conclusions: What are the project takeaways?
Now that we’ve learned that executive summaries can vary depending on the type of document you’re working on, you’re ready for the next step.
What to Do After Writing an Executive Summary
As with anything you write, you should always start with a draft. The first draft should hit all the marks addressed above but don’t bog yourself down in making the prose perfect. Think of the first draft as an exploratory mission. You’re gathering all the pertinent information.
Next, you want to thoroughly review the document to ensure that nothing important has been left out or missed. Make sure the focus is sharp and clear, and that it speaks directly to your potential client’s needs.
Proofread for Style & Grammar
But don’t neglect the writing. Be sure that you’re not repeating words, falling into cliché or other hallmarks of bad writing. You don’t want to bore the reader to the point that they miss the reason why you’re the organization that can help them succeed.
You’ve checked the content and the prose, but don’t forget the style. You want to write in a way that’s natural and not overly formal, but one that speaks in the manner of your target audience . If they’re a conservative firm, well then, maybe formality is called for. But more and more modern companies have a casual corporate culture, and formal writing could mistakenly cause them to think of you as old and outdated.
The last run should be proofing the copy. That means double-checking to ensure that spelling is correct, and there are no typos or grammatical mistakes. Whoever wrote the executive summary isn’t the best person to edit it, however. They can easily gloss over errors because of their familiarity with the work. Find someone who excels at copy-editing. If you deliver sloppy content, it shows a lack of professionalism that’ll surely color how a reader thinks of your company.
Criticism of Executive Summaries
While we’re advocating for the proper use of an executive summary, it’d be neglectful to avoid mentioning some critiques. The most common is that an executive summary by design is too simple to capture the complexity of a large and complicated project.
It’s true that many executives might only read the summary, and in so doing, miss the nuance of the proposal. That’s a risk. But if the executive summary follows the guidelines stated above, it should give a full picture of the proposal and create interest for the reader to delve deeper into the documents to get the details.
Remember, executive summaries can be written poorly or well. They can fail to focus on results or the solution to the proposal’s problem or do so in a vague, general way that has no impact on the reader. You can do a hundred things wrong, but if you follow the rules, then the onus falls on the reader.
ProjectManager Turns an Executive Summary Into a Project
Your executive summary got the project approved. Now the real work begins. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you organize tasks, projects and teams. We have everything you need to manage each phase of your project, so you can complete your work on time and under budget.
Work How You Want
Because project managers and teams work differently, our software is flexible. We have multiple project views, such as the kanban board, which visualizes workflow. Managers like the transparency it provides in the production cycle, while teams get to focus only on those tasks they have the capacity to complete. Are you more comfortable with tasks lists or Gantt charts? We have those, too.
Live Tracking for Better Management
To ensure your project meets time and cost expectations, we have features that monitor and track progress so you can control any deviations that might occur. Our software is cloud-based, so the data you see on our dashboard is always up to date, helping you make better decisions. Make that executive summary a reality with ProjectManager.
You’ve now researched and written a persuasive executive summary to lead your proposal. You’ve put in the work and the potential client sees that and contracts you for the project. However, if you don’t have a reliable set of project management tools like Gantt charts , kanban boards and project calendars at hand to plan, monitor and report on the work, then all that preparation will be for nothing.
ProjectManager is online project management software that gives you real-time data and a collaborative platform to work efficiently and productively. But don’t take our word for it, take a free 30-day trial.
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5 Steps for Writing an Executive Summary
Table of contents.
Anyone starting a new business must create a business plan that clearly outlines the organization’s details and goals. The executive summary is a crucial element of that business plan.
We’ll explore five steps to writing your business plan’s executive summary, including what to include and avoid. We’ll also point you toward executive summary templates to help you get started.
What is an executive summary?
New entrepreneurs or business owners typically use a business plan to present their great business idea to potential stakeholders like angel investors . The purpose of the business plan is to attract financing from investors or convince banking executives to get a bank loan for their business . An executive summary is a business plan overview that succinctly highlights its most essential elements.
It’s not just a general outline; the executive summary might be the only part of your business plan that busy executives and potential investors read.
“The executive summary of a business plan is designed to capture the reader’s attention and briefly explain your business, the problem you are solving, the target audience, and key financial information,” Ross Kimbarovsky, CEO and founder of Crowdspring, told Business News Daily. “If the executive summary lacks specific information or does not capture the attention of the reader, the rest of the plan might not be read.”
While your executive summary should be engaging and comprehensive, it must also be quick and easy to read. These documents average one to four pages – ideally, under two pages – and should comprise less than 10% of your entire business plan.
Along with an executive summary, a business plan will include your business’s legal structure , the products and services you sell, and a financial plan with sales forecasts .
How do you write an executive summary?
Your executive summary will be unique to your organization and business plan. However, most entrepreneurs and business owners take the following five steps when creating their executive summary.
- Write your business plan first. The executive summary will briefly cover the most essential topics your business plan covers. For this reason, you should write the entire business plan first, and then create your executive summary. The executive summary should only cover facts and details included in the business plan.
- Write an engaging introduction. What constitutes “engaging” depends on your audience. For example, if you’re in the tech industry, your introduction may include a surprising tech trend or brief story. The introduction must be relevant to your business and capture your audience’s attention. It is also crucial to identify your business plan’s objective and what the reader can expect to find in the document.
- Write the executive summary. Go through your business plan and identify critical points to include in your executive summary. Touch on each business plan key point concisely but comprehensively. You may mention your marketing plan , target audience, company description, management team, and more. Readers should be able to understand your business plan without reading the rest of the document. Ideally, the summary will be engaging enough to convince them to finish the document, but they should be able to understand your basic plan from your summary. (We’ll detail what to include in the executive summary in the next section.)
- Edit and organize your document. Organize your executive summary to flow with your business plan’s contents, placing the most critical components at the beginning. A bulleted list is helpful for drawing attention to your main points. Double-check the document for accuracy and clarity. Remove buzzwords, repetitive information, qualifying words, jargon, passive language and unsupported claims. Verify that your executive summary can act as a standalone document if needed.
- Seek outside assistance. Since most entrepreneurs aren’t writing experts, have a professional writer or editor look over your document to ensure it flows smoothly and covers the points you’re trying to convey.
What should you include in an executive summary?
Your executive summary is based on your business plan and should include details relevant to your reader. For example, if your business plan’s goal is pitching a business idea to potential investors , you should emphasize your financial requirements and how you will use the funding.
The type of language you use depends on whether your audience consists of generalists or industry experts.
While executive summary specifics will vary by company, Marius Thauland, business strategist at OMD EMEA, says all executive summaries should include a few critical elements:
- Target audience
- Products and services
- Marketing and sales strategies
- Competitive analysis
- Funding and budget allocation for the processes and operations
- Number of employees to be hired and involved
- How you’ll implement the business plan
When synthesizing each section, highlight the details most relevant to your reader. Include any facts and statistics they must know. In your introduction, present pertinent company information and clearly state the business plan’s objective. To pinpoint key messages for your executive summary, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want the reader to take away from the document?
- What do you want to happen after they read it?
“Put yourself in the business plan reader’s shoes, and think about what you would like to know in the report,” Thauland advised. “Get their attention by making it simple and brief yet still professional. It should also attract them to read the entire document to understand even the minute details.”
If securing financing is your priority, read our reviews of the best business loans to compare options.
What should you avoid in an executive summary?
When writing your executive summary, be aware of the following common mistakes:
- Making your executive summary too long. An executive summary longer than two pages will deter some readers. You’re likely dealing with busy executives, and an overlong stretch of text can overwhelm them.
- Copying and pasting from other executive summary sections. Reusing phrases from other sections and stringing them together without context can seem confusing and sloppy. It’s also off-putting to read the same exact phrase twice within the same document. Instead, summarize your business plan’s central points in new, descriptive language.
- Too many lists and subheadings in your executive summary. After one – and only one – introductory set of bullets, recap your business plan’s main points in paragraph form without subheadings. Concision and clarity are more important for an executive summary than formatting tricks.
- Passive or unclear language in your executive summary. You’re taking the reins of your business, and your executive summary should show that. Use active voice in your writing so everyone knows you’re running the show. Be as clear as possible in your language, leaving no questions about what your business will do and how it will get there.
- Avoid general descriptions in your executive summary. Kimbarovsky said it’s best to avoid generalities in your executive summary. For example, there’s no need to include a line about “your team’s passion for hard work.” This information is a given and will take attention away from your executive summary’s critical details.
- Don’t use comparisons in your executive summary. Kimbarovsky also advises staying away from comparisons to other businesses in your executive summary. “Don’t say you will be the next Facebook, Uber or Amazon,” said Kimbarovsky. “Amateurs make this comparison to try and show how valuable their company could be. Instead, focus on providing the actual facts that you believe prove you have a strong company. It’s better if the investor gives you this accolade because they see the opportunity.”
When you’re starting a new business, the first people you should hire include a product manager, chief technology officer (CTO) , chief marketing officer and chief financial officer.
Executive summary templates and resources
If you’re writing an executive summary for the first time, online templates can help you outline your document. However, your business is unique, and your executive summary should reflect that. An online template probably won’t cover every detail you’ll need in your executive summary. Experts recommend using templates as general guidelines and tailoring them to fit your business plan and executive summary.
To get you started, here are some popular executive summary template resources:
- FormSwift. The FormSwift website lets you create and edit documents and gives you access to over 500 templates. It details what an effective executive summary includes and provides a form builder to help you create your executive summary. Fill out a step-by-step questionnaire and export your finished document via PDF or Word.
- Smartsheet. The Smartsheet cloud-based platform makes planning, managing and reporting on projects easier for teams and organizations. It offers several free downloadable executive summary templates for business plans, startups, proposals, research reports and construction projects.
- Template.net. The Template.net website provides several free business templates, including nine free executive summary templates that vary by project (e.g., business plan, startup, housing program development, proposal or marketing plan). Print out the templates and fill in your relevant details.
- TemplateLab. The TemplateLab website is a one-stop shop for new business owners seeking various downloadable templates for analytics, finance, HR, marketing, operations, project management, and time management. You’ll find over 30 free executive summary templates and examples.
- Vertex42. The Vertex42 website offers Excel templates for executive summaries on budgets, invoices, project management and timesheets, as well as Word templates for legal forms, resumes and letters. This site also provides extensive information on executive summaries and a free executive summary template you can download into Word or Google Docs.
Summing it all up
Your executive summary should preview your business plan in, at most, two pages. Wait until your business plan is complete to write your executive summary, and seek outside help as necessary. A thorough, engaging business plan and executive summary are well worth the time and money you put into them.
Max Freedman contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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How To Write an Executive Summary With Example
Make Writing Your Executive Summary Easier With This Example
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
How To Write an Executive Summary
What to include in an executive summary, executive summary example.
The Balance / Jo Zhou
An executive summary is a brief overview at the beginning of your business plan. It should provide a short, concise summary of your business that captures the reader's attention and gives them an interest in learning more about it. See an example of a business plan's executive summary so you can begin writing one of your own.
- An executive summary is a concise overview of the business plan.
- Place the executive summary near the beginning of the business plan.
- Before you write the executive summary, you'll have to write the rest of the business plan first.
- The executive summary should contain all relevant information about the business, including name, mission, services offered, market, and financial projections.
The executive summary goes near the beginning of the business plan but is written last. To include a summary of the different parts of your business plan, you'll need to write them first.
When you write the executive summary, keep it under two pages. The executive summary should contain brief summaries of other sections of the plan.
The idea is to give a brief overview of your business first before going into detail about each of the different parts.
The executive summary should contain all of the important information about your business, such as:
- Business name
- Business location
- Your mission as a company
- A history of the company
- Management and advisors
- Services or products offered
- The market for your offerings
- Your business's competitive advantages
- Your financial projections
- Startup financing required, if any
Format the executive summary clearly and attractively, with headings for each section. Your word processing software may have a template you can use that will make your business plan look good.
It's always easier to write something if you can read an example first, so here's an executive summary example that you can use as a model for your own business plan's executive summary.
This executive summary is for a fictional company called Pet Grandma Inc.
Pet Grandma Inc. offers superior on-site pet sitting and exercising services for dogs and cats, providing the personal loving pet care that the owners themselves would provide if they were home. Our team will ensure that pet owners can take business trips or vacations knowing that their pets are in good hands.
Company and Management
Pet Grandma Inc. is headquartered in the City of West Vancouver and incorporated in the Province of British Columbia. The company is owned by partners Pat Simpson and Terry Estelle. Pat has extensive experience in animal care while Terry has worked in sales and marketing for 15 years.
The management of Pet Grandma Inc. consists of co-owners Pat Simpson and Terry Estelle. Both partners will be taking hands-on management roles in the company. In addition, we have assembled a board of advisors to provide management expertise. The advisors are:
- Juliette LeCroix, partner at LeCroix Accounting LLP
- Carey Boniface, veterinarian and partner at Little Tree Animal Care Clinic
- John Toms, president of Toms Communications Ltd.
Our clients are dog owners and cat owners who choose to leave their pets at home when they travel, or who want their pets to have company when their owners are at work. Pet Grandma Inc. offers a variety of pet care services, all in the pet’s home environment, including:
- Dog walking
- Daily visits
- 24-hour care for days or weeks
- Administration of medications by qualified staff
- Emergency treatment in case of illness (arranged through veterinarians)
- Plant watering
- Mail collection
Across Canada, the pet care business has seen an explosion of growth over the last three years. West Vancouver is an affluent area with a high pet density. Our market research has shown that nine out of 10 pet owners polled in West Vancouver would prefer to have their pets cared for in their own homes when they travel rather than be kenneled and six out of 10 would consider having a pet sitter provide company for their dog when they were at work.
While there are currently eight businesses offering pet sitting in West Vancouver, only three of these offer on-site pet care and none offers “pet visit” services for working pet owners.
Pet Grandma ’s marketing strategy is to emphasize the quality of pet care we provide (“a Grandma for your pet!”) and the availability of our services. Dog owners who work, for instance, will come home to find happy, friendly companions who have already been exercised and walked, instead of demanding, whiny animals.
All pet services will be provided by animal care-certified staff.
All employees are insured and bonded.
Based on the size of our market and our defined market area, our sales projections for the first year are $340,000. We project a growth rate of 10% per year for the first three years.
The salary for each of the co-owners will be $40,000. At startup, we will have six trained staff to provide pet services and expect to hire four more this year once financing is secured. To begin with, co-owner Pat Simpson will be scheduling appointments and coordinating services, but we plan to hire a full-time receptionist this year as well.
Already we have service commitments from more than 40 clients and plan to aggressively build our client base through newspaper, website, social media, and direct mail advertising. The loving, on-site professional care that Pet Grandma Inc. will provide is sure to appeal to cat and dog owners throughout the West Vancouver area.
Startup Financing Requirements
We are seeking an operating line of $150,000 to finance our first-year growth. Together, the co-owners have invested $62,000 to meet working capital requirements.
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First Steps: Writing the Executive Summary of Your Business Plan This quick guide offers tips that will help you create the executive summary for your business plan.
By The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. • Jan 4, 2015
In their book Write Your Business Plan , the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. offer an in-depth understanding of what's essential to any business plan, what's appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors outline what to include in your business plan's executive summary and why.
The first part of your business plan that anybody will see is the executive summary. It's a brief look at the key elements of the whole plan—and it's critical.
The executive summary should be only a page or two. In it, you may include your mission and vision statements, a brief sketch of your plans and goals, a quick look at your company and its organization, an outline of your strategy, and highlights of your financial status and needs. Your executive summary is the CliffsNotes of your business plan.
The summary is the most important part of your whole plan, so you want it to be as strong as possible because it's the first thing people read in your plan, and we all know the power of a strong first impression. This is where you want to wow people and make them think.
The executive summary has to perform a host of jobs. First and foremost, it should grab the reader's attention. It has to briefly hit the high points of your plan. It should point readers with questions requiring detailed responses to the full-length sections of your plan where they can get answers. It should ease the task of anybody whose job it is to read it, and it should make that task enjoyable by presenting an interesting and compelling account of your company.
Here's a suggested format for an executive summary:
1. What's the business idea, what problem does it solve and how does it fit into the marketplace?
You'll need to explain why your idea has merit and how it can solve a common problem by making things easier, faster, or cheaper for the prospective customer(s). No matter how brilliantly crafted, written and presented your business plan is, it will be difficult to win your investors, and later customers, with a bad idea. Therefore, you want to wow them first with your idea! If they're not interested, no matter what your financials are, they won't help.
2. How much will it cost, and how much financing are you seeking?
Provide a short explanation of how you'll use any financing you seek. Tell investors why you need the money. Nobody wants to lend you money if they don't know exactly why you need it. It's not necessary to get into much detail here—just make it clear that you need it for x, y and z. You should also let the reader know how the investment will help the company grow and/or increase its profits. Why else would you be seeking funding? The best use of somebody else's money is to buy or build something that will make more money, both for you and for that person.
3. What will the return be to the investor? Over what length of time?
In your executive summary, consider the following:
- Friends and family want to get their money back someday but are not very interested in timing and returns.
- Bankers look for free cash flow to pay back the principal and interest of their loan. They also look closely at management experience and marketing. They may ask for collateral. By law they have to be conservative, that is, risk averse, so they are not great candidates for risky financing.
- Angel investors look for moderate rates of return, usually above the prime rate, plus some capital appreciation. They sometimes want to be involved at a hands-on level.
- Venture capitalists seek annual compound rates of return in the area of 35 to 50 percent per annum. They seldom want to go longer than three to five years to cash out. They always want to know what the exit strategy is.
Don't forget yourself: It's a rare company that doesn't have any investment from the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs who started it.
4. How will the ownership be divided?
When a business starts generating profits and plowing them back into the firm, value can build rapidly. Even if you aren't in an industry likely to purchase buildings or patent valuable technology, the business derives value from the fact that it can generate profits into the future.
Spell out who owns what. If you have many equity investors coupled with a pile of creditors, this can get pretty complicated. For the summary section of your plan, a basic description such as "Ownership of the company will be divided so that each of the four original partners owns 25 percent" will suffice. If you have to negotiate details of exactly what any equity investors will get, there's time to do that later. For now, you just want to give people an idea of how the ownership will be divided.
Additional questions you may want to consider answering in your executive summary include:
- What is the management team?
- What are the product and competitive strategies?
- What is your marketing plan?
- What is your exit strategy?
Give It a Happy Ending
The summary is the place to put your best foot forward, to talk up the upside and downplay the downside. As always, accentuating the positive doesn't mean exaggeration or lying. If there's a really important, unusual risk factor in your plan—such as that one certain big customer has to make a huge order for the whole plan to work—then you'll want to mention that in your summary. But run-of-the-mill risks like unexpected competition or customer reluctance can be ignored here. Paint a convincing portrait of an opportunity so compelling that only a dullard wouldn't recognize it and desire to take part in it.
The key to the executive summary is to pick out the best aspects of every part of your plan. So extract the essence of each key part, and offer your readers a highlight reel of your business.
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How to Write a Business Plan Executive Summary: Tips & Example
Free Executive Summary Template`
Writing a business plan involves a lot of research on various aspects of your business. However, readers don’t always have the time to read every section of your plan and may even skip some parts altogether. To make this process easier, we use an excellent executive summary.
With a business plan executive summary , you inform the reader what they are about to read and why they should care. If done right, it can help create a great first impression and motivate your readers to pay greater attention.
In this article, we’ll see what is an executive summary, how to write an executive summary, and a few tips to follow. We have also included an example to help you create one for your business.
What Is an Executive Summary in a Business Plan?
An executive summary is a list of all the important sections of your business plan. It introduces the reader to the document and provides direction to continue reading it. Simply put, it is a short outline of your business plan.
The executive summary is the first section of your business plan and usually includes not more than two pages.
It serves the following purposes:
- It Grabs the reader’s attention
- Saves the reader’s time
- Helps identify the most important sections
- Provides a quick description of your business idea
How to Write an Executive Summary
The job of an executive summary is to communicate key points of your business plan to your readers as quickly and concisely as possible. These include the following:
1. Mission Statement
First, start by establishing the core purpose of your business. Specify why your company exists and the goals you want to achieve through it. This assures the reader that you have a long-term vision.
A mission statement should be short and easy to read. Ideally, no more than a few sentences. Investors look at your mission statement to check if your values are compatible with theirs.
2. Company Info
Here, you mention a brief overview of your company . It can include the business location, owners, team members, company history, etc. If you are an established company, this is a good place to mention your achievements and experience in the industry.
If you are a startup, you can mention the qualifications and responsibilities of your key team members. This gives investors an idea of your company’s culture . If you don’t have a team yet, mention the talents you wish to hire.
3. The Problem and the Solution
Here, you mention the market pain points you identified and aim to solve. It may also include the projected demand for the products and services you intend to offer and how they help.
Investors analyze the viability of your business idea based on how competent your product is in solving the problem you’re targeting.
4. Market Analysis
After describing your product, you move on to defining your target audience and their demographics. Include a brief description of your ideal customer. It’s a good idea to add key statistics to quantify the demand for your solution.
You can also mention the market share you are looking to capture. This will help investors analyze your company’s profitability with ease.
5. Business Model
Your business model refers to the method(s) you use to generate revenue and deliver solutions to your customers. Simply put, it’s how you make money and your pricing strategies .
Remember, your business model is a direct indication of ROI for investors, so make sure to pay close attention to it.
6. Marketing and Sales
How you intend to market and sell your products is often of acute interest to readers. This includes your marketing strategies , your brand message, and image, marketing mediums, etc.
A strong description of your marketing plan will help display competence to the readers and let them know of the marketing tools you have available at your disposal to exploit.
One of the biggest considerations in business decision-making is competition. If left unattended, your rivals can capture your market share and make your products look outdated. They may even undercut you by finding more efficient ways to provide solutions—lowering the demand for yours.
Given the above, it’s not surprising that stakeholders are very interested to know how you plan to survive and thrive in a competitive business environment. Explaining what makes your customers choose you over your competitors is a great start. You can also discuss your weaknesses and how you plan on tackling them.
8. Financial Overview
In this part, you outline your company’s current financial position and future projections. It includes annual revenue, sales and expenses, and milestones for the coming years.
For established companies, former years’ revenue and sales numbers can act as evidence to support forecasts. For startups, it’s a good idea to add your startup costs as it helps investors get a complete picture of your financial situation before they make a decision.
9. Funding Requirement
If you are drafting your business plan to acquire funding, know that numbers speak louder than words. Make sure what you include in this section leaves no room for incorrect assumptions or vagueness.
You may consider the following questions:
- How much funding do you need in total ?
- How much have you already secured?
- How much are you seeking from this investor?
- What do you intend to do with the funding?
- How will the funding impact the business?
Answering these questions will help investors get a quick look at your funding requirements without having to wait till the end of your business plan. This saves time and is more efficient.
Tips on How to Write an Executive Summary
Although the executive summary is the first section of your business plan, you should always write it at the end. This is so because once you are done with all the other sections, you can easily pick out the most important points to put in the executive summary. Here are some tips to help you in the process:
Keep it short and simple:
Avoid jargon:, use graphs and pie charts:, use bullet points:, edit thoroughly:, executive summary example, mission statement.
Joe’s Café was built on the idea of community and how food unites people. Our mission is to foster friendship, connection, and kindness. We do this by creating a hospitable environment for our customers to relax and socialize, all while we serve them the best foods and beverages.
Joe’s Café was founded in 2010 and is based in Arizona, US. We are a rapidly growing family-owned business owned by couple Julia and Joe Thomson.
We are proud to have a team of:
- 1 accountant
- 2 marketing executives
The problem and solution
We have identified that our customers want a place to hang out rather than buy takeout or grab a quick bite. To fulfill this need, we are planning to expand our lounge area where they can sit with friends or meet new people while enjoying our coffee.
Given our café’s close proximity to Wilson University, neighboring corporate offices, and residential buildings, we aim to cater to them. Our ideal customers are:
- College students
- Corporate employees
Marketing and sales strategy
We plan to organize a grand re-launch of our cafe after the renovation to get the word around. Further, we also plan on promoting the launch by putting up posters around the premises of the university and offices.
There are three other cafés within a 5-mile radius. However, we have a competitive edge as we are the closest to the university and offices.
Our business model is a traditional brick-and-mortar model. Last year, we recorded a revenue of $50,000. Once the renovation is done, the forecasted revenues for the next three years are as follows:
- Year 1: $100,000
- Year 2: $117,000
- Year 3: $123,000
The total cost of renovation amounts to $300,000. This includes:
- Owner’s equity: $100,000
- Bank loan: $150,000
- Current funding required: $50,000
In exchange for the funding, the investor shall be entitled to 20% of Joe’s Café’s total net profit for the next 7 years.
Convey Competence with an Executive Summary
Writing a business plan is a lengthy and tedious task, and so is reading it. With an executive summary, you can give investors a quick glimpse of all the crucial parts of your business plan . This will help you look more professional and increase your chances of securing funding.
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How to write an executive summary for your business plan
An executive summary is a synopsis of all the key sections of your business plan, and it’s one of the most important parts of your plan. .
It should enable the reader to see at a glance your organisation’s core capabilities, strengths, past achievements, and strategic focus and direction, as well as provide an explanation of how these factors set your business apart.
An executive summary should explain succinctly why you wrote the report, emphasise your conclusions and recommendations, and include the essential information used to support those conclusions.
It's important readers like investors and lenders can grasp this information quickly and are encouraged to read on.
In other words, your executive summary should be able to be read as a separate, standalone document, communicating the whole story independently of the full business plan.
What to include in an executive summary
Think of your executive summary as an introduction to your business. Include:
- your mission statement
- company information and management team
- growth highlights
- financial information
- The market and your customer
- market opportunity
- marketing and sales
- competition and your competitive advantage
- business operations
- financial projections and plans
- summary of future plans.
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Best practices for writing an executive summary
- Make it compelling. Investors and lenders read this section first, and you want them to continue reading. For example, if you're selling a business idea to investors, include highlights that will encourage potential investors to read on. This might be related to growth rates, your competitive edge, or an exciting new technology.
- Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details. Keep it short and concise, but ensure you explain clearly why you have arrived at your conclusions. The suggested length is one to three pages.
- Don't introduce any information that isn't covered in the business plan.
- Organise it according to the sequence of information presented in the full plan.
- Write it after you have completed the plan and decided on your recommendations.
- Use keywords from the main plan to ensure continuity.
- Insert the executive summary as the first section, after or before the table of contents, even though it will be the last component you have written.
- Create the summary by rephrasing information – don't just cut and paste.
- Include all key fundamentals of the proposed business from the body of the plan, including the financial implications.
- Identify the purpose of the plan and include at least the major recommendations or requests.
- Be clearly articulated, positive, reasoned, concise and to-the-point.
When using an executive summary and business plan to apply for a loan or funding, state clearly and definitively:
- how much you want
- how you're going to use it
- how the money will make your business more profitable
- how you'll repay the loan.
And finally, remember it's important to finish with a compelling closing sentence or two that answers the reader's key question: "Why is this a winning business?"
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How to write an executive summary in 10 steps
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Whether presenting a business plan, sharing project updates with stakeholders, or submitting a project proposal, an executive summary helps you grab attention and convey key insights.
Think of it as a condensed version of a document, report, or proposal that highlights the most important information clearly and concisely. It's like a "cheat sheet" that gives you a snapshot of the main points without reading the entire thing.
Throughout the article, we'll explore some examples of executive summaries to give you a better understanding of how they can be applied. Plus, we'll provide you with ready-to-use templates and best practices for writing compelling executive summaries.
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is a concise overview of a longer document or report. It is typically written for busy executives or decision-makers who may not have the time to read the entire document but still need to grasp its key points and recommendations.
An effective executive summary should capture the essence of the document, highlighting the most important information in a brief and easily understandable way. It should provide a snapshot of the document's purpose, methodology, major findings, and key recommendations. The summary should be written in a way that allows the reader to quickly grasp the main ideas and make informed decisions based on the information presented.
Why do you need to write one?
For a business owner , an executive summary is one of the most important documents you will have. Like a business plan , they help you lay out the potential value of your business and your potential for success.
Unlike a business proposal, however, an executive summary is designed to be read in a brief amount of time. That makes them ideal for a variety of uses, like project proposals and research summaries. Sending your strategic plan to a prospective investor or stakeholder likely won’t get you far. But a brief report that clearly states your key findings and what’s in it for them might help you — and your proposal — stand out. It isn't all the details. It's what gets you the meeting to share more.
An executive summary is also a business document that can travel without you. It may be presented to other leaders and potential investors. If it’s written well, it will take on a life of its own. You may find that you get support and resources from places you never imagined.
What should be included in an executive summary?
Your executive summary should include brief descriptions of who your product, service, or proposal is for and your competitive advantage. Be sure to introduce your report concisely yet clearly . Note the most important points and its overall purpose––what do you hope to achieve with this report?
Also, include any necessary background information and statistics about the industry, high-level information about your business model, necessary financial information, or other insights you discuss in the report. Depending on your proposal, you may want to consider summarizing a market analysis of your target market.
Typically, an executive summary follows a structured format, including sections such as:
- Introduction: Provides a brief background and context for the document.
- Objective or purpose: Clearly states the goal of the document and what it aims to achieve.
- Methodology: Briefly describes the approach, data sources, and methods used to conduct the research or analysis.
- Findings: Summarizes the main findings, conclusions, or results derived from the document.
- Recommendations: Outlines the key recommendations or proposed actions based on the findings.
- Conclusion: Provides a concise wrap-up of the main points and emphasizes the significance of the document.
How do you write an executive summary?
When tackling an executive summary, it's all about following a structured approach to ensure you effectively communicate those crucial points, findings, and recommendations. Let’s walk through some steps and best practices to make it a breeze:
Step 1: Get to know the document
Take the time to dive into the full document or report that your executive summary will be based on. Read it thoroughly and identify the main objectives, key findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
Step 2: Know your audience
Think about who you're writing the executive summary for. Consider their knowledge level, interests, and priorities. This helps you tailor the summary to their needs and make it relevant and impactful.
Step 3: Outline the structure
Create an outline for your executive summary with sections like introduction, objective, methodology, findings, recommendations, and conclusion. This way, you'll have a logical flow that's easy to follow.
Step 4: Start strong
Kick off your executive summary with a captivating opening statement. Make it concise, engaging, and impactful to hook the reader and make them want to keep reading.
Step 5: Summarize objectives and methodology
Give a brief overview of the document's objectives and the methodology used to achieve them. This sets the context and helps the reader understand the approach taken.
Step 6: Highlight key findings
Summarize the main findings, conclusions, or results. Focus on the juiciest and most relevant points that support the document's purpose. Keep it clear and concise to get the message across effectively.
Step 7: Present key recommendations
Outline the important recommendations or proposed actions based on the findings. Clearly state what needs to be done, why it matters, and how it aligns with the document's objectives. Make those recommendations actionable and realistic.
Step 8: Keep it snappy
Remember, an executive summary should be short and sweet. Skip unnecessary details, jargon, or technical language . Use straightforward language that hits the mark.
Step 9: Review and polish
Once you've written the executive summary, give it a careful review for clarity, coherence, and accuracy. Make sure it captures the essence of the full document and represents its content faithfully. Take the extra step to edit out any fluff or repetition.
Step 10: Dress to impress
Consider formatting and presentation. Use headings, bullet points, and formatting styles to make it visually appealing and easy to skim. If it makes sense, include some graphs, charts, or visuals to highlight key points.
Tips for writing an effective executive summary
- Adapt your language and tone to suit your audience.
- Keep things concise and crystal clear—say no to jargon.
- Focus on the most important info that packs a punch.
- Give enough context without overwhelming your reader.
- Use strong and persuasive language to make your recommendations shine.
- Make sure your executive summary makes sense even if the full document isn't read.
- Proofread like a pro to catch any pesky grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.
Executive summary template for business plans
Here's a general template for creating an executive summary specifically for business plans:
[Your Company Name]
[Business Plan Title]
Provide a brief introduction to your company, including its name, location, industry, and mission statement . Describe your unique value proposition and what sets your business apart from competitors.
Summarize the key findings of your market research. Provide an overview of the target market, its size, growth potential, and relevant trends. Highlight your understanding of customer needs, preferences, and behaviors.
Product or service offering
Outline your core products or services, including their key features and benefits. Emphasize how your offerings address customer pain points and provide value. Highlight any unique selling points or competitive advantages.
Explain your business model and revenue generation strategy. Describe how you will generate revenue, the pricing structure, and any distribution channels or partnerships that contribute to your business's success.
Marketing and sales strategy
Summarize your marketing and sales approach. Highlight the key tactics and channels you will use to reach and attract customers. Discuss your promotional strategies, pricing strategies, and customer acquisition plans.
Introduce the key members of your management team and their relevant experience. Highlight their expertise and how it positions the team to execute the business plan successfully. Include any notable advisors or board members.
Summarize your financial projections, including revenue forecasts, expected expenses, and projected profitability. Highlight any key financial metrics or milestones. Briefly mention your funding needs, if applicable.
If seeking funding, outline your funding requirements, including the amount needed, its purpose, and the potential sources of funding you are considering. Summarize the expected return on investment for potential investors.
Reiterate the vision and potential of your business. Summarize the key points of your business plan, emphasizing its viability, market potential, and the expertise of your team. Convey confidence in the success of your venture.
Note: Keep the executive summary concise and focused, typically within one to two pages. Use clear and compelling language, emphasizing the unique aspects of your business. Tailor the template to suit your specific business plan, adjusting sections and details accordingly.
Remember, the executive summary serves as an introduction to your business plan and should pique the reader's interest, conveying the value and potential of your business in a concise and persuasive manner.
Executive summary examples
Every executive summary will be unique to the organization's goals, vision, and brand identity. We put together two general examples of executive summaries to spark your creativity and offer some inspiration.
These are not intended to be used as-is but more to offer ideas for how you may want to put your own executive summary together. Be sure to personalize your own summary with specific statistics and relevant data points to make the most impact.
Example 1: executive summary for a communications business plan
We're thrilled to present our innovative [insert product] that aims to revolutionize the way people connect and engage. Our vision is to empower individuals and businesses with seamless communication solutions that break barriers and foster meaningful connections.
The communications industry is evolving rapidly, and we've identified a significant opportunity in the market. With the proliferation of remote work, the need for reliable and efficient communication tools has skyrocketed. Our extensive market research indicates a demand for solutions that prioritize user experience, security, and flexibility.
At [Company Name], we've developed a suite of cutting-edge communication tools designed to meet the diverse needs of our customers. Our flagship product is a unified communication platform that integrates voice, video, messaging, and collaboration features into a seamless user experience. We also offer customizable solutions for businesses of all sizes, catering to their unique communication requirements.
Unique value proposition:
What sets us apart from the competition? Our user-centric approach and commitment to innovation. We prioritize user experience by creating intuitive interfaces and seamless interactions. Our solutions are scalable, adaptable, and designed to keep up with evolving technological trends. By combining ease of use with advanced features, we deliver unparalleled value to our customers.
Our primary focus is on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that require efficient and cost-effective communication tools. We also cater to individuals, remote teams, and larger enterprises seeking reliable and secure communication solutions. Our target market encompasses industries such as technology, finance, healthcare, and professional services.
To generate revenue, we employ a subscription-based business model. Customers can choose from different plans tailored to their specific needs, paying a monthly or annual fee. We also offer additional services such as customization, integration, and customer support, creating additional revenue streams and fostering long-term customer relationships.
Marketing and sales strategy:
Our marketing strategy centers around building brand awareness through targeted digital campaigns, content marketing, and strategic partnerships. We'll leverage social media, industry influencers, and online communities to reach our target audience. Additionally, our sales team will engage in proactive outreach, nurturing leads and providing personalized consultations to convert prospects into loyal customers.
Team and expertise:
Our team is composed of experienced professionals with a deep understanding of the communications industry. Led by our visionary founder and supported by a skilled and diverse team, we have the expertise to drive innovation, develop robust products, and deliver exceptional customer service. We're passionate about our mission and dedicated to making a lasting impact in the market.
Based on extensive market research and financial analysis, we anticipate strong growth and profitability. Our financial projections indicate steady revenue streams, with increasing customer adoption and market share. We're committed to managing costs effectively, optimizing our resources, and continuously reinvesting in research and development.
To fuel our ambitious growth plans and accelerate product development, we're seeking [funding amount] in funding. These funds will be allocated towards expanding our team, scaling our infrastructure, marketing efforts, and ongoing product innovation. We believe this investment will position us for success and solidify our market presence.
In summary, [Company Name] is poised to disrupt the communications industry with our innovative solutions and customer-centric approach. We're ready to make a positive impact by empowering individuals and businesses to communicate effectively and effortlessly. Join us on this exciting journey as we redefine the future of communication. Together, we'll shape a connected world like never before.
Example 2: executive summary for a project proposal
[Project Proposal Date]
Hello! We're thrilled to present our project proposal for [Project Name]. This executive summary will provide you with a high-level overview of the project, its objectives, and the value it brings.
Our project aims to [describe the project's purpose and scope]. It's a response to [identify the problem or opportunity] and has the potential to bring significant benefits to [stakeholders or target audience]. Through meticulous planning and execution, we're confident in our ability to achieve the desired outcomes.
The primary goal of our project is to [state the overarching objective]. In addition, we have specific objectives such as [list specific objectives]. By accomplishing these goals, we'll create a positive impact and drive meaningful change.
Our proposed approach for this project is based on a thorough analysis of the situation and best practices. We'll adopt a structured methodology that includes [describe the key project phases or activities]. This approach ensures efficient utilization of resources and maximizes project outcomes.
The benefits of this project are truly exciting. Through its implementation, we anticipate [describe the anticipated benefits or outcomes]. These benefits include [list specific benefits], which will have a lasting and positive effect on [stakeholders or target audience].
We've devised a comprehensive timeline to guide the project from initiation to completion. The project is divided into distinct phases, with well-defined milestones and deliverables. Our timeline ensures that tasks are executed in a timely manner, allowing us to stay on track and deliver results.
To successfully execute this project, we've identified the key resources needed. This includes [list the resources required, such as human resources, technology, equipment, and funding]. We're confident in our ability to secure the necessary resources and allocate them effectively to ensure project success.
A project of this nature requires a well-planned budget. Based on our analysis, we've estimated the required funding to be [state the budget amount]. This budget encompasses all project-related costs and aligns with the anticipated benefits and outcomes.
Our project proposal is an exciting opportunity to address [the problem or opportunity] and create tangible value for [stakeholders or target audience]. With a clear vision, defined objectives, and a robust implementation plan, we're ready to embark on this journey. Join us as we bring this project to life and make a lasting impact.
Is an executive summary the same as a project plan?
While both are important components of project management and documentation , they serve different purposes and contain distinct information.
An executive summary, as discussed earlier, is a concise overview of a longer document or report. It provides a snapshot of the key points, findings, and recommendations. It focuses on high-level information and aims to provide an overview of the document's purpose, methodology, findings, and recommendations.
On the other hand, a project plan is a detailed document that outlines the specific activities, tasks, timelines, resources, and milestones associated with a project. It serves as a roadmap for project execution, providing a comprehensive understanding of how the project will be carried out.
A project plan typically includes objectives, scope, deliverables, schedule, budget, resource allocation, risk management, and communication strategies. It is intended for project team members, stakeholders, and those directly involved in the execution.
In summary, an executive summary offers a condensed overview of a document's key points, while a project plan provides a comprehensive and detailed roadmap for executing a project.
Executive summaries vs. abstracts
An executive summary is not the same as an abstract. Executive summaries focus on the main points of a proposal. They highlight when and why a reader should invest in the company or project.
An abstract, on the other hand, concentrates on what the business does and its marketing plan. It typically doesn’t include detailed information about finances.
While it is usually compelling, it’s less of an elevator pitch and more of a summary. The goal of an abstract is to inform, not to persuade. On the other hand, the goal of an executive summary is to give readers who are pressed for time just enough information that they’ll want to look further into your proposition.
When do you use an executive summary?
An executive summary is used in various situations where there is a need to present a condensed overview of a longer document or report. Here are some common instances when an executive summary is used:
- Business proposals: When submitting a business proposal to potential investors, partners, or stakeholders, an executive summary is often included. It provides a concise overview of the proposal, highlighting the key aspects such as the business idea, market analysis, competitive advantage, financial projections, and recommended actions.
- Reports and research studies: Lengthy reports or research studies often include an executive summary at the beginning. This allows decision-makers, executives, or other stakeholders to quickly understand the purpose, methodology, findings, and recommendations of the report without going through the entire document.
- Project updates: During the course of a project, project managers may prepare executive summaries to provide updates to stakeholders or higher-level management. These summaries give a brief overview of the project's progress, achievements, challenges, and upcoming milestones.
- Strategic plans: When developing strategic plans for an organization, an executive summary is often included to provide an overview of the plan's goals, objectives, strategies, and key initiatives. It allows executives and stakeholders to grasp the essence of the strategic plan and its implications without reading the entire document.
- Funding requests: When seeking funding for a project or venture, an executive summary is commonly used as part of the funding proposal. It provides a succinct summary of the project, highlighting its significance, potential impact, financial requirements, and expected outcomes.
In general, an executive summary is used whenever there is a need to communicate the main points, findings, and recommendations of a document concisely and efficiently to individuals who may not have the time or inclination to read the entire content. It serves as a valuable tool for understanding and facilitates quick decision-making.
5 ways project managers can use executive summaries
Project managers can use executive summaries in various ways to effectively communicate project updates, status reports, or proposals to stakeholders and higher-level management. Here are some ways project managers can use executive summaries:
- Project status updates: Project managers can provide regular executive summaries to stakeholders and management to communicate the current status of the project. The summary should include key achievements, milestones reached, challenges encountered, and any adjustments to the project plan. It allows stakeholders to quickly grasp the project's progress and make informed decisions or provide guidance as needed.
- Project proposals: When pitching a project idea or seeking approval for a new project, project managers can prepare an executive summary to present the essential aspects of the project. The summary should outline the project's objectives, scope, anticipated benefits, resource requirements, estimated timeline, and potential risks. It helps decision-makers understand the project's value and make an informed choice about its initiation.
- Project closure reports: At the end of a project, project managers can prepare an executive summary as part of the project closure report. The summary should highlight the project's overall success, key deliverables achieved, lessons learned, and recommendations for future projects. It provides a concise overview of the project's outcomes and acts as a valuable reference for future initiatives.
- Steering committee meetings: When project managers present updates or seek guidance from a steering committee or governance board, an executive summary can be an effective tool. The summary should cover the important aspects of the project, such as progress, issues, risks, and upcoming milestones. It ensures that decision-makers are well-informed about the project's status and can provide relevant guidance or support.
- Change requests: When submitting a change request for a project, project managers can include an executive summary to summarize the proposed change, its impact on the project, potential risks, and benefits. It helps stakeholders and decision-makers quickly assess the change request and make informed decisions about its implementation.
Using executive summaries, project managers can efficiently communicate project-related information to stakeholders, executives, and decision-makers. The summaries provide a concise overview of the project's status, proposals, or closure reports, allowing stakeholders to quickly understand the key points and take appropriate action.
When should you not use an executive summary?
While executive summaries are widely used in many situations, there are some cases where they may not be necessary or suitable. Here are a few scenarios where an executive summary may not be appropriate, along with alternative approaches:
- Highly technical documents: If the document contains highly technical or specialized information that requires a detailed understanding, an executive summary alone may not be sufficient. In such cases, it is better to provide the complete document and supplement it with explanatory materials, presentations , or meetings where experts can explain and discuss the technical details.
- Personal or creative writing: Executive summaries are typically used for informational or analytical documents. If the content is more personal in nature, such as a memoir, novel, or creative piece, an executive summary may not be relevant. Instead, focus on providing an engaging introduction or book blurb that entices readers and conveys the essence of the work.
- Short documents: If the document itself is already concise and can be easily read in its entirety, an executive summary may be redundant. In these cases, it is more effective to present the complete document without an additional summary.
- Interactive presentations: In situations where you can present information interactively, such as in meetings, workshops, or conferences, it may be more effective to engage the audience directly rather than relying solely on an executive summary. Use visual aids, demonstrations, discussions, and Q&A sessions to convey the necessary information and capture the audience's attention.
Final thoughts on writing a compelling executive summary
An executive summary isn’t the kitchen sink — it’s the bells and whistles. Geared toward busy decision-makers, these one-pagers communicate your case for action and proposed solutions. When it’s written well, your audience will walk away with an understanding of what needs to be done, why it needs to happen, and why they should help it move forward.
But writing it well doesn’t just mean spell-checking. It means tailoring your communication to an influential, yet busy and distracted audience. To be effective, you’ll need to write your proposal with empathy and an understanding of what matters to them .
BetterUp Associate Learning Experience Designer
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The Importance of Executive Summaries
While typically just a page or two in length, an effective Executive Summary can take as long to write as the rest of the business plan – and it can be just as important, if not more so. We emphasize the significance of the Executive Summary for one reason – there is a good chance that a potential investor may not read beyond those opening paragraphs.
The dirty little secret of business plans is they are rarely read cover-to-cover. In fact, after reading the highlights from the Executive Summary, most receive a cursory flip-through. While a few interested parties may stop at the financials or read the management biographies, most are only interested in the “Cliffs Notes“ version up front. Those plans that are read in their entirety are likely in the final stages of the due diligence process, or possibly a competitive bid situation amongst a group of potential investors.
In general, an effective Executive Summary should be no longer than two pages. However, depending on the complexity of the underlying business (e.g., a highly technical or scientific endeavor), an additional page or two may be necessary. Regardless, the contents should be clear and concise, and it should draw in a potential investor; they should want to learn more.
Striking the right balance is a challenge and one that can be daunting. In our view, creating an effective Executive Summary is one part art and one part science. It is not a matter of word count, but the RIGHT information needs to be there to have any hope of getting the savviest investment professional to pay attention.
While most investors keep an open mind, some look for reasons to eliminate business plans. They scrutinize elements they believe are indicative of how you might allocate and manage their investment dollars. It is for this purpose that we emphasize the importance of the Executive Summary. It is the written equivalent of a high stakes elevator pitch.
Business plans can be eliminated for countless reasons. In fact, we dedicated an entire narrative to that very subject (reference Common Reasons Business Plans Get Rejected ).
Failure at the Executive Summary level typically comes in three forms:
- Overlooking or ignoring key elements an investor needs to know up front.
The telltale sign a summary is over-selling is excessive verbiage and a lack of white space. Novice business plan writers often drift into this trap. Driven by emotion and excitement they feel compelled to convey as much as possible up front believing it is all critical, and it may be the only opportunity the information will get read. The result of over-selling can be sensory overload for a potential investor and a trip to the recycle bin for the plan.
Under-selling is, of course, the opposite dilemma we stumble upon and is often a function of uncertainty. A business plan may have all the necessary components spelled out, but the Executive Summary lacks the requisite detail and fails to generate enthusiasm for the idea.
Overlooking elements such as what the product or service solution is, what the risks are, or failing to identify the market opportunity does not happen often; but when it does, the result is often detrimental. Outside of over-selling, this is probably the second most annoying problem for an inquisitive investor as it creates confusion and uncertainty.
While business plans can be eliminated for countless reasons, a poorly organized and presented Executive Summary is perhaps the most frustrating. A useful summary should convey most everything an investor needs to know in a clean, concise manner. It should entice the reader to continue reading or, better yet, take a meeting/conference call. In short, a proper Executive Summary should express the essential elements without laboring in minutia.
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Executive summary FAQ
What is in an executive summary template?
This executive summary template includes a pre-designed outline, step-by-step instructions, fill-in-the-blanks document, and an exclusive offer for LivePlan.
What should an executive summary include?
An executive summary should include a business overview, problem statement, solution description, target market, competition analysis, team overview, financial summary, funding requirements, and milestones and traction.
How long should your executive summary be?
The executive summary should be as brief as possible—ideally under two pages.
How do you start an executive summary?
tart your executive summary with a compelling introduction that captures the reader's attention, outlining your organization, the problem you solve, your skills, and why you're best suited to address the problem.
How to Write an Executive Summary
4 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Executive Summary
Adapt Your Executive Summary for Specific Audiences
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Notes on the importance of executive summary in a business plan.
Notes on the Importance of Executive Summary in a Business Plan !
The executive summary is probably the most important section of the business plan. Bankers and venture capitalists generally do not read through the entire business plan when it is presented to them. They go through the executive summary and only if their interest is piqued, will they go to the following sections. So, the main objective of an executive summary is to entice the reader to go through the entire plan.
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An executive summary is not an abstract of the business plan and it is certainly not a preface. It is designed to be a complete yet concise business plan by itself.
In a number of business-plan competitions around the world, the finalists are short-listed on the basis of their executive summary. A full business plan is required to be submitted only by the short-listed finalists.
There are two broad approaches to make an executive summary. There are some entrepreneurs who first make an executive summary and then use that as a base for making the rest of the detailed business plan. Then there are the others who first make the rest of the business plan and then summarize the important points to make an executive summary.
A combination of both these approaches can also be taken. Make a short statement explaining the salient features of your intended business use that as a template for making the entire business plan, and then modify the original business plan on the basis of the information incorporated in the business plan.
An executive summary begins with a description of the business. A generic executive summary should assume that the reader is not familiar with the industry in which the business is operating. While sending it out to someone familiar with the industry, the appropriate changes should be made.
Next, the executive summary should include the key strengths of the business. It should be able to convey to the reader, why you feel that the business will be successful. The reasons could range from a competent management team, location advantages, proprietary intellectual property, and many other such factors.
It may also be wise to state some obvious risks and then outline the steps you are taking to mitigate the risks.
Often, the writer wonders if it is good to include numbers in the executive summary. If you think of an executive summary as a concise business plan, then, obviously, you will need numbers in most cases. If there are some dramatic cost advantages, then that should be presented in detail. If the projections are very attractive, they should be presented and explained in detail.
After completing the business plan, it should be checked to see if it seems convincing and is able to capture the attention of the reader. If it fails on either front, it needs to be rewritten.
- Business Plans: Five Versions of Business Plans for an Entrepreneur to Choose From
- List of Data You Need To Collect Before Writing Your Next Business Plan
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