Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking for investors for your small business, or the CEO of a large corporation, a business plan can help you succeed and is a critical component for long-term growth.
In fact, one study found companies that use business plans grow 30% faster than those that don’t.
A business plan includes a company overview, your company’s short-term and long-term goals, information on your product or service, sales targets, expense budgets, your marketing plan, and a list including each member of your management team.
While a thorough business plan is necessary, it’s equally critical you provide readers with a short, attention-grabbing executive summary, as well. A CEO or investor might not have the interest or time to read your full business plan without first getting the general gist of your company or goals through a brief synopsis.
Essentially, an executive summary is the back cover of your book, convincing readers that it’s worth their time to read the whole thing.
An executive summary is a brief overview at the beginning of your business plan. It’s a section that grabs the reader’s attention, and summarizes critical information regarding your company overview and upcoming short-term and long-term goals. Ultimately, the executive summary is meant to inform readers of the most important information in your business plan, so they don’t have to read it all and can get caught up quickly.
To write an impressive executive summary that effectively embodies all the important elements of your business plan, we’ve cultivated a list of necessary components for an executive summary, as well as an example to get you started.
How to Write an Executive Summary
- Tell your story.
- Do your research.
- Pay attention to your tone.
- Avoid cliche language.
- Write it last.
1. Tell your story.
When investors or CEO’s read your executive summary, they should understand what your business is about. This is one of the first elements of your business plan, so it should set the tone.
In your executive summary, be sure to tell your story. What does your company do and why do you do it? Who’s involved in your company? Answering these questions will help readers be excited about your company and reading the rest of the business plan.
2. Do your research.
An executive summary, while short, should include plenty of research. For example, your summary will include financial considerations and a competitor analysis.
While your business plan will flesh out the details, it’s important to include your key findings in your executive summary. Think of this like an elevator pitch. If someone stopped reading and you only had the executive summary to explain your company, what information would you include?
3. Pay attention to your tone.
The tone of your writing tells a story itself. When you’re writing anything, but especially a business document, make sure that the tone tells the story of who you are. Are you formal or more informal?
Ultimately, your tone should not only represent who you are as a company, but your target audience as well. What style of writing will represent your audience?
As you write an executive summary, don’t forget to consider what your tone and writing says about you and your audience.
4. Avoid cliche language.
With any style of writing, it’s best to avoid cliches. Cliches can rub people the wrong way, which is something you want to avoid when someone reads your executive summary.
Additionally, cliches tend to overpromise and underdeliver. For example, including something like “The Best Restaurant in Town” isn’t true because you’re untested as a business. Your executive summary should reflect the truth and who you are as a company.
5. Write it last.
An executive summary is a summary of your business plan. However, it’s hard to write a summary when you haven’t written your business plan yet.
That’s why you should write your executive summary last, so you know what you want to include.
Now that you know how to write an executive summary, let’s dive into the details of what to include.
What to Include in Your Executive Summary
Your business plan should convey your company’s mission, your product, a plan for how you’ll stand out from competitors, your financial projections, your company’s short and long-term goals, your buyer persona, and your market fit.
To create a business plan, take a look at our business template.
An executive summary, then, should be a short, maximum two-page synopsis of the information provided in your business template.
Ultimately, an executive summary should provide a preview for investors or CEO’s, so they know what to expect from the rest of your report. Your executive summary should include:
- The name, location, and mission of your company
- A description of your company, including management, advisors, and brief history
- Your product or service, where your product fits in the market, and how your product differs from competitors in the industry
- Financial considerations, start-up funding requirements, or the purpose behind your business plan — mention what you hope the reader will help your company accomplish
To understand more tactically how an executive summary should look, take a look at the following example:
Executive Summary Example
An executive summary should be short and concise, but it should still convey who you are as a company. If you’re starting a company, remember to tell your story, while also including important background and financial information.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.