Writing An Executive Summary

Writing an Executive Summary

 

   Although the executive summary is usually the first part of the Business Plan that gets read, it is always the last section of the business plan that you write. That is because you can’t summarize the highlights of the other sections until after they are written. They may be unknown to you when you begin the Business Planning Process.

The purpose of the Executive Summary is to provide the eventual reader with a concise overview of the entire plan. Think of it as an introduction for your business and craft it accordingly. The Executive Summary is often referred to as “The sizzle that sells the steak”. Your Executive Summary will include summaries of each of the sections within the plan, including a few of the sub sections.

Typically, Executive Summaries will include summaries of the following;

  • A general description of your company.
  • A brief description of the products that you sell and/or the services that you provide.
  • Your business management and structure.
  • The Market and your ideal target customer.
  • Your Marketing and Sales plan.
  • Your Competition.
  • Your Operations.
  • Your financial projections and plans.

In order to write the executive summary, start with the bullets above and write one to three sentences that summarize each one. Your executive summary should be no more than 2 or 3 pages. Don’t try to jam too much information in by writing long convoluted run on sentences. Brevity, clarity and enthusiasm should be the order of the day.

Crafting A Well Written Executive Summary

It is a good idea to start your Business Plan off with an Opening Statement Paragraph of 3 sentences in the following format;

  1. Make a statement of General Benefit (I.E. For many years there has been a crying need in industry X for an innovative business that could do Y)
  2. Introduce an aspect of your business that addresses the need area identified in the first sentence. (I.E. That is why ABC Company introduced {product or service} to alleviate that need)
  3. State the obvious benefit to the business community or customers that sentence 2 refers to. (Hint. Read sentence # 2 after you write it and ask yourself “So What?”. Write the answer to that question as your 3rd sentence.

After you have your eye-catching opening paragraph that makes the reader want to hear more, begin the process of writing your 1 to 3 sentences for each section. It is strongly suggested that you read the section that you are going to summarize and pick out the most important highlights.

One approach is to select specific sentences and cut and paste them into the Executive Summary but it is not recommended. It is better to select the sentences and then paraphrase them instead. That keeps the reader from encountering a feeling of déjà vu when they are reading the actual section later on.

It is always a good idea to write a closing sentence summarizing the essence of why your business will be successful. Essentially it is a closing “So What?” statement. (I.E. “In short, ABC Company’s unparalleled customer support coupled with our innovative products ensures that ………)

TIPS

  • It is a summary! Don’t clutter it up with detail. The appropriate section of the business plan will provide all the detail required. If you put too much information into the Executive Summary they might not bother to read the rest of it! Also, you don’t want to waste the reader’s time reading detail that will be covered again later.
  • No wishing and hoping! Don’t speak in maybes. Never say you may do something. Always say you will do something. Be emphatic and positive about everything you say here.
  • Just the facts. Two pages worth. The ultimate purpose of the Executive Summary is to make the reader want to read more, so don’t sermonize here. Keep in concise and “earn the right” to take up more of their time to read everything.
  • Edit it. It isn’t done when you are done. Set it aside for an hour, then come back and read it out loud to yourself. If it sounds awkward when you read it, refine the wording until it sounds smooth. Once you are comfortable with the way it reads and sounds, read it to someone else and elicit feedback from them. Polish it some more and then ask someone to proof read it for you.
  • Ask the people who have heard it if the tone is positive enough. Is it exciting? Is it clear? Does it generate interest or is it boring? Ask them how they would change it?
  • Don’t take it personal. Be receptive to the feedback you get from others.
  • Make it sizzle! Since the Executive Summary is the first thing that readers of your business plan will read you want it to stand out and make them want to read more. If you fail to capture their attention during the Executive Summary then they are unlikely to read the rest of the Business Plan.
  • If your software has a word count, use it to keep your Executive Summary to 1000 words or less. That should bring you to around two pages.
  • Spelling and Grammar is important. Use the software to check for errors. If you can afford one, hire a professional to proof read it for you.
  • Writer’s block? Ask someone who knows nothing about your business to read the rest of your business plan and summarize what they have read. It can give you an interesting perspective on what other people might consider important within your business.
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