An executive summary is a concise overview of your report. It provides the reader with a high-level view of what you did and how you did it, without going into too much detail.
An effective executive summary is a short, high-level overview of your paper. It should be written in the voice of an executive summarizing the findings and conclusions of your research.
What is the definition of an executive summary?
Your business plan’s executive summary is a short introduction and summary. It should include information about your company, the issue it addresses, your target market, and key financial figures.
An effective executive summary captures the attention of your reader and informs them of what you do and why they should read the remainder of your business plan or proposal. It’s very uncommon for investors to make a choice based only on the executive summary, therefore it’s critical to get it properly. We’ll teach you how to create an executive summary that distinguishes your business plan from the competition.
Is it essential to provide an executive summary?
Are you putting up a business plan to present to potential investors or bankers? Then you’ll need an executive summary. Regardless of the content, many individuals will just read the synopsis. Others will determine whether or not to read the remainder of the plan after reading the overview. When writing a strategy for outsiders, the executive summary is critical.
You may not need to create an executive summary if you’re creating a business strategy for internal use only. Some internal plans, such as an annual operations plan or a strategy plan, may benefit from a summary to emphasize important facts and provide a digestible version of the entire plan.
It takes time and effort to write a decent summary, so don’t do it unless you have a business need for it.
What is the ideal length for an executive summary?
Executive summaries should be as brief as feasible, according to the usual norm. Your audience is pressed for time and attention, and they want to learn as much as possible about your company strategy.
If at all feasible, keep your executive summary within two pages, but it may be longer if required.
You may even be able to compose it in a Lean Plan style on one page. Here’s where you can learn more about the one-page business plan format and get a template.
1. A description of your product or service, as well as the issue that your company addresses
Include a short explanation of the product or service you’re selling, as well as why it’s important. Your company doesn’t have to solve a broader societal issue, but it should meet a consumer need or a market opportunity.
2. A description of your intended audience
Your target market is those you believe will be your clients. The market is often defined by the product name alone, such as “Peoria’s Best Thai Food” or “Mini Cooper Dashboard Accessory.” If not, a short explanation of your target market—your main audience or the individuals you believe would be willing to pay for your solution—can suffice.
3. The rivalry
Assuming that your firm will face competition (and it will! ), quickly explain how your company will set itself apart. Are you in a pricing war, a quality war, or something else entirely? Here’s a quick summary of what makes your company unique.
4. Overview of Financial Information
If you already have a business, this may be as easy as showing current yearly sales and growth in the previous year. It may be a short explanation of goals for a startup, such as a sales projection target for the following year or three years. A basic highlights chart, a bar chart showing revenue and gross margin over the next three years, is something I often suggest.
5. Your Group
This is particularly critical for new businesses. Investors want to know who is behind the company’s concept and why you and your team are the best individuals to run it. It’s also a good idea to point out any holes in your team and how you plan to address them. If you have any prospective partners or candidates in mind, include them briefly in your complete business plan and elaborate on their credentials.
6. Financial Requirements
If you’re utilizing your business plan to seek funds, your executive summary should make it clear how much money you’re asking for. Investors will want to know this right away, rather than having to go through a business plan to discover it.
Other issues that your executive summary may need to address
Early evidence of success
If you’re a fledgling company, you’ll want to incorporate proof of “traction” in your executive summary if you’re drafting a business plan to seek funds. Consumer survey findings, pre-order statistics for your product/service, or even early sales numbers if you had a soft open or limited time release are all examples of this. It doesn’t have to be much, but any early success demonstrates the validity of your company strategy, product/service, and market research.
Milestones to Come
You may also want to talk about what your company intends to accomplish in the future. This is especially essential for firms in highly saturated or complicated industries, such as medical device and pharmaceutical companies. They must describe where they are in the regulatory approval process and what stages remain.
Financial Stability Evidence
Bankers will check for proof of your financial stability, such as your net worth, assets, and financial history, if you apply for a bank loan. Continue reading for advice on how to write an executive summary for each of these situations.
For investors, here are some pointers on how to write an executive summary
Understand how your executive summary will fit into your business strategy before you start writing it. The executive summary may be the initial part of your business plan, or it can be a separate document that you intend to distribute without the remainder of the plan.
My opinions are based on eight years of active participation in an angel investment group, more than ten real angel investments, and membership in the Angel Capital Association.
Executive summaries are used by investors to evaluate potential investments
Angel investment sites such as Gust, AngelList, and others may utilize a well-prepared executive summary to assess interest in candidates. Because introductions result in requests for email summaries rather than complete business plans, you’ll need an executive summary ready to go that entices investors to want to view the whole thing.
When doing due diligence on candidates, investors need the whole business plan
We’ve never put money into a company that didn’t have a business plan, and your executive summary is crucial to getting your plan evaluated. After we’ve narrowed down the summaries to a select handful that are intriguing enough to investigate further, we’ll study the whole business plan in its entirety.
For example, three-quarters of the people I work with will read every executive summary that is sent to us. For ideas that spark group interest, we will all read summaries, and half of us will look at the remainder of the plan only if we are still interested after reading the synopsis.
Mention any prior startup experience or industry knowledge
Let investors know right away whether you have any prior startup experience or expertise, since this makes a big impact. “Bet on the jockey, not the horse,” as the saying goes. Keep it short and sweet, with just a reference to additional material to follow, but make sure you can back up your assertions afterwards.
Describe how much money you want to raise and how you plan to spend it
Investors want to know quickly whether your startup is in their normal range of interest, and the use of funds makes a difference, too. It’s a summary, so details will come later, but investors want to know whether your startup is in their normal range of interest, and the use of funds makes a difference, too. Spending money to create inventory for current orders, for example, is much less hazardous than spending money to design and prototype a new product.
In this situation, valuation is debatable. What you think your business is worth is called valuation, and it’s a figure that affects how much ownership you give up for investment. Some investors like summaries that indicate how much money is being made at what value; others prefer to assign the valuation themselves and don’t appreciate companies that push their numbers too soon.
Mention your plan for getting out
Leave the specifics for later, but investors want to know that you realize that they won’t earn money unless you can sell shares in a few years and get their money back. Too many entrepreneurs believe that all investors want is for them to be successful, but in reality, success means very little without an ultimate exit.
Be persuasion-based, but stick to the facts
You want to entice your potential investor to continue reading; you want to persuade them to invest in your company. But keep in mind that the facts, not the words, are what persuade. The substance of the summary, not the tone, is what keeps people engaged. Facts that demonstrate traction, market potential, or startup experience are much more compelling than simple claims of greatness.
Avoid common cliches
If you’re not cautious, there are several very apparent traps that you may fall into. Never, for example, bring up the team’s enthusiasm or commitment—they all have it, therefore it’s pointless. You will lose if you claim that your company is disruptive, game-changing, the next Facebook, or whatever. Instead, prove it with data and let the investors speak for themselves.
Tips for drafting a bank loan executive summary
Bankers, contrary to popular belief, never take chances on business ideas. To entice bankers to continue reading, the executive summary should include the six major elements mentioned at the start of this piece, as well as a few additional points that emphasize stability, assets on the balance sheet, and financial history, demonstrating that the loan is not hazardous. Banking law, with one noteworthy exception, prohibits banks from lending money to companies that lack sufficient assets to pay the entire amount of the loan, plus interest. This is in violation of banking rules.
Professional bankers want a business plan as part of a loan application because they really want to learn about and understand your company, but they do not take chances. This overview is for reassuring and explaining rather than convincing or selling.
So what works for a banker’s executive summary is very different from what works for an investor’s executive summary.
Make a list of your personal assets and liabilities.
Whereas investors want to see startup expertise from the management team, lenders want to see the owners’ personal net worth. The more collateral, money, or other investments you have, the better your chances of getting the loan.
Be open and honest about your financial history and liquid assets.
Bankers want to see previous financial history and bankable assets, much as investors want to see future potential growth. Attempt to have all financial information about yourself, present investors, and any previous companies accessible at the outset.
Demonstrate your potential for stability and durability.
Whereas investors are looking for exits, lenders are looking for future stability from their commercial borrowers. You don’t need precise figures to demonstrate stability, but creating a financial projection that outlines growth, future cash flow, expenses, and sales over the next 1-3 years may help.
Bank loans are exempt from the risk exemption.
One noteworthy exception to the norm that bankers do not take risks was noted before. The government Small Business Administration (SBA) in the United States offers programs that work with local company banks to guarantee some of the riskier small business loans, allowing startups and small companies to borrow money.
SBA loans, like conventional bank loans, need a strong traditional business plan with an executive summary that covers the five key elements mentioned in the first list. Although you will still benefit from having the financial stability components set out as you would with a bank, the restrictions may be less stringent, allowing riskier companies to get financing.
6 Points to Consider When Writing an Executive Summary
There are certain basic rules of thumb that will make writing your executive summary simpler and more successful, regardless of why you’re creating it. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin:
1. Consider an executive summary to be a sales pitch
Consider an executive summary to be similar to an elevator pitch, but with more restrictions. A strong summary sells the remainder of the strategy, but it can’t simply be a hard sell—it has to describe the whole thing. At the absolute least, readers expect it to include your company’s, product, market, and financial highlights (see below for more detail on this).
Of course, you’ll emphasize what will pique the reader’s attention the greatest in order to meet the plan’s immediate commercial goal. Your readers, on the other hand, want you to cover the most important topics. It’s more of a summary than a pitch.
2. Finish it last
Don’t begin drafting your business strategy with the executive summary. Despite the fact that the executive summary comes first in a completed business plan, many experienced entrepreneurs (like me) prefer to write it after they’ve written everything else.
The executive summary should be short—a page or two at most, five on the outside—and emphasize the arguments you’ve made elsewhere in your business plan, so saving it for the end will save you time and effort.
3. Keep your executive summary to a bare minimum
Keep it short and sweet. Experts I know suggest a single page, a page or two, no more than five pages, and occasionally even more. I believe that little is more. Keep it as brief as possible without omitting anything important. And, since I read hundreds of plans each year, I can’t help myself: one page is better than two, two is better than five, and more than five pages (in my view) is too lengthy.
4. Maintain a straightforward approach
Don’t overcomplicate or over-explain anything in your summary; form follows function. The majority of executive summaries are brief paragraphs with bullets and subheadings. Illustrations such as a product image or a bar chart with financial highlights are generally nice additions.
5. Determine which parts should be prioritized based on their significance and strengths
Don’t put the lead in the ground. Make sure the most essential information is at the top of your executive summary. There is no fixed sequence in which the many important elements contained appear; on the contrary, the order should be used to convey importance.
Start with the thing you want to attract the most attention for, then work your way down the list in order of priority. I like summaries that begin with a problem because it adds drama and urgency, which sets the stage for the solution in your company.
6. Make a summary note using it
Repurpose it as a summary memo after it’s done. It may be used as a standalone “summary note” or as the opening chapter of a formal plan. Instead of a comprehensive business plan, investors often want a short note.
It may be a simple summary in an email or a brief paper attached to an email. You may also use it to create startup profiles on funding sites like Gust and AngelList, as well as to apply for incubators and business plan competitions.
For your executive summary, you may download a template
Consider utilizing a Lean Plan for your executive summary if you want to start with a template. It’s accessible as a free download on Bplans and includes all you’ll need to know.
Hundreds of executive summary samples are available to see
Use Bplans’ more than 500 examples of excellent business plans—all of which are accessible for free online—to choose the sample plan that best matches your company’s profile, and then use the free example executive summary from that plan as a reference to help you write your own.
More resources for business planning
- Over 500 free example business plans from a variety of sectors are available.
- Template for a business plan: This blank business plan template follows the structure used by banks and the Small Business Administration in the United States (SBA).
- How to Start a Company: A step-by-step guide to getting your new business off the ground.
- LivePlan is a simple, cloud-based company planning program that anybody can use. Expert guidance, built-in assistance, and over 500 full example business plans are all included in this online program.
The example of an executive summary for assignment is a good example of how to write an effective executive summary.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should be included in an executive summary?
An executive summary is a short overview of the rest of your paper that summarizes the main points.
How do you write an executive summary example?
This is an executive summary that will cover the basics of what you need to know about the topic.
What should not be included in an executive summary?
The executive summary should not include a detailed description of the company.