The executive summary is often the most read, and therefore the most important, part of a business plan.
An executive summary should be a concise extract of the most pertinent information in your business plan. It should not be 40 pages long, and should not contain endless Excel analysis. Its purpose is to summarise the business in layman’s terms, so that your readers – whether they are potential investors, partners or the bank – can quickly become familiar with the business of your business, understand what you DO, and be clear on what you NEED.
Your executive summary will appear first in the business plan.
Here are a few general rules of thumb that make writing your executive summary easier and ultimately more effective:
1. SEE YOUR EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AS A PITCH
A good summary sells the rest of your business plan, but it can’t be just a hard sell – it has to actually summarise the plan. Your readers expect it to at least cover your business, product, market and financial highlights.
Needless to say, you’ll highlight what will most spark the reader’s interest, to achieve this plan’s immediate business objective. But your readers expect the key points to be covered. It’s a summary, not just a pitch.
2. WRITE IT LAST
Don’t start writing your business plan with your summary. Even though the executive summary is at the beginning of a finished business plan, many experienced entrepreneurs will advise you to write the executive summary after you’ve written everything else. Ideally, the executive summary is short – usually just a page or two, five at most – and highlights the points you’ve made elsewhere in your business plan, so if you save it for the end, it will be quick and easy.
3. KEEP IT SHORT
Be brief and concise. Experts recommend a single page, just a page or two, and no more than five. Less is more. Keep it as short as you can without missing any essentials. One page is generally better than two, and two is better than five, and longer than five pages is usually too long.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Form follows function, so don’t over-complicate or over-explain things in your summary. Most executive summaries are short texts, often with bullets, broken into subheadings. Illustrations such as a picture of a product, or a bar chart showing financial highlights, are usually a welcome addition.
5. PRIORITISE SECTIONS BASED ON THEIR IMPORTANCE AND STRENGTHS
Don’t bury the lead. Organise your executive summary so that the most important information appears first. There’s no set order of appearance of the different key items included, quite the contrary in fact, so use the order to show emphasis.
Lead with what you want to get the most attention, and follow with items in the order of importance. For example, summaries that start with stating a problem can add drama and urgency that tees up the solution in your business.
6. USE IT FOR YOUR SUMMARY MEMO
When your executive summary is finished, you can repurpose it for other uses. It’s the first chapter of a formal plan, but you can also use it as a stand-alone “summary memo”. Investors often ask startups to send a summary memo instead of a full business plan. It could be a short document, often attached to an email, or simply a summary in an email.
Ready to start writing? You will find many helpful resources online that will give you valuable tips for writing an executive summary that does your business plan justice. Good luck!
Adapted from https://articles.bplans.com/writing-an-executive-summary/