An executive summary is a jumping-off point for your business plan. You have taken the time to do research, get the number, and figured out a way for your company to improve itself or for you to start a business. Now you just need to present it to those who will make your plan happen or not.
It does not matter how well your business plan is written if the executive summary does not do its job as well. The executive summary summarizes the broader business plan while also communicating key items from your research and give suggested action.
If your executive summary does not do any of that, it is very likely that your business plan will be passed over. However, if you have a stellar executive summary that will give you a bigger advantage because whoever you present your business plan to will be more likely to read it all the way through.
Writing a top of the line executive summary will take work. It will not happen in the first round of writing. However, if you follow these tips, you’ll start off on the right foot.
Write it Last
Do not write your executive summary first! Yes, it is the first thing people will read in your business plan, but the executive summary should actually be written last. Why?
You need your executive summary and business plan to match. By writing the business plan first, you can go through it and pick out essential elements, facts, numbers, and points to bring into your summary. Doing it this way will make sure that your executive summary fits your business plan and not the other way around.
Capture the Reader’s Attention
The executive summary needs to be informative, but it should also catch the reader’s attention. Say you were presenting this to a banker for a loan. A banker could read many business plans in a day. If you do not catch his or her attention in the executive summary, there’s a good chance the rest of your business plan will be left unread.
The information in your executive summary should leave the person reading it motivated to read the rest. You do not need to be casual and start with a joke, be professional and informative. Help the reader be excited to read the rest of your business plan.
Stand on its Own
Your summary should be able to stand on its own. Of course, it will not be like that, but you need to make sure that your executive summary should allow someone who has no prior knowledge of your business or industry to understand the key points from your research and how you plan to improve or change it.
Condensed Version of your Business Plan
Of course, your executive summary shouldn’t give away everything in your business plans, but you need to give the highlights. Summarize your business plan. Do not start laying it all out. Give a good outline and let the rest of the business plan flesh out what you said in the executive summary.
Once again, your reader should feel compelled to read the rest of your business plan, so if you say everything in the executive summary, what else is there for them to read?
There will be research in the body of your business plan and lots of it. Your executive summary needs it as well. Include little parts of your research in the executive summary to support what you are saying. Don’t let the reader feel like you’re promising them the moon without the rocket to get there.
Use footnotes to cite information further in your business plan. Show your reader you’ve done your homework and have taken the time to show your work too.
Boil it Down
Brevity is good. You can’t risk being long-winded in your executive summary. Imagine how someone reading it would feel if that section was super long and repetitive. They probably wouldn’t continue reading for fear that the rest of the business plan was going to be more of the same.
Keep your information tight. Tell them need-to-know information without leaving them clueless, but also not overly informed. You need all the information but in a pinch. The more you do this, the more clearly your point will be made.
Keep things Positive
Do not bring up negative things in your executive summary ever! Do not include risks, obstacles, and challenges in your summary. Leave those things for the body of your business plan.
Keep things positive. Keep your reader focused on the good that can come from your suggested change or how your business will revolutionize the industry. If you bring up too much negativity, the reader may decide your suggestion or start-up is just not worth the risk. You will not get a chance to really present your idea because you put too many bad ideas into your reader’s heads.
Be Persuasive, but Focus on Facts
The persuasion is in the facts, not the fancy promises you may make. Allow your facts to do the persuading for you. Use them to show that there is traction for your idea, that there is a market, and that you have the ingenuity and experience to make the change happen.
Do not try and just promise these things with pretty words on a page, show them.
Never, under any circumstances, should you resort to clichés to make your point. You may say that your team is committed, but so does everyone else. What makes your organization different? Your start-up may be the next best thing or game-changing. If your facts don’t say that, then you might as well kiss your opportunity goodbye.
Clichés will not help you get your point across and will not make your reader want to see what the rest of your business plan has to say.
Executive summaries are a crucial part of your business plan. The summary will set the tone for how seriously the reader takes the rest of your business plan or if he or she keeps going past the first page. Take the time to write the executive summary well. Don’t think you can write a great one in one night or right before you need to present your business plan. But if you follow these tips, your executive summary will be a winner.