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Executive Summary of the Business Plan

How to write an executive summary that gets your business plan read.

Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

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An executive summary of a business plan is an overview. Its purpose is to summarize the key points of a document for its readers, saving them time and preparing them for the upcoming content.

Think of the executive summary as an advance organizer for the reader. Above all else, it must be clear and concise. But it also has to entice the reader to read the rest of the business plan .

This is why the executive summary is often called the most important part of the business plan. If it doesn’t capture the reader's attention, the plan will be set aside unread—a disaster if you've written your business plan as part of an attempt to get money to start your new business . (Getting startup money is not the only reason to write a business plan; there are other just-as-important reasons .)

Because it is an overview of the entire plan, it is common to write the executive summary last (and writing it last can make it much easier).

What Information Goes in an Executive Summary?

The information you need to include varies somewhat depending on whether your business is a startup or an established business.

For a startup business typically one of the main goals of the business plan is to convince banks, angel investors , or venture capitalists to invest in your business by providing startup capital in the form of debt or equity financing .

In order to do so you will have to provide a solid case for your business idea which makes your executive summary all the more important. A typical executive summary for a startup company includes the following sections:

For established businesses the executive summary typically includes information about achievements, growth plans , etc. A typical executive summary outline for an established business includes:

How Do I Write an Executive Summary of a Business Plan?

Start by following the list above and writing one to two sentences about each topic (depending on whether your business is a startup or an established business). No more! 

The Easy Way of Writing One

Having trouble getting started? The easiest way of writing the executive summary is to review your business plan and take a summary sentence or two from each of the business plan sections you’ve already written.

If you compare the list above to the sections outlined in the  Business Plan Outline , you’ll see that this could work very well.

Then finish your business plan’s executive summary with a clinching closing sentence or two that answers the reader’s question, “Why is this a winning business?”

For example, an executive summary for a pet-sitting business might conclude: “The loving on-site professional care that Pet Grandma will provide is sure to appeal to both cat and dog owners throughout the West Vancouver area.”

(You may find it useful to read the entire Pet Grandma  executive summary example  before you write your own.)

Tips for Writing the Business Plan’s Executive Summary

Remember, the executive summary will be the first thing your readers read. If it's poorly written, it will also be the last thing they read, as they set the rest of your business plan aside unread.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. " Business Plan Guidelines ," Page 2.

Corporate Finance Institute. " Executive Summary ."

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. " How to Prepare Your Business Plan ," Page 167.

Iowa State University. " Types and Sources of Financing for Start-up Businesses ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

Clute Institute. " Using Business Plans for Teaching Entrepreneurship ," Page 733.

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Why your business plan's executive summary is so important.

Why your business plan's executive summary is so important (+ how to write one)

If you plan to launch your own small business , then you'll need to write an executive summary as part of your full business plan. In this article, we'll answer all your pressing questions, including: What the heck is an executive summary, anyway? What’s the purpose of an executive summary? And how do I actually create a well-written executive summary?

Executive summaries are arguably one of the most critical sections of a business plan —and they're also one of the trickiest to write. The executive summary is the first part of your complete business plan that someone will read, so it needs to be compelling in order to convince someone to read the whole thing.

But here’s the catch: 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds actively reading content, based on data published in Time Magazine . This means the limited window of time you have to convince someone your business plan is worth their attention depends on a strong executive summary. No pressure or anything.

For that reason, it’s important to know how to draft a concise executive summary that makes an impact and communicates the goals of your small business. But have no fear, just read on to learn how!

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is essentially an outline of your business plan. If your full business plan is a roadmap, your executive summary is your roadmap's roadmap. It gives your readers a heads up about what you'll talk about in the rest of your business plan. For all intents and purposes, your business's executive summary is your elevator pitch.

Business Plan Executive Summary Example and Template.

The purpose of an executive summary

If there's one section of your business plan everyone is going to read, it's the executive summary. Your business plan's executive summary exists to give readers an overview of the entire document. It should outline what they can expect to learn and motivate them to keep reading on.

“Investors will read the executive summary to decide if they will even bother reading the rest of the business plan. It’s rare for an investor or lender to read an entire business plan, at least in the initial stages of analysis and consideration for funding,” says Eric Markowitz , Inc.com Staff Writer.

Keep your goals and purpose in mind when writing your executive summary.

If your business is a startup, the purpose of your business plan (and executive summary) will likely be to get banks or investors to provide you with financing. So, when writing your executive summary, highlight the financial requirements of your business and why your business is worthy of funding.

If you're a more established business owner, then your executive summary will talk more about your achievements, evolution, and goals for the future.

How to write an executive summary for a business plan

Your business's executive summary should be as short as possible, ideally only one or two pages long.

Remember that you're vouching for yourself and your business in your executive summary, so make sure your language is confident and positive!

Bad example : We might not be the best or the most established protein powder brand, but we probably have the most passion and love out of all our competitors.

Good example: With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.

It's best practice to avoid talking about more fluffy, subjective points and cliches (like passion, hard work, etc.) so you can focus more on the practical information and facts your readers want to know about (like why they should actually invest or partner with your business). You also want to seem confident in yourself and your business, so avoid words like "might," "maybe," or "could" and opt for more definitive words, like "will"!

Remember that your executive summary should fill in the blanks for your readers. Keep your target audience in mind and try to answer their questions, rather than create new ones, or they may get confused and stop reading. Give them a reason not to go back to checking their current value of Bitcoin. 

"Put yourself in the business plan reader's shoes and think about what you would like to know in the report," Marius Thauland, business strategist at Leiekontor, told Business News Daily . "Get their attention by making it simple and brief yet still professional. It should also attract them to read the entire document to understand even the minute details."

There's no specific way to order the different sections of your executive summary, but you'll want to put the most important information or your strongest points first . The first sentence and paragraph of your executive summary is especially important, since these are what will reel your readers in.

We'll give you an idea of how to do this below.

What to include in the executive summary of your business plan

Questions to ask in your executive summary: Who's your competition?; Is there demand?; Who's running your business?; Who's your target audience?; How will you launch your business?

Despite being the first page of your business plan, it’s a good idea to write your executive summary section last. This trick allows you to get a clear picture of what specific material from the full business plan you need to introduce in the executive summary. So if you haven't written the rest of your business plan yet, stop, maybe check out our articles on writing a business plan (wink wink nudge nudge), and come back here once you're done.

Since the goal of a business plan is to persuade the reader to invest in your business, your executive summary needs to demonstrate why this investment would be a smart financial decision. The kicker is: you need to do all of this in 1-2 pages.

To get started, The Balance Small Business suggests including the following eight sections. Choose the topics most relevant to your business and write one or two sentences about each of them. And remember to order them from most important to least important! ‍

1. Business opportunity

What demand or need is there for your business and how will you meet this demand? Talk about a problem or a gap in the market, and why your business alone has all the answers. ‍

2. Target market

What demographic do you intend to reach as your customer base? Who's going to be buying your product? ‍

3. Business model

Use this part to give more juicy details about your business idea. What products or services will your business offer, and what makes them desirable? ‍

4. Marketing/Sales strategy

What will your methods be to create brand recognition for these products or services? You might want to consider marketing techniques like social media, paid media, or email marketing. ‍

‍ 5. Competition

Give your readers the low-down of your industry. What businesses will you compete with for market share, and what does your business offer that your competitors do not? How big and competitive is your industry? How will you stand out against other small businesses? Are there any industry trends you should bring up? ‍

6. Financial analysis

Investors and banks will be especially interested in this part. What is your plan to manage your business finances, and what is your projected revenue for the first three years of your business? You should go into detail about how you will distribute your funding and spell out what your investors will get out of it. ‍

7. Owners/Staff

In this section, you can give a brief overview of your business's history. Who are the owners and lead staff members of your business and what important skills or credentials do they bring? ‍

8. Implementation plan

What is your framework and timeline to move from a concept to launching an actual business?

Effective executive summary examples

Sitting down to start writing an executive summary and putting all the pieces together can be challenging .  

To think about it differently, you might consider grouping the above details into a few specific categories: ‍

Mission statement

What are the core values and central purpose of your business? ‍

Company information

What products or services do you offer, how long has your business been in operation, who are the owners and lead staff members, and how many business locations do you manage? ‍

Financial summary

What is the current and projected state of your finances and do you need an investor to help you expand? ‍

Future goals

What objectives or projects will this financial investment be used for?

Keep in mind that, as you write your own executive summary, you should consider the industry and market that you are entering, the customers you’ll be interacting with, and the things your business will need to succeed (financial backing, upfront costs, additional workforce, etc). Here’s an example of a good executive summary template to guide you as you embark on writing your own executive summary.

Executive summary/business plan example: Vegan Protein Blitz

Company: Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-free protein powder ‍

Our Mission

Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder offers 25 grams of protein per serving without any use of animal protein—similar to, and in many cases, more than, the average amount of protein in similar products. We intend to appeal to those within the fitness community who are looking for a great-tasting protein powder without compromising on the amount of protein per serving. With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.

The Company and Management

Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder was founded in 2018 by Sarah Bailey, a certified personal trainer and former food scientist, who couldn’t find a vegan protein powder that tasted good and provided the amount she needed to fuel her fitness routine. Her kitchen is based in San Diego, California, where she employs two full-time employees and three part-time employees.

Along with Sarah Bailey, Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder has a board of advisors. The advisors are:

Our Product

We offer animal-free protein powder that is made with all-natural sugar sources and no preservatives. Our customers are health-conscious and serious about fueling their bodies with animal-free whole foods. We plan to grow quickly, with an initial goal of building a full-time marketing team of fitness advocates and professionals who understand the industry and our customers’ needs.

Our Competitive Advantages

While there are other vegan protein powders on the national market, there are none that are made with all-natural sugar and with a comparable amount of protein as that of an animal-based powder. With the expertise of our founder Sarah Bailey, we also stand out as a company that truly understands the audience. Please see our market research (Section 3) for more information on why consumers are demanding this expertise.

Financial Considerations

Our sales projections for the first year are $600,000 with a 10% growth rate over the next two years. By year three, we project 55% gross margins and will have ten full-time employees. The salary for each employee will be $60,000 USD.

Startup Financing Requirements

We are seeking to raise $250,000 in startup funds to finance the first year. The owner has invested $40,000 to meet working capital requirements, and will use a loan of $80,000 to supplement the rest.

More executive summary templates

Need more business plan examples, or ready to create your own executive summary with a template? Here are a few we found around the web:

Final tips for writing an executive summary

Earning investor interest in your business is critical to getting access to the things your business will need to succeed, and a solid executive summary can help you do that. Writing your full business plan first can help you get clarity on the strongest key points of your business proposal, which you can use to build out your executive summary.

Most importantly, keep this section of your business plan straightforward and concise, making it easy for the reader to understand what you’re doing and why it matters.

Brush up on your writing skills

You're an entrepreneur, and you probably didn't start your business to write business plans . Free online editing tools and resources like Hemingway and Grammarly can help you punch up and polish your writing. Just copy and paste your executive summary into the software, and it will let you know where your writing needs to be more clear.

Get to the point

Remember what we said about keeping it short? We mean it. Even if there's a really clever sentence that you're super proud of, it's gotta go if it doesn't contribute to your summary. You don't want to give too much detail (that's what the rest of your business plan is for!) or repeat yourself.

Always proofread your work a couple of times before calling it a day! Reading your executive summary out loud can help you identify awkward phrasing and catch any typos you might have missed. Another idea is to copy and paste it into a text-to-speech program to hear what it sounds like out loud. It also helps to print out your executive summary and edit the physical document, which helps you see it from a fresh perspective. 

Get feedback

If you have a kind friend, family member, or fellow business owner, you should ask them to take a look at your executive summary/business plan and give their constructive criticism. If they understand your goals and plan and seem excited about your idea, that's a good sign! If they give your business plan back to you with a bunch of red marks and a confused look on their faces, that's probably a sign for you to make sure your executive summary flows more logically.

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when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

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when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

Executive Summary: The Crucial Part Of A Business Plan

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when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

Even the most well-written business plans fail because of poorly-written executive summaries.  The Executive Summary is the first thing that investors read.

The style is important as well. The executive summary format must be the standard layout that investors expect to see.

Read below to get to know the most important section of a business plan – the Executive Summary!

The Most Important Section of a Business Plan

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

Many companies think they have a plan for their business laid out, but unless this is printed on paper and organized effectively, there is no plan…just a jumble of ideas.

It is essential to put in writing the company’s mission-vision statement and goals. Even if the business plan gets revised along the way, it will serve as a steering wheel that will take the company to its desired destination.

With a business plan in place, the company knows where it is heading.

Best Part of a Business Plan

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

A business plan has several parts like the mission statement, company background, product description, operations, marketing plan, financial planning, competitor analysis, etc. But the most important component is the Executive Summary.

You can hook prospective investors by delivering the information contained in the executive summary in an interesting manner.

The executive summary, although found at the beginning, is an overview of the business plan’s content which is why it is advisable to write it last. The executive summary is at the beginning to provide the reader an overview of the business without having to go through the entire business plan.

Being so, it would be wise to highlight the strengths and competitive advantage of your business within the executive summary. Convince the reader why your idea will be successful. Tell them where your company is now, where it’s going and how you plan on getting it there. Deliver it in such a way that you are narrating a story but with factual information.

Why Write an Executive Summary

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

Financiers, bankers, investors, lenders, CEOs and managers are very busy people; your Executive Summary tells them if the rest of your business plan is worth their time. Give them a reason to keep on reading.  Keep them interested with a well-written and well-thought executive summary.

In most cases, the executive summary is probably the only thing they will ever read in your document. Only after going through the summary will they decide if the entire business plan is worth the read.

The executive summary gets your foot in the door – but can you keep people interested so they don’t slam that door in your face anyway – foot and all?

Telling a Good Story Through the Executive Summary

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

A story has three parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. Begin your executive summary by sharing about a need in the market which your product or service could fill. The market may not know about the need, but it is there and they will willingly patronize your product or service.

The middle of the summary should include the elements found in the other parts of the business plan beginning with the mission statement. Tell something about your company and what it’s all about. Provide a brief company profile, its growth highlights, and market potential.

Introduce your product.  Talk about what the market can gain from using it. Present a financial summary through infographic to make it easier for the investor to understand. End the executive summary by presenting your future plans. Explain what you plan to do with the money you intend to raise.

Set the Appropriate Tone

In verbal conversations, we change the pitch and intonation of our voice to convey a clearer message to our listeners.  We also use facial expressions, body language and hand gestures to do this as well. In written communication, however, this gets a little bit tricky because of the lack of the voice aspect.  So instead of our voice, we use “Tone”.

In writing, the tone is your “voice”.  It affects your readers the way your voice, facial expressions, and hand gestures would when you talk.

It is essential that you know how to set the appropriate tone, especially when writing in the business setting.  Injecting humor might be appropriate for a stand-up comic to do as he pitches an idea about a stand-up act to a producer but it might not work   the same way if you are trying to get investor funding for your startup.  

To help you set the tone of your executive summary, think about the what, why and who.  Ask yourself what you want your reader to know, who your reader will be and why you are writing it.  Keep it formal, professional and easy to understand.

Things to Remember

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

Here are some things to consider when writing an executive summary:

This means that the content should not be as detailed as the information outlined in the other parts of the document. Save the charts, numbers, and analysis for the report itself.

Make the paragraphs short and concise. It should also make sense even without reading the entire report.

Graphics, bullet points, and headings are useful tools to summarize documents. Graphics can provide substantial information at a glance compared to reading it in words. Lengthy information can be itemized into digestible bullets. Organize the information using headings to avoid mix-up.

The reason why you are presenting your business plan to investors is for them to help you solve it. Make sure to define the problem in a clear and understandable manner.

The only way you will be able to convince investors to back you up is to assure that you have the solution to the problem. Explain briefly the research you made in the market and how your product or service will be of use to your prospective customers. Back this up with data on potential earnings.

In this part, explain why your product or service is an idea whose time has come and why the best time to act on it is now. By putting a sense of urgency, you will prevent your investors from dilly-dallying on their decision and secure their commitment ASAP.

Knowing if Your Executive Summary is Good Enough

By now you should know that an executive summary is a concise and relevant explanation of what your company does. Only when you grasp its real meaning will you be able to produce the ideal executive summary. There are a few processes to go through to make a summary including reading and rereading several times.

But here’s one way of determining that you did it right. Get a non-investor to go over your output then ask that person to explain what he/she just read. If he/she is able to verbalize your executive summary, then you’re good to go. If not, it means your work needs rewriting.

Elevator Pitch

Coming up with a well-presented business plan is not the end of it. There are times when the investors will say they don’t have time to read your plan so you’d have to verbally summarize its contents to them. And the best part to present is the executive summary.

The executive summary may seem long at a glance, but it should only take two to three minutes to read aloud. Do not read your executive summary to your investors.  They’d expect you to know what’s in your business plan and be able to tell them in your own words without having to read from it.

Reading requires looking at the document and makes you lose valuable eye contact with your listener. Use a PowerPoint presentation as a guide instead.

Business gurus call this stage the Elevator Pitch in reference to an elevator ride which could last up to two minutes. Due to the short attention span of an average person, that is the time you need to convince your prospective investors on the novelty of your idea.

Do Your Homework

Your verbal presentation must be brief and concise while highlighting the important points. You have to hook your listeners into every word you say. Cite statistics without having to look into your folder. A few seconds gap in your presentation because you had to refer to your notes could potentially lose the interest of your prospective financiers.

Be passionate when delivering your report and speak with authority. Excitement is contagious.  Be excited. Your listeners will want to know what you’re excited about and pay more attention.  Welcome their questions.  Most often than not, questions equal interest.  Be prepared to answer questions – it’s your business – own it.

I hope you find this article helpful and if you want to learn more about starting your own business, StartupJungle.com has a 21 point checklist for starting your new business . Make sure you download this if you’re serious about getting started.

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When you’re starting a business, one of the first things you need to do is write a business plan. Your business plan is like a roadmap for your business, so you can lay out your goals and a concrete plan for how you’ll reach them.

Not only is a business plan essential for any business owner, but it’s also a requirement if you decide to apply for small business funding or find investors. After all, before a bank or individual hands over any money, they’ll want to be sure your company is on solid ground (so they can get their money back).

A business plan consists of several pieces, from an executive summary and market analysis to a financial plan and projections. The executive summary will be the first part of your business plan.

If wondering how to write an executive summary has kept you from completing your business plan, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll explain what an executive summary is and provide tips for writing your own so your business plan can start strong.

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is a short, informative, and easy-to-read opening statement to your business plan. Even though it’s just one to two pages, the executive summary is incredibly important.

An executive summary tells the story of what your business does, why an investor might be interested in giving funds to your business, why their investment will be well-spent, and why you do what you do. An executive summary should be informative, but it should also capture a busy reader’s attention.

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Why write an executive summary?

Anyone you’re sending your executive summary and business plan to is likely busy—very busy. An entire business plan is long, involved, and deals with a lot of numbers.

Someone busy wants to get an understanding of your business, and they want to do it quickly, which is to say not by diving into a complicated, 80-page business plan. That’s where your executive summary comes in.

An executive summary provides just the opportunity to hook someone’s interest, tell them about your business, and offer a clear selling point as to why they should consider investing in your business.

Your executive summary is your chance to sell your business to potential investors and show them your business is worth not only their money but also their time.

What to include in an executive summary

By its nature, an executive summary is short. You must be able to clearly communicate the idea of your business, what sets you apart, and how you plan to grow into a successful enterprise.

The subsequent sections of your business plan will go into more detail, but your executive summary should include the most critical pieces of your business plan—enough to stand on its own, as it’s often the only thing a prospective investor will read. Here’s what your executive summary should include—consider it an executive summary template from which you can model your own.

1. The hook

The first sentence and paragraph of your executive summary determine whether or not the entire executive summary gets read. That’s why the hook or introduction is so important.

In general, a hook is considered anything that will get a reader’s attention. While an executive summary is a formal business document, you do want your hook to make you stand out from the crowd—without wasting time.

Your hook can be sharing something creative about your company, an interesting fact, or just a very well-crafted description of your business. It’s crucial to craft your hook with the personality of your reader in mind. Give them something that will make your company stand out and be memorable among a sea of other business plans.

Grab their attention in the first paragraph, and you’re much more likely to get your executive summary read, which could lead to an investment.

2. Company description summary

Now that you’ve hooked your reader, it’s time to get into some general information about your business. If an investor is going to give you money, after all, they first need to understand what your company does or what product you sell and who is managing the company.

Your company description should include information about your business, such as when it was formed and where you’re located; your products or services; the founders or executive team, including names and specific roles; and any additional details about the management team or style.

3. Market analysis

Your market analysis in the executive summary is a brief description of what the market for your business looks like. You want to show that you have done your research and proven that there is a need for your specific product or services. Some questions you should answer:

Who are your competitors?

Is there a demand for your products or services?

What advantages do you have that make your business unique in comparison to others?

To reiterate, stick to the highlights of your market analysis in your executive summary. You’ll provide a complete analysis in a separate section of your business plan, but you should be able to communicate enough in the executive summary that a potential investor can gauge whether your business has potential.

4. Products and services

Now that you’ve established a need in the market, it’s time to show just how your business will fill it. This section of your executive summary is all about highlighting the product or service that your company offers. Talk about your current sales, the growth you’ve seen so far, and any other highlights that are a selling point for your company.

This is also a good time to identify what sets your business apart and gives you a competitive advantage. After all, it’s unlikely that your business is the first of its kind. Highlight what you do better than the competition and why potential customers will choose your product or service over the other options on the market.

5. Financial information and projections

In this section of your executive summary, you want to give the reader an overview of your current business financials. Again, you’ll go more in-depth into this section later in your business plan, so just provide some highlights. Include your current sales and profits (if you have any), as well as what funding you’re hoping to acquire and how this will affect your financials in the next few years.

This is also where you can explain what funding, if any, you’ve received in the past. If you paid back your loan on time, this is an especially bright selling point for potential lenders.

6. Future plans

While asking for what funding you need is essential, you’ve also got to make clear what you’re going to use that funding for. If you’re asking for money, you want the person to know you have a plan to put those funds to good use.

Are you hoping to open another location, expand your product line, invest in your marketing efforts? This final section of your executive summary should detail where you want your business to go in the future, as well as drive home how funding can help you get there.

Tips for writing an executive summary

Even if you include each part of a good executive summary, you might not get noticed. What is written can be just as important as how it’s written. An executive summary has to strike a delicate balance between formal, personable, confident, and humble.

1. Be concise

An executive summary should include everything that’s in your business plan, just in a much shorter format. Writing a concise executive summary is no easy task and will require many revisions to get to the final draft. And while this is the first section of your executive summary, you’ll want to write it last, after you’ve put together all the other elements.

To choose your most important points and what should be included in the executive summary, go through your business plan, and pull out single-line bullet points. Go back through those bullet points and eliminate everything unnecessary to understanding your business.

Once you have your list of bullet points narrowed down, you can start writing your executive summary. Once it’s written, go back in and remove any unnecessary information. Remember, you should only be including the highlights—you have the rest of your business plan to go into more detail. The shorter and clearer your executive summary is, the more likely someone is to read it.

2. Use bullet points

One simple way to make your executive summary more readable is to use bullet points. If someone is reading quickly or skimming your executive summary, extra whitespace can make the content faster and easier to read.

Short paragraphs, short sentences, and bullet points all make an executive summary easier to skim—which is likely what the reader is doing. If important numbers and convincing stats jump out at the reader, they’re more likely to keep reading.

3. Speak to your audience

When writing your executive summary, be sure to think about who will be reading it; that’s who you’re speaking to. If you can personalize your executive summary to the personality and interests of the person who will read it, you’re more likely to capture their attention.

Personalizing might come in the form of a name in the salutation, sharing details in a specific way you know that person likes and the tone of your writing. An executive summary deals with business, so it will generally have a formal tone. But, different industries may be comfortable with some creativity of language or using shorthand to refer to certain ideas.

Know who you’re speaking to and use the right tone to speak to them. That might be formal and deferential, expert and clipped, informal and personable, or any other appropriate tone. This may also involve writing different versions of your executive summary for different audiences.

4. Play to your strengths

One of the best ways to catch the attention of your reader is to share why your business is unique. What makes your business unique is also what makes your business strong, which can capture a reader’s interest and show them why your business is worth investing in. Be sure to highlight these strengths from the start of your executive summary.

5. Get a test reader

Once you’ve written and edited your executive summary, you need a test reader. While someone in your industry or another business owner can be a great resource, you should also consider finding a test reader with limited knowledge of your business and industry. Your executive summary should be so clear that anyone can understand it, so having a variety of test readers can help identify any confusing language.

If you don’t have access to a test reader, consider using tools such as Hemingway App and Grammarly to ensure you’ve written something that’s easy to read and uses proper grammar.

How long should an executive summary be?

There’s no firm rule on how long an executive summary should be, as it depends on the length of your business plan and the depth of understanding needed by the reader to fully grasp your ask.

That being said, it should be as short and concise as you can get it. In general, an executive summary should be one to two pages in length.

You can fudge the length slightly by adjusting the margin and font size, but don’t forget readability is just as important as length. You want to leave plenty of white space and have a large enough font that the reader is comfortable while reading your executive summary. If your executive summary is hard to read, it’s less likely your reader will take the time to read your business plan.

What to avoid in an executive summary

While the rules for writing a stellar executive summary can be fuzzy, there are a few clear rules for what to avoid in your executive summary.

Your executive summary should avoid:

Focusing on investment. Instead, focus on getting the reader to be interested enough to continue and read your business plan or at least schedule a meeting with you.

Clichés, superlatives, and claims that aren’t backed up by fact. Your executive summary isn’t marketing material. It should be straightforward and clear.

Avoiding the executive summary no-nos is just as important as striking the right tone and getting in the necessary information for your reader.

Executive summary examples

Sometimes the best way to learn is to see how other people are doing it. The U.S. Small Business Administration has multiple business plan examples; you can flip to the executive summary to help you write your own executive summary. For more inspiration, here is an example from Harvard Business School :

Executive summary template

After all the information we threw your way, you're probably itching to get started. If you're ready to apply what you just learned, download our free business plan template. Our template will not only make it easier to write your executive summary; it will also guide you in writing the rest of your business plan.

The bottom line

While an executive summary is short, it’s challenging to write. Your executive summary condenses your entire introduction, business description, business plan, market analysis, financial projections, and ask into one to two pages. Condensing information down to its most essential form takes time and many drafts. When you’re putting together your business plan’s executive summary, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to write it and to seek the help of friends or colleagues for editing it to perfection.

However, some tools make crafting a business plan, including your executive summary, a simpler process. A business plan template is a great place to start, and business plan software can especially help with the design of your business plan. After all, a well-written executive summary can make all the difference in obtaining funding for your business, so you’ll want all the help you can get.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

Streamlining your business

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How to write an executive summary for your business plan

An executive summary is a synopsis of all the key sections of your business plan, and it’s one of the most important parts of your plan. .

It should enable the reader to see at a glance your organisation’s core capabilities, strengths, past achievements, and strategic focus and direction, as well as provide an explanation of how these factors set your business apart.

An executive summary should explain succinctly why you wrote the report, emphasise your conclusions and recommendations, and include the essential information used to support those conclusions. 

It's important readers like investors and lenders can grasp this information quickly and are encouraged to read on.

In other words, your executive summary should be able to be read as a separate, standalone document, communicating the whole story independently of the full business plan.

What to include in an executive summary

Think of your executive summary as an introduction to your business. Include:

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Best practices for writing an executive summary

When using an executive summary and business plan to apply for a loan or funding, state clearly and definitively:

And finally, remember it's important to finish with a compelling closing sentence or two that answers the reader's key question: "Why is this a winning business?"

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Business Plan Section 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary of your business plan introduces you, describes your company, and where you’d like to take it. Discover the top 8 points to include.

when preparing the executive summary section of a business plan it is important to remember

The executive summary is the first thing someone will read when they start making their way through your business plan, and that makes it vitally important. Just like a great movie trailer excites you about seeing a film, or a book jacket blurb entices you to pick up a novel, the executive summary needs to engage your readers and spark their interest, making them want to continue reading more about your business.

The executive summary introduces you, describes the current state of your company, where you’d like to take it, and why you believe you’ll be successful in getting there. Interestingly, many experts suggest that even though this section comes first in the finished document, you don’t write it until last -after you’ve put the rest of your business plan together, so you can highlight your strengths and the important points you’ve made.

We’ve talked about pitching your company before. At its essence, that’s what the executive summary is: your first pitch, whether it be to a lender , an investor, or a potential employee. If you don’t write a decent executive summary, there’s a chance the rest of your plan won’t even get read. If you hit it out of the park, then you’ve gone a long way toward achieving your desired result.

What Goes Into the Executive Summary of a Business Plan?

As we mentioned in our Introduction to Business Plans , plans can serve several different purposes and be intended for different audiences. What you include in the summary will depend on where in the business cycle your company is and what the plan is for.

In every case, keep in mind that this is a summary! Make it impactful but keep it concise. The Small Business Administration recommends fitting everything on one page, and two should certainly be your limit.

Company Information

The company information to include is the name of your business, when it was formed, the names and roles of the founders, how many employees you have, and where you’re located.

The Problem Your Business Solves

Remember that if your product or service doesn’t answer a need or isn’t solving a problem, you don’t have a viable business. The problem may be as simple as: “There are no day spas within a 50 mile radius of Anytown,” but you need to identify and state the problem you’re solving.

If you have a mission statement for the company, it might fit in here, or you can include it in the company description section instead. A mission statement isn’t a required element of a business plan, but creating one could be a help in giving you direction and defining the character and culture of your company.

The Solution Your Business Provides

How will you address the existing situation you described and solve the problem? Keep in mind that this is a summary, so you don’t need to go into detail; the rest of your plan will cover that. Describe the way your business is the solution in a few sentences or bullet points.

The Concept

Explain who you’re marketing to and how your concept fits what they’re looking for. Going back to our fictitious day spa, describe the environment you’ll create; for example, whether you’re targeting a clientele that will appreciate a peaceful environment, an upscale luxury market, or something more mass appeal, and how your concept fits that. Writing the summary last, you’re able to pull info from the market research and strategy sections and point to the research that backs up your idea.

How You Compare to Your Competition

Even if there are no day spas in your area, there may be gyms that offer massages, beauty salons that do facials, etc. Discuss how your business will solve the problem better and more successfully. Why would a potential customer choose you?

You’ll introduce them extensively later on, but part of exciting readers is letting them know who’s on your team, and why you’re uniquely qualified to be successful. If you don’t have everyone on board yet, that’s okay. Talk about the positions you intend to fill and how you plan to do that.

Your Current Situation

Describe where you are now with the business and what you’ve already accomplished. It’s okay to be just starting out, but talk about the progress you’ve already made. If you’ve found the perfect spot for that day spa we’ve been talking about, mention it here. Perhaps you have an interior design already. You should include the drawing later in the plan, but mention it here.

Where would you like to see your business headed? What are you trying to achieve? If you’re writing a business plan to help you secure a loan or investor, how will that infusion of money help you get there?

If you’re writing your business plan because you’re seeking funding, there are certain pieces of information you need to include, such as information about your current bank and investors, if any. If you’re running an established business, you’ll need to outline your current revenue and expenses, although save the nitty-gritty details for the financial section of the business plan.

The executive summary section of a business plan for a new business can offer information about its business model and how you plan to earn revenue. You should also share financial projections and your anticipated expenses.

If your business plan is for your own use as an operational tool, you can be a little less formal with what you include in the executive summary. Concentrate on the problem-solving and conceptual details of the business. It’s okay to skip the company information, your team’s biographies, and other operational and logistical details.

How to Format the Executive Summary

Start with a paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention. If you have a compelling anecdote about the company, an interesting fact, or relevant statistic, that could be one way to go. Some summaries open with a statement about the purpose of the company or its mission statement.

After the opening paragraph, you can follow the order of the following sections of the plan. Each topic belongs in its own paragraph. And because this is a summary, cover them in just two or three sentences each.

In your final paragraph, tell the reader the purpose of the plan. If you want a loan, how much and for how long? If it’s an investment, are you looking for a percentage or specific amount? And what are you offering in exchange?

You want to create excitement and interest in your business, so use positive and compelling language. While to you, it may be entirely obvious that the universe has been waiting for just your product or service, but that’s probably not the case for the people reading your business plan. Balance your enthusiasm with sincerity, don’t exaggerate, and persuade with facts. Be simple and clear so that even someone who is totally unfamiliar with your industry will understand what you’re saying.

Next Article: Business Plan Section 2 – Company Description

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