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How to Write an Executive Summary

The executive summary is the first part of many business documents, such as business plans or a business proposal. However, the name is a little deceiving. It’s not just a summary of the rest of your business plan. In fact, the executive summary is one of the most important parts of the business plan because it’s often the only part that people read. Because of this, it is an important tool to persuade your audience to keep reading. As you think about how to write an executive summary for your business plan, here are some of the parts that you could include:

1. The Hook

Rather than jumping right into your summary, think about a way to grab your readers’ attention. Since you want to get the reader to do more than skim the rest of the document, you need to make sure that the first paragraph really speaks to them.

To do this, you need to analyze your intended audience. What could you say about your proposal that would interest them? Can you tie in something that your readers are interested in to grab their attention? For example, maybe one of your investors loves football. If he spends a lot of his time cheering on his favorite NFL team, then using a football analogy in your hook could be a good way to connect with this investor and make it personal for him.

Another important thing to consider about how to write your executive summary is the tone. Your default tone should be professional. However, depending on your intended audience, it might be a good idea to use a more casual, playful tone in your executive summary. Knowing the right tone to use can make all the difference to impress your audience and keep them reading the entire business proposal.

2. Company Background

You’re going to go into greater depth about your company in a later section of your business plan. But, you probably need to give some basic information about your company in the executive summary, too. Keep your information clear and concise. Let the reader know the name of your company, the location, and what you do or sell. Don’t spend too much time on this, but give enough information about your company to help the reader understand the rest of your executive summary.

3. Your Strengths

More than knowing about your company, investors want to know what makes your company stand out from the competition. What makes your company unique? What makes you uniquely qualified to excel in this industry? And most importantly, why would you be a good investment? Think about your marketing team, partnership, specialized expertise, background, patents, customer base, technology used, and other specifics that you could discuss to set your company apart from others.

4. Problem/Solution

You need to show why your business is a necessity. Discuss the problem that your company is going to solve. Think about the market and the need that your business fills. As you discuss the problem and solution, this is the time to show what you know. Impress your audience through facts, figures, and data. This will build your credibility in the industry, making investors feel more comfortable trusting you on the subject and with their money.

Since you’re going to go into greater depth about this in the rest of your business plan or proposal, you don’t need to spend too much time on this either. However, share enough information to show what you know and why your company is the right one to fill the needs of the industry.

5. Market

As you discuss your company, one of the things that you can mention is the market. Since you need to show that your company will be profitable, you need to demonstrate that there is a market for your goods or services. To whom are you marketing? What is your target audience like? What is the competition like?

For example, if you want to start a carpet cleaning company for a growing city, think about the number of other cleaning companies that service that particular area already. Also, consider the number of people in the area who would need your services and how you would stand apart from the other companies to your potential customers.

6. Timeliness

There is a lot you could cover when it comes to how to write an executive summary, but you need to show your readers that there is a sense of urgency. Why should they read your business plan right now? Is there a reason that they should schedule a meeting with you as soon as possible? Think about the timeliness of your business as you outline your executive summary. Consider things that you could add to urge your readers to act quickly.

7. Financial Summary

When you’re addressing potential investors, the financial summary is probably the most interesting part for them to read. They want to know what the risk is and what their return will be. Make sure to address how much money you want to raise and how you plan to spend it to grow your business. This is another great time to use graphics to show how your company has grown financially so far and how it will continue to grow with the help of your investors.

Things to Avoid

As you write your executive summary, you need to look for ways to stand out from other businesses and make your writing compelling to your readers. As you work to do this, there are some crucial things that you should avoid, such as:

  • Jargon. Be careful about your word choice. Stick to terminology that will be easy for your reader to understand, especially if they aren’t familiar with jargon from your industry.
     
  • Clichés. You want to show that your business is different and therefore worth investing in, so you need to be careful about using cliché phrases. Words that tend to be overused in executive summaries are ones like “groundbreaking” or “cutting edge.”
     
  • Superlatives. You may think that your company is “the best” or “the greatest,” but people reading your executive summary will probably just roll their eyes at these statements.
     
  • Anything that can’t be backed up with proof. Before making any claims, make sure that you have the data to support it. You can go into greater details within your business plan or proposal.

Tips on How to Write an Executive Summary

When writing your executive summary, try to include the major points from your business plan in an attention-grabbing way. To do this, it’s a good idea to write the executive summary last. That means that you should write it after completing all other sections from your proposal or business plan. This will help you gather the most important points to include in your executive summary.

Try to personalize the executive summary as much as possible. One way to do this is by using personal pronouns as you talk about your company and your plan for growing your business.

To help draw attention to the most important parts, use numbered lists, bullet points, subheadings, pictures, graphics, charts, and more. Since the executive summary should only be about 10% of the entire document, using these things will help you keep your writing short and concise.

Final Thoughts

When writing the executive summary, remember that your goal is not to get your reader to write you a check. The goal of the executive summary is to get the reader to read the rest of your business plan and schedule a meeting with you. Think about ways that you can make your executive summary compelling to your intended audience, so you can meet your goal.

As a final note on how to write an executive summary, remember to be confident. You may feel nervous or even desperate as you reach out to potential investors. However, remember that you want to appear as an expert with a quality company to share with others. If you don’t believe this, then your investors surely won’t, and it’s going to be difficult to persuade them to bet on you and your company. So, be confident and use your executive summary to convince them to not only read the rest of the document but contact you to discuss the details.

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