Executive Summary

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is potentially the most important section of your business plan. It is normally the first section of your business plan that investors will read, and could be the last if it is poorly written. An executive summary should briefly describe the company, the product or service, and the unique opportunity your company is offering. It should also provide a short description of your key management team members and an outline of the investment you are seeking. Don't forget to tell the reader why you need the money and how and when they can expect to be paid back!

A good executive summary is essentially a condensed but powerful summary of your entire business plan. It creates a first impression in your reader's mind of both you and your business. Use clear and concise language - although this applies to your entire business plan, it is especially important in your executive summary.

Use words that command attention, and that get your reader excited about the opportunity you are presenting.

Briefly describe:

  • if this is a new business venture, expansion of an existing business or the purchase of an existing business;

  • the type of business activity in which you are engaged (manufacturing, wholesale, retail, food processing, service, high technology, etc.);

  • your product or service and its uniqueness;

  • the market to be served;

  • your advantage over the competition;

  • the main objectives of your organization;

  • your management background;

  • the project time frames involved.

(This should be a short summary of your business plan.)

Don't try to simply summarize every section included in the body of the business plan. It will come off as stilted and awkward. Summarize the most important points contained in the document, i.e., those sections that carry the most importance.

What Is An Executive Summary?

Certainly the most significant part of any business plan is its executive summary. What is an executive summary? Probably the best way to begin defining it is to explain what it isn't.

  • The executive summary is not an abstract of the business plan.

  • The executive summary is not an introduction to the business plan.

  • The executive summary is not a preface.

  • The executive summary is not a random collection of highlights.

Rather, the executive summary is the business plan in miniature. The executive summary should stand alone, almost as a kind of business plan within the business plan. It should be logical, clear, interesting - and exciting. A reader should be able to read through it in four or five minutes and understand what makes your business tick. After reading your executive summary, a reader should be prompted to say, "So that's what those people are up to."

Limit the length of your executive summary to no more than 2 to 3 pages and stick to the facts. Investors are searching for evidence that justifies the soundness of your opportunity, and that gets them excited about what you intend to achieve. If your executive summary is clear and concise, you are one step closer to impressing your reader, and on your way to a terrific business plan.

The following are several common mistakes that lessen the effectiveness of your executive summary:

  • Lacking a specific focus

  • Too long and wordy, and failing to get to the point

  • Trying to be all inclusive (it should be a powerful summary)

  • Failing to demonstrate a special or unique opportunity

  • Failing to outline the terms of the investment sought

  • Failing to generate enthusiasm in the reader

Some suggestions to combat these problems:

  • Limit your executive summary to a maximum of 3 pages (at the very most).

  • If possible, attempt to present your executive summary on a single page.

  • Focus on the opportunity you are presenting your investor and explain why it is special.

  • Make certain that the opinions and claims in your executive summary are fully supported in the other sections of your business plan.

  • Attempt to use only concrete facts and figures that explain your business concept, market niche and financial projections.

  • Don't forget to include the details of your investment (the amount you need, what you will spend it on, and the return you offer your investor).

  • Also consider who your reader is most likely to be, why they are reading your business plan, and the response you hope to generate.

After reading your executive summary, a reader should be prompted to say, "So that's what those people are up to."

The executive summary should be no more than two pages long. The farther it goes past that point, the less it qualifies as an effective executive summary. If capturing an entire business in two pages or less sounds like a tall order, it is. In fact, it is probably the most difficult part of the plan to write.

That's because it's usually more difficult to write concisely than it is to write at length. I believe that problem stems from our schools, where students are typically encouraged to write reports that are as long as possible.

Writing Your Executive Summary

Writing Business Reports

Purpose Of An Executive Summary?

The executive summary should serve several purposes, both for you and for readers of the business plan. For you, it should accomplish the following:

Crystallize your thoughts.

Since the executive summary is the business plan in miniature, it contains the plan's highlights, its key points. To write an executive summary, focus on the issues that are most important to your business's success -- past and future -- and set aside those matters that are tangential.

Set priorities.

The executive summary, like the business plan, should be organized according to the items' order of importance. Writing it forces you to pick and choose from among the many points you want to make in the business plan and decide on their order of importance.

Provide the foundation of the full plan.

Once you have written a version of the executive summary, you've made the process of writing the plan much easier. Suddenly, you've provided yourself with a takeoff point for each section of the plan. The four or five sentences that summarize the means of making the product or providing the service give you the basis for that section of the plan. As we all know, it's much easier to begin writing with something on the page than it is to begin with a blank page.

For readers of your business plan, the executive summary is usually the first stop in the reading process. (This assumes that the executive summary is at the very beginning of the plan and that the reader goes from front to back. You can control the former, but not the latter. Some investors, for instance, turn first to the founders' résumés and others to the marketing section.) In any case, from the readers' perspective, your executive summary should have the following attributes:

Capture others' attention and imagination.

This is particularly important if you want your plan to help you get a bank loan or attract investment funds. But any reader should be intrigued with your executive summary. It intrigues readers most by conveying your commitment to -- and excitement about -- the business.

Make readers want to read more.

Because bankers, investors, and financial types have more business plans to read than they have time for, they have to decide easily and quickly which ones to analyze carefully. The executive summary helps them make that decision. Thus, if you hope to obtain financing from the plan, the executive summary has to keep the banker or investor interested. Otherwise, that person will not go further in the plan.

Convey the flavor of the rest of the plan.

Readers should have a good feeling about your business and what the rest of the plan will cover. The executive summary must succeed in capturing the enthusiasm and energy that resonate through the plan as a whole.

Here's what you may include.

  • Describe your business. The reader needs to first understand what it is you do in order for the remainder of the information to make any sense. Give them a brief, well written two or three paragraph summary of your business.

  • Show the reader that you understand the market you operate in. Describe it for them. Tell them about your competition. Tell them what makes your business unique or about the strategic strengths you have within your market. Tell them where you stand in your market. Are you the market leader? Second but trying harder? A new entry into the market?

  • If you are a new entry into the market, this section becomes even more important. If the reader doesn't believe after reading this section that you have a good grasp of the market, he or she will not bother reading further.

  • After describing your business and the market you operate in, it's time to tell the reader what you're going to do with their money. You need to convince them, very quickly, that their money is needed and do not be vague about why you need the exact amount you are asking for!

  • Give the reader a summary of what you're looking for. If you want to raise $1 million in operating capital, say so. Tell them the terms you are prepared to offer, whether it be interest, an equity stake in the business, or a combination of both.

  • Provide the reader with full contact information for each individual that should be contacted if the reader has questions. Make it easy for them. Provide every address, phone number, fax number, cell phone number, or email address that might be useful to them for the individuals identified as contacts.

What business will you be in? What will you do?

Mission Statement: Many companies have a brief mission statement, usually in thirty words or less, explaining their reason for being and their guiding principles. If you want to draft a mission statement, this is a good place to put it in the plan. Followed by:

Company goals and objectives: Goals are destinations -- where you want your business to be. Objectives are progress markers along the way to goal achievement. For example, a goal might be to have a healthy, successful company that is a leader in customer service and has a loyal customer following. Objectives might be annual sales targets and some specific measures of customer satisfaction.

  • Business philosophy: What is important to you in business?

  • To whom will you market your products? Your target market? (State it briefly here - you will do a more thorough explanation in the Marketing section).

  • Describe your industry. Is it a growth industry? What changes do you foresee in your industry, short term and long term? How will your company be poised to take advantage of them?

  • Your most important company strengths and core competencies

  • What factors will make the company succeed?

  • What do you think your major competitive strengths will be?

  • What background experience, skills, and strengths do you personally bring to this new venture?

  • Legal form of ownership: Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)?

  • Why have you selected this form of business?

Executive Summary - Business Description

Briefly describe:

  • if this is a new business venture, expansion of an existing business or the purchase of an existing business;

  • the type of business activity in which you are engaged (manufacturing, wholesale, retail, food processing, service, high technology, etc.);

  • your product or service and its uniqueness;

  • the market to be served;

  • your advantage over the competition;

  • the main objectives of your organization;

  • your management background;

  • the project time frames involved.

In addition, briefly describe what form of business structure you have chosen:

  • sole proprietorship;

  • partnership (enclose agreement);

  • corporation (enclose shareholders agreement).


  • date the business was registered/incorporated;

  • the business name and address;

  • the business phone number;

  • the principal(s) name(s) and telephone number(s);

  • the percentage of business or number of shares held by each (in partnership or corporation).

Your Executive Summary must demonstrate that you will

  • Establish the Strategic Direction of the Company ... Mission Statement!

  • Build Loyal Employees

  • Hold Employees Accountable

  • Continue Upgrading Management

  • Build Strong Relationships ... vendors, customers, and advisors.

  • Keep Margins and Markups as Low as Possible

  • Always Produce and Provide Quality

  • Strive to be the "Low Cost" Producer

  • Grow ... but do so prudently and profitably.

  • Create Excellence in Operations and Execution

  • Install a Management Process to Guide and Control the Company

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary goes at the beginning of the plan. It should give a concise one page overview of what is included in the plan.

Think of the four or five main points that you would like to express to the reader of the plan and build the the Executive Summary around these points.

After reading the Executive Summary the reader should be able to understand where the business is going and the logic in taking that direction.

Executive Summary - Know Your Reader!

Take account of the reader or the general audience and make sure that after reading the Executive Summary, their appetite has been wet for the rest of your business plan.

Financiers have their own specialist needs from a business plan and the Executive Summary. Make sure you include the important finance related highlights.

If the business plan is for finance, it is wise to include an Investor Summary.

Generally we make this a one-page summary of bullet-points highlighting the financial ‘sense’ of investing in the business. Make the points very short and snappy, if the reader wants further information or advice this will be contained in the plan or the appendices.

Points that work well in this section are things like,

  • ROI figures,

  • Net profit growth,

  • Revenue increases,

  • Sales trends etc.

  • Statements of facts that are readily understood and easily communicated.

Executive Summary - Know Your Reader!

Start the page with an introductory paragraph no more than 3-4 lines.

Getting Started

Complete this statement:

The objective of my business plan is;

(Possible objectives: get finance / find an Investor /start my business / grow my business)

The audience of the final business plan will include:

(Possible audiences: You / Bank Manager / Financier / Investors / Business Partners/ Other Business Stakeholders).

Is your business plan for FINANCE? First impressions count…

The business plan IS your first impression to your Financier - Do it right!

Include your Curriculum Vitae (Resume) and some character references as an Appendix to any business plan for Finance.

If your business plan is for Investors, it all usually boils down to one figure - the rate of return (ROR) on their investment. Investors think in terms of TIME - how long will it take you to make the Investor money and HOW MUCH – How much money will you make them … Divide the later by the former and you have their ROR – Rate of return.

The business plan then shifts focus slightly and you body of the business plan is dedicated to demonstrating ‘how’ you will achieve the ROR.

When Frustrated… take a break

It is easy to become frustrated when undertaking a business plan. Deciding what is relevant or not can become a challenge and it is easy to include masses of irrelevant information.

Every time you finish a section, refer back to the Objective and Audience of the plan and ask yourself;

  • Does this contribute to the Objective of the plan? and, more importantly,

  • Will my audience find this relevant?

By doing this, the finished business plan will meet its objective and it will also be relevant.

A strong Business Plan may not guarantee success; but it could certainly prevent failure!

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The Mission Statement
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