The purpose of the executive summary of the business plan is to provide your readers with an overview of the business plan. Think of it as an introduction to your business. Therefore, your business plan’s executive summary will include summaries of:
- a description of your company, including your products and/or services
- your mission statement
- your business’s management team
- the market and your customer
- marketing and sales
- your competition
- your business’s operations
- financial projections and plans
The executive summary will end with a summary statement, a “last kick at the can” sentence or two designed to persuade the readers of your business plan that your business is a winner.
How to Write an Executive Summary
Start by following the list above and writing one to three sentences about each topic. (No more!)
If you have trouble crafting these summary sentences from scratch, review your business plan to get you going. In fact, one approach to writing the executive summary is to 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, a business plan’s 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
- Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details and whether bank managers or investors, the readers of your business plan don’t want to have their time wasted.
- Keep your language strong and positive. Don’t weaken your executive summary with weak language. Instead of writing, “Dogstar Industries might be in an excellent position to win government contracts”, write “Dogstar Industries will be in an excellent position...”
- Keep it short - no more than two pages long. Resist the temptation to pad your business plan’s executive summary with details (or pleas). The job of the executive summary is to present the facts and entice your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
- Polish your executive summary. Read it aloud. Does it flow or does it sound choppy? Is it clear and succinct? Once it sounds good to you, have someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and make suggestions for improvement.
- Tailor it to your audience. If the purpose of your business plan is to entice investors, for instance, your executive summary should focus on the opportunity your business provides investors and why the opportunity is special. If the purpose of your business plan is to get a small business loan, focus on highlighting what traditional lenders want to see, such as management's experience in the industry and the fact that you have both collateral and strategies in place to minimize the lender's risk.
- Put yourself in your readers’ place... and read your executive summary again. Does it generate interest or excitement in the reader? If not, why?
Remember, the executive summary of the business plan will be the first thing the readers of the business plan read. If it's poorly written, it will also be the last, as they set the rest of your business plan aside unread!