Anyone starting a new business must create a business plan that clearly outlines the organization’s details and goals. The executive summary is a crucial element of that business plan.
We’ll explore five steps to writing your business plan’s executive summary, including what to include and avoid. We’ll also point you toward executive summary templates to help you get started.
New entrepreneurs or business owners typically use a business plan to present their great business idea to potential stakeholders like angel investors. The purpose of the business plan is to attract financing from investors or convince banking executives to get a bank loan for their business. An executive summary is a business plan overview that succinctly highlights its most essential elements.
It’s not just a general outline; the executive summary might be the only part of your business plan that busy executives and potential investors read.
“The executive summary of a business plan is designed to capture the reader’s attention and briefly explain your business, the problem you are solving, the target audience, and key financial information,” Ross Kimbarovsky, CEO and founder of Crowdspring, told Business News Daily. “If the executive summary lacks specific information or does not capture the attention of the reader, the rest of the plan might not be read.”
While your executive summary should be engaging and comprehensive, it must also be quick and easy to read. These documents average one to four pages – ideally, under two pages – and should comprise less than 10% of your entire business plan.
Did you know?: Along with an executive summary, a business plan will include your business’s legal structure, the products and services you sell, and a financial plan with sales forecasts.
Your executive summary will be unique to your organization and business plan. However, most entrepreneurs and business owners take the following five steps when creating their executive summary.
Your executive summary is based on your business plan and should include details relevant to your reader. For example, if your business plan’s goal is pitching a business idea to potential investors, you should emphasize your financial requirements and how you will use the funding.
The type of language you use depends on whether your audience consists of generalists or industry experts.
While executive summary specifics will vary by company, Marius Thauland, business strategist at OMD EMEA, says all executive summaries should include a few critical elements:
When synthesizing each section, highlight the details most relevant to your reader. Include any facts and statistics they must know. In your introduction, present pertinent company information and clearly state the business plan’s objective. To pinpoint key messages for your executive summary, ask yourself the following questions:
“Put yourself in the business plan reader’s shoes, and think about what you would like to know in the report,” Thauland advised. “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.”
Tip: If securing financing is your priority, read our reviews of the best business loans to compare options.
When writing your executive summary, be aware of the following common mistakes:
Did you know?: When you’re starting a new business, the first people you should hire include a product manager, chief technology officer (CTO), chief marketing officer and chief financial officer.
If you’re writing an executive summary for the first time, online templates can help you outline your document. However, your business is unique, and your executive summary should reflect that. An online template probably won’t cover every detail you’ll need in your executive summary. Experts recommend using templates as general guidelines and tailoring them to fit your business plan and executive summary.
To get you started, here are some popular executive summary template resources:
Your executive summary should preview your business plan in, at most, two pages. Wait until your business plan is complete to write your executive summary, and seek outside help as necessary. A thorough, engaging business plan and executive summary are well worth the time and money you put into them.
Max Freedman contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.