Writing an Executive Summary

Every report, white paper, presentation, brochure or planning document has a one or two-page section summarising the contents. Although it's the first part of the index, it's usually the final pages developed and written.

Why is It Important?

Summary of the contentsPeople reading your plan will likely come from two different mindsets requiring two entirely different communication strategies.

Some people like to know every little detail before they make any decisions. Others just need an overview before deciding whether to delve more into the detail.

It's also the section that's referred to most often in later stages of discussions. Your readers may make additional notes to refer to at a later date.

Together with the financial forecasts, this section is always the most referenced. Therefore, it's important to get it correctly structured and robust.

If this section was only read by potential investors before they decided whether to read more detail, then it has to sell your ideas and have solid numbers.

What are The Key Elements?

Standard practice for small businesses is to have a one or two-page overview of the business. It should convey the company objectives, the investment required, and profit projections while highlighting your knowledge of the industry sector chosen.

In those two pages there are usually seven paragraphs from the headings in your document as follows:

  • An overview of the business and mission statement.
  • The primary target customer, market environment and competitive landscape.
  • Core products and services offered.
  • Your sales and marketing strategy together with a pricing model.
  • An overall financial summary with top line numbers.
  • The personal profiles of the key players and senior staff.
  • The purpose of the plan (e.g.: to obtain finance) with an implementation timeline.

Should You Write this First or Last?

A skeleton outline developed before the main detail is fleshed out guides your summary and final plan. Use the headings described above to write a short paragraph from your initial ideas.

Create the final summary pages once you've completed the main document. You can duplicate elements into this from pages contained in your plan as it's just a condensed version of your detailed document.

As it's short, make every word count. Don't add in information that isn't pertinent to convince your reader of its worth. You can also use this summarised plan to send out to potential investors, suppliers, partners and even staff members. Many entrepreneurs use it as a reference point for the months after they start trading.

Examples of Statements

There are 16 different summaries in each of our sample plans you can read online for various industries with some available to download in MS Word. Here are six examples:

Below are additional examples of what you could write for the above sections.

Business Summary

ABC Trading Limited are to take over the tenancy of a local corner shop from the existing owners. ABC has a franchise with Costcutter and will sell their full range of products. The ABC owners have both run successful stores over the past 14 years.

Competition and Market

The local area does not have any other convenience stores that sell branded products. There's just one local Aldi store and newsagent that sell a limited range of similar goods. The current owners produce an annual profit of £64,500 from their unbranded shop.

We believe the opportunity for this franchise with lower prices enables us to compete well while improving the financial health of our company.

Tips for Writing an Executive Summary

  • Keep it concise. As the entire premise is for these pages to be a summary, then yours should be just that. Take each part of your plan and condense those pages into paragraphs.
  • Use it as a selling tool. The introduction to your plan is the preface to the full detailed document. Whether you're targeting bank managers, investors, or colleagues, your summary should actively sell your business plan and encourage readers to delve into the detail.
  • Target your audience with different versions. Rather like a job application's cover letter or even a resume, you should tailor it to your specific audience. Investors may require a focus on your finances, whereas others may look more at your marketing plans.
  • Include all key points. Although it's a short version of your business plan, you need to summarise all sections outlined above.
  • Keep it jargon-free. The majority of people you present your plan to won't know your industry as well as you do. Keep jargon out of the summary and explain specific industry terms if required.