Business plan: How to write an amazing executive summary
An executive summary is your chance to tell us what your business is about, why it matters, who it’s for, and how you’re going to get it off the ground. It’s your elevator pitch, the hook that sets you apart from everything else, your sentence on the back of an envelope.
“You can do it by writing, bullet points – you could even sketch it out on post-it notes and take a picture and upload it to the page,” advises Ben Keene in the video below. “What matters is that it gets us excited about your business.”
Here are some more tips for writing a great executive summary.
What it should include
- A snappy description of your product or service. Ensure there is a great hook to this, to compel the reader to continue – your first sentence is important! Imagine you’re reading a novel. Does the first sentence make you want to find out more, or do you feel immediately bored?
- What the problem you’re solving is, and how you will solve it. This is at the heart of every business. It’s also important to emphasise what differentiates your business from the other businesses tackling the same problem – how is your approach better?
- Your company’s objective and mission. What’s at the heart of your business? What’s the thing that drives you forward, that was the initial inspiration for your dream?
- A description of the market, and proof that you know it inside out. Have you done your research? Do you know that there’s a demand? Who are your customers, and have you spoken to them?
- An outline of your team. Who’s the founder? Who else is onboard, and where else have they worked? What makes them ideal for your team?
- A look at your growth potential. Where do you plan on being in the next months and years, and where could you realistically be? Think about your short-term outlook, and your long-term. Be ambitious, but not overly so.
- An overview of your financial requirements, and what you’ll use the funding for – no need for a detailed financial forecast here, but a short outline pulls the whole picture together.
Try and keep your executive summary as concise as possible, to a single page if that’s doable. It’s a good exercise for you too – if you can’t describe what your business does in a couple of sentences, then you might need to go back and define exactly what it is you offer, and why it’s valuable. There’s nothing more frustrating than attempting to decode what a business actually does, so ensure you’re very clear on this point.
Ensure that the tone of your executive summary is appropriate for the audience it’s aimed at. If you’ll be using your business plan for different things – pitching for a bank loan, pitching to investors, for a grant application – tweaking the executive summary ensures it’s best-matched to the audience who’ll be reading it.
Especially if your business is technical or high-concept, assume that your readers don’t have much prior knowledge of what your business does, and ensure that your summary is clear enough for anyone to understand. Make sure this applies stylistically too. Concise, simple and punchy will always win above convoluted jargon.