How to write the executive summary of a business plan
The executive summary of a business plan is the opening part of the business plan that gives a summarized overview of the entire contents of the business plan. It is written to help the readers of the business plan gain a quick insight into what’s contained in the plan and if it is well written, it can motivate the reader to go on to read the rest of the business plan to know more about the business idea and the concepts which the business plan presents. If you are a business owner or startup entrepreneur who is looking for funding from lenders or investors, you want to pay attention to the executive summary of your business plan and ensure it is well written because an assessor can determine within 1 or 2 minutes of reading your executive summary whether your business is worth funding, and draw conclusions on whether you will get funded or not. Once the executive summary of your business plan is able to convince the reader or assessor (usually an investor, a lender, or someone acting on their behalf) about the viability or profitability of your business, or at the least, raise the curiosity of the person to want to know more, it has fulfilled its purpose and has done a good job. On the other hand, if your executive summary achieves neither of these, it has failed it purpose. This understanding is very critical and you must always bear it in mind whenever you are writing an executive summary.
The executive summary is the first section of the business plan although it must be written last if it will make sense – and the reason for this isn’t far-fetched. For you to summarize something, that things must be existing first of all. So, since the executive summary ‘summarizes’ the main business plan document, the entire document to be summarized must first be written.
Advantages of the executive summary of a business plan
It is absolutely important to let you know why the executive summary is very important in a business. Here are some of the advantages:
- The executive summary of a business plan presents your entire business idea at a glance, which can be a good thing if the person or group of people you are trying to communicate with are busy people who may not have the time to go through the entire business plan document.
- It is a very good tool for an elevator pitch.
- If well written, it provides a good opportunity to quickly grab the attention of investors and lenders.
- Just like you cannot summarize an essay you have not read and understood in an examination, the process of summarizing your entire business plan document forces you to further gain a better understanding of your business ideas and concepts, and this is a good thing.
- It helps partners and investors to gain a quick understanding of your business ideas and concepts.
How to write the executive summary of a business plan
- Start by writing the main business plan
It is only logical to first write the main contents of your business plan before attempting the executive summary. This works best in most cases. However, it is worthy of mention that one can as well start the entire business plan by writing the summary first. This way, the writer makes the executive summary the basis from which the main document is developed. Some expert writers can work this way but it is rare and if you do not have experience, it may only amount to a waste of your time to do this as you may end up complicating your writings and end up with muddled-up ideas. This is the best way to write your executive summary.
- Understand every section in your business plan document
Being able to meaningfully summarize your entire business plan document requires an in-depth understanding of every component. This point cannot be overemphasized. This is because, creating the executive summary is mostly about compression of your main ideas without losing the most basic information and meanings that are important, and your ability to do this in a meaningful way largely depends on your understanding of each section/part of your business plan and how each section relates with each other and work together to produce the overall objectives of the business.
- Summarize each of the sections in your main business plans into a paragraph
A section in your main business plan document can be up to 3 or 4 pages, and it can be more than that sometimes. Compressing each section as this into a paragraph isn’t an easy task but once you have taken your time to understand the entire parts of the main document, you can easily summarize it meaningfully using simple words that capture the most important and the most relevant idea about the entire section in question. The implication of this part of the exercise is that when you are done here, all the main sections of your business plan would have become a paragraph each.
- Summarize each paragraph into short sentences
Finally, you need further summarization of each paragraph from the previous stage into short, simple but loaded sentences. Just follow the same principles in the stage above, finding ways to remove repetitions and using better word constructions that capture more ideas using lesser words, you will arrive at a page or less eventually. If possible and if there is excess space, you may use one or two charts or diagrams that reinforce one or two sections of the plan. In fact, certain sections’ texts can be outrightly replaced with a chart or diagram. For example, you can use a chart or diagram only to present your sales profitability projections without including any text about that entire aspect.
Important components of the executive summary
As a general rule, the executive summary is expected to have similar components and flow as the main business plan document. However, this rule may not always apply. The audience for which your business plan is being written can largely affect the overall content, structure, and flow of your executive summary. Having said all that, there are some key components that one would normally expect to find in any executive summary, no matter what, and you will find these in the executive summaries of most business plans, no matter the purpose or the audience for which it has been written:
- Overview or the description of the business or company
- Problem identification or a description of the main situation which gave rise to your proposition (you might want to call this a business opportunity that you have spotted). Put simply, you are expected to briefly describe the problem you want to solve and why you think it’s important to do so. Do not forget to support your analysis of the problem with facts, figures, and data where necessary and applicable
- Your value proposition. This is simply referring to the solutions you are proffering to the situation you have described. What will anyone benefit from the resulting product or service?
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