Business Plan Executive Summaries

Executive Summary Writing Tips

Executive summaries are strategic elements of effective business plans. But the ability to create great executive summaries isn't intuitive. It's a learned skill . . . and our executive summary writing tip will help you kick the learning process into high gear.

A good executive summary is worth its weight in gold.

Executive Summary Writing Tips

Located at the very front of the business plan, it's the first thing the reader sees. Blow it here and the success of your entire business plan (and your company's future) could be in jeopardy.

With so much riding on the quality of your executive summary, you can't afford to leave anything to chance. You need to educate yourself about executive summaries and how they can be used to the greatest effect in your business plan.

Believe it or not, you don't have to be a great writer to create a great executive summary. All you really need is the business sense to understand what your readers are looking for and how to give it to them in a clear and concise way.

  • Do some research. Executive summary writing is like many of the other skills you use every day in your business. The way you learn it is by watching how others have done it successfully. Get your hands on as many good business plans as you can and take note of the executive summary features that have the most impact.
  • Make every word count. One of the primary functions of an executive summary is to grab readers' attention and encourage them to read the rest of the business plan. Avoid extraordinary claims and exaggerations, but try to use words that engage your readers.
  • Time your writing carefully. Some executives prefer to write the executive summary first so they have an outline for the rest of the business plan. Others hold off until the end so that the executive summary is a true overview of the material contained in the business plan. Consider drafting a version of the executive summary upfront, with a heavy edit at the very end of the process to make sure it accurately tells your business plan's story.
  • Brevity is key. An effective executive summary doesn't need to be–and in fact, shouldn't be–a lengthy piece of literature. Trying to fit all the material onto a single page of typewritten text is probably not realistic. But if you go more than two pages, you've definitely gone overboard.
  • Narrate, don't outline. The best executive summaries are not tables of contents–they don't describe the various sections that will be found in the business plan as much as they tell the story. That means that when the reader has finished the executive summary he will have a high-level understanding of your company's current condition and future potential.

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