Despite what you might have heard, the executive summary isn't a second-class component of a business plan.
It's a vitally important section with a precise form and structure. If you throw it together at the last minute, it's not going to have any impact – apart from turning off the investors, partners, and stakeholders who read it.
If it's done well an executive summary can be used for more than one purpose. As the front section of the business plan, it provides a narrative overview of the details found in the rest of the plan. However, it can also serve as a standalone piece that can be used as a resource for pitches, planning, and collaborative partnering. Either way, the form and content of your executive summary should include the following:
- Business Overview. Executive summaries should lead with a short description of the company and a summary explanation of the business model. Although this information might seem obvious to you, it provides much-needed context for readers.
- Market Description. Next, the executive summary should discuss the market in which the business is located. You will have to at least touch on issues like market size and market demand to set the reader up for the critically important third part of the executive summary, which is . . .
- Product & Market Analysis. For a good share of your readers (e.g. investors), this is the core of the executive summary–how your company and your products are uniquely positioned to meet market needs. This is your chance to shine. If you can't make a convincing case here no one is going to pay any attention to the rest of your business plan.
If your executive overview will serve as a standalone document, you may also want to consider including brief summaries of other parts of the business plan including:
- Competitive Analysis – Who your company competes against and how your company is prepared to do battle with them in the marketplace.
- Financial Analysis – A brief overview of the company's financial position and key trends/projections.
- Management Team – Short, biographical descriptions of the company's key leaders and influencers.