Business Plan Executive Summaries

Guidelines for Writing an Executive Summary

An executive summary introduces and summarizes your business plan. Writing a business plan is tricky, but writing an effective executive summary can be even more challenging. If you're at a loss about where to begin, these guidelines for writing an executive summary will get you started.

Think executive summaries are wishy-washy cover pages for your business plan?

Think again. Experienced entrepreneurs approach the executive summary with the same level of intensity as they do every other part of the business plan. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs know that the executive summary is quite likely the most important two pages of the entire document.

To make an impact with investors and other readers, your executive summary has to conform to certain standards and expectations. Executive summaries aren't strict outlines of business plans contents. Instead, they summarize the information and analysis contained within the plan in a format that is easily digested by busy professionals. If the reader fails to get the gist of the business plan from your executive summary it's game over.

What purpose(s) does the executive summary serve?

A good executive summary is the "Cliff Notes" version of the business plan. Investors, strategic partners, lenders, and other stakeholders often use the executive summary as a tool in determining whether or not it's worth reading the rest of the business plan. These individuals may also go back to the executive summary later on to remind themselves about key elements of your business model.

What should be included in the executive summary?

The executive summary should touch on most of the topics contained elsewhere in the business plan. At a minimum, a good executive summary describes the business, the marketplace, and the manner in which the company's products (or services) are capable of meeting market demand better then anyone else's products. Critical statistics can be cited, but this section is designed more for telling a story than it is for inundating the reader with details, facts, and figures.

How do you write an executive summary?

Although you might draft a preliminary version of the executive summary before you write the business plan, you're going to want to come back to it after you have completed all of the other sections. Why? Because until you have developed the content of the rest of the business plan, you won't be able to accurately summarize it for you readers.

How long should the executive summary be?

There are no length requirements for an executive summary. However, it is generally agreed that you should try to limit your executive summary to two pages or less.

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