How to write an executive summary
Defining your business in a few paragraphs can help you communicate your strategy, vision, and values to stakeholders.
Whether you're seeking funding, looking for a partner, or trying to land a client, an executive summary can help you make a positive first impression. This one-page statement is a condensed version of your business plan that helps readers quickly grasp the most important information contained in your plan.
You can write an executive summary first in order to crystallize your thoughts when devising your business plan or write it last, after putting together the entire business plan. You'll probably have to write many drafts of your summary, but the payoffs are considerable. "There's tremendous value in having to express the purpose of your business in such precise terms," says Jay Turo, CEO and co-founder of the business consultancy firm Growthink.
Your executive summary should address the following questions:
Who are you?
State your business name, when it was formed, its legal entity, location, size, and the names of all founders and their roles. "If you're seeking funding, be sure to provide enough information about the experience and qualifications of your management team to show they're capable of leading," says Branden Harper of the early stage alternative debt firm Lighter Capital. You may include your mission statement, but skip the detailed company history and technical jargon.
What do you want?
An executive summary is a call to action. Make your needs clear in a statement of purpose, including:
What is the product, service, or opportunity you're offering?
Where do you want to take your business?
What kind of engagement are you seeking?
Be clear and compelling about what you want so the reader is inspired to respond.
What is your business's value proposition?
Describe the problem your business solves and for whom. Be sure to address your customers' current alternatives, and why you provide something uniquely better. You may also want to compose a few sentences that briefly describe your strategy for reaching this market.
What is the financial opportunity in the market?
Your executive summary should demonstrate that there's a market for your product or service. Describe the market segment, its size, and how and why it's growing. Illustrate your financial preparedness to tap this market by summarizing your company's relevant financial data, such as your revenue model, returns on investment, growth highlights, and revenue projections. List your current bank and investors. If you're seeking funding, be specific:
How much capital do you need?
What will it be used for?
How will you pay it back?
Adding the element of time will convey a sense of urgency and timeliness. Make the window of investment opportunity clear, or describe why the current market is ready for your offering today.
"Be sure to revise and update your executive summary regularly. You never know what opportunities may arise, or who you will be talking to," says Harper.
Here are five reasons to consider also having a transition strategy and plan.