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Though it is the first section of your business plan, experts recommend that executive summaries should be written last. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

The most crucial component of any business plan is the executive summary. It’s usually the first thing investors will read about your business, so it should thoroughly summarize your objectives and pique the reader’s interest in learning more.

Like all first impressions, you rarely get a second chance to make a great one. Here’s what you need to know about writing an executive summary that will leave a lasting impact on your readers.

What information is included in an executive summary?

The specific information you provide in your executive summary will vary depending on your industry, your goals and whether you own a startup or an established business. The summary should be one to two pages in length and sum up the more detailed content in the rest of your business plan, including:

  • Who you are. Start with the basics. List your business name, location and contact information. For established businesses, give a brief history of your company and provide your mission statement. Include the names of the owners and the key players in your business, as well as the number of employees you have.
  • The business opportunity. Describe the market need or problem for which your business has a solution.
  • How you address that opportunity. Explain your business model and how your products or services will satisfy that market need or problem.
  • Competition. Provide an overview of your competition and how your products or services differ from theirs.
  • Target market. Describe the specific customer base you plan to attract to your business.
  • Marketing strategy. Explain how you plan to reach your target market and entice them to your products or services.
  • Financial summary. For established businesses, provide a financial summary and state whether you are seeking additional funding or not. For startups, list your financial plan and include your projections for the next few years.

Although it will be the first section of your business plan, most experts recommend writing your executive summary at the end of your drafting process.

How to write an executive summary

Writing an executive summary from scratch is a daunting process. Here are a few tips to help you create a strong executive summary:

  • Write it last. Although it will be the first section of your business plan, most experts recommend writing your executive summary at the end of your drafting process. Doing so will ensure that you have all the detailed information you need to refer back to when writing the summary.
  • Be brief, yet precise. An executive summary should be just that: a summary. You don’t need to go into great detail here as the business plan itself should provide all the details needed to attract investors, lenders, buyers or new business partners. Be brief and provide a high-level overview of your business plan.
  • Know your audience. Just as you tailor a sales pitch to a specific audience, your executive summary should highlight the information your readers will find most interesting and valuable. If you are trying to attract investors or new partners, focus on how your business can be beneficial to their long-term success. If you’re applying for a business loan, focus on your financial reports and show that your business is reliable and that you present minimal risk.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published May 20, 2019