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How to Write an Executive Summary

The purpose of the executive summary of the business plan is to provide your readers with an overview of the business plan. Think of it as an introduction to your business. Therefore, your business plan's executive summary will include summaries of ...
  1. a description of your company, including your product and/or service solutions
  2. your management
  3. the market and your customers including basic quantitative information
  4. marketing and sales strategies
  5. your primary competition
  6. your competitive advantage
  7. your operational strategies
  8. financial projections and plans
  9. contact information
The executive summary will end with a summary statement, a "last kick at the can" sentence or two designed to persuade the readers of your business plan that your business is a winner.

To write the executive summary of the business plan, start by following the list above and writing one to three sentences about each topic. (No more!)

If you have trouble crafting these summary sentences from scratch, review your business plan to get you going. In fact, one approach to writing the executive summary of the business plan is to take a summary sentence or two from each of the business plan sections you've already written. (If you compare the list above to the sections outlined in the Business Plan Outline, you'll see that this could work very well.)

Then finish your business plan's executive summary with a clinching closing sentence or two that answers the reader's question "Why is this a winning business?"

Tips for Writing the Business Plan's Executive Summary
  1. Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details and whether bank managers or investors, the readers of your business plan don't want to have their time wasted.
  2. Keep your language strong and positive. Don't weaken the executive summary of your business plan with weak language. Instead of writing, "Dogstar Industries might be in an excellent position to win government contracts", write "Dogstar Industries will be in an excellent position..."
  3. The executive summary should be no more than two pages long ... one page is probably better. Resist the tempation to pad your business plan's executive summary with details (or pleas). The job of the executive summary is to present the facts and entice your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
  4. Polish your executive summary. Read it aloud. Does it flow or does it sound choppy? Is it clear and succinct? Once it sounds good to you, have someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and make suggestions for improvement.
  5. Tailor the executive summary of your business plan to your audience. If the purpose of your business plan is to entice investors, for instance, your executive summary should focus on the opportunity your business provides investors and why the opportunity is special.
  6. Put yourself in your readers' place... and read your executive summary again. Does this executive summary generate interest or excitement in the reader? If not, why?
Remember, the executive summary of the business plan will be the first thing the readers of the business plan read. If your executive summary is poorly written, it will also be the last, as they will set the rest of your business plan aside unread!

[Thank you, Susan Ward]