How To Write An Executive Summary That Will Wow Your Investors Or Colleagues.
This helpful guide explores how to write an executive summary that will impress your potential stakeholders. The below steps can be used as a template for an executive summary in any industry.
More importantly, we will outline how not to write one and any vital information you should know.
An executive summary should highlight key points while summarizing your whole business plan. The reader should be able to immediately understand the context of your plan and any essential components.
Are you starting a business? Check out our step by step: How to set up a business guide.
What Is An Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a small document or section of a document that summarizes a larger, more comprehensive report.
This summary will usually be created to outline and explain everything in your report so that the reader can understand your intentions without going through the entire report.
One of the most common uses of an executive summary is to provide a compelling and captivating overview of your business plan to potential investors.
The summary itself is usually between 5%-10% the size of the report which it precedes.
What is included in An Executive Summary?
What you will include in an executive summary will be dependant on the reason for the summary itself.
In this guide, we will assume the executive summary is based on a business plan or proposal for the purpose of presenting it to potential investors.
Your summary should be a focused overview of an in-depth business plan and make the reader want to read through the entire plan when they are done with the summary.
Some key points to include are:
- A short overview of your company or business and its main purpose or core service.
- The main problem you are trying to solve within your industry or market.
- Your solution to the above main problem and some key points.
- What are the advantages of your solution and the main differences to any current products/services?
- Your current or potential customer base and value.
- Any unique factors your business may have such as technologies, branding, partnerships etc.
What Not To Include?
When trying to understand how to write an executive summary it’s crucial to also know when not to include.
This will also be somewhat dependant on the people who will be reading the summary, however here are a few things you should leave out irrespective of the audience.
- Slang or technical language, the summary should contain simple, easy to follow language.
- Criticism of your competition as this may impact the perception people hold of you and your business.
- Boastful claims such as “best in the market” this kind of stuff should be left to the marketing materials.
- Long paragraphs and sentences, keep things concise.
Writing Your Executive Summary
Below is a breakdown of the main steps you can use as a template for an executive summary in your business.
1. Getting Prepared
How to write an executive summary that will wow you investors, all starts with being prepared.
The best way to think about your summary is like a sales pitch, it needs to be sharp, attention-grabbing, and extremely well thought out.
To achieve an effective summary you must first prepare and identify the content you will be including along with how it should be structured.
A great starting exercise is to ask yourself some questions, which we have included below to ensure you stay on point.
Who will be reading this? Are these people industry experts? s? Understanding your audience is essential, and this can set the tone for the entire summary?
Are they a corporate crowd? Or perhaps they are more casual.
What do you do? If someone asks what your business does and you can not answer in one sentence, you need to rethink this.
Create an elevator pitch, and base your business introduction around it.
What are my businesses key strengths? With a clear understanding of the business strengths in short sentences, think of an answer to the question:
Why would a customer choose you over your competition?
What effect will the problem you solve have in the market? As discussed earlier, your business will need to solve a problem in your marketplace.
The crucial point to get across is what will this solution do for people. An example could be:
“Our service will do …x, and in turn, this will allow our customers to produce 15% more goods with no additional staffing investments.”
2. Format Your Structure
The next step in how to write an executive summary is to lay out the structure of the document. Your summary should follow a clear format that makes sense to the reader and is very easy to follow.
Draft a structure on paper inclusive of headings and references to ensure you stay on track when writing the summary itself. Your summary should include the following sections:
- Table Of Contents
- Business overview
- Summary Body
- Short Conclusion
We will go into detail with each section below.
Important Note: Your spelling and grammar are critical and we recommend using Grammarly to ensure there are no mistakes.
The introduction of your executive summary is one of the most important parts. This section should be concise and grab the readers attention and prepare them for what will come next.
The introduction is your initial sales pitch or hook, the purpose is to increase the interest level of the reader so that they will absorb more of the entire summary.
In your intro try to avoid talking about yourself, instead frame the summary around your business.
- Keep your language simple and clear while avoiding technical jargon that may put off your reader and cause them to be disengaged.
- Avoid long-winded explanations and stay on point, you need to ensure you value your readers time.
- Try to avoid cheesy jokes and cliches, this is something most people will see right through.
- Remember your audience and ensure the context of the introduction is relevant to them.
2. Table Of Contents
The next section in your executive summary will be a table of contents. This will be an indication of what sections are included in the summary for the readers.
Your table should be a simple bullet point or numbered list outlining the main topics in the summary. This will allow your reader to quickly scan and understand exactly what to expect from your summary.
- Your points should correspond to the main headings in your summary.
- If your summary is a digital document, you should hyperlink each point in the table of contents to the matching heading or section.
3. Business Overview
A short overview of your business is the next section to include in your executive summary.
Your business overview should be focused, to the point, and clearly highlight the overall business along with any key points.
Leave out any in-depth details and numbers, the reader can refer to your full business plan if they wish to learn more about the business.
Your business overview or introduction should not be more than a single paragraph.
- Include a short business timeline, inclusive of the pre-operation activities.
- Your overview should include your relevant industry and core operations.
- Outlining your business objective in a concise manner is also a good practice.
4. Executive Summary Body
The body is the most difficult section to tackle when learning how to write an executive summary. This part should focus on the core points of your business keeping in mind the questions touched on earlier.
Your summary body should make up the bulk of your document, and essentially be a reduced version of your business plan.
Below we have outlined an easy to follow guide for this using questions to answer in each section.
The below format can be used in just about any industry, although it may need to be slightly adjusted.
In the summary body also be sure to include any potential roadblocks or issues you may face along with any proposed solutions.
Your elevator pitch: The start of your body can include your elevator pitch, driving home your business key mission and setting the tone for the information that follows.
What is the problem you are solving?: Continuing on from your elevator pitch, a clear problem your business will solve for your chosen market.
It’s important that you outline the problem and the current impact it is having on people.
The impact your solution will have: Now that we know the impact of the problem, you should highlight what positive impact your solution will have on the industry or market.
Key strengths your business has: What key strengths does your business have that will help it solve the above problem? How do they differ from your competition?
Competition: Depending on your business and industry you may need to include a short competitor analysis.
Financials: What is your budget to be able to achieve your business goals? You should include any launch capital and future funding for scaling if required.
Market Research: What market research have you completed to back your claims? Include any product testing and feedback. You should also provide any specifics of market size and potential.
Marketing and branding: What is your marketing strategy? Do you have any specific leverage? It’s also crucial you include any test campaigns you have run pre or post-launch.
Timeline: A brief overview of your projected timeline, along with any milestones or key goals.
Writing a great executive summary should include a sharp conclusion that will tie everything together.
Your conclusion should be professional and recap the summary using the core mission of the business. Ensure your word the mission differently if possible to avoid being too repetitive.
Try to stay away from repeating too much other information in your conclusion, similar to the introduction, it really does not need to be more than a single paragraph.
- Keep your summary professional and always thank your readers.
- Include a reference to your full business plan so that they know they can refer to it if they have more questions.
6. After Your Finished Your Summary
After you have finished writing your executive summary it’s time to revise your document and ensure there are no errors.
The first thing you should do is to check the summary using a tool like Grammarly. This will ensure you have no spelling or grammatical errors.
It would help if someone else read the summary both to themselves and then out loud.
Having another person read the summary will ensure you have stayed on point and used language easy to understand.
Reading your executive summary out loud will allow you to pick put on grammatical errors you may have missed and ensure everything is perfect for your investors.
Now that you know how to write an executive summary it’s time to get to work. We recommend saving this page so you can come back to it when needed.
The steps above can be used as a template for an executive summary and while they may need some small adjusting, they should be relevant regardless of your industry or business size.