The Executive Summary: Dos and Don’ts

Posted by on August 6, 2010 in Business Start Up Advice [ 0 Comments ]

The executive summary is inarguably the selling point of every business plan.  The one- to two-page synopsis is, in so many words, a glimpse of the forthcoming language, structure, and goals of the business plan.  When writing an entire business plan, executive summaries should always be written last.  Executive summaries can also serve as a proposal or “pitch” for start-ups and existing companies to tout their concept.   Business owners often run into problems attempting to create a streamlined, yet exciting executive summary that thoroughly answers the what, who, why, and how in one to two pages.

As a writer and editor for hundreds of the most complex business plans, I’ve discovered that a) the executive summary must explain in the first paragraph what it is the business is selling; and b) this is possibly the only page in the document the VC or loan officer will actually read other than the financials.  So what are the dos and don’ts of writing executive summaries? Let’s take a closer look.

DO: Do make your executive summary compelling and enticing.  You don’t want the VC or business loan officer to stop reading after the second sentence; figure out a creative way with words to draw in their attention.

DON’T: Do not use a lot of “fluff,” or filler sentences in an executive summary – this will only take away from what is you are trying to pitch.  When VCs read executive summaries they need to know immediately what it is you’re selling or providing, and covering this aspect up with fancy, unnecessary words will deter the value of the business plan.

DO: Do show the market opportunity for your product or service; this will clearly show why your business service or product is needed.

DON’T: Don’t leave out important information like the company’s long term growth plan and marketing strategy.

DO: Do provide investors and/or bank loan officers with specific numbers and uses for funds.

DON’T: Don’t make the executive summary any longer than two pages.  Remember, this is a pitch or an overview of the business, not the entire business plan itself.

DO: Cut to the chase – what are you selling or providing and why is it needed in the marketplace?

These are just a few of some of the critical elements of writing a compelling executive summary.  If closely followed, these “rules” will help improve the quality of your business plan’s executive summary.  Also, always read aloud your executive summary to ensure it flows well and sounds nice to the ear.

You may also want to practice reading the executive summary to your friends and business associates to get earnest feedback.   Have at least 2-3 individuals critique your business plan’s executive summary prior to submitting it to VCs or bank loan officers.  An exceptionally written executive summary that clearly demonstrates the potential for profiting will make your business plan – not break it.

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