What Is An Executive Summary?

What is an executive summary for a business plan, and how do you create one? 

An executive summary is a brief, positive synopsis of the business and goes at the beginning of your business plan. An executive summary is normally about one to two pages long, contains two-sentence overviews of each section within the plan, and covers the most important information about the business. 

Ideally, potential investors will be able to quickly grasp the key elements of your business plan from the executive summary alone. They can then read deeper into areas they are particularly interested in.

Finally, the executive summary should be clear, succinct, and engaging while remaining succinct and professional. A dry executive summary will not entice readers to take an interest in your business.

What Goes into an Executive Summary?

The full content of the executive summary will vary depending on if the business is a startup or an established business. However, there are certain elements common to both.

Every executive summary should include:

  • The name and location of the business.
  • Your company's value proposition, explaining what sets your company apart from your competitors.
  • The marketplace need(s) your company meets, with evidence of that need.
  • How your company's products and/or services meet that need.
  • A description of your competition and the advantages your company has over them.
  • A description of your target market and customer.
  • An overview of your company's management team and how each member contributes to its success.
  • A description of the company's current developmental stage.
  • A financial summary, showing projected sales and profits for the next three years in a way that is both honest and convincing.
  • If you are requesting money from a financial institution, state the specific amount you want. For investors, state the percentage stake in the company you're offering for their financial backing.
  • A summary of major milestones so far and your goals for the future.

Startups, or pre-revenue companies, should also include:

  • A brief overview of your sales and marketing strategy.
  • Your implementation plan, describing how you intend to get the business from planning to opening.

For established businesses, be sure to add:

  • Your mission statement, which is a brief description of the purpose and values of the company. This helps to attract the right investors who share your common vision.
  • A short history of the company, including the products and/or services it provides and general statistics (number of employees, locations, etc.).
  • An overview of how the business has grown, both revenue and market share.
  • A financial summary.
  • A business roadmap describing your plans for the company. Investors want to see how you plan to use their money to grow the business.

How To Write A Business Plan Executive Summary

  • Write it after - Write the executive summary after you have completed the entire business plan.
  • Create a compelling case - Start the executive summary with a compelling case for why you have a great business idea. No matter how good the rest of the plan looks, no one is going to be interested in a bad idea.
  • Keep the tone upbeat, but don't oversell. While you don't need to mention ordinary risks, it's OK to note unusual challenges. However, always be sure to highlight the positives.
  • Write in concise language using layman's terms. Anyone without knowledge of your business should be able to understand your executive summary and recognize the opportunity it presents.
  • Present a clear plan for your business. Do not be ambiguous. Multiple options convey indecision and uncertainty which are turn-offs for potential investors.
  • Conclude with positivity. Your executive summary should end with a few sentences that tell the reader why your business will be successful. Keep the language positive and confident, and avoid unsure words like “maybe” and “possibly.”
  • When you've finished, read it back to yourself aloud. Make changes where sentences sound awkward or don't flow well. Then give it to someone who is unfamiliar with your business to read. Note their feedback.

The executive summary is the most important part of your business plan, but it need not be the hardest to write. If you've written the plan, you've already done most of the work.

Do you want a lawyer to review your business plan?

There are plenty of examples of executive summaries online to guide you further.

If you need help reviewing your business plan with a legal counsel business plan, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.