How to Develop and Write an Effective Executive Summary

By Frank Goley

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An executive summary summarizes your entire business plan in two or three pages. This is a tall order and can be very difficult to accomplish. You want the summary to be concise and brief, yet complete, encompassing and inclusive. This article will show you how to write an summary that is effective, concise, yet adequately covers your entire plan. This article will also provide an overview on the sections of a plan which are important to include in your executive summary and explain different uses for an executive summary.

Process

First, you must complete your business plan before writing your executive summary. Then pick out the important sections of the plan to put in the summary. Order the sections in a format that makes logical sense and outline the important parts of each section. With the outline in hand, write your first draft executive summary. This first draft will typically be ten to twenty pages long. Take the draft and condense it into five to seven pages in length. We will call this your long version executive summary, which is really a mini-version of your business plan. Working off the long version, you will condense it into the final two to three page summary, hitting on the most important aspects of your business plan. It will take at least three renditions of outlining, writing and condensing to develop an summary. Later in this article I will explain the different uses of the long and short versions of the summary.

Organization

Here is a suggested fourteen section executive summary format to use. Amend it for your particular use.

  • Section One - Company Information
  • Section Two - Business Plan Purpose and Objectives
  • Section Three - Company Goals and Vision
  • Section Four - Company Mission Statement
  • Section Five - Company Description
  • Section Six - Company Purpose
  • Section Seven - Company Situation
  • Section Eight - Founders, Management and Principals' Capabilities
  • Section Nine - Products and Services
  • Section Ten - The Competition
  • Section Eleven - Keys to Success
  • Section Twelve - Finance
  • Section Thirteen - Growth and Expansion Goals
  • Section Fourteen - Return on Equity and Investment

Uses

The executive summary gives the user a quick overview of the important facts contained in your business plan. The long version can be used as a standalone document, i.e. a mini business plan, or to succinctly explain your business and generate interest in your opportunity, products and services. The long version summary can be sent to a investor or venture capital firm, accompanied by a venture and investment overview to generate and gauge initial interest. If the VC firm or investor indicates interest, you can then send your custom tailored, to their investment objections and requirements, funding business plan which contains the shorter version summary. Long and short versions of your summary can be used as a sales document; to approach new suppliers and customers; or to accompany a loan package to a lender; to accompany your marketing plan or strategic plan. It is an initial stand-in for your business plan. The executive summary is not just an overview, but a tool to be used to accomplish your business goals.

Frank Goley works for ABC Business Consulting and is an expert business planner and consultant. He has been helping companies to succeed for over twenty years. Please see his free informative e-book on developing an effective executive summary.

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