When you’re starting a business, a business plan is essential whether you’re going to obtain financing or not. Creating a business plan helpsyou ...
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan
Written by: Carolyn Young
Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
Edited by: David Lepeska
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Updated on September 13, 2023
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan
Launching a business involves countless tasks, but a crucial early hurdle is writing a business plan. Many entrepreneurs who aren’t looking for funding think they can skip this step, but that’s never a good idea.
A sharp business plan is essentially a business owner’s commitment to and preparation for the road ahead, and the executive summary might be the most important part. Investors and lenders usually only read the executive summary, unless it succeeds in grabbing their interest.
Thus, if you’re looking for financing, an excellent executive summary is absolutely essential. But even if you’re not, writing a strong executive summary can help gather your thoughts and lessons learned. Lucky for you, this guide shows you just how to do it.
What is an Executive Summary?
The executive summary opens your business plan, but it’s the section you’ll write last. It summarizes the key points and highlights the most important aspects of your plan.
Again, often investors and lenders will only read the executive summary; if it doesn’t capture their interest they’ll stop reading, so it must be as compelling as possible, even at two pages or less.
What to Include in the Executive Summary
Several key points should be included in the executive summary.
1. The Business Opportunity
What problem are you solving in the market and for whom? Write a few sentences about the opportunity and your target market. This should be at the top of your executive summary after a very brief introduction of your concept and vision.
2. The Business Idea and Model
Provide specific information about your product or service, how it solves a market problem, and how you’ll sell it. Will it be one-time sales or a subscription? Focus on your product or service as a solution, discussing how it solves the problem and why it’s better than other solutions.
3. Company History
What have you done to this point? When you’re just getting started, this may be nothing more than coming up with the idea, choosing a business name, and forming a business entity. Highlight milestones you’ve achieved.
4. Market Summary
Discuss the state of the industry, market size, and projected growth. Include data points with links to sources. Also, touch upon why you chose your target market and the competitive landscape of your market. Don’t go into too much detail, just mention the most intriguing elements.
5. Competitive Advantage
Write a strong statement about how your company is going to stand out in the market – why will customers choose your product over those of competitors? This is extremely important to investors, so take your time on this one after you’ve done your full competitive analysis.
Write a short list of specific goals that you plan to achieve in the short term, such as developing your product, launching a marketing campaign, or hiring a key person.
7. Management team
Provide a summary of your management team, their roles, and the relevant experience that they have to serve in those roles. Don’t be overly self-promotional here; just state the facts in a positive way.
8. Financial Highlights
Provide a summary of your financial plan including revenue and profit projections (best in bullet form) for at least three years and a break-even analysis in a simple chart form. If you’ve already made some sales, include your revenue numbers.
9. The “Ask”
Your “ask”, if applicable, is what you’re requesting from the investor or lender. You’ll include the amount you’d like and how it will be spent, such as “We are seeking $50,000 in seed funding to develop our beta product”.
It’s best not to specify the terms of funding you’re requesting, such as stating an equity offer. That will be a matter of negotiation.
10. Other Compelling Points
If there are any other points from your business plan that illustrate how your business will be unique and successful, be sure to include those as well. The executive summary should be as persuasive as possible.
If you finish your executive summary and it’s more than two pages long, cut it down. Investors and lenders aren’t looking for a long read; they want you to get to the point and to be “wowed” by your vision. That will persuade them to dig into your full plan.
So take all the time you need to write an excellent summary, then have somebody you trust review it to make sure it delivers. The future of your business could depend on it.
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