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Why your business plan's executive summary is so important (+ how to write one)
If you plan to launch your own small business , then you'll need to write an executive summary as part of your full business plan. In this article, we'll answer all your pressing questions, including: What the heck is an executive summary, anyway? What’s the purpose of an executive summary? And how do I actually create a well-written executive summary?
Executive summaries are arguably one of the most critical sections of a business plan —and they're also one of the trickiest to write. The executive summary is the first part of your complete business plan that someone will read, so it needs to be compelling in order to convince someone to read the whole thing.
But here’s the catch: 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds actively reading content, based on data published in Time Magazine . This means the limited window of time you have to convince someone your business plan is worth their attention depends on a strong executive summary. No pressure or anything.
For that reason, it’s important to know how to draft a concise executive summary that makes an impact and communicates the goals of your small business. But have no fear, just read on to learn how!
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is essentially an outline of your business plan. If your full business plan is a roadmap, your executive summary is your roadmap's roadmap. It gives your readers a heads up about what you'll talk about in the rest of your business plan. For all intents and purposes, your business's executive summary is your elevator pitch.
The purpose of an executive summary
If there's one section of your business plan everyone is going to read, it's the executive summary. Your business plan's executive summary exists to give readers an overview of the entire document. It should outline what they can expect to learn and motivate them to keep reading on.
“Investors will read the executive summary to decide if they will even bother reading the rest of the business plan. It’s rare for an investor or lender to read an entire business plan, at least in the initial stages of analysis and consideration for funding,” says Eric Markowitz , Inc.com Staff Writer.
Keep your goals and purpose in mind when writing your executive summary.
If your business is a startup, the purpose of your business plan (and executive summary) will likely be to get banks or investors to provide you with financing. So, when writing your executive summary, highlight the financial requirements of your business and why your business is worthy of funding.
If you're a more established business owner, then your executive summary will talk more about your achievements, evolution, and goals for the future.
How to write an executive summary for a business plan
Your business's executive summary should be as short as possible, ideally only one or two pages long.
Remember that you're vouching for yourself and your business in your executive summary, so make sure your language is confident and positive!
Bad example : We might not be the best or the most established protein powder brand, but we probably have the most passion and love out of all our competitors.
Good example: With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.
It's best practice to avoid talking about more fluffy, subjective points and cliches (like passion, hard work, etc.) so you can focus more on the practical information and facts your readers want to know about (like why they should actually invest or partner with your business). You also want to seem confident in yourself and your business, so avoid words like "might," "maybe," or "could" and opt for more definitive words, like "will"!
Remember that your executive summary should fill in the blanks for your readers. Keep your target audience in mind and try to answer their questions, rather than create new ones, or they may get confused and stop reading. Give them a reason not to go back to checking their current value of Bitcoin.
"Put yourself in the business plan reader's shoes and think about what you would like to know in the report," Marius Thauland, business strategist at Leiekontor, told Business News Daily . "Get their attention by making it simple and brief yet still professional. It should also attract them to read the entire document to understand even the minute details."
There's no specific way to order the different sections of your executive summary, but you'll want to put the most important information or your strongest points first . The first sentence and paragraph of your executive summary is especially important, since these are what will reel your readers in.
We'll give you an idea of how to do this below.
What to include in the executive summary of your business plan
Despite being the first page of your business plan, it’s a good idea to write your executive summary section last. This trick allows you to get a clear picture of what specific material from the full business plan you need to introduce in the executive summary. So if you haven't written the rest of your business plan yet, stop, maybe check out our articles on writing a business plan (wink wink nudge nudge), and come back here once you're done.
Since the goal of a business plan is to persuade the reader to invest in your business, your executive summary needs to demonstrate why this investment would be a smart financial decision. The kicker is: you need to do all of this in 1-2 pages.
To get started, The Balance Small Business suggests including the following eight sections. Choose the topics most relevant to your business and write one or two sentences about each of them. And remember to order them from most important to least important!
1. Business opportunity
What demand or need is there for your business and how will you meet this demand? Talk about a problem or a gap in the market, and why your business alone has all the answers.
2. Target market
What demographic do you intend to reach as your customer base? Who's going to be buying your product?
3. Business model
Use this part to give more juicy details about your business idea. What products or services will your business offer, and what makes them desirable?
4. Marketing/Sales strategy
What will your methods be to create brand recognition for these products or services? You might want to consider marketing techniques like social media, paid media, or email marketing.
Give your readers the low-down of your industry. What businesses will you compete with for market share, and what does your business offer that your competitors do not? How big and competitive is your industry? How will you stand out against other small businesses? Are there any industry trends you should bring up?
6. Financial analysis
Investors and banks will be especially interested in this part. What is your plan to manage your business finances, and what is your projected revenue for the first three years of your business? You should go into detail about how you will distribute your funding and spell out what your investors will get out of it.
In this section, you can give a brief overview of your business's history. Who are the owners and lead staff members of your business and what important skills or credentials do they bring?
8. Implementation plan
What is your framework and timeline to move from a concept to launching an actual business?
Effective executive summary examples
Sitting down to start writing an executive summary and putting all the pieces together can be challenging .
To think about it differently, you might consider grouping the above details into a few specific categories:
What are the core values and central purpose of your business?
What products or services do you offer, how long has your business been in operation, who are the owners and lead staff members, and how many business locations do you manage?
What is the current and projected state of your finances and do you need an investor to help you expand?
What objectives or projects will this financial investment be used for?
Keep in mind that, as you write your own executive summary, you should consider the industry and market that you are entering, the customers you’ll be interacting with, and the things your business will need to succeed (financial backing, upfront costs, additional workforce, etc). Here’s an example of a good executive summary template to guide you as you embark on writing your own executive summary.
Executive summary/business plan example: Vegan Protein Blitz
Company: Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-free protein powder
Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder offers 25 grams of protein per serving without any use of animal protein—similar to, and in many cases, more than, the average amount of protein in similar products. We intend to appeal to those within the fitness community who are looking for a great-tasting protein powder without compromising on the amount of protein per serving. With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.
The Company and Management
Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder was founded in 2018 by Sarah Bailey, a certified personal trainer and former food scientist, who couldn’t find a vegan protein powder that tasted good and provided the amount she needed to fuel her fitness routine. Her kitchen is based in San Diego, California, where she employs two full-time employees and three part-time employees.
Along with Sarah Bailey, Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder has a board of advisors. The advisors are:
- Laura Henry, partner at Food Inc.
- Kristin Smith, CEO of Just Nuts Vegan Health Bars
We offer animal-free protein powder that is made with all-natural sugar sources and no preservatives. Our customers are health-conscious and serious about fueling their bodies with animal-free whole foods. We plan to grow quickly, with an initial goal of building a full-time marketing team of fitness advocates and professionals who understand the industry and our customers’ needs.
Our Competitive Advantages
While there are other vegan protein powders on the national market, there are none that are made with all-natural sugar and with a comparable amount of protein as that of an animal-based powder. With the expertise of our founder Sarah Bailey, we also stand out as a company that truly understands the audience. Please see our market research (Section 3) for more information on why consumers are demanding this expertise.
Our sales projections for the first year are $600,000 with a 10% growth rate over the next two years. By year three, we project 55% gross margins and will have ten full-time employees. The salary for each employee will be $60,000 USD.
Startup Financing Requirements
We are seeking to raise $250,000 in startup funds to finance the first year. The owner has invested $40,000 to meet working capital requirements, and will use a loan of $80,000 to supplement the rest.
More executive summary templates
Need more business plan examples, or ready to create your own executive summary with a template? Here are a few we found around the web:
- US Small Business Association
Final tips for writing an executive summary
Earning investor interest in your business is critical to getting access to the things your business will need to succeed, and a solid executive summary can help you do that. Writing your full business plan first can help you get clarity on the strongest key points of your business proposal, which you can use to build out your executive summary.
Most importantly, keep this section of your business plan straightforward and concise, making it easy for the reader to understand what you’re doing and why it matters.
Brush up on your writing skills
You're an entrepreneur, and you probably didn't start your business to write business plans . Free online editing tools and resources like Hemingway and Grammarly can help you punch up and polish your writing. Just copy and paste your executive summary into the software, and it will let you know where your writing needs to be more clear.
Get to the point
Remember what we said about keeping it short? We mean it. Even if there's a really clever sentence that you're super proud of, it's gotta go if it doesn't contribute to your summary. You don't want to give too much detail (that's what the rest of your business plan is for!) or repeat yourself.
Always proofread your work a couple of times before calling it a day! Reading your executive summary out loud can help you identify awkward phrasing and catch any typos you might have missed. Another idea is to copy and paste it into a text-to-speech program to hear what it sounds like out loud. It also helps to print out your executive summary and edit the physical document, which helps you see it from a fresh perspective.
If you have a kind friend, family member, or fellow business owner, you should ask them to take a look at your executive summary/business plan and give their constructive criticism. If they understand your goals and plan and seem excited about your idea, that's a good sign! If they give your business plan back to you with a bunch of red marks and a confused look on their faces, that's probably a sign for you to make sure your executive summary flows more logically.
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The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.
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How to Write an Executive Summary (Example & Template Included)
Here’s the good news: an executive summary is short. It’s part of a larger document like a business plan, business case or project proposal and, as the name implies, summarizes the longer report.
Here’s the bad news: it’s a critical document that can be challenging to write because an executive summary serves several important purposes. On one hand, executive summaries are used to outline each section of your business plan, an investment proposal or project proposal. On the other hand, they’re used to introduce your business or project to investors and other stakeholders, so they must be persuasive to spark their interest.
Writing an Executive Summary
The pressure of writing an executive summary comes from the fact that everyone will pay attention to it, as it sits at the top of that heap of documents. It explains all that follows and can make or break your business plan or project plan . The executive summary must know the needs of the potential clients or investors and zero in on them like a laser. Fortunately, we’ll show you how to write and format your executive summary to do just that.
Getting everything organized for your executive summary can be challenging. ProjectManager can help you get your thoughts in order and collaborate with your team. Our powerful task management tools make it easy to get everything prioritized and done on time. Try it free today.
What Is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a short section of a larger document like a business plan , investment proposal or project proposal. It’s mostly used to give investors and stakeholders a quick overview of important information about a business plan like the company description, market analysis and financial information.
It contains a short statement that addresses the problem or proposal detailed in the attached documents and features background information, a concise analysis and a conclusion. An executive summary is designed to help executives and investors decide whether to go forth with the proposal, making it critically important. Pitch decks are often used along with executive summaries to talk about the benefits and main selling points of a business plan or project.
Unlike an abstract, which is a short overview, an executive summary format is a condensed form of the documents contained in the proposal. Abstracts are more commonly used in academic and research-oriented writing and act as a teaser for the reader to see if they want to read on.
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Executive Summary Template
Use this free Executive Summary Template for Word to manage your projects better.
How to Write an Executive Summary
Executive summaries vary depending on the document they’re attached to. You can write an executive summary for a business plan, project proposal, research document, or business case, among other documents and reports.
However, when writing an executive summary, there are guidelines to ensure you hit all the bases.
Executive Summary Length
According to the many books that have been written about executive summaries, as well as training courses, seminars and professional speakers, the agreed-upon length for an executive summary format should be about five to 10 percent of the length of the whole report.
The language used should be appropriate for the target audience. One of the most important things to know before you write professionally is to understand who you’re addressing. If you’re writing for a group of engineers, the language you’ll use will differ greatly from how you would write to a group of financiers.
That includes more than just the words, but the content and depth of explanation. Remember, it’s a summary, and people will be reading it to quickly and easily pull out the main points.
You also want to capture a reader’s attention immediately in the opening paragraph. Just like a speech often opens with a joke to break the tension and put people at ease, a strong introductory paragraph can pull a reader in and make them want to read on. That doesn’t mean you start with a joke. Stick to your strengths, but remember, most readers only give you a few sentences to win them over before they move on.
Don’t forget to explain who you are as an organization and why you have the skills, personnel and experience to solve the problem raised in the proposal. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy biography, often just your name, address and contact information will do, though you’ll also want to highlight your strengths as they pertain to the business plan or project proposal .
The executive summary shouldn’t stray from the material that follows it. It’s a summary, not a place to bring up new ideas. To do so would be confusing and would jeopardize your whole proposal.
Establish the need or the problem, and convince the target audience that it must be solved. Once that’s set up, it’s important to recommend the solution and show what the value is. Be clear and firm in your recommendation.
Justify your cause. Be sure to note the key reasons why your organization is the perfect fit for the solution you’re proposing. This is the point where you differentiate yourself from competitors, be that due to methodology, testimonials from satisfied clients or whatever else you offer that’s unique. But don’t make this too much about you. Be sure to keep the name of the potential client at the forefront.
Don’t neglect a strong conclusion, where you can wrap things up and once more highlight the main points.
Related: 10 Essential Excel Report Templates
What to Include in an Executive Summary
The content of your executive summary must reflect what’s in the larger document which it is part of. You’ll find many executive summary examples on the web, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus on business plans and project proposals.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan
As we’ve learned above, your executive summary must extract the main points of all the sections of your business plan. A business plan is a document that describes all the aspects of a business, such as its business model, products or services, objectives and marketing plan , among other things. They’re commonly used by startups to pitch their ideas to investors.
Here are the most commonly used business plan sections:
- Company description: Provide a brief background of your company, such as when it was established, its mission, vision and core values.
- Products & services: Describe the products or services your company will provide to its customers.
- Organization and management: Explain the legal structure of your business and the members of the top management team.
- SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis explains the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business. They describe the internal and external factors that impact your business competitiveness.
- Industry & market analysis: This section should provide an overview of the industry and market in which your business will compete.
- Operations: Explain the main aspects of your business operations and what sets it apart from competitors.
- Marketing plan: Your marketing plan describes the various strategies that your business will use to reach its customers and sell products or services.
- Financial planning: Here, you should provide an overview of the financial state of your business. Include income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.
- Funding request: If you’re creating your business plan to request funding, make sure to explain what type of funding you need, the timeframe for your funding request and an explanation of how the funds will be used.
We’ve created an executive summary example to help you better understand how this document works when using it, to sum up a business plan.
To put all of that information together, here’s the basic format of an executive summary. You can find this same information in our free executive summary template :
- Introduction, be sure to know your audience
- Table of contents in the form of a bulleted list
- Explain the company’s role and identify strengths
- Explain the need, or the problem, and its importance
- Recommend a solution and explain its value
- Justify said solution by explaining how it fits the organization
- A strong conclusion that once more wraps up the importance of the project
You can use it as an executive summary example and add or remove some of its elements to adjust it to your needs. Our sample executive summary has the main elements that you’ll need project executive summary.
Executive Summary Example
For this executive summary example, we’ll imagine a company named ABC Clothing, a small business that manufactures eco-friendly clothing products and it’s preparing a business plan to secure funding from new investors.
Company Description We are ABC Clothing, an environmentally-friendly manufacturer of apparel. We’ve developed a unique method of production and sourcing of materials that allows us to create eco-friendly products at a low cost . We have intellectual property for our production processes and materials, which gives us an advantage in the market.
- Mission: Our mission is to use recycled materials and sustainable methods of production to create clothing products that are great for our customers and our planet.
- Vision: Becoming a leader in the apparel industry while generating a positive impact on the environment.
Products & Services We offer high-quality clothing products for men, women and all genders. (Here you should include pictures of your product portfolio to spark the interest of your readers)
Industry & Market Analysis Even though the fashion industry’s year-over-year growth has been affected by pandemics in recent years, the global apparel market is expected to continue growing at a steady pace. In addition, the market share of sustainable apparel has grown year-over-year at a higher pace than the overall fashion industry.
Marketing Plan Our marketing plan relies on the use of digital marketing strategies and online sales, which gives us a competitive advantage over traditional retailers that focus their marketing efforts on brick-and-mortar stores.
Operations Our production plant is able to recycle different types of plastic and cotton waste to turn it into materials that we use to manufacture our products . We’ve partnered with a transportation company that sorts and distributes our products inside the United States efficiently and cost-effectively.
Financial Planning Our business is profitable, as documented in our balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. The company doesn’t have any significant debt that might compromise its continuity. These and other financial factors make it a healthy investment.
Funding Request We’re requesting funding for the expansion of our production capacity, which will allow us to increase our production output in order to meet our increasing customer demand, enter new markets, reduce our costs and improve our competitiveness.
If you’d like to see more executive summary examples for your business plan, you can visit the U.S. small business administration website. They have business plans with executive summary examples you can download and use.
Executive summaries are also a great way to outline the elements of a project plan for a project proposal. Let’s learn what those elements are.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Project Proposal
An executive summary for your project proposal will capture the most important information from your project management plan. Here’s the structure of our executive summary template:
- Introduction: What’s the purpose of your project?
- Company description: Show why you’re the right team to take on the project.
- Need/problem: What is the problem that it’s solving?
- Unique solution: What is your value proposition and what are the main selling points of your project?
- Proof: Evidence, research and feasibility studies that support how your company can solve the issue.
- Resources: Outline the resources needed for the project
- Return on investment/funding request: Explain the profitability of your project and what’s in for the investors.
- Competition/market analysis: What’s your target market? Who are your competitors? How does your company differentiate from them?
- Marketing plan: Create a marketing plan that describes your company’s marketing strategies, sales and partnership plans.
- Budget/financial planning: What’s the budget that you need for your project plan?
- Timeline: What’s the estimated timeline to complete the project?
- Team: Who are the project team members and why are they qualified?
- Conclusions: What are the project takeaways?
Now that we’ve learned that executive summaries can vary depending on the type of document you’re working on, you’re ready for the next step.
What to Do After Writing an Executive Summary
As with anything you write, you should always start with a draft. The first draft should hit all the marks addressed above but don’t bog yourself down in making the prose perfect. Think of the first draft as an exploratory mission. You’re gathering all the pertinent information.
Next, you want to thoroughly review the document to ensure that nothing important has been left out or missed. Make sure the focus is sharp and clear, and that it speaks directly to your potential client’s needs.
Proofread for Style & Grammar
But don’t neglect the writing. Be sure that you’re not repeating words, falling into cliché or other hallmarks of bad writing. You don’t want to bore the reader to the point that they miss the reason why you’re the organization that can help them succeed.
You’ve checked the content and the prose, but don’t forget the style. You want to write in a way that’s natural and not overly formal, but one that speaks in the manner of your target audience . If they’re a conservative firm, well then, maybe formality is called for. But more and more modern companies have a casual corporate culture, and formal writing could mistakenly cause them to think of you as old and outdated.
The last run should be proofing the copy. That means double-checking to ensure that spelling is correct, and there are no typos or grammatical mistakes. Whoever wrote the executive summary isn’t the best person to edit it, however. They can easily gloss over errors because of their familiarity with the work. Find someone who excels at copy-editing. If you deliver sloppy content, it shows a lack of professionalism that’ll surely color how a reader thinks of your company.
Criticism of Executive Summaries
While we’re advocating for the proper use of an executive summary, it’d be neglectful to avoid mentioning some critiques. The most common is that an executive summary by design is too simple to capture the complexity of a large and complicated project.
It’s true that many executives might only read the summary, and in so doing, miss the nuance of the proposal. That’s a risk. But if the executive summary follows the guidelines stated above, it should give a full picture of the proposal and create interest for the reader to delve deeper into the documents to get the details.
Remember, executive summaries can be written poorly or well. They can fail to focus on results or the solution to the proposal’s problem or do so in a vague, general way that has no impact on the reader. You can do a hundred things wrong, but if you follow the rules, then the onus falls on the reader.
ProjectManager Turns an Executive Summary Into a Project
Your executive summary got the project approved. Now the real work begins. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you organize tasks, projects and teams. We have everything you need to manage each phase of your project, so you can complete your work on time and under budget.
Work How You Want
Because project managers and teams work differently, our software is flexible. We have multiple project views, such as the kanban board, which visualizes workflow. Managers like the transparency it provides in the production cycle, while teams get to focus only on those tasks they have the capacity to complete. Are you more comfortable with tasks lists or Gantt charts? We have those, too.
Live Tracking for Better Management
To ensure your project meets time and cost expectations, we have features that monitor and track progress so you can control any deviations that might occur. Our software is cloud-based, so the data you see on our dashboard is always up to date, helping you make better decisions. Make that executive summary a reality with ProjectManager.
You’ve now researched and written a persuasive executive summary to lead your proposal. You’ve put in the work and the potential client sees that and contracts you for the project. However, if you don’t have a reliable set of project management tools like Gantt charts , kanban boards and project calendars at hand to plan, monitor and report on the work, then all that preparation will be for nothing.
ProjectManager is online project management software that gives you real-time data and a collaborative platform to work efficiently and productively. But don’t take our word for it, take a free 30-day trial.
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- How to write an executive summary, with ...
How to write an executive summary, with examples
The best way to do that is with an executive summary. If you’ve never written an executive summary, this article has all you need to know to plan, write, and share them with your team.
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is an overview of a document. The length and scope of your executive summary will differ depending on the document it’s summarizing, but in general an executive summary can be anywhere from one to two pages long. In the document, you’ll want to share all of the information your readers and important stakeholders need to know.
Imagine it this way: if your high-level stakeholders were to only read your executive summary, would they have all of the information they need to succeed? If so, your summary has done its job.
You’ll often find executive summaries of:
In general, there are four parts to any executive summary:
Start with the problem or need the document is solving.
Outline the recommended solution.
Explain the solution’s value.
Wrap up with a conclusion about the importance of the work.
What is an executive summary in project management?
In project management, an executive summary is a way to bring clarity to cross-functional collaborators, team leadership, and project stakeholders . Think of it like a project’s “ elevator pitch ” for team members who don’t have the time or the need to dive into all of the project’s details.
The main difference between an executive summary in project management and a more traditional executive summary in a business plan is that the former should be created at the beginning of your project—whereas the latter should be created after you’ve written your business plan. For example, to write an executive summary of an environmental study, you would compile a report on the results and findings once your study was over. But for an executive summary in project management, you want to cover what the project is aiming to achieve and why those goals matter.
The same four parts apply to an executive summary in project management:
Start with the problem or need the project is solving. Why is this project happening? What insight, customer feedback, product plan, or other need caused it to come to life?
Outline the recommended solution, or the project’s objectives. How is the project going to solve the problem you established in the first part? What are the project goals and objectives?
Explain the solution’s value. Once you’ve finished your project, what will happen? How will this improve and solve the problem you established in the first part?
Wrap up with a conclusion about the importance of the work. This is another opportunity to reiterate why the problem is important, and why the project matters. It can also be helpful to reference your audience and how your solution will solve their problem. Finally, include any relevant next steps.
If you’ve never written an executive summary before, you might be curious about where it fits into other project management elements. Here’s how executive summaries stack up:
Executive summary vs. project plan
A project plan is a blueprint of the key elements your project will accomplish in order to hit your project goals and objectives. Project plans will include your goals, success metrics, stakeholders and roles, budget, milestones and deliverables, timeline and schedule, and communication plan .
An executive summary is a summary of the most important information in your project plan. Think of the absolutely crucial things your management team needs to know when they land in your project, before they even have a chance to look at the project plan—that’s your executive summary.
Executive summary vs. project overview
Project overviews and executive summaries often have similar elements—they both contain a summary of important project information. However, your project overview should be directly attached to your project. There should be a direct line of sight between your project and your project overview.
While you can include your executive summary in your project depending on what type of project management tool you use, it may also be a stand-alone document.
Executive summary vs. project objectives
Your executive summary should contain and expand upon your project objectives in the second part ( Outline the recommended solution, or the project’s objectives ). In addition to including your project objectives, your executive summary should also include why achieving your project objectives will add value, as well as provide details about how you’re going to get there.
The benefits of an executive summary
You may be asking: why should I write an executive summary for my project? Isn’t the project plan enough?
Well, like we mentioned earlier, not everyone has the time or need to dive into your project and see, from a glance, what the goals are and why they matter. Work management tools like Asana help you capture a lot of crucial information about a project, so you and your team have clarity on who’s doing what by when. Your executive summary is designed less for team members who are actively working on the project and more for stakeholders outside of the project who want quick insight and answers about why your project matters.
An effective executive summary gives stakeholders a big-picture view of the entire project and its important points—without requiring them to dive into all the details. Then, if they want more information, they can access the project plan or navigate through tasks in your work management tool.
How to write a great executive summary, with examples
Every executive summary has four parts. In order to write a great executive summary, follow this template. Then once you’ve written your executive summary, read it again to make sure it includes all of the key information your stakeholders need to know.
1. Start with the problem or need the project is solving
At the beginning of your executive summary, start by explaining why this document (and the project it represents) matter. Take some time to outline what the problem is, including any research or customer feedback you’ve gotten . Clarify how this problem is important and relevant to your customers, and why solving it matters.
For example, let’s imagine you work for a watch manufacturing company. Your project is to devise a simpler, cheaper watch that still appeals to luxury buyers while also targeting a new bracket of customers.
Example executive summary:
In recent customer feedback sessions, 52% of customers have expressed a need for a simpler and cheaper version of our product. In surveys of customers who have chosen competitor watches, price is mentioned 87% of the time. To best serve our existing customers, and to branch into new markets, we need to develop a series of watches that we can sell at an appropriate price point for this market.
2. Outline the recommended solution, or the project’s objectives
Now that you’ve outlined the problem, explain what your solution is. Unlike an abstract or outline, you should be prescriptive in your solution—that is to say, you should work to convince your readers that your solution is the right one. This is less of a brainstorming section and more of a place to support your recommended solution.
Because you’re creating your executive summary at the beginning of your project, it’s ok if you don’t have all of your deliverables and milestones mapped out. But this is your chance to describe, in broad strokes, what will happen during the project. If you need help formulating a high-level overview of your project’s main deliverables and timeline, consider creating a project roadmap before diving into your executive summary.
Continuing our example executive summary:
Our new watch series will begin at 20% cheaper than our current cheapest option, with the potential for 40%+ cheaper options depending on material and movement. In order to offer these prices, we will do the following:
Offer watches in new materials, including potentially silicone or wood
Use high-quality quartz movement instead of in-house automatic movement
Introduce customizable band options, with a focus on choice and flexibility over traditional luxury
Note that every watch will still be rigorously quality controlled in order to maintain the same world-class speed and precision of our current offerings.
3. Explain the solution’s value
At this point, you begin to get into more details about how your solution will impact and improve upon the problem you outlined in the beginning. What, if any, results do you expect? This is the section to include any relevant financial information, project risks, or potential benefits. You should also relate this project back to your company goals or OKRs . How does this work map to your company objectives?
With new offerings that are between 20% and 40% cheaper than our current cheapest option, we expect to be able to break into the casual watch market, while still supporting our luxury brand. That will help us hit FY22’s Objective 3: Expanding the brand. These new offerings have the potential to bring in upwards of three million dollars in profits annually, which will help us hit FY22’s Objective 1: 7 million dollars in annual profit.
Early customer feedback sessions indicate that cheaper options will not impact the value or prestige of the luxury brand, though this is a risk that should be factored in during design. In order to mitigate that risk, the product marketing team will begin working on their go-to-market strategy six months before the launch.
4. Wrap up with a conclusion about the importance of the work
Now that you’ve shared all of this important information with executive stakeholders, this final section is your chance to guide their understanding of the impact and importance of this work on the organization. What, if anything, should they take away from your executive summary?
To round out our example executive summary:
Cheaper and varied offerings not only allow us to break into a new market—it will also expand our brand in a positive way. With the attention from these new offerings, plus the anticipated demand for cheaper watches, we expect to increase market share by 2% annually. For more information, read our go-to-market strategy and customer feedback documentation .
Example of an executive summary
When you put it all together, this is what your executive summary might look like:
Common mistakes people make when writing executive summaries
You’re not going to become an executive summary-writing pro overnight, and that’s ok. As you get started, use the four-part template provided in this article as a guide. Then, as you continue to hone your executive summary writing skills, here are a few common pitfalls to avoid:
Avoid using jargon
Your executive summary is a document that anyone, from project contributors to executive stakeholders, should be able to read and understand. Remember that you’re much closer to the daily work and individual tasks than your stakeholders will be, so read your executive summary once over to make sure there’s no unnecessary jargon. Where you can, explain the jargon, or skip it all together.
Remember: this isn’t a full report
Your executive summary is just that—a summary. If you find yourself getting into the details of specific tasks, due dates, and attachments, try taking a step back and asking yourself if that information really belongs in your executive summary. Some details are important—you want your summary to be actionable and engaging. But keep in mind that the wealth of information in your project will be captured in your work management tool , not your executive summary.
Make sure the summary can stand alone
You know this project inside and out, but your stakeholders won’t. Once you’ve written your executive summary, take a second look to make sure the summary can stand on its own. Is there any context your stakeholders need in order to understand the summary? If so, weave it into your executive summary, or consider linking out to it as additional information.
Your executive summary is a living document, and if you miss a typo you can always go back in and fix it. But it never hurts to proofread or send to a colleague for a fresh set of eyes.
In summary: an executive summary is a must-have
Executive summaries are a great way to get everyone up to date and on the same page about your project. If you have a lot of project stakeholders who need quick insight into what the project is solving and why it matters, an executive summary is the perfect way to give them the information they need.
For more tips about how to connect high-level strategy and plans to daily execution, read our article about strategic planning .
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What is an executive summary?
Why write an executive summary, how long should it be, executive summary outline, what to include in your executive summary, tips for writing an effective executive summary, additional resources to write a great executive summary.
How to Write an Executive Summary
An executive summary isn’t just the beginning of your business plan – it’s your opening act, your first chance to impress potential investors, banks, clients and other stakeholders. An effective executive summary gives decision-makers critical information about your business instantly.
Creating an executive summary is more than just a writing exercise. It requires careful crafting and strategic thinking, as well as an ability to balance the needs to be both succinct and comprehensive.
The executive summary is a brief introduction and summary of your business plan. It introduces your business, the problem you solve, and what you’re asking from your readers. Anyone should be able to understand your business by simply reading this section of your plan.
While structurally it is the first chapter of your plan—you should write it last. Once you know the details of your business inside and out, you will be better prepared to write this section.
The business plan executive summary provides quick access to critical information from your more detailed business plan.
It is essential for informing anyone outside of your business. Many people—including investors and bankers—will only read your summary. Others will use it to decide if they should read the rest. For you, it is a snapshot of your business to reference when planning or revising your strategy.
Now if you’re writing a business plan solely for internal use you may not need an executive summary. However, some internal plans may necessitate writing an executive summary for assignment—such as for an annual operations plan or a strategic plan .
It takes some effort to do a good summary, so if you don’t have a business use in mind, don’t do it.
Business plan executive summaries should be as short as possible. Your audience has limited time and attention and they want to quickly get the details of your business plan.
Try to keep your executive summary under two pages if possible, although it can be longer if absolutely necessary. If you have a one-page business plan, you can even use that as your executive summary.
Two pages isn’t a ton of space to capture the full scope of your vision for the business. That means every sentence of your executive summary counts.
You will want to immediately capture the reader’s attention with a compelling introduction. Without getting too lengthy, present who you are as an organization, the problem you are seeking to solve, your skills, and why you are the best entity to solve the problem you’ve outlined.
It’s crucial to establish the need or problem your business is solving in a clear manner, in order to convince your audience that it must be addressed. Following that, recommend the solution and show its value. Be clear and firm in your recommendation, making sure to justify your cause and highlighting key reasons why your organization is the perfect fit for the solution you’re proposing. Finally, a strong conclusion is needed to reiterate the main points and wrap up the executive summary.
1. Business overview
A one-sentence description that explains what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.
Summarize the problem you’re solving in the market and reference any data that solidifies that there is a need.
Describe your product or service and how it addresses the problem you identified.
4. Target market
Who is your ideal customer? Describe who they are, how they’ll benefit, and why they’re an attainable customer base.
Who are your competitors? List out any primary competition as well as alternatives that your customers may consider. Include key details about their current offerings, promotions, and business strategy.
6. Your team
In your executive summary, outline your organizational structure and current team. List out brief explanations of who you and your team are, your qualifications, and what your function will be within the business. It may be valuable to also highlight any gaps in your team and how you intend to fill them. If you have potential partners or candidates in mind, briefly mention them and expand on their qualifications within your full business plan.
7. Financial summary
Highlight key aspects of your financial plan that address sales, expenses, and profitability. Try to keep these in chart or graph form to ensure the information is easy to consume and resonates visually.
8. Funding requirements
This section is only necessary if you’re seeking out funding or pitching to investors. Be sure to throw out your financing number and reasoning upfront, rather than hiding it later on in your plan. It helps investors understand your position, what you’re asking for, and how you’ll use it.
9. Milestones and traction
Add initial sales, pre-sales, newsletter sign-ups, or anything else that showcases customer interest. Outline what steps you’ve already taken to launch your business, the milestones you’ve hit, and your goals and milestones for the next month, six months, year, etc.
Executive summary vs introduction
A common mistake some people make when starting an executive summary outline is thinking it performs the same function as the introduction to their business plan. In fact, the two serve different purposes and contain different types of information, even though they are both essential.
As we’ve discussed, the executive summary is a high-level overview of the entire business plan. The introduction, by contrast, dives deeper into your business, providing information about the nature of your business, the history of your company, your mission statement, products or services, and the specific problem that your business solves.
The introduction is more detailed, and usually comes right after the executive summary.
On the other hand, the introduction gives investors or lenders – anyone reading your business plan – a sense of why they should continue reading. Think of it more as the space to tell stakeholders why you are speaking to them. An executive summary can also serve this purpose, but the introduction is meant to speak more directly to your target audience, while an executive summary could give a larger audience a general overview of your business.
Here are a few best practices to make writing your executive summary easier, and ultimately more effective.
1. Think of an executive summary as your pitch
The executive summary is like an elevator pitch. You’re selling someone on reading your full plan while quickly summarizing the key points. Readers will expect it to cover certain areas of your business—such as the product, market, and financial highlights, at the very least.
While you need to include what’s necessary, you should also highlight areas that you believe will spark the reader’s interest. Remember, you’re telling the brief but convincing story of your business with this summary. Just be sure that you’re able to back it up with the right details with the rest of your business plan.
2. Write it last
Even though the executive summary is at the beginning of a finished business plan, many experienced entrepreneurs choose to write it after everything else. In theory, this makes it easier to write since all of the information is already written out and just needs to be condensed into a shorter format.
Now, if you’ve started with a one-page plan, this process is even easier. Just use your one-page plan as a starting point and add additional details to any sections that need it. You may even find that no changes are necessary.
3. Keep it short
Ideally, the executive summary is short—usually just a page or two, five at the outside—and highlights the points you’ve made elsewhere in your business plan. Whatever length you land on, just focus on being brief and concise. Keep it as short as you can without missing the essentials.
4. Keep it simple
Form follows function, so don’t overcomplicate or over-explain things. The best executive summaries are a mixture of short text, broken up with bullets and subheadings, and illustrations, such as a bar chart showing financial highlights.
Run through a legibility test after writing your summary. Is it easy to skim through? Are the right pieces of information jumping out? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then work back through and try breaking up information or adjusting the formatting.
5. Create an executive summary outline based on importance and strengths
Organize your executive summary outline so that the most important information appears first. While there are specific components to include, there is no set order of appearance. So, use the order to show emphasis.
Lead with what you want to get the most attention, and add the rest by order of importance. For example, you may start with the problem because that can add drama and urgency that tees up the solution you provide.
Need more information and guidance to craft a convincing executive summary? Check out these in-depth resources and templates.
Key mistakes to avoid when writing an executive summary
Here are the critical mistakes you should avoid when writing your executive summary.
How to write your executive summary for specific audiences
The executive summary should tell your audience exactly what your business is, what it does, and why it’s worth their time. Here’s how you can take it a step further and fine-tune it for specific people.
How to develop a mission statement
Learn to put a heart behind the business and create an easy-to-understand narrative by writing a mission statement.
Executive Summary FAQ
What is in an executive summary?
What is the purpose of an executive summary?
How do you start an executive summary?
How do you write a good executive summary?
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5 Steps for Writing an Executive Summary
Table of contents.
Anyone starting a new business must create a business plan that clearly outlines the organization’s details and goals. The executive summary is a crucial element of that business plan.
We’ll explore five steps to writing your business plan’s executive summary, including what to include and avoid. We’ll also point you toward executive summary templates to help you get started.
What is an executive summary?
New entrepreneurs or business owners typically use a business plan to present their great business idea to potential stakeholders like angel investors . The purpose of the business plan is to attract financing from investors or convince banking executives to get a bank loan for their business . An executive summary is a business plan overview that succinctly highlights its most essential elements.
It’s not just a general outline; the executive summary might be the only part of your business plan that busy executives and potential investors read.
“The executive summary of a business plan is designed to capture the reader’s attention and briefly explain your business, the problem you are solving, the target audience, and key financial information,” Ross Kimbarovsky, CEO and founder of Crowdspring, told Business News Daily. “If the executive summary lacks specific information or does not capture the attention of the reader, the rest of the plan might not be read.”
While your executive summary should be engaging and comprehensive, it must also be quick and easy to read. These documents average one to four pages – ideally, under two pages – and should comprise less than 10% of your entire business plan.
Along with an executive summary, a business plan will include your business’s legal structure , the products and services you sell, and a financial plan with sales forecasts .
How do you write an executive summary?
Your executive summary will be unique to your organization and business plan. However, most entrepreneurs and business owners take the following five steps when creating their executive summary.
- Write your business plan first. The executive summary will briefly cover the most essential topics your business plan covers. For this reason, you should write the entire business plan first, and then create your executive summary. The executive summary should only cover facts and details included in the business plan.
- Write an engaging introduction. What constitutes “engaging” depends on your audience. For example, if you’re in the tech industry, your introduction may include a surprising tech trend or brief story. The introduction must be relevant to your business and capture your audience’s attention. It is also crucial to identify your business plan’s objective and what the reader can expect to find in the document.
- Write the executive summary. Go through your business plan and identify critical points to include in your executive summary. Touch on each business plan key point concisely but comprehensively. You may mention your marketing plan , target audience, company description, management team, and more. Readers should be able to understand your business plan without reading the rest of the document. Ideally, the summary will be engaging enough to convince them to finish the document, but they should be able to understand your basic plan from your summary. (We’ll detail what to include in the executive summary in the next section.)
- Edit and organize your document. Organize your executive summary to flow with your business plan’s contents, placing the most critical components at the beginning. A bulleted list is helpful for drawing attention to your main points. Double-check the document for accuracy and clarity. Remove buzzwords, repetitive information, qualifying words, jargon, passive language and unsupported claims. Verify that your executive summary can act as a standalone document if needed.
- Seek outside assistance. Since most entrepreneurs aren’t writing experts, have a professional writer or editor look over your document to ensure it flows smoothly and covers the points you’re trying to convey.
What should you include in an executive summary?
Your executive summary is based on your business plan and should include details relevant to your reader. For example, if your business plan’s goal is pitching a business idea to potential investors , you should emphasize your financial requirements and how you will use the funding.
The type of language you use depends on whether your audience consists of generalists or industry experts.
While executive summary specifics will vary by company, Marius Thauland, business strategist at OMD EMEA, says all executive summaries should include a few critical elements:
- Target audience
- Products and services
- Marketing and sales strategies
- Competitive analysis
- Funding and budget allocation for the processes and operations
- Number of employees to be hired and involved
- How you’ll implement the business plan
When synthesizing each section, highlight the details most relevant to your reader. Include any facts and statistics they must know. In your introduction, present pertinent company information and clearly state the business plan’s objective. To pinpoint key messages for your executive summary, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want the reader to take away from the document?
- What do you want to happen after they read it?
“Put yourself in the business plan reader’s shoes, and think about what you would like to know in the report,” Thauland advised. “Get their attention by making it simple and brief yet still professional. It should also attract them to read the entire document to understand even the minute details.”
If securing financing is your priority, read our reviews of the best business loans to compare options.
What should you avoid in an executive summary?
When writing your executive summary, be aware of the following common mistakes:
- Making your executive summary too long. An executive summary longer than two pages will deter some readers. You’re likely dealing with busy executives, and an overlong stretch of text can overwhelm them.
- Copying and pasting from other executive summary sections. Reusing phrases from other sections and stringing them together without context can seem confusing and sloppy. It’s also off-putting to read the same exact phrase twice within the same document. Instead, summarize your business plan’s central points in new, descriptive language.
- Too many lists and subheadings in your executive summary. After one – and only one – introductory set of bullets, recap your business plan’s main points in paragraph form without subheadings. Concision and clarity are more important for an executive summary than formatting tricks.
- Passive or unclear language in your executive summary. You’re taking the reins of your business, and your executive summary should show that. Use active voice in your writing so everyone knows you’re running the show. Be as clear as possible in your language, leaving no questions about what your business will do and how it will get there.
- Avoid general descriptions in your executive summary. Kimbarovsky said it’s best to avoid generalities in your executive summary. For example, there’s no need to include a line about “your team’s passion for hard work.” This information is a given and will take attention away from your executive summary’s critical details.
- Don’t use comparisons in your executive summary. Kimbarovsky also advises staying away from comparisons to other businesses in your executive summary. “Don’t say you will be the next Facebook, Uber or Amazon,” said Kimbarovsky. “Amateurs make this comparison to try and show how valuable their company could be. Instead, focus on providing the actual facts that you believe prove you have a strong company. It’s better if the investor gives you this accolade because they see the opportunity.”
When you’re starting a new business, the first people you should hire include a product manager, chief technology officer (CTO) , chief marketing officer and chief financial officer.
Executive summary templates and resources
If you’re writing an executive summary for the first time, online templates can help you outline your document. However, your business is unique, and your executive summary should reflect that. An online template probably won’t cover every detail you’ll need in your executive summary. Experts recommend using templates as general guidelines and tailoring them to fit your business plan and executive summary.
To get you started, here are some popular executive summary template resources:
- FormSwift. The FormSwift website lets you create and edit documents and gives you access to over 500 templates. It details what an effective executive summary includes and provides a form builder to help you create your executive summary. Fill out a step-by-step questionnaire and export your finished document via PDF or Word.
- Smartsheet. The Smartsheet cloud-based platform makes planning, managing and reporting on projects easier for teams and organizations. It offers several free downloadable executive summary templates for business plans, startups, proposals, research reports and construction projects.
- Template.net. The Template.net website provides several free business templates, including nine free executive summary templates that vary by project (e.g., business plan, startup, housing program development, proposal or marketing plan). Print out the templates and fill in your relevant details.
- TemplateLab. The TemplateLab website is a one-stop shop for new business owners seeking various downloadable templates for analytics, finance, HR, marketing, operations, project management, and time management. You’ll find over 30 free executive summary templates and examples.
- Vertex42. The Vertex42 website offers Excel templates for executive summaries on budgets, invoices, project management and timesheets, as well as Word templates for legal forms, resumes and letters. This site also provides extensive information on executive summaries and a free executive summary template you can download into Word or Google Docs.
Summing it all up
Your executive summary should preview your business plan in, at most, two pages. Wait until your business plan is complete to write your executive summary, and seek outside help as necessary. A thorough, engaging business plan and executive summary are well worth the time and money you put into them.
Max Freedman contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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Important: The executive summary and business description should be the last components written for a business plan. If you still need to complete research for your plan and write various sections of your plan, do so before processing.
A short summary (one to two pages) of the overall plan. The purpose of the executive summary is to get the reader interested. The summary is a space to introduce the most important aspects of the business plan. It is best to be brief; save the in-depth details for the business description.
The business description is a lead-in to the full plan. The business description may need to be rewritten as the business plan is refined.
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1. Write an executive summary
2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.
A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.
» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .
This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.
Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.
» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps
Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:
Your business’s registered name.
Address of your business location .
Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.
Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.
Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.
» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan
The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.
If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.
For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.
In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.
You should include the following:
An explanation of how your product or service works.
The pricing model for your product or service.
The typical customers you serve.
Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.
Your sales strategy.
Your distribution strategy.
You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.
Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.
Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.
» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing
If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.
You may also include metrics such as:
Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.
Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.
Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.
This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.
» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:
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The best business credit cards .
The best accounting software .
This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.
Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.
Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.
List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.
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Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:
Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.
Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.
Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.
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Executive Summary of the Business Plan
How to Write an Executive Summary That Gets Your Business Plan Read
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
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An executive summary of a business plan is an overview. Its purpose is to summarize the key points of a document for its readers, saving them time and preparing them for the upcoming content.
Think of the executive summary as an advance organizer for the reader. Above all else, it must be clear and concise. But it also has to entice the reader to read the rest of the business plan .
This is why the executive summary is often called the most important part of the business plan. If it doesn’t capture the reader's attention, the plan will be set aside unread—a disaster if you've written your business plan as part of an attempt to get money to start your new business . (Getting startup money is not the only reason to write a business plan; there are other just-as-important reasons .)
Because it is an overview of the entire plan, it is common to write the executive summary last (and writing it last can make it much easier).
What Information Goes in an Executive Summary?
The information you need to include varies somewhat depending on whether your business is a startup or an established business.
For a startup business typically one of the main goals of the business plan is to convince banks, angel investors , or venture capitalists to invest in your business by providing startup capital in the form of debt or equity financing .
In order to do so you will have to provide a solid case for your business idea which makes your executive summary all the more important. A typical executive summary for a startup company includes the following sections:
- The business opportunity. Describe the need or the opportunity.
- Taking advantage of the opportunity. Explain how will your business will serve the market.
- The target market . Describe the customer base you will be targeting.
- Business model . Describe your products or services and and what will make them appealing to the target market.
- Marketing and sales strategy . Briefly outline your plans for marketing your products and services.
- The competition. Describe your competition and your strategy for getting market share. What is your competitive advantage, e.g. what will you offer to customers that your competitors cannot?
- Financial analysis. Summarize the financial plan including projections for at least the next three years.
- Owners/Staff. Describe the owners and the key staff members and the expertise they bring to the venture.
- Implementation plan. Outline the schedule for taking your business from the planning stage to opening your doors.
For established businesses the executive summary typically includes information about achievements, growth plans , etc. A typical executive summary outline for an established business includes:
- Mission Statement . Articulates the purpose of your business. In a few sentences describe what your company does and your core values and business philosophy.
- Company Information. Give a brief history of your company —d escribe your products or services, when and where it was formed, who the owners and key employees are, statistics such as the number of employees, business locations, etc.
- Business Highlights. Describe the evolution of the businesshow it has grown, including year-over-year revenue increases, profitability, increases in market share, number of customers, etc.
- Financial Summary. If the purpose of updating the business plan is to seek additional financing for expansion, then give a brief financial summary.
- Future goals. Describe your goals for the business . If you are seeking financing explain how additional funding will be used to expand the business or otherwise increase profits.
How Do I Write an Executive Summary of a Business Plan?
Start by following the list above and writing one to two sentences about each topic (depending on whether your business is a startup or an established business). No more!
The Easy Way of Writing One
Having trouble getting started? The easiest way of writing the executive summary is to review your business plan and take a summary sentence or two from each of the business plan sections you’ve already written.
If you compare the list above to the sections outlined in the Business Plan Outline , you’ll see that this could work very well.
Then finish your business plan’s executive summary with a clinching closing sentence or two that answers the reader’s question, “Why is this a winning business?”
For example, an executive summary for a pet-sitting business might conclude: “The loving on-site professional care that Pet Grandma will provide is sure to appeal to both cat and dog owners throughout the West Vancouver area.”
(You may find it useful to read the entire Pet Grandma executive summary example before you write your own.)
Tips for Writing the Business Plan’s Executive Summary
- Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details and whether bank managers or investors, the readers of your plan don’t want to have their time wasted.
- Keep your language strong and positive. Don’t weaken your executive summary with weak language. Instead of writing, “Dogstar Industries might be in an excellent position to win government contracts,” write “Dogstar Industries will be in an excellent position.”
- Keep it short–no more than two pages long . Resist the temptation to pad your business plan’s executive summary with details (or pleas). The job of the executive summary is to present the facts and entice your reader to read the rest of the business plan, not tell him everything.
- Polish your executive summary. Read it aloud. Does it flow or does it sound choppy? Is it clear and succinct? Once it sounds good to you, have someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and make suggestions for improvement.
- Tailor it to your audience. If the purpose of your business plan is to entice investors , for instance, your executive summary should focus on the opportunity your business provides investors and why the opportunity is special. If the purpose of your business plan is to get a small business loan , focus on highlighting what traditional lenders want to see, such as management's experience in the industry and the fact that you have both collateral and strategies in place to minimize the lender's risk.
- Put yourself in your readers’ place. And read your executive summary again. Does it generate interest or excitement in the reader? If not, why? Also try giving it to a friend or relative to read, who is not engaged in the business. If you've done a good job on the executive summary, an impartial third party should be able to understand it.
Remember, the executive summary will be the first thing your readers read. If it's poorly written, it will also be the last thing they read, as they set the rest of your business plan aside unread.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. " Business Plan Guidelines ," Page 2.
Corporate Finance Institute. " Executive Summary ."
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. " How to Prepare Your Business Plan ," Page 167.
Iowa State University. " Types and Sources of Financing for Start-up Businesses ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
Clute Institute. " Using Business Plans for Teaching Entrepreneurship ," Page 733.
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First Steps: Writing the Executive Summary of Your Business Plan This quick guide offers tips that will help you create the executive summary for your business plan.
By The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. • Jan 4, 2015
In their book Write Your Business Plan , the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. offer an in-depth understanding of what's essential to any business plan, what's appropriate for your venture, and what it takes to ensure success. In this edited excerpt, the authors outline what to include in your business plan's executive summary and why.
The first part of your business plan that anybody will see is the executive summary. It's a brief look at the key elements of the whole plan—and it's critical.
The executive summary should be only a page or two. In it, you may include your mission and vision statements, a brief sketch of your plans and goals, a quick look at your company and its organization, an outline of your strategy, and highlights of your financial status and needs. Your executive summary is the CliffsNotes of your business plan.
The summary is the most important part of your whole plan, so you want it to be as strong as possible because it's the first thing people read in your plan, and we all know the power of a strong first impression. This is where you want to wow people and make them think.
The executive summary has to perform a host of jobs. First and foremost, it should grab the reader's attention. It has to briefly hit the high points of your plan. It should point readers with questions requiring detailed responses to the full-length sections of your plan where they can get answers. It should ease the task of anybody whose job it is to read it, and it should make that task enjoyable by presenting an interesting and compelling account of your company.
Here's a suggested format for an executive summary:
1. What's the business idea, what problem does it solve and how does it fit into the marketplace?
You'll need to explain why your idea has merit and how it can solve a common problem by making things easier, faster, or cheaper for the prospective customer(s). No matter how brilliantly crafted, written and presented your business plan is, it will be difficult to win your investors, and later customers, with a bad idea. Therefore, you want to wow them first with your idea! If they're not interested, no matter what your financials are, they won't help.
2. How much will it cost, and how much financing are you seeking?
Provide a short explanation of how you'll use any financing you seek. Tell investors why you need the money. Nobody wants to lend you money if they don't know exactly why you need it. It's not necessary to get into much detail here—just make it clear that you need it for x, y and z. You should also let the reader know how the investment will help the company grow and/or increase its profits. Why else would you be seeking funding? The best use of somebody else's money is to buy or build something that will make more money, both for you and for that person.
3. What will the return be to the investor? Over what length of time?
In your executive summary, consider the following:
- Friends and family want to get their money back someday but are not very interested in timing and returns.
- Bankers look for free cash flow to pay back the principal and interest of their loan. They also look closely at management experience and marketing. They may ask for collateral. By law they have to be conservative, that is, risk averse, so they are not great candidates for risky financing.
- Angel investors look for moderate rates of return, usually above the prime rate, plus some capital appreciation. They sometimes want to be involved at a hands-on level.
- Venture capitalists seek annual compound rates of return in the area of 35 to 50 percent per annum. They seldom want to go longer than three to five years to cash out. They always want to know what the exit strategy is.
Don't forget yourself: It's a rare company that doesn't have any investment from the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs who started it.
4. How will the ownership be divided?
When a business starts generating profits and plowing them back into the firm, value can build rapidly. Even if you aren't in an industry likely to purchase buildings or patent valuable technology, the business derives value from the fact that it can generate profits into the future.
Spell out who owns what. If you have many equity investors coupled with a pile of creditors, this can get pretty complicated. For the summary section of your plan, a basic description such as "Ownership of the company will be divided so that each of the four original partners owns 25 percent" will suffice. If you have to negotiate details of exactly what any equity investors will get, there's time to do that later. For now, you just want to give people an idea of how the ownership will be divided.
Additional questions you may want to consider answering in your executive summary include:
- What is the management team?
- What are the product and competitive strategies?
- What is your marketing plan?
- What is your exit strategy?
Give It a Happy Ending
The summary is the place to put your best foot forward, to talk up the upside and downplay the downside. As always, accentuating the positive doesn't mean exaggeration or lying. If there's a really important, unusual risk factor in your plan—such as that one certain big customer has to make a huge order for the whole plan to work—then you'll want to mention that in your summary. But run-of-the-mill risks like unexpected competition or customer reluctance can be ignored here. Paint a convincing portrait of an opportunity so compelling that only a dullard wouldn't recognize it and desire to take part in it.
The key to the executive summary is to pick out the best aspects of every part of your plan. So extract the essence of each key part, and offer your readers a highlight reel of your business.
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Developing a Business Plan
An important task in starting a new venture is to develop a business plan. As the phrase suggests, a business plan is a "road map" to guide the future of the business or venture. The elements of the business plan will impact the daily decisions of the business and provide direction for expansion, diversification, and future evaluation of the business.
This publication will assist in drafting your own business plan. It includes a discussion of the makeup of the plan and the information needed to develop a business plan. Business plans are traditionally developed and written by the owner with input from family members and the members of the business team. Business plans are "living" documents that should be reviewed and updated every year or if an opportunity for change presents itself. Reviews reinforce the thoughts and plans of the owner and the business and are a key item in the evaluation process. For an established venture, evaluation determines if the business is in need of change or if it is meeting the expectations of the owners.
Using the Proper Format
The format and appearance of the plan should be as professional as possible to portray your business in a positive manner. When dealing with a lender or possible investor, the plan will be reviewed for accuracy and suggestions for changes to the plan may be offered. The decision to recommend a loan for approval will be largely based on your business plan. Often loan officers will not know a great deal about the proposed venture, but they will know the correct structure of a business plan.
Investors will make their decision based on the plan and the integrity of the owner. For this reason, it is necessary to use a professional format. After loan officers complete their evaluations, the loan committee will further review the business plan and make a decision. The committee members often spend limited time reviewing the document, focusing on the message of the executive summary and financial statements to make their determination. They will refer to other sections of the plan for details and clarification. Because of this, these portions need to be the strongest parts of the plan and based on sound in-depth research and analysis.
Sections of the Business Plan
A business plan should be structured like a book with the title or cover page, followed by a table of contents. Following these two pages, the body of the plan normally appears in this order: executive summary, business mission statement, goals and objectives, background information, organizational matters, marketing plan, and financial plan.
The executive summary is placed at the front of the business plan, but it should be the last part written. The summary should identify the type of business and describe the proposed business, or changes to the existing business. Research findings and recommendations should be summarized concisely to provide the reader with the information required to make any decisions. The summary outlines the direction and future plans or goals of the business, as well as the methods that will be used to achieve these goals. The summary should include adequate background information to support these recommendations.
The final financial analysis and the assumptions used are also a part of the executive summary. The analysis should show how proposed changes will ensure the sustainability of the current or proposed business. All challenges facing the existing business or proposed venture should be discussed in this section. Identifying such challenges shows the reader that all possibilities have been explored and taken into account during the research process.
Overview, Mission, and Goals and Objectives
This section has three separate portions. It begins with a brief overview that includes a general description of the existing or planned business. The overview is followed by the mission statement of the business. You should try to limit the mission statement to three sentences if possible and include only the key ideas about why the business exists. An example of a mission statement for a produce farm might be: The mission of XYZ Produce is to provide fresh, healthy produce to our customers, and to provide a safe, friendly working environment for our employees. If you have more than three sentences, you should be as concise as possible.
The final portion sets the business's goals and objectives. There are at least two schools of thought about goals and objectives. Goals and objectives should show the reader what the business wishes to accomplish, and the steps needed to obtain the desired results. Conducting a SWOT analysis will assist your team when developing goals and objectives. SWOT in an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and is covered more in-depth later in the publication. You may want to include marketing topics in the SWOT or conduct two SWOT analyses, one for the entire business and one for the marketing plan.
Goals should follow the acronym DRIVE, which stands for D irectional, R easonable, I nspiring, V isible, and E ventual. The definitions of DRIVE are:
- Directional: It should guide you to follow your vision.
- Reasonable: You should be able to reach the goal, and it should be related to your business.
- Inspiring: Make sure the goal is positive but should challenge the business to grow into the goal.
- Visible: You and your employees should be able to easily recognize the goal. Goals should be posted where everyone sees them every day.
- Eventual: The goals should focus on the future and be structured to provide motivation to all to strive towards the goals.
Objectives should follow the acronym SMART, which stands for S pecific, M easurable, A ttainable, R ewarding, and T imed. Objectives are the building blocks to achieve the goals and stand for:
- Specific: Each objective should focus on one building block to reach the goal.
- Measurable: You should be able to determine if your progress is going in the right direction.
- Attainable: You should be able to complete the objective with an appropriate amount of work.
- Rewarding: Reaching the objective should be something to celebrate and provide positive reinforcement to the business.
- Timed: You must have a deadline for the objective to be achieved. You do not want to have the objectives linger for too long. Not reaching the objectives delays reaching the goals. Not achieving goals is detrimental to the morale of the business.
Goals and objectives should follow these formats to allow for evaluation of the entire process and provide valuable feedback along the way. The business owner should continually evaluate the outcomes of decisions and practices to determine if the goals or objectives are being met and make modifications when needed.
Background information should come from the research conducted during the writing process. This portion should include information regarding the history of the industry, the current state of the industry, and information from reputable sources concerning the future of the industry.
This portion of the business plan requires the most investment of time by the writer, with information gathered from multiple sources to prevent bias or undue optimism. The writer should take all aspects of the industry (past, present, and future) and business into account. If there are concerns or questions about the viability of the industry or business, these must be addressed. In writing this portion of the plan, information may be obtained from your local public library, periodicals, industry personnel, trusted sources on the Internet, and publications such as the Penn State Extension Agricultural Alternatives series . Industry periodicals are another excellent source of up-to-date information. The more varied the sources, the better the evaluation of the industry and the business, and the greater the opportunity to have a viable plan.
The business owner must first choose an appropriate legal structure for the business. The business structure will have an impact on the future, including potential expansion and exit from the business. If the proper legal structure is not chosen, the business may be negatively impacted down the road. Only after the decision is made about the type of business can the detailed planning begin.
This section of the plan describes the current or planned business structure, the management team, and risk-management strategies. There are several forms of business structure to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporations (subchapter S or subchapter C), cooperative, and limited liability corporation or partnership (LLC or LLP). These business structures are discussed in Agricultural Alternatives: Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business .
The type of business structure is an important decision and often requires the advice of an attorney (and an accountant). The business structure should fit the management skills and style(s) of the owner(s) and take into account the risk management needs (both liability and financial) of the business. For example, if there is more than one owner (or multiple investors), a sole proprietorship is not an option because more than one person has invested time and/or money into the business. In this case a partnership, cooperative, corporation, LLC, or LLP would be the proper choice.
Another consideration for the type of business structure is the transfer of the business to the next generation or the dissolution of the business. There are benefits and drawbacks for each type of structure covering the transition of ownership. If the business has a high exposure to risk or liability, then an LLC might be preferred over a partnership or sole proprietorship.
If the business is not a sole proprietorship, the management team should be described in the business plan. The management team should consist of all parties involved in the decisions and activities of the business. The strengths and backgrounds of the management team members should be discussed to highlight the positive aspects of the team. Even if the business is a sole proprietorship, usually more than one person (often a spouse, child, relative, or other trusted person) will have input into the decisions, and so should be included as team members.
Regardless of the business structure, all businesses should also have an external management support team. This external management support team should consist of the business's lawyer, accountant, insurance agent or broker, and possibly a mentor. These external members are an integral part of the management team. Many large businesses have these experts on staff or on retainer. For small businesses, the external management team replaces full-time experts; the business owner(s) should consult with this external team on a regular basis (at least once a year) to determine if the business is complying with all rules and regulations. Listing the management team in the business plan allows the reader to know that the business owner has developed a network of experts to provide advice.
The risk-management portion of the business plan provides a description of how the business will handle unexpected or unusual events. For example, if the business engages in agricultural production, will the business purchase crop insurance? Does the business have adequate liability insurance? Is the business diversified to protect against the unexpected, rather than "putting all its eggs in one basket"? If the business has employees, does the business carry adequate workers' compensation insurance? All of these questions should be answered in the risk-management portion of the business plan. More information on how liability can affect your business and on the use of insurance as a risk-management tool can be found in Agricultural Alternatives: Agricultural Business Insurance and Agricultural Alternatives: Understanding Agricultural Liability . The business structure will also determine a portion of the risk-management strategy because the way that a business is structured carries varying levels of risk to the owner and/or owners. All opportunities carry a degree of risk that must be evaluated, and mitigation strategies should be included in this portion of the plan.
Every purchase decision that a consumer makes is influenced by the marketing strategy or plan of the company selling the product or service. Products are usually purchased based on consumer preferences, including brand name, price, and perceived quality attributes. Consumer preferences develop (and change) over time and an effective marketing plan takes these preferences into account. This makes the marketing plan an important part of the overall business plan.
In order to be viable, the marketing plan must coincide with the production activities. The marketing plan must address consumer desires and needs. For example, if a perishable or seasonal crop (such as strawberries) will be produced, the marketing plan should not include sales of locally grown berries in January if the business is in northeastern United States. If the business plans to purchase berries in the off-season from other sources to market, this information needs to be included. In this way, the marketing plan must fit the production capabilities (or the capability to obtain products from other sources).
A complete marketing plan should identify target customers, including where they live, work, and purchase the product or service you are providing. This portion of the plan contains a description of the characteristics and advantages of your product or service. Identifying a "niche" market will be of great value to your business.
Products may be sold directly to the consumer (retail) or through another business (wholesale) or a combination of both. Whichever marketing avenue you choose, if you are starting a new enterprise or expanding an existing one, you will need to decide if the market can bear more of what you plan to produce. Your industry research will assist in this determination. The plan must also address the challenges of the proposed marketing strategy.
Other variables to consider are sales location, market location, promotion, advertising, pricing, staffing, and the costs associated with all of these. All of these aspects of the marketing plan will take time to develop and should not be taken lightly. Further discussion on marketing fruits and vegetables can be found in Agricultural Alternatives: Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-Scale and Part-Time Growers .
An adequate way of determining the answers to business and marketing issues is to conduct a SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths represent internal attributes and may include aspects like previous experience in the business. Experience in sales or marketing would be an area of strength for a retail farm market. Weaknesses are also internal and may include aspects such as the time, cost, and effort needed to introduce a new product or service to the marketplace.
Opportunities are external aspects that will help your business to take off and be sustained. If no one is offering identical products or services in your immediate area, you may have the opportunity to capture the market. Threats are external and may include aspects like other businesses offering the same product in close proximity to your business or government regulations impacting business practices and cost.
The financial plan and assumptions are crucial to the success of the business and should be included in the business plan. One of the foremost reasons new businesses fail is because they do not have enough start-up capital to cover all expenses to make a profit. The scope of your business will be determined by the financial resources you can acquire. Because of this, you will need to develop a financial plan and create the supporting documents to substantiate it.
The financial plan has its basis in historical data (if you are an existing business) or from projections (for a proposed business). The first issue to address is recordkeeping. You should indicate who will keep the necessary records and how these records will be used. Internal controls, such as who will sign checks and handle any funds, should also be addressed. A good rule to follow for businesses that are not sole proprietorships is having at least two people sign all checks.
The next portion of the financial plan should detail where funding will come from. This includes if (and when) the business will need additional capital, how much capital will be needed, and how these funds will be obtained. If start-up capital is needed, this information should be included in this portion. Personal contributions should be included, along with other funding sources. The amount of money and repayment terms should be listed. One common mistake affecting many new businesses is under-funding at start-up. Many start-up businesses do not evaluate all areas of expense and underestimate the amount of capital needed to see a new business through the development stages (including personal living expenses, if off-farm income is not available).
Typically, a balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and partial budget or enterprise budgets are included in a business plan. More information on agricultural budgets can be found in Agricultural Alternatives: Budgeting for Agricultural Decision Making . These documents will display the financial information in a form that lending institutions are used to seeing. If these are not prepared by an accountant, having one review them will ensure that the proper format has been used.
Financial projections should be completed for at least two years and, ideally, for five years. In agricultural businesses, five-year projections are sometimes difficult to make because of variability in prices, weather, and other aspects affecting production. One way to illustrate these risks is to develop several projection scenarios covering a range of production assumptions. This attention to detail will often result in a positive experience with lenders because they realize that the plan covers several possible circumstances and provides insight into how the business plans to manage risk. More information on financing agricultural businesses can be found in the publication Agricultural Alternatives: Financing Small-Scale and Part-Time Farms .
To keep personal assets and liabilities separate from business assets and liabilities, it is beneficial to create both business and personal financial statements. A lender will need to see both, but the separation will show how the business will support the family or how the off-farm income will support the business.
Cash Flow Statement
A cash flow statement is the predicted flow of cash into and out of a business over a year. Cash flow statements are prepared by showing the total amounts predicted for each item of income or expense. This total is then broken down by month to show when surpluses and shortfalls in cash will occur. In this way, the cash flow statement can be used to predict when additional cash is needed and when the business will have a surplus to pay back any debt. This monthly prediction allows the owner(s) to better evaluate the cash needs of the business, taking out applicable loans and repaying outstanding debts. The cash flow statement often uses the same categories as the income statement plus additional categories to cover debt payments and borrowing.
After these financial statements are completed, the business plan writer will have an accurate picture of how the business has performed and can project how the business will perform in the coming year(s). With such information, the owner—and any readers of the business plan—will be able to evaluate the viability of the business and will have an accurate understanding of actions and activities that will contribute to its sustainability. This understanding will enable them to make better informed decisions regarding loans or investments in the business.
The income statement is a summary of the income (revenue) and expenses for a given accounting cycle. If the balance sheet is a "snapshot" of the financial health of the business, the income statement is a "motion picture" of the financial health of the business over a specific time period. An income statement is constructed by listing the income (or revenue) at the top of the page and the expenses (and the resulting profit or loss) at the bottom of the page.
Revenue is any income realized by the sale of crops or livestock, government payments, and any other income the business may have (including such items as fuel tax refunds, patronage dividends, and custom work). Other items impacting revenues are changes in inventory and accounts receivable between the start of the time period and the end—even if these changes are negative.
Expenses include any expense the business has incurred from the production of the products sold. Examples of expenses include feed, fertilizer, pesticides, fuel, labor, maintenance, repairs, insurance, taxes, utilities, and any changes in accounts payable. Depreciation, which is the calculated wear and tear on assets (excluding land), is included as an expense for accounting purposes. Interest is considered an expense, but any principal payments related to loans are not an expense. Repayment of principal is recorded on the balance sheet under "Loans Payable."
As the income statement is created, the desired outcome is to have more income than expenses, so the income statement shows a profit. If not, the final number is shown in parentheses (signifying a negative number). Another name for this financial record is a Profit and Loss Statement. Income statements are one way to clearly show how the farm is making progress from one year to the next and may show a much more optimistic view of sustainability than can be seen by looking at a single year's balance sheet.
A balance sheet is a snapshot of a business’s assets, liabilities, and owner’s equity at a specific point in time. A balance sheet can be prepared at any time, but is usually done at the end of the fiscal year (for many businesses, this is the end of the calendar year). Evaluating the business by using the balance sheet requires several years of balance sheets to tell the true story of the business’s progress over time. A balance sheet is typically constructed by listing assets on the left and liabilities and owner’s equity on the right. The difference between the assets and liabilities of the business is called the "owner's equity" and provides an estimate of how much of the business is owned outright.
Assets are anything owned by, or owed to, the business. These include cash (and checking account balances), accounts receivable (money owed to the business), inventory (any crops or supplies that the business has stored on farm), land, equipment, and buildings. This may also include machinery, breeding stock, small-fruit bushes or canes, and fruit trees. Sometimes assets are listed as current (those easily converted to cash) and fixed (those that are required for the business to continue). Assets are basically anything of value to the business. Some valuations of assets are not easily determined for items such as breeding stock, small-fruit bushes or canes, and fruit trees and may require the use of a certified appraiser familiar with the items.
Balance sheets may use a market-basis or a cost-basis to calculate the value of assets. A market-basis balance sheet better reflects the current economic conditions because it relies on current or market value for the assets, rather than what those assets originally cost. Market values are more difficult to obtain because of the difficulty in finding accurate current prices of assets and often results in the inflation of the value of assets. Cost-basis balance sheets are more conservative because the values are often from prior years. For example, a cost-basis balance sheet would use the original purchase price of land, rather than what selling that land would bring today. Because purchase records are easily obtained, constructing a cost-basis balance sheet is easier. Depreciable assets such as buildings, tractors, and equipment are listed on the cost-basis balance sheet at purchase price less accumulated depreciation. Most accountants use the cost-basis balance sheet method. Whether you choose to use market-basis or cost-basis, it is critical that you remain consistent over the years to allow for accurate comparison.
Liabilities are what the business owes on the date the balance sheet is prepared. Liabilities include both current liabilities (accounts payable, any account the business has with a supplier, short-term notes, operating loans, and the current portion of long-term debt), which are payable within the current year, and noncurrent liabilities (mortgages and loans with a term that extends over one year).
Owner's equity is what remains after all liabilities have been subtracted from all assets. It represents money that the owner(s) have invested in the business, profits that are retained in the business, and changes caused by fluctuating market values (on a market-basis balance sheet). Owner’s equity will be affected whenever there are changes in capital contributed to the business or retained earnings, so if your practice is to use all earnings as your "paycheck," rather than reinvesting them in the business, your owner's equity will be impacted. On the balance sheet, owner’s equity plus liabilities equals assets. Or stated another way, all of the assets less the amount owed (liabilities) equals the owner’s equity (sometimes referred to as "net worth"). Owner's equity provides the "balance" in a balance sheet.
Putting It All Together
After the mission, background information, organization, and marketing and financial plans are complete, an executive summary can then be prepared. Armed with the research results and information in the other sections, the business will come alive through this section. Research results can be included in an appendix if desired. The next step is to share this plan with others whose opinions you respect. Have them ask you the hard questions—make you defend an opinion you have expressed or challenge you to describe what you plan to do in more detail. Often, people are hesitant to share what they have written with their families or friends because they fear the plan will not be taken seriously. However, it is much better to receive constructive criticism from family and friends (and gain the opportunity to strengthen your plan) than it is to take it immediately to the lender, only to have any problems pointed out and receive a rejection.
Once all parts of the business plan have been written, you will have a document that will enable you to analyze your business and determine which, if any, changes need to be made. Changes on paper take time and effort but are not as expensive as changing a business practice only to find that the chosen method is not viable. For a proposed venture, if the written plan points to the business not being viable, large sums of money have not been invested and possibly lost. In short, challenges are better faced on paper than with investment capital.
Remember, a business plan is a "road map" that will guide the future of the business. The best business plan is a document in continual change, reacting to the influence of the outside world on the business. Having the basis of a written plan will give you the confidence to consider changes in the business to remain competitive. Once the plan is in place, the business will have a better chance of future success.
For More Information
Abrams, R. The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies (Successful Business Plan Secrets and Strategies) . Palo Alto, Calif.: Planning Shop, 2014.
Becker, J. C., L. F. Kime, J. K. Harper, and R. Pifer. Agricultural Alternatives: Understanding Agricultural Liability . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2011.
Dethomas, A., and L. and S. Derammelaere. Writing a Convincing Business Plan (Barron's Business Library) . Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron's Educational Series. 2015.
Dunn, J., J. K. Harper, and L. F. Kime. Agricultural Alternatives: Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-scale and Part-time Growers . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2009.
Grant, W. How to Write a Winning Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Startup Entrepreneurs to Build a Solid Foundation, Attract Investors and Achieve Success with a Bulletproof Business Plan (Business 101). Independently published. 2020.
Harper, J. K., S. Cornelisse, L. F. Kime, and J. Hyde. Agricultural Alternatives: Budgeting for Agricultural Decision Making . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2019.
Kime, L. F., J. A. Adamik, E. E. Gantz, and J. K. Harper. Agricultural Alternatives: Agricultural Business Insurance . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2019.
Kime, L. F., S. Cornelisse, and J. K. Harper. Agricultural Alternatives: Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2018.
Lesonsky, R. Start Your Own Business Fifth Edition: The Only Start-Up Book You'll Ever Need. Irvine, Calif.: Entrepreneur Media Inc., 2010.
Shelton, H. The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan: A Pro Shares a Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Plan That Gets Results. Rockville, Md.: Summit Valley Press, 2017.
Stokes, J. S., G. D. Hanson, J. K. Harper, and L. F. Kime. Agricultural Alternatives: Financing Small-scale and Part-time Farms . University Park: Penn State Extension, 2005.
Starting a Farm: Business Planning
- American Agriculturist Magazine Farm Progress Companies Inc. 5482 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 260 Los Angeles, CA 90036
- Businessweek Magazine
- Fortune Magazine
- Kiplinger's Personal Finance
- Money Magazine
- BizPlanit - Virtual Business Plan
- PA Business One-Stop Shop
- Small Business Administration
- SCORE—volunteer business assistance
- The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Starting a Business in Pennsylvania—A Guide to Pennsylvania Taxes
- The Pennsylvania State University Agricultural Alternative Tools
- The Pennsylvania State University Conducting a SWOT Analysis
- The Pennsylvania State University Happy Valley Launch Box
Prepared by Lynn F. Kime, senior extension associate; Linda Falcone, extension educator in Wyoming County, Jayson K. Harper, professor of agricultural economics; and Winifred W. McGee, retired extension educator in Dauphin County
Additional financial support for this publication was provided by the Risk Management Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
This publication was developed by the Small-scale and Part-time Farming Project at Penn State with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Extension Service.
- Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
You may also be interested in ...
A Guide to Farming in Pennsylvania: Planning
Starting a New Agricultural Business
Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business
Conducting a SWOT Analysis
Choosing a Legal Structure for Your Agriculture Business
Example Business Plan
Obtaining a Loan - The C's of Credit
Opportunities for Veterans in Pennsylvania Agriculture
Retail Farm Market Bus Tour
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How to Write a Business Plan Executive Summary [Sample Template]
By: Author Tony Martins Ajaero
Home » Business Plans
A good executive summary is the holy grail of good business plan writing. Even though it comes after you have written and thought through every other facet of your business, it is arguably the most important part of the puzzle. As its name implies, the executive summary is a brief overview of your business plan. Call it an introduction to your business and you would be very right.
The executive summary gives time-crunched executives or VCs that high-level overview that will either persuade them to read your plan further or toss it in a trashcan without a second thought. Even though the executive summary is the first thing that the readers of your business plan will go through, you should write it last because it summarizes everything from that start to the end of your business plan.
Also, it is usually the first and probably the most important thing that busy investors consider before deciding if your business plan is worth spending a minute on. Secondly, since it’s a summary, you will only be highlighting the main facets of what you have uncovered over the course of writing your business plan. Below is a list of what your executive summary should include:
Components of a Business Plan Executive Summary
- Business concept (what you do or what you intend to do)
- Business goals and vision (what you want to achieve)
- Product/service description and differentiation (what you offer and what makes it different)
- Target market (who you want to sell to)
- Marketing plan (how you plan to reach your customers)
- Current financial state (what you currently make in revenue—for existing business looking at expansion, or how much you already have on ground—for startups)
- Projected financial state (what you foresee making in revenue)
- The request (how much funds you are asking for)
- The team (who runs your business)
Your business plan executive summary must provide brief information on the following areas of your business;
- The target market : it has to describe the type of customers you will be targeting.
- Business model : it should describe your products or services and what will make them appealing to the target market.
- Marketing and sales strategy : it should touch briefly your plans for marketing your products or services.
- The competition : since competition is a major part of business, so it has to describe how you plan on dealing with the completion and gaining market share. It should equally state your competitive advantage.
- Financial analysis : it should summarize your financial plan
- Owners/Staff : it should describe the owners and the key staff members and the expertise they bring to the venture.
- Implementation plan : it should briefly outline the schedule for taking your business from the planning stage to opening your doors.
- An overview of funding requirements : you need to state the amount of funding you need, and what the money would be used for.
- Growth highlights : it should give any instances of growth and, if possible, illustrate that growth with graphs or charts.
- Future Plans : This doesn’t have to be too detailed, but it should give anyone reading your summary an idea of where your business is heading and how you intend to get there.
Writing a business plan executive summary is not that difficult, you only need to include the summary of the details that were listed above. You executive summary should be arranged this way;
Writing a Business Plan Executive Summary – Sample Template
You can start by describing your company, your mission and vision statements. Include your Business Name and address. If you are lost for words on how to describe your company, think about how you want your employees, customers and the business community to view your company.
This intro paragraph should be attention-getting from the start. It is wise to bring in impressive attributes of your company, but be specific here. Potential investors will want to see real evidence of demonstrated skills and unique abilities. Use this section to highlight company or employee accolades, albeit briefly. Describe the organizational structure and name key employees.
The names and titles of key employees are sufficient; however, include a brief description of executive team members’ responsibilities and duties. Include a list of satellite offices, contact information for each location and how many employees would work in each location.
2. Your business offering
Write a description of what your business aims to offer to its target market. Here, you should give a description of the product or service the business expects to offer. Highlight the products or services in a way that sounds appealing and sets you apart from the competition. The aim of the executive summary is to intrigue the reader enough to read what the rest of the business plan holds.
3. Your finances
This section is where you now talk about the financial aspects of your business. Disclose all business partners, investors and banks you have business relationships with. Explain the role of each entity or individual, the amounts invested or financed, and fiduciary terms and responsibilities.
If you are proposing your business plan to additional lending institutions or investors, this information can strengthen your plan by illustrating confidence others have in your ability to operate a successful business. This section should also include sales and profit projections for the business. You are free to use charts or graphs to reflect this information if it would provide more insight than texts.
Construct the final section of your executive summary by drafting comments about your organization’s accomplishments, accolades or remarkable growth. In this section, briefly describe your plan for achieving your company’s future goals.
Having discussed how an executive plan is written, let’s go further by looking at tips on how to ensure that your executive summary is perfectly written.
8 Tips for Writing a Perfect Business Plan Executive Summary
A. you must ensure that your first paragraph is strong enough.
To attract the reader’s attention and compel them to read the rest of the summary. For example, you can start by stating a market problem that your business promises to fix.
b. Remember, it’s all a summary
So, keep it short. The business plan itself will provide the details. So, don’t waste the reader’s time or irritate them by adding unnecessary details in your executive summary.
c. Use strong and positive language
Don’t weaken or dilute your statements with inappropriate words. For example, instead of writing “Our business might just become the market winner in the next five years”, write “Our business is poised to become the market winner in the next five years.”
d. Although there is no standard page length for executive summaries
It is better to keep it within two pages. Always resist the temptation to stuff your business plan’s executive summary with details that are already covered in the rest of the plan. Remember, the summary is meant to present facts about your business and entice the reader to read the rest of the plan.
e. Fine-tune your executive summary after writing it
Read it aloud to yourself. Does it sound great to you? Does it sound clear and brief, but detailed ? If you are satisfied with it, let someone else who knows nothing about your business read it and give suggestions on how you can improve it.
f. Customize the executive summary for your target audience
If your motive is to entice investors, for instance, your summary should hammer on the benefits that investors stand to gain from the opportunity you are presenting to them. Also, use formal or informal language depending on what’s more appropriate for your target audience.
g. Read the executive summary aloud once again
Putting yourself in place of the reader this time. Does the summary trigger your interest in the business or put you off instantly? Does the summary sound too good to be true, due to the choice of words? After reading it thoroughly, make necessary adjustments.
h. Clear your vocabularies of any self-glorifying superlatives
Clichés, and overused expressions that you may not be able to back up. Avoid words like “ best ”, “ ground-breaking ”, “ cutting-edge ”, “ world class ”, etc. Investors and other readers see those words almost every day and they tend to overlook their real meanings.
When writing your executive summary, even though it comes first, but aim to write it last after you have written the rest of your plan. This is the only way to know what exactly you should include when writing it. You have already done the research, so use that when pulling together the salient points of the executive summary.
Also, ensure that you check, double-check and triple-check your executive summary for any errors. Grammatical and spelling errors should be eradicated. But more importantly, your financial projections should contain absolutely no errors. Just one slight financial error will make you an amateur to any savvy investor.
Again, don’t be afraid to let your passion or excitement for your business come through in your executive summary. Investors typically believe that it takes a certain kind of entrepreneur to make a successful business, so capitalize on your commitment to get the backing you need.
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