Grab a piece of paper, and a pen or pencil. Off the top of your head, list 10 points about your business that make it outstanding, unique, innovative, creative, or well-planned. Do not continue to read this article until you’re done.
Congratulations! You’ve just begun to write your executive summary — and this summary will capture your readers’ attention because it’s more than boilerplate. It’s truly a reflection of your business.
It is the last section of the business plan that you will write, after drafting a more extensive and thorough business plan. Here are some possible items to be addressed in your executive summary and business plan:
- Your mission and vision statements
- The opportunities that the business presents for you and your potential customers
- Date business will commence (or did commence)
- Structure of business
- Names of founders, the functions they perform, and their areas of expertise
- Structure of board of directors or your management team
- Number of employees
- Location of business, including the Web address when applicable
- Products manufactured or services rendered
- Targeted customers
- Marketing plan
- Competitive overview
- Description of plant or facilities
- Banking relationships and information regarding current investors
- Funding requirements, if any
- Summary of company growth, including any financial or market highlights
- Future plans
The executive summary is the business plan in miniature. It should be able to stand alone, and serve as a plan within the business plan.
It should be logical, concise, intriguing, and engaging. It should take the reader less than five minutes to read your executive summary. Upon completion, the reader should have a clear understanding of your business. The executive summary should inspire the reader to know more about your business. It is an invitation to the reader to spend more time with the entire business plan. It may lead to a personal meeting between you and the reader as well.
Remember that the executive summary is neither an abstract nor an introduction. It is a collected series of ideas meant to capture the reader’s attention and draw him further into the business and its strategic plan.
Capture the reader’s attention with the fewest words possible. This may be the hardest part of writing your executive summary, whittling it down to just three pages or less. Two is better. One is best.
This may be heart-wrenchingly tough. Be prepared to take the red pen to your wonderful writing, your vision, your dream. Better yet, let someone else who has no emotional attachment to your business idea take the red pen to your writing. Make your executive summary clear, concise, short, to the point, and an attention grabber. Less is more. Really, it is.
To any and all readers — be them possible lenders, board members, potential employees, or the media — the executive summary is the first exposure to your business plan. It sets the stage for what is to follow. First impressions are lasting impressions. What impression do you wish to leave? Make every word count.
Carol Parenzan Smalley is an educator, innovator, and entrepreneur. She is the creator of and instructor for Creating a Successful Business Plan, an online course offered by colleges and universities around the world.