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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.

what to write in a business plan executive summary

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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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5 Steps for Writing an Executive Summary

Table of contents.

what to write in a business plan executive summary

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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How to Write a Powerful Executive Summary [+4 Top Examples]

Caroline Forsey

Published: August 31, 2023

Whether you're an entrepreneur looking for investors for your small business or the CEO of a large corporation, an executive summary can help you succeed and is a critical component for long-term growth.

Executive summary with examples

A short, attention-grabbing executive summary is an essential part of your business plan . Done correctly, it will ensure your company becomes or remains a key player in your industry. In this post, you’ll learn what an executive summary is and how to write one that engages investors, customers, and general audiences.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a brief overview of a long document, such as a business plan, proposal, or report. It's a section that grabs readers’ attention and summarizes critical information from the document, such as the problem or opportunity being addressed, objectives, key findings, goals, and recommendations.

Some documents that may have an executive summary include:

  • Business plans
  • Research documents
  • Project proposals
  • Annual reports

Ultimately, the executive summary is meant to inform readers of the most important information in the document, so they don't have to read it all and can get caught up quickly.

what to write in a business plan executive summary

Free Executive Summary Template

Use this executive summary template to provide a summary of your report, business plan, or memo.

  • Company & Opportunity
  • Industry & Market Analysis
  • Management & Operations
  • Financial Plan

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Executive Summary vs. Business Plan

All business plans have an executive summary, but not all executive summaries belong to business plans.

A business plan includes a company overview, your company's short-term and long-term goals, information on your product or service, sales targets, expense budgets, your marketing plan, and a list including each member of your management team. In this case, the executive summary is the first section of the business plan that convinces readers that it’s worth their time to read the whole thing.

Business plans are very detailed and comprehensive, and can be as short as a dozen pages or as long as 100 pages. However, a CEO or investor might not have the interest or time to read your full business plan without first getting the general gist of your company or goals through an executive summary.

Executive Summary vs. Mission Statement

Mission statements and executive summaries are typically both found in business plans, but they serve different purposes.

A mission statement defines your organization’s purpose, values, and vision. It’s your company’s north star and communicates your core identity and reason for existence. On the other hand, an executive summary provides a high-level overview of the document.

Ultimately, your mission statement provides direction for developing your business plan, while your executive summary describes your business plan to executives and shareholders.

Executive Summary vs. Company Description

Like mission statements and executive summaries, company descriptions can also be found in business plans as well as the “About us” page of your website . It provides an overview of your business, including essential details like company history, what your company does, unique selling points, goals, management team, and overall value proposition.

Executive Summary vs. Objective

An objective is a specific goal or target that your company takes aims to achieve its overall goal. It is a concrete, measurable outcome that guides your business’s actions and decisions. Objectives are usually set at the strategic level and are typically aligned with the company’s mission, vision, and overall strategic plan.

Company objectives are often included in executive summaries, but are not the sole focus of them.

What is the purpose of an executive summary?

Writing an executive summary may not seem that necessary. After all, you can find the same information just by reading the rest of the document.

However, the executive summary serves many purposes for your document and those who read it. Here are some of the benefits of having one:

  • It saves your readers time. CEOs and investors often have limited time to review lengthy documents. An executive summary allows them to quickly grasp the main points, key findings, and recommendations without needing to read the entire document.
  • It provides clarity and conciseness. By providing a condensed overview, executive summaries help to distill complex information and present it in a manner that’s easy to understand.
  • It helps with document navigation. For longer documents or reports, an executive summary provides a roadmap for readers. It helps them navigate through the document by signaling the main sections or topics covered, improving overall document usability and accessibility.

To write an impressive executive summary that effectively embodies all the important elements of your business plan, we've cultivated a list of necessary components for an executive summary, as well as an example to get you started.

Follow Along With HubSpot's Executive Summary Template

Executive summary template from HubSpot

Click to Download

How to write an executive summary.

A good executive summary tells your company’s story, contains in-depth research, conveys information with an appropriate tone, is void of clichés, and follows your business plan’s structure. These elements will ensure your executive summary is effective, informative, and impactful.

1. Tell your story.

When investors or CEO's read your executive summary, they should understand what your business is about. This is one of the first elements of your business plan, so it should set the tone.

In your executive summary, be sure to tell your story and include an overview about what your company does and why you do what you do. You can also briefly highlight important details about your company’s management.

For instance, you could talk about your founder or CEO’s qualifications and motivations. You can also provide a high-level summary of your company’s business operations and any management methods or best practices that you abide by.

You’ll also want to explain the problem or opportunity that is being addressed, and how it is valuable to investors and customers. Think of this like an elevator pitch . If someone stopped reading and you only had the executive summary to explain your company, what information would you include?

2. Highlight important data.

An executive summary, while short, should include plenty of research.

Highlight the most important findings and insights from the document, including any critical data or statistics discovered in your competitor analysis . While your business plan will flesh out the details, it's important to include your key findings in your executive summary.

You should also provide a basic rundown of your target market, how you plan on addressing their needs and pain points, and how you will reach them.

Additionally, you should include key financial information. The main points you should cover are the overall budget, the price per product/service, and your financial projections.

3. Pay attention to your tone.

Although the tone of your executive summary should be professional and concise, it should also be true to your company and target audience. Aim to convey a sense of authority and credibility while remaining accessible and engaging.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Focus on presenting information objectively with facts and evidence.
  • Don’t voice your personal opinions or use subjective statements.
  • Strive for clarity and simplicity in your language and ensure that your message is easily understood.
  • Avoid unnecessarily complexity or convolution.
  • Don’t use hyperbole or excessive claims.
  • Use strong verbs, active voice, and concise language to make your points effectively.
  • Aim to resonate with the reader’s interests and concerns.

By striking the right balance between professionalism, clarity, and engagement, you can effectively deliver your message and compel the reader to take action or make informed decisions based on the summary.

4. Avoid cliché language.

With any style of writing, it's best to avoid clichés. Clichés can convey the wrong message or be misunderstood, which is something you want to avoid when someone reads your executive summary.

Additionally, clichés tend to overpromise and under-deliver. For example, including something like “The Best Restaurant in Town” isn‘t true because you’re untested as a business. Your executive summary should reflect the truth and who you are as a company.

To avoid clichés while writing, it’s essential to be aware of their presence. Familiarize yourself with common clichés and be mindful of them as you write. Some examples include:

  • “Thinking outside the box”
  • “Innovative solutions”
  • “Cutting-edge technology”

Instead of relying on these overused phrases, be descriptive and embrace the uniqueness of your brand when writing your executive summary. For instance, there’s no need to vaguely refer to your product as a “game-changer,” when you could explain how it benefits your target audience instead. Show, don’t tell.

By staying true to your voice and delivering an honest message, you can keep your writing fresh and your audience engaged.

5. Write it after completing your business plan.

An executive summary is a summary of your business plan. However, it‘s hard to write a summary when you haven’t written your business plan yet. That's why your executive summary should be the final thing you write.

By saving this step for last, you’re able to gain a thorough understanding of the entire plan, including your business’s goals, strategies, market analysis, and financial projections. This enables you to accurately depict the most important aspects in your summary.

If you write you executive summary first, you’re more likely to miscommunicate the essence of your business plan to executives and shareholders. Sure, you may have an outline prepare, but not having all the information can lead to inconsistencies or inaccuracies in your summary. You also risk including irrelevant details or omitting important details that come up during the planning process.

Ultimately, writing your executive summary last ensures that precisely represents the content and findings your plan.

If you don’t have a business plan yet, don’t worry; we have a comprehensive business plan template to help you create one quickly and effectively.

Featured Resource: Business Plan Template

how to write executive summary: use business plan template from hubspot

Download Your Free Template Here

Now that you know how to write an executive summary, let's dive into the details of what to include.

What to Include in Your Executive Summary

Your business plan should convey your company‘s mission, your product, a plan for how you’ll stand out from competitors, your financial projections, your company's short and long-term goals, your buyer persona, and your market fit.

Ultimately, an executive summary should provide a preview for investors or CEO's, so they know what to expect from the rest of your report. Your executive summary should include:

  • The name, location, and mission of your company
  • A description of your company, including management, advisors, and brief history
  • Your product or service, where your product fits in the market, and how your product differs from competitors in the industry
  • Financial considerations, start-up funding requirements, or the purpose behind your business plan — mention what you hope the reader will help your company accomplish

How long should an executive summary be?

While there is no hard and fast rule for the exact length, executive summaries typically range from one to three pages. However, it's important to note that the length should be determined by the document it accompanies and the content itself rather than a predetermined page count.

At the end of the day, your executive summary should engage the reader and highlight the most important points of your document while avoiding unnecessary details.

Feeling at a loss? Download a free template below that will take you through the executive summary creation process.

Executive Summary Template

executive summary template from hubspot

Download Your Free Executive Summary Template Here

In this free executive summary template, you’ll be able to outline several pieces of information, including:

  • Introduction: Explain what your executive summary contains.
  • Company & Opportunity: Explain who you are and your biggest opportunities for growth.
  • Industry & Market Analysis: Explain the state of your industry and your target market.
  • Management & Operations: Explain who your key leaders are and their roles.
  • Implementation & Marketing: Explain how you plan to deploy your product to the marketplace.
  • Financial Plan: Explain your company’s finances. Change the verbiage depending on whether you’re writing to investors or a general audience.
  • Conclusion: Summarize what you’ve covered.

Ready? Download your free executive summary template .

To understand more tactically how an executive summary should look, let’s review a few examples.

Executive Summary Examples

1. connected.

executive summary example: connected

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On This Page

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.

Vector of a bulleted list of information. Represents the brief but informative 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.

3. Solution

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.

5. Competition

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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what to write in a business plan executive summary

what to write in a business plan executive summary

How to Write an Executive Summary

Written by Dave Lavinsky

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Executive Summary of a Business Plan

On this page:, what is an executive summary, why do i need an executive summary, executive summary length, key elements of an executive summary, how do i write an executive summary for a business plan, the dos and don’ts of creating a great executive summary, summary of writing a great executive summary, business plan executive summary example, executive summary frequently asked questions.

  • Other Helpful Business Plan Articles

An executive summary of a business plan is a section that gives reader an overview of the business opportunity and your entire business plan. It explains the type of business the company operates and summarizes the key facts and strategies supporting the businesses’s growth.

If presented for funding, the executive summary provides the lender or investor a quick snapshot which helps them determine their interest level and if they should continue reading the rest of the business plan.

An effective executive summary is a quick version of your complete business plan. You need to keep it simple and succinct in order to grab the reader’s attention and convince them it’s in their best interest to keep reading.

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

As mentioned above, your business plan is a detailed document that requires time to read. Capturing the reader’s attention with a concise, interesting overview of your plan saves them time and indicates which parts of the business plan may be most important to read in detail. This increases the odds that your business plan will be read and your business idea understood. This is why you need a well-written executive summary.

When structuring your executive summary, the first thing to keep in mind is that it should be short and comprehensive. The length of your business plan executive summary should never exceed 3 pages; the ideal length is 1-2 pages.

The following are the key elements to include in your business plan executive summary:

  • The problem statement or business opportunity — Generally there is a gap or a problem in the market which your business aims to solve. This is your problem statement and it must be included in the summary, as investors want to understand if the world truly needs your company’s products and/or services.
  • Your business idea – The next thing a reader would want to know is how you plan to approach the problem and solve it. This is your business model and it should briefly describe how your product or service can help solve the problem.
  • Company history – The best indicator of future success is past success. Your company’s history helps the reader understand how your business has evolved and grown over the years and what you’ve been able to accomplish. Even startups have generally accomplished milestones like choosing a company name, conceiving products, finding a location, etc.
  • Industry – Here you will detail the industry in which you are operating, it’s size and if any trends are positively or negatively influencing it. This gives readers a sense of the size of the opportunity you are pursuing.
  • The target market or customer – Every business has a target customer base or a target market on which they focus. Here you will detail the types of customers you target and their demographic and psychographic profiles.
  • Competition – When you venture into a market or an industry, there are generally other players with which you compete. Knowing your competition is important and market research is crucial to success. Readers of your plan want to know who your competitors are, their strengths and in what areas you will have competitive advantage. Discussing the competitive landscape is a crucial component of a strong executive summary.
  • Milestones – In addition to showing relevant milestones your company has achieved, you need to explain your timeline for key milestones or key points in the future. Include dates you hope to launch products, achieve sales milestones, hire key employees, etc.
  • Financial plan – If you are requesting funding from investors or banks, they will want to know how you are going to their funds. A brief financial summary covering key points of how and where you plan to allocate the funds should be included in the summary. For existing businesses, you should also provide a history/summary of past financial performance. Finally, for all businesses, you need to provide future financial projections so investors can determine whether they might get an adequate return from investing in you and lenders can ascertain whether or not you will be able to repay your debts.
  • Management Team – In this section, you will introduce the key members of your team. The success or failure of your company depends largely on the people involved. So, any reader surely wants to know how well equipped your team is. Mention key staff members and the experience and skills they bring, in the executive summary.

To help you get started, you can download our executive summary example business plan pdf here.

Your executive summary is the most important part of your business plan since it’s the first thing investors, lenders and/or other readers see. And if they aren’t impressed, they’ll stop reading and you’ll lose them forever. To give yourself the best chances of success, follow these steps to write your executive summary.

1) Complete the rest of your business plan. Your executive summary provides highlights of each section of your business plan. As such, you need to first write those sections. Then, read each section and figure out what information from each must be included in the executive summary. For instance, if your industry analysis section mentioned that your industry’s current size is $100 billion and is projected to grow by 90% per year over the next 5 years, this is an exciting statistic and opportunity that should be mentioned in your executive summary.

2) Start with a one to two line description of your company. Your executive summary must start with a simple description of your company. Readers must be able to quickly and easily understand what your company does so they can decide whether they’re interested in the opportunity. If readers can’t quickly understand what you do, many will stop reading and you’ll lose the ability to get them involved in your company.

3) Create your executive summary structure. Start by creating headers for each section of your business plan. For example, you should have a marketing plan header, a customer analysis header, etc. Then, within each header, summarize the most important point you mentioned in that section.  For example, under your marketing plan, you would write your three most important promotional tactics. Under customer analysis, you’d write a detailed one to two line description of your target customers. Then figure out the best way to organize your executive summary. You can either keep the headers, or create new headers like “business overview” and “unique success factors” in which you cut and paste the old sections as appropriate.

4) Make it shorter. Mark Twain once wrote “If I had more time, i would have written a shorter letter.” The more concise your executive summary is, the more successful it will. Read through your executive summary and aggressively edit it so you convey your key messages in the least amount of words possible.

5) Bring in outside readers. Find at least five people to read your executive summary. Ask them to spend no more than five minutes doing so. Then ask them questions about it. Did they understand what your company does? Are they able to recite back to you your company’s value proposition? If the readers are unable to understand and get excited by your executive summary, then you need to keep working on it.

There are certain mistakes often made in writing an executive summary. If these little glitches can be avoided, writing a flawless executive summary for your business plan is not difficult. So here are a few important tips and tricks for you to remember.

  • Write the summary last – You executive summary should follow nearly the same order as your detailed business plan. Which is why it is important that you write the summary only after you are done with all your research and have finished writing your detailed business plan. This ensures that you include only the most salient parts of your business plan and can write a clear and concise summary.
  • Use a positive and confident tone – The language and tone that you use in writing any document makes a huge impact on how it is received by the reader. Since the executive summary must convince the reader your plan will work, your language should be strong and assertive. For instance, instead of using words like “might” or “could” use words like “will”. Don’t let the readers doubt your capability by using weak language or tone of writing.
  • Don’t give away everything in the summary – Many a times we make this mistake of giving too much background or too many details in the summary. Details are meant for the full business plan. Your executive summary is meant to direct people towards the detailed plan, so avoid sharing everything in the summary itself.
  • Cover the bases – The executive summary must cover the important questions asked and answered by your business plan. The three most important questions are “What is the definition of the business you are in?”, “What is the market size and need?” and “How is the company uniquely qualified to succeed in that market?”
  • Simplify – define your business in a way that it can be understood within the short executive summary. To do this, you must be able to use plain language and only one or two sentences for this definition. If there are additional elements to the business which will go beyond its core or become future potential directions you will take, the executive summary is not the place to go into those. Make sure the business definition can be summed up so that anyone with only a very basic understanding of the industry can understand.
  • Make sure the logic flows – This is true within the plan as a whole, and within the executive summary. The logic of why your specific team and resources are suited for the specific market opportunity you identified and why you’ve chosen the marketing methods you have should be apparent and raise no red flags. If there is a jump in the logic – for example, it is not clear how the management team has any expertise suited for the business in question – then readers will move on to another plan rather than read on to answer that question in the body of the plan. This logic should be clear, although in concise and simplified format, even within the executive summary.
  • Ensure the content of your summary matches your business plan – The information that you share in your executive summary should match what you have in your full business plan. Make sure that there are no discrepancies between the two.
  • Avoid repeating content in the executive summary – You already have very little space to include everything you should in your executive summary. Repeating content wastes precious space.

Whether you’re a large or small business, your executive summary is the first thing someone reads that forms an opinion of your business. Whether they decide to read your detailed business plan or push it aside depends on how good your executive summary is. We hope your executive summary guide helps you craft an effective and impactful executive summary. That way, readers will be more likely to read your full plan, request an in-person meeting, and give you funding to pursue your business plans.

Looking to get started on your business plan’s executive summary? Take a look at the business plan executive summary example below!

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Shoutmouth.com Executive Summary Template

Business Overview

Launched late last year, Shoutmouth.com is the most comprehensive music news website on the Internet .

Music is one of the most searched and accessed interests on the Internet. Top music artists like Taylor Swift receive over 5 million searches each month. In addition, over 500 music artists each receive over 25,000 searches a month.

However, music fans are largely unsatisfied when it comes to the news and information they seek on the artists they love. This is because most music websites (e.g., RollingStone.com, MTV.com, Billboard.com, etc.) cover only the top eight to ten music stories each day – the stories with mass appeal. This type of generic coverage does not satisfy the needs of serious music fans. Music fans generally listen to many different artists and genres of music. By publishing over 100 music stories each day, Shoutmouth enables these fans to read news on all their favorite artists.

In addition to publishing comprehensive music news on over 1200 music artists, Shoutmouth is a social network that allows fans to meet and communicate with other fans about music, and allows them to:

  • Create personal profiles
  • Interact with other members
  • Provide comments on news stories and music videos
  • Submit news stories and videos
  • Recommend new music artists to add to the community
  • Receive customized news and email alerts on their favorite artists

Success Factors

Shoutmouth is uniquely qualified to succeed due to the following reasons:

  • Entrepreneurial track record : Shoutmouth’s CEO and team have helped launch numerous successful ventures.
  • Monetization track record : Over the past two years, Shoutmouth’s founders have run one of the most successful online affiliate marketing programs, having sold products to over 500,000 music customers online.
  • Key milestones completed : Shoutmouth’s founders have invested $500,000 to-date to staff the company (we currently have an 11-person full-time team), build the core technology, and launch the site. We have succeeded in gaining initial customer traction with 50,000 unique visitors in March, 100,000 unique visitors in April, and 200,000 unique visitors in May.

Unique Investment Metrics

The Shoutmouth investment opportunity is very exciting due to the metrics of the business.

To begin, over the past five years, over twenty social networks have been acquired. The value in these networks is their relationships with large numbers of customers, which allow acquirers to effectively sell to this audience.

The sales price of these social networks has ranged from $25 to $137 per member. Shoutmouth has the ability to enroll members at less than $1 each, thus providing an extraordinary return on marketing expenditures. In fact, during a recent test, we were able to sign-up 2,000 members to artist-specific Shoutmouth newsletters at a cost of only 43 cents per member.

While we are building Shoutmouth to last, potential acquirers include many types of companies that seek relationships with music fans such as music media/publishing (e.g., MTV, Rolling Stone), ticketing (e.g., Ticketmaster, LiveNation) and digital music sales firms (e.g., iTunes).

Financial Strategy, Needs and Exit Strategy

While Shoutmouth’s technological, marketing and operational infrastructure has been developed, we currently require $3 million to execute on our marketing and technology plan over the next 24 months until we hit profitability.

Shoutmouth will primarily generate revenues from selling advertising space. As technologies evolve that allow us to seamlessly integrate music sampling and purchasing on our site, sales of downloadable music are also expected to become a significant revenue source. To a lesser extent, we may sell other music-related items such as ringtones, concert tickets, and apparel.

Topline projections over the next three years are as follows:

Other Resources for Writing Your Business Plan

  • How to Expertly Write the Company Description in Your Business Plan
  • How to Write the Market Analysis Section of a Business Plan
  • The Customer Analysis Section of Your Business Plan
  • Completing the Competitive Analysis Section of Your Business Plan
  • The Management Team Section of Your Business Plan
  • Financial Assumptions and Your Business Plan
  • How to Create Financial Projections for Your Business Plan
  • Everything You Need to Know about the Business Plan Appendix
  • Business Plan Conclusion: Summary & Recap

What is the purpose of an executive summary?

An executive summary provides a quick overview of your business plan. It succinctly describes your business. It gives a summary of each of the other sections of your plan (e.g., marketing plan, financial plan, customer analysis, etc.). And it answers the key question that investors and lenders need to know: why is your business uniquely qualified to succeed?

What is included in an executive summary?

Your executive summary should include an overview of your business concept, a summary of each of the key sections of your plan (company overview, industry analysis, customer analysis, competitive analysis, marketing plan, operations plan, management team, financial plan) and answer why your business is uniquely qualified to succeed.

How long is an executive summary?

Your executive summary should be one to two pages. Remember that the goal of the summary is simply to excite the reader into continuing through your full plan. Give them a summary of the key highlights of your business and invite them to learn more by reading the full business plan.

How do you start off a summary?

If the first paragraph of your executive summary isn’t compelling enough, you’ll immediately lose readers. So, start your executive summary by clearly stating what your business does and why your company is unique. Then give a summary of each of the other sections of your plan (e.g., competitive analysis, industry analysis, etc.).

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide for Small Businesses

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How to write an executive summary for a business plan

The table of content page of a business plan.

All new businesses should have a business plan. These documents outline the goals an owner has for their new organisation and sets out a plan of action to achieve them.

Although these documents need to be as comprehensive as possible, it is usually the condensed executive summary that is the most important part of any business plan .

While some business owners will talk to a specialist business consultant before writing their executive summary, this can be expensive and is not always necessary.

But what is an executive summary and how do you write one? In this guide, we answer both of these questions and more as we take a closer look at this business plan staple. 

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is a short introduction that summarises your business plan. Designed to provide a brief but compelling overview of your plan, it should do the following: - Describe the purpose of your business. - Highlight your target market. - Explain what gap in the market it aims to fill. - Outline basic start-up costs and other important financial details. This should include initial overheads costs, stock costs, start-up business insurance expenses, etc.

Despite the title, these introductions are much more than quick summaries of your plan. As the only part of the document that some of your intended audience will have time to read and digest, it has the power to make or break your entire plan. For this reason, it needs to be comprehensive while also being engaging and compelling.

How to write an executive summary

A well-written executive summary should efficiently summarise your larger business plan. To do this it should effectively communicate the major findings from your research, as well as your proposed plan of action.

Where to start

You should always start at the end. This is to say, crafting your executive summary should always be done after every other section of your business plan is finished. This makes sure you can create a summary that best represents your entire plan as accurately as possible. Trying to cut corners will only serve to undermine the time and effort you have invested into putting your business plan together.

With this in mind, below we take a look at the musts when it comes to what to include in your executive summary.

What to include

A strong executive summary can be broken down into just five small sections. These are:

1. An overview of your business

All executive summaries should start with this. This will help to ensure the reader understands who you are and what your business will do. Naturally, this section should always include the name of your business, an introduction to products/services it will provide, and any other insights about the specific industry.

2. A discussion on your target market

This section will cover the ‘gap’ in your chosen industry your business aims to fill by defining your desired target market. In order to do this, you may have to present some research that highlights the current competitive landscape of the market in question. This can help to outline the advantages of your business.

Finally, you may also want to include a brief overview of your marketing strategy here. By covering the strongest aspects of your strategy, you can stay concise while still piquing the readers interest.

3. An overview of operations

As the title suggests, this section should briefly look at how your business plans to operate on a day-to-day basis. This should include details of where your business will be based, the corporate structure, whether you will be based entirely online or have stores, etc.

4. Highlights of forecasting and projections

Your business plan should include detailed financial projections. However, for the purpose of the executive summary you only need to provide an overview of your sales forecasting projections for the first few years of business. This should include a clear break-even point that tells the reader when you expect to turn a profit.

5. An outline of your investment needs

Finally, if your business requires financial help, your executive summary should conclude by detailing these needs. This should include a clear total figure that you explain is fully costed in the business plan. Naturally, this means this number should align with projections mentioned throughout your business plan in the forecasting section of your summary.

How long should an executive summary be?

Less is more when it comes to executive summaries. They need to be brief and concise while still representing your entire plan as accurately as possible. As a rule, try to keep the whole section to one page, or two at a stretch.

Executive summary example

[Business name] GJW’s Coffee Co.

[An overview of your business]

GJW’s Coffee launched as a takeaway service in Hull in December 2021. It specialises in high quality coffee, freshly baked pastries, and handmade sandwiches. After initial success, we now want to expand the business by opening our first brick and mortar coffee house. It will be located in an area of the city which currently lacks coffee houses and cafes, despite being a high-income area with a high footfall.

GJW’s current delivery-only model offers a broad range of coffee and espresso products, all of which contain high quality coffee beans. The business caters to all customers by providing each a fully bespoke coffee service - we will make any coffee to order, down to the smallest detail. This will also be the case when we launch our coffee house.

[An overview of your target market]

As Hull has a cool climate for much of the year, hot coffee beverages are big sellers. However, we will also sell iced coffee to satisfy demand during the warmer months. Located near the city’s business district, as well as the university, young professionals, teaching staff, and students are our primary target audience.

In terms of competition, while there is a Starbucks on the university’s campus, this is small and currently cannot satisfy demand. Additionally, local customers are looking for high quality products and a relaxing, sit-in atmosphere. This chain coffee house cannot provide the level of quality and customer service that GJW’s can.

Other than that, takeaway food outlets are the only food/drink businesses located in a 2.5 mile radius of our site.  

[An overview of operations]

GJW’s is a coffee shop and bakery operated by two partners. One partner deals with the finance and administration of the business, while the other deals with sales and the day-to-day running of the company. In order to launch the business’ first brick and mortar store, each partner is providing capital from their personal savings. This will cover start-up expenses and provide financial stability for the first two months of operations. The business is based in Hull, but plans to expand in future years.

[An overview of forecasting and projections]

As demonstrated in the graph below, GJW’s anticipates a steady growth of sales over the next five years. We also anticipate the business should break even by the third month of operations. While profits are expected to be relatively low during the first two years of operations, we expect increasing growth from the third year onwards. We are projecting an initial investment of £150,000 from the two founders.

[Insert your graph here]

[An outline of your investment needs]

In order for the business to achieve its initial goals, an investment plan is required. Detailed below is a list of start-up funding requirements.

Start-up finances

- Initial expenses of £70K. This includes £30K premises renovation costs, £30K equipment purchase costs, £5K legal fees, £5K other (insurance, tax, etc.). This appears as negative earnings in our initial balance as they occurred before launch.

- Starting cash in the bank of £80K

Investment requirements

- Initial investment from founders, detailed above

- £100K 10-year loan from investors (fully costed in business plan)

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How to write an executive summary for your business plan

An executive summary is a synopsis of all the key sections of your business plan, and it’s one of the most important parts of your plan. .

It should enable the reader to see at a glance your organisation’s core capabilities, strengths, past achievements, and strategic focus and direction, as well as provide an explanation of how these factors set your business apart.

An executive summary should explain succinctly why you wrote the report, emphasise your conclusions and recommendations, and include the essential information used to support those conclusions. 

It's important readers like investors and lenders can grasp this information quickly and are encouraged to read on.

In other words, your executive summary should be able to be read as a separate, standalone document, communicating the whole story independently of the full business plan.

What to include in an executive summary

Think of your executive summary as an introduction to your business. Include:

  • your mission statement  
  • company information and management team
  • growth highlights 
  • products/services
  • financial information 
  • The market and your customer
  • market opportunity
  • marketing and sales
  • competition and your competitive advantage
  • business operations
  • financial projections and plans
  • summary of future plans.

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Best practices for writing an executive summary

  • Make it compelling. Investors and lenders read this section first, and you want them to continue reading. For example, if you're selling a business idea to investors, include highlights that will encourage potential investors to read on. This might be related to growth rates, your competitive edge, or an exciting new technology.
  • Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details. Keep it short and concise, but ensure you explain clearly why you have arrived at your conclusions. The suggested length is one to three pages. 
  • Don't introduce any information that isn't covered in the business plan.
  • Organise it according to the sequence of information presented in the full plan.
  • Write it after you have completed the plan and decided on your recommendations.
  • Use keywords from the main plan to ensure continuity.   
  • Insert the executive summary as the first section, after or before the table of contents, even though it will be the last component you have written.  
  • Create the summary by rephrasing information – don't just cut and paste. 
  • Include all key fundamentals of the proposed business from the body of the plan, including the financial implications.
  • Identify the purpose of the plan and include at least the major recommendations or requests.
  • Be clearly articulated, positive, reasoned, concise and to-the-point.

When using an executive summary and business plan to apply for a loan or funding, state clearly and definitively:

  • how much you want
  • how you're going to use it
  • how the money will make your business more profitable
  • how you'll repay the loan.

And finally, remember it's important to finish with a compelling closing sentence or two that answers the reader's key question: "Why is this a winning business?"

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How to Write an Executive Summary (Example & Template Included)

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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.

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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.

Appropriate Language

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.

Pithy Introduction

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 .

Relevant Information

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 template for Word

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.

A screenshot of the Kanban board project view

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.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

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.

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

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How to Write an Executive Summary in 6 Steps

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When you’re starting a business, one of the first things you need to do is write a business plan. Your business plan is like a roadmap for your business, so you can lay out your goals and a concrete plan for how you’ll reach them.

Not only is a business plan essential for any business owner, but it’s also a requirement if you decide to apply for small business funding or find investors. After all, before a bank or individual hands over any money, they’ll want to be sure your company is on solid ground (so they can get their money back).

A business plan consists of several pieces, from an executive summary and market analysis to a financial plan and projections. The executive summary will be the first part of your business plan.

If wondering how to write an executive summary has kept you from completing your business plan, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll explain what an executive summary is and provide tips for writing your own so your business plan can start strong.

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is a short, informative, and easy-to-read opening statement to your business plan. Even though it’s just one to two pages, the executive summary is incredibly important.

An executive summary tells the story of what your business does, why an investor might be interested in giving funds to your business, why their investment will be well-spent, and why you do what you do. An executive summary should be informative, but it should also capture a busy reader’s attention.

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Why write an executive summary?

Anyone you’re sending your executive summary and business plan to is likely busy—very busy. An entire business plan is long, involved, and deals with a lot of numbers.

Someone busy wants to get an understanding of your business, and they want to do it quickly, which is to say not by diving into a complicated, 80-page business plan. That’s where your executive summary comes in.

An executive summary provides just the opportunity to hook someone’s interest, tell them about your business, and offer a clear selling point as to why they should consider investing in your business.

Your executive summary is your chance to sell your business to potential investors and show them your business is worth not only their money but also their time.

What to include in an executive summary

By its nature, an executive summary is short. You must be able to clearly communicate the idea of your business, what sets you apart, and how you plan to grow into a successful enterprise.

The subsequent sections of your business plan will go into more detail, but your executive summary should include the most critical pieces of your business plan—enough to stand on its own, as it’s often the only thing a prospective investor will read. Here’s what your executive summary should include—consider it an executive summary template from which you can model your own.

1. The hook

The first sentence and paragraph of your executive summary determine whether or not the entire executive summary gets read. That’s why the hook or introduction is so important.

In general, a hook is considered anything that will get a reader’s attention. While an executive summary is a formal business document, you do want your hook to make you stand out from the crowd—without wasting time.

Your hook can be sharing something creative about your company, an interesting fact, or just a very well-crafted description of your business. It’s crucial to craft your hook with the personality of your reader in mind. Give them something that will make your company stand out and be memorable among a sea of other business plans.

Grab their attention in the first paragraph, and you’re much more likely to get your executive summary read, which could lead to an investment.

2. Company description summary

Now that you’ve hooked your reader, it’s time to get into some general information about your business. If an investor is going to give you money, after all, they first need to understand what your company does or what product you sell and who is managing the company.

Your company description should include information about your business, such as when it was formed and where you’re located; your products or services; the founders or executive team, including names and specific roles; and any additional details about the management team or style.

3. Market analysis

Your market analysis in the executive summary is a brief description of what the market for your business looks like. You want to show that you have done your research and proven that there is a need for your specific product or services. Some questions you should answer:

Who are your competitors?

Is there a demand for your products or services?

What advantages do you have that make your business unique in comparison to others?

To reiterate, stick to the highlights of your market analysis in your executive summary. You’ll provide a complete analysis in a separate section of your business plan, but you should be able to communicate enough in the executive summary that a potential investor can gauge whether your business has potential.

4. Products and services

Now that you’ve established a need in the market, it’s time to show just how your business will fill it. This section of your executive summary is all about highlighting the product or service that your company offers. Talk about your current sales, the growth you’ve seen so far, and any other highlights that are a selling point for your company.

This is also a good time to identify what sets your business apart and gives you a competitive advantage. After all, it’s unlikely that your business is the first of its kind. Highlight what you do better than the competition and why potential customers will choose your product or service over the other options on the market.

5. Financial information and projections

In this section of your executive summary, you want to give the reader an overview of your current business financials. Again, you’ll go more in-depth into this section later in your business plan, so just provide some highlights. Include your current sales and profits (if you have any), as well as what funding you’re hoping to acquire and how this will affect your financials in the next few years.

This is also where you can explain what funding, if any, you’ve received in the past. If you paid back your loan on time, this is an especially bright selling point for potential lenders.

6. Future plans

While asking for what funding you need is essential, you’ve also got to make clear what you’re going to use that funding for. If you’re asking for money, you want the person to know you have a plan to put those funds to good use.

Are you hoping to open another location, expand your product line, invest in your marketing efforts? This final section of your executive summary should detail where you want your business to go in the future, as well as drive home how funding can help you get there.

Tips for writing an executive summary

Even if you include each part of a good executive summary, you might not get noticed. What is written can be just as important as how it’s written. An executive summary has to strike a delicate balance between formal, personable, confident, and humble.

1. Be concise

An executive summary should include everything that’s in your business plan, just in a much shorter format. Writing a concise executive summary is no easy task and will require many revisions to get to the final draft. And while this is the first section of your executive summary, you’ll want to write it last, after you’ve put together all the other elements.

To choose your most important points and what should be included in the executive summary, go through your business plan, and pull out single-line bullet points. Go back through those bullet points and eliminate everything unnecessary to understanding your business.

Once you have your list of bullet points narrowed down, you can start writing your executive summary. Once it’s written, go back in and remove any unnecessary information. Remember, you should only be including the highlights—you have the rest of your business plan to go into more detail. The shorter and clearer your executive summary is, the more likely someone is to read it.

2. Use bullet points

One simple way to make your executive summary more readable is to use bullet points. If someone is reading quickly or skimming your executive summary, extra whitespace can make the content faster and easier to read.

Short paragraphs, short sentences, and bullet points all make an executive summary easier to skim—which is likely what the reader is doing. If important numbers and convincing stats jump out at the reader, they’re more likely to keep reading.

3. Speak to your audience

When writing your executive summary, be sure to think about who will be reading it; that’s who you’re speaking to. If you can personalize your executive summary to the personality and interests of the person who will read it, you’re more likely to capture their attention.

Personalizing might come in the form of a name in the salutation, sharing details in a specific way you know that person likes and the tone of your writing. An executive summary deals with business, so it will generally have a formal tone. But, different industries may be comfortable with some creativity of language or using shorthand to refer to certain ideas.

Know who you’re speaking to and use the right tone to speak to them. That might be formal and deferential, expert and clipped, informal and personable, or any other appropriate tone. This may also involve writing different versions of your executive summary for different audiences.

4. Play to your strengths

One of the best ways to catch the attention of your reader is to share why your business is unique. What makes your business unique is also what makes your business strong, which can capture a reader’s interest and show them why your business is worth investing in. Be sure to highlight these strengths from the start of your executive summary.

5. Get a test reader

Once you’ve written and edited your executive summary, you need a test reader. While someone in your industry or another business owner can be a great resource, you should also consider finding a test reader with limited knowledge of your business and industry. Your executive summary should be so clear that anyone can understand it, so having a variety of test readers can help identify any confusing language.

If you don’t have access to a test reader, consider using tools such as Hemingway App and Grammarly to ensure you’ve written something that’s easy to read and uses proper grammar.

How long should an executive summary be?

There’s no firm rule on how long an executive summary should be, as it depends on the length of your business plan and the depth of understanding needed by the reader to fully grasp your ask.

That being said, it should be as short and concise as you can get it. In general, an executive summary should be one to two pages in length.

You can fudge the length slightly by adjusting the margin and font size, but don’t forget readability is just as important as length. You want to leave plenty of white space and have a large enough font that the reader is comfortable while reading your executive summary. If your executive summary is hard to read, it’s less likely your reader will take the time to read your business plan.

What to avoid in an executive summary

While the rules for writing a stellar executive summary can be fuzzy, there are a few clear rules for what to avoid in your executive summary.

Your executive summary should avoid:

Focusing on investment. Instead, focus on getting the reader to be interested enough to continue and read your business plan or at least schedule a meeting with you.

Clichés, superlatives, and claims that aren’t backed up by fact. Your executive summary isn’t marketing material. It should be straightforward and clear.

Avoiding the executive summary no-nos is just as important as striking the right tone and getting in the necessary information for your reader.

Executive summary examples

Sometimes the best way to learn is to see how other people are doing it. The U.S. Small Business Administration has multiple business plan examples; you can flip to the executive summary to help you write your own executive summary. For more inspiration, here is an example from Harvard Business School :

Executive summary template

After all the information we threw your way, you're probably itching to get started. If you're ready to apply what you just learned, download our free business plan template. Our template will not only make it easier to write your executive summary; it will also guide you in writing the rest of your business plan.

The bottom line

While an executive summary is short, it’s challenging to write. Your executive summary condenses your entire introduction, business description, business plan, market analysis, financial projections, and ask into one to two pages. Condensing information down to its most essential form takes time and many drafts. When you’re putting together your business plan’s executive summary, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to write it and to seek the help of friends or colleagues for editing it to perfection.

However, some tools make crafting a business plan, including your executive summary, a simpler process. A business plan template is a great place to start, and business plan software can especially help with the design of your business plan. After all, a well-written executive summary can make all the difference in obtaining funding for your business, so you’ll want all the help you can get.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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