What is an executive summary?
Executive Summary is the brief introduction to and summary of your business plan (or case study). It should describe your business, the problem it solves, your target market, and the financial highlights.
A good executive summary takes your reader’s attention and lets them know what you’re doing and why they should read the rest of your business plan or proposal. It’s not unusual for investors to make an initial decision simply on the basis of reading the Executive Summary, so it’s important to get it right. We ‘re going to show you how to write an executive summary that sets your business plan apart from the rest.
For example, if a company performs a competitor analysis before deciding whether or not to move in a different strategic direction, a business plan would be put together to articulate the findings and propose further steps. This business plan would be opened with an executive summary.
As such, the executive summary quickly becomes the most important part of any business plan.
Is an executive summary important?
Are you writing a business plan to show it to investors or bankers? Then you need to have a good executive summary. A lot of people will read only the summary, no matter what. Others will first read the summary to decide whether or not to read the rest of the plan. The Executive Summary is essential to the plans that are being written for outsiders.
Now, if you are writing a business plan for internal use only, you may not need to write an executive summary. However, there are some internal plans – such as an annual operational plan or a strategic plan – that can use the summary to highlight the necessary information and to present a digestible version of the overall plan.
How long should an executive summary be?
The general rule is to have as short as possible executive summaries. Your audience has limited time and attention and needs to see your business plan information as quickly as possible.
Try to keep your executive summary under 2 pages, if necessary, even if it can be longer.
Sometimes you may need a longer executive summary
For complex case studies, you may need a more in-depth executive summary to provide readers with an overview of the case study.It may be long, but it effectively introduces the client, outlines their challenge, and describes the solution and the outcome. Sets the stage for further reading.
Guide to write an effective executive summary for Business Plan
1. A product or service description and the problem solved by your company
Include a brief description of the product or service you are offering and why it is necessary. Your business does not need to address a larger social problem, but it should address customer needs or market opportunities.
2. A description of your target market
Your target market is who you think your clients are going to be. Sometimes the name of the product itself defines the market, such as “Peoria ‘s Best Thai Food” or “Mini Cooper Dashboard Accessory.” If not, a brief description of the target market — your primary audience or the people you think will spend money on your solution — will suffice.
Assuming that your business has competition, briefly describe how your business will be differentiated. Are you competing for a price, quality, or something else? Briefly describe what makes you different from your business here.
4. Financial Overview
If you are an existing company, this may be as simple as highlighting recent annual sales and growth over the last year. For start-ups, it could be a brief description of aspirations, such as the sales forecast target for the next year or three years from now. I often recommend a simple highlights chart, a sales bar chart, and a gross margin for the next three years.
5. Write About Your Team
This is particularly important for startup companies. Investors want to know who’s behind the business idea, and why you and your team are the right people to build the business. It may also be worth highlighting 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 their qualifications to your full business plan.
6. Funding Needs
If you’re using your business plan to raise money for your business, your executive summary should show how much money you ‘re looking for. Investors will want to know this in advance, and they won’t have to dig through a business plan to find this detail.
How To Write the Executive Summary for Case Studies?
The term “case study” brings to mind a psychologist who explores the patient’s history and treatment and writes down the details, but in fact, a case study is just as likely to involve an industry or law research report. It identifies a problem or a need, investigates its causes, presents a variety of opinions, and suggests certain actions. This involves a lot of information, which is why you might want to present it along with an executive summary – an additional document, something like a mini-report, which consolidates the most important information.
Remember, when writing this section, this is your best chance to interest the reader — and get them to act! For example: call your sales team and get more information about your products, sign up for a newsletter, download a trial product, or ask for more information about your product line.
- Understanding an Executive Summary: Consider the Executive Summary as a time-saving measure. It’s not necessarily for you, but for the people who will be receiving and reviewing your study. It captures the most important information so that your readers can understand your data and conclusions within a fraction of the time it takes them to read the entire study. For example, if you’re a financial executive building up a business case for the planned IT acquisitions, you ‘d bring your management team together to make their input into the acquisition of funds for specific IT projects. The case explains their own motivations and needs and their desire to be involved in high-level strategic decisions. It must be extremely detailed to be accurate and credible. Top-level management and chief executives have a lot of issues on their plates, so they might postpone reading your full report because it’s sure to be a time-consuming project. If you’re preparing an executive summary to go along with your report, it’s more likely to be read.
- Preparing the Data: You ‘re going to want to include enough details about your research in your executive summary to make it powerful and compelling, but brevity is key. Your summary should answer most – if not all – of the important questions that senior management may have, but be comparatively brief. A good place to start with is a review of your study, taking note of what jumps out to you as the most important data.
- Organizing the Summary: Even if your case study is 300 pages long, you may want to keep your executive summary down to 10 pages or so. If your study is shorter, your summary should be shorter. You might start with an introduction, explaining why you prepared a case study, even if it was because higher-level management asked for it. Explain why the study was needed. Describe how you’ve done your research. Lay out your findings, and then finish with your recommendations. With most executive summaries, quoting the corresponding word-by-word report is a bad idea, but when summarizing a case or research study, it is considered permissible to “cut and paste” parts of your recommendation section.
- Writing the Document: Not every great analytical mind has a gift of words as well. If writing isn’t your strong suit, you might want to consider brainstorming your management team for their ideas or hire a professional writer to draft a summary for you based on your notes. If you feel confident about your abilities, remember that your summary is your first and best chance of achieving your business objectives. Use a language that makes it clear that you believe strongly in your business case. Remember that although you know your area of expertise both inside and outside, your audience, often higher-level management, may have only a general overview of your specific field of expertise.
Download Free executive summary template for case study from HERE