The purpose of the executive summary is to present a compelling overview of your business plan to entice the reader (typically an investor) to learn more about your company. It should describe and quantify the opportunity and where your company fits. It should also explain why you’re in business and why you’ll be able to take advantage of this opportunity. Writing it after the business plan is fully drafted is common practice. Write it first, write it last, just write it well!
In our Guide to Writing an Executive Summary, you will find steps to help you through the process of creating an executive summary. While there is no firm rule for the length of executive summaries, two to three pages are considered ideal. Pictures and graphs are a great way to convey your message in a quick, easy to visualize manner. Refer to the section at the end of this document for additional tips.
Hook or Grab
How can you hook the reader from the beginning?
What’s the specific problem faced by your buying audience and why?
What is the solution to the problem you just described? How will it help the customer base solve the problem?
What is the size and stage of the market (early-growth vs mature)?
How would you describe your product and/or services?
If you had to describe where you’ve been and where you’re going, what would you include?
How are you different from the competition? Is it the way you do business (service, speed, quality) or is it the team (special talent) and/or proprietary technology?
How much and what type of funding are you looking for?
Be sure to read through these and delete this section when you are finished with your document.
- In clear, concise, jargon-free language, write a reader-friendly summary that an executive in any industry can grasp. Besides describing the benefits of your goods to your customer base, explain clearly the revenue model and value proposition; include information about your market, its size, and demographics so investors can judge the scale of opportunity; pricing issues, and competition. Investors know that virtually all companies have competition, so trying to convince them that you don’t will damage your credibility from the outset. You should explain why you have or perceive a competitive advantage over your competitors and why you believe you will maintain that advantage, but avoid puffery and bluster.
- Employ KISS twice: keep it simple, stupid and keep it short, stupid. Avoid highly technical writing because, at this early stage, investors are trying to get a big-picture snapshot of your company, not what kind of alloy you use in your widgets. Technical writing will turn off an investor if they don’t understand the teaser, which should appeal to a broad base of venture capitalists, not just those intimately familiar with your industry. So too will excessive verbiage; keep the document to four pages at the most.
- Write in an active voice, not the passive. Be realistic, but avoid negativity of any kind. Avoid empty adjectives that carry no substance. And avoid the spell-check land mine; triple-check spelling and formatting. Venture capitalists have so many teasers and business plans — and underlying businesses — to choose from that they are likely to discard those that appear sloppy.
- Concise length and summary format will enable the potential investors to quickly understand what you plan to do with your business.
- Preview the main points of an in-depth report; write for non-technical people who don’t have time to read the main report.
- Create a summary each time you write a business report exceeding four pages. Make sure it’s no more than 1/10 the length of the main report.
- List the main points the summary will cover, putting them in the order in which they appear in the main report.
- Write a simple declarative sentence that states each of the main points.
- Add supporting or explanatory sentences as needed, avoiding unnecessary technical material and jargon.
- Read the summary slowly and critically, making sure it conveys your purpose, message, and key recommendations. You want readers to be able to skim the main report without missing the point.
- Ask a non-technical person – for example, your parents or your spouse – to read the document. If it confuses or bores them, the summary probably will have the same effect on other non-technical readers.
- Check for errors of style, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Ask a fellow writer to proofread and edit the document
- Keep your main points in mind as you write the summary. You needn’t include every point in the summary, but ensure that the major ideas are covered succinctly. Banks and Venture Capitalists are busy people and if their interest is not piqued at the start they will not continue to read your plan. VCs receive thousands of plans, many of them the size of a book. They will only read a plan if the first few pages indicate that it is worthy of further exploration, which is why your executive summary is so important.
Click here to view our Guide to Writing an Executive Summary to learn more.