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How to write a business proposal executive summary
The executive summary of your business proposal summarizes your entire proposal in 1-2 pages. It's an overview of the most important points covered in your business proposal. The executive summary makes it quick and easy for your potential client to gain an insight into what you are offering them and why it will benefit them to do business with you.
Before writing your executive summary, you will first need to write your business proposal . Once you have completed your business proposal, use the following outline as your guide for writing the executive summary.
Discuss your company
Describe the history of your company, your industry, the location of your corporate headquarters, and the number of employees who work at your company. Keep this section short and about 1-2 paragraphs.
Discuss your expertise
Explain your industry expertise, similar projects you have worked on, any industry awards you have received, and a list of your key clients.
In this section you want to grab the interest and respect of the reader by referring to 1-2 projects that you have successfully completed that were very similar to this potential client's project. They want to know that you have successfully helped similar companies with similar projects. Try to keep this section to 2-3 paragraphs. Remember that this is just a quick summary. Save the in-depth details for your business proposal.
Discuss the benefits of your product or service
In this section you want to describe the product and or service you want to sell to this potential client. Mention key customers, partners, and why your product or service is the absolute best solution to this potential client's needs. Explain the benefits the client will receive, the return on investment they will receive, and whether there are any risks involved.
If your business proposal is in response to their Request for Proposal (RFP). explain how your product or service will address their exact problem or need as it was detailed in their RFP. This will prove that you read and understood their Request For Proposal and that your proposed solution perfectly matches their needs. Try to keep this section to four paragraphs or less.
Discuss your implementation plan
In 1-2 paragraphs explain how the solution you are offering will be delivered to the client. This can include stating an estimated number of person-days, such as the project will be completed in 30-days with our five person team using XYZ technology, and in coordination with a lead project manager at your facility.
Summarize Your Key Selling Points
In 1-2 paragraphs conclude your executive summary by restating your main selling points -- the favorable end result benefits and return on investment the client will receive by doing business with your company. Show confidence that you will provide the exact solution they want and need. The client needs to believe that you will truly help them, and that working with your company will be a positive and financially beneficial experience. They need to trust that you will deliver on your promise and that they are making a smart business decision by doing business with you.
In closing, your executive summary should be a high-level overview of your business proposal and how your company will help their company.
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Proposal Executive Summary Examples
If you’re searching for a proposal executive summary example, then you know that a compelling executive summary has the ability to engage your audience and inspire them to read your proposal in detail. Writing the content, however, is the hard part. We’ve included proposal executive summary examples here for inspiration to help with your writing.
Watch the video to learn more.
Prefer to read? Scroll past the video for text!
Why include an executive summary?
In many proposals, the executive summary is the one place you know everyone will read. Similar to the cover letter , the executive summary provides an opportunity to highlight how your business solves the client’s pain points. The goal of the executive summary is to not just summarize your proposal but to instead summarize what life will look like if your company is chosen for the project. The executive summary allows you to tell a story that connects with your audience and inspire them to choose you over the competition. Read our blog about the difference between cover letter and executive summary .
Note: this post focuses on executive summaries for business proposals for projects or services (often in response to an RFP ). Executive summaries for investor or grant proposals are slightly different and include other elements.
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How to Write an Executive Summary
Always write the executive summary as the last step of your proposal. You should know all of the details of what you are proposing before you create the executive summary or you will end up revising the content multiple times. In general, executive summaries will follow this layout:
Summary of Pain Point/Challenge
First, summarize the pain point or challenge that the client is trying to solve. This can be a few sentences or a couple paragraphs. The goal is to show that you understand what they are trying to solve and the unique challenges that they face.
Description of How to Solve Pain Point/Challenge
After describing the pain point or challenge, move into the solution. This doesn’t necessarily mean you describe your solution in depth (yet), but instead write about how they are going to achieve their goal at a higher level.
For example, if a customer is currently facing a challenge because they have outdated technology, the way they solve that challenge is to update their technology to x, y, z. You can write about this in a paragraph or a couple sentences before moving on to your company.
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Overview of How Company/Solution Achieves Goal
Now that you have laid out the landscape of the client, their challenge, and the solution, it’s time to talk about how your specific company or solution solves that challenge. You can provide a short overview of what you offer, but make sure it is always in the context of their pain point and challenge. One way to do this is to always follow up any description of your service with a benefit to them.
Unique Qualifications of Company/Proposal
If your company or proposal has unique differentiators compared to competitors, you should also mention them in your executive summary and go into detail within your proposal. The goal is to win your audience over early instead of them being skeptical as the skim through your proposal.
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Now that you know the general structure of an executive summary, it’s time to review a few examples to inspire your writing.
Proposal Executive Summary Example 1
Keeping communities safe begins the moment residents open their door. Because of this, the City of Client (Client) requires working and energy-efficient city street lights across the city. The first step in this project is replacing all lights from HPS to LED technology. As a project that encompasses every corner of Client, you require a vendor who can complete this project on-time and within budget the first time for the ongoing safety and security of your residents.
With over 50 years of experience in the electrical technology space, Company LLC (Company) brings experience to ensure the success of this phase and beyond. Company’s international recognition as a leader attests to our expertise, and our focus on innovation and quality places our solutions as the best in the industry.
In addition to our extensive history and expertise, there are a few key reasons why Client will benefit from working with Company.
National Presence. We are an international company, but our over 10,000 US employees cover the country from coast to coast. With this many resources at hand, we can comfortably staff this project, no matter the timeline or specific challenges.
Local Experts. While we will leverage our national resources where necessary, our CITY office is located a mere 8 miles from Client’s offices, making for easy collaboration and quick implementation.
Light Innovator. We have developed many of the latest technologies and processes for traffic systems. To date, we have installed over 300,000 lights, including 30,000 in your state alone.
In working with Company, Client can rest assured that you are receiving top-quality products and installation by experts. Our history of completing similar projects both within your neighborhood and around the globe speaks to our expertise and attention to quality. We look forward to supporting Client in this phase and beyond.
Proposal Executive Summary Example 2
In today’s world, brick and mortar companies face the challenge of needing to anticipate and protect the health of both employees and customers. With over 10,000 individuals visiting your premises each day, Client LLC (Client) faces a particular challenge of requiring extensive cleaning daily to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, maintain the quality of your location, and provide safety and comfort for your patrons. At Company LLC (Company), we understand the effect a clean space can have on productivity and customer satisfaction, and our focus on quality ensures that all of our clients are greeted with sparkling clean facilities each morning.
Company started 50 years ago in a garage with a mop bucket. Today, our network has spread across the country, and we now support many of the largest organizations in the United States. We stay true to our roots by providing comprehensive benefits to all of our employees to ensure they stay with us long-term, which allows us to constantly meet our standards for quality. A few other reasons why Company is best suited to help Client include:
Satisfaction Guarantee. We stand by our quality, and we guarantee your satisfaction with our services. In the event of an issue, we will be onsite in less than 3 hours, and we hold quarterly review meetings with you to review and address any concerns.
Green Products. With so many harsh chemicals used in cleaning supplies, it’s easy for a cleaning service to become a source of pain. We use biodegradable, environmentally-friendly materials that are less likely to result in allergic reactions or break down the surfaces we clean.
Local Cleaners. While we are a national company, we staff local cleaners for all of our projects, and we always have at least 3 local backup resources on call in case someone is sick or has an unexpected emergency. Our resources and local presence ensure that you will never have a lapse in service or quality.
With Company, Client can rest assured that the thousands of visitors you receive every day will be safe and healthy, with a clean site to explore. Our history of quality work, extensive training, and proven products allows us to remain a leader in the industry. We look forward to work to supporting Client in this initiative.
At the beginning of your proposal, the executive summary has the ability to win over the evaluators early before they even see your rates. Take extra time to perfect your executive summary, and your overall proposal efforts will improve.
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How To Write an Executive Summary
An effective executive summary can mean the difference between a client win and the recycle bin. It's arguably the most valuable component of any business proposal , but many people get confused when it comes time to put pen to paper.
An executive summary is not actually about summarizing at all; it’s about selling. Here’s how to write a proposal executive summary that seals the deal, including the 5 key components you need and some helpful dos and don'ts.
8 min. read
(This article was originally published on 7/4/2017 and updated on 05/16/2023)
There is so much dissent surrounding the executive summary of a proposal— Where does the executive summary go? How long should an executive summary be? How do you format an executive summary? These uncertainties can add to the already stressful task of getting a winning proposal written, designed, and delivered to the prospective client on time. It’s time to set things straight.
What is an executive summary?
The executive summary is arguably the most valuable component of any proposal. It serves as an introduction, allowing readers to quickly get acquainted with your proposal by outlining what’s to come. It gives you an opportunity to sell your proposed solution and explain why the prospective client should choose you over the competition.
The purpose of an executive summary
First of all, the term “executive summary” needs a rebrand. The name itself speaks of stuffy suits, boring, jargon-filled reports, and boardrooms filled with cigar smoke and people ready to say no.
They can’t wait to read your executive summary.
In all seriousness, the word “summary” can be misleading, and this is the first mistake people often make when it comes to writing their executive summary. They think that the purpose of an executive summary is to explain the entire proposal in 250 words. But it’s not.
The real purpose of an executive summary is to engage your prospective client. It helps the prospect quickly decide whether they're going to read the rest of the proposal, pass it on to other decision-makers, or if it's destined for the recycle bin.
So you better make it good.
The executive summary of your proposal needs to grab the reader’s attention and pique their interest. Even though you and your team spent painstaking hours writing this proposal, selecting just the right graphics, and coming up with the best solution for your potential client’s problem, they may only read this one page and then flip to your pricing table.
That’s why this section needs to be specific and persuasive, with a focus on results and benefits of your company/product/service, rather than describing features. You can save the features for the body of the proposal.
When should you write the executive summary?
Whether you write the executive summary before or after the rest of the proposal is as contentious as the debate about the best part of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: the chocolate or the peanut butter.
Some people feel that you should write the executive summary first because it can help you outline your concept and organize your thoughts for the entire proposal. That way, it acts as a guide for members of your team who are tasked with preparing sections of the proposal, ensuring that the big idea is consistent throughout, and that all necessary components are included.
Others feel strongly that you should write the executive summary after you’ve prepared the rest of the proposal because you’ve had a chance to work through the objectives and the solutions, and you’ll have a better idea of what to say and how to say it. Plus, things may have changed since you first started the proposal, so you might need to adjust your approach.
How to format an executive summary
The format of an executive summary is an important consideration that many people overlook. What do you include? How do you arrange the sections? To help you get started, here are the components of a good proposal executive summary:
The Opener: Capture their attention
You need an opener that's compelling. A way to get the potential client’s attention right away, and you do that by talking about THEM, not about you. Focus on the issue and the result, but be direct, concise, and evocative.
This is the time to hook them in — get them excited about what they’re going to read next.
The Need: We get it
Before a client hires you, they want to know that you get them. You can’t solve a problem that you don’t understand. This section of the executive summary is where you demonstrate your grasp of the situation. You could include a bit of your own research or a brief reference to your company’s experience dealing with a similar situation. You should also talk about how the client will benefit from solving the problem — what will change, the positive outcomes, the results.
Again, the focus here is on the prospect and their challenge, not on you and your company.
The Proposed Solution: We’ve got it
Now you’re in the spotlight. This section is where you talk about the brilliant solution you’re proposing and why it will work. But remember, this is just an overview. The prospect can read all the delicious details in the proposal, so keep it high level but still provide enough detail to convince them you have something specific and well thought out for them.
This section should start to provide your prospect with a sense of relief and get them excited about the result.
The Evidence: We can do it
It's time to show your stuff. Talk about why your company, your team, or your product is not only willing to take this challenge on, but how and why you're qualified to do so. Demonstrate what sets you apart and why they should choose you over the competition.
Maybe this is your niche market and you have lots of experience helping other companies with a similar issue. Maybe it’s a particular skill set your team possesses, your research, your algorithm, or your project management process. Or maybe you’ve won 27 Academy Awards for best picture, and you know you can make this a hit.
Talk about WHY you can make this a successful project and deliver results, but (broken record) keep it brief.
The Call to Action: Let’s do it
Keeping in mind that the purpose of the executive summary is to sell, it’s now time to close the deal.
Make the client feel like they have no other chance for happiness than to hire you and proves your solution is the one that will make their dreams come true.
Talk about why you want to work with them — a little flattery goes a long way — and about how, as partners, you will be successful.
Executive Summary Examples
Without further adieu, here are four (fictional) business proposal executive summary examples that will get your prospects excited to work with you.
1. Example of Ecommerce Executive Summary
Prospect: Gyuto -- Japanese chef knife brand Sender: ThinkBig -- Shopify design agency Project title: Shopify ecommerce Proposal
Gyuto sells what is arguably the coolest line of artisanal, sustainably-sourced kitchen knives in the world. They're handmade in Japan, capable of slicing tomatoes as thin as paper, and surprisingly affordable, considering the attention to detail. But as impressive as Gyuto knives are, you've got a static website that merely showcases low-res photos of your product line and requires customers to pick up the phone and place orders manually.
As you're well aware, placing orders manually is not sustainable. It’s severely limiting your potential for sales, and it's negatively affecting the way your customers perceive and experience the Gyuto brand. You need an ecommerce store so that customers can easily buy products from you directly at any time, from anywhere, however they want. This is the only way to grow your business online.
Lucky for you (and 1,000,000 other retailers around the world) there's Shopify. Shopify is an awesome hosted ecommerce app that empowers retailers with an easy-to-use, easy-to-manage, customizable online store and secure checkout. Shopify gives you control over the look and feel of your store and allows you to add products, manage inventory, track sales, and more. It's hassle-free ecommerce that allows you to focus on other aspects of your business.
We'll focus on implementing Shopify and leveraging its features to help drive Gyuto revenue and improve your customer experience. We'll also include powerful search and categorization so customers can easily and quickly find what they're looking for. We use best practices so that product pages convert users to add more items to their shopping cart. And then, most importantly, we’ll guide people down the conversion funnel to complete the checkout process. With this solution, we aim to grow your monthly sales by 50% within the next six months.
Here at ThinkBig, we're proud to be Shopify experts. That means we're among an elite group of developers who have been trained and approved by Shopify to help businesses like yours grow their online presence. Our Shopify status only enhances our already extensive knowledge of ecommerce trends, functionality, customer behaviour, and design. We've helped many businesses transform underperforming sites to an all-out sales boom just by improving their online shopping experience.
We love working with companies like Gyuto. Those who embrace the changes required for growth while still honouring their brand values and customer loyalty. With this attitude, a partnership with ThinkBig can transform Gyuto from mom and pop shop to family-run global online enterprise in a way that is manageable, sustainable, and profitable. We've done it for superstar brands like Dollar Shave Club, and for soon-to-be star brands like Rum Runners Rum Cake Factory.
If you're ready to increase your monthly sales by 50% in 6 months, we're ready to take you there. This proposal outlines in more detail how we'll do it, and what you can expect along the way. But your biggest expectation should be one of success.
As you can see, ThinkBig addresses all five aspects of a winning executive summary. They focus on the client with the opener, identify the prospect's need in the second paragraph, offer a solution with evidence to back it up, and include a clear call-to-action. While this sample executive summary is on the longer side, it tells the prospect exactly why ThinkBig is right for the job before they even get to the meat of the proposal.
2. Example of Marketing Executive Summary
Prospect: Pete’s Pizzeria -- Toronto pizza restaurant Sender: uGrow -- Social media marketing agency Project title: Social Media Marketing Proposal
Pete’s Pizzeria has been our favorite restaurant since the very first day we moved our offices to Toronto. The crispy-yet-fluffy crust is to die for, the sauce is otherworldly, and don’t even get us started on that fresh buffalo mozzarella you use. Surely this isn’t the first time you’re hearing this, but we have a feeling that you don’t hear it often enough. We noticed that you don’t have much of a social media presence, which is unfortunate because we think that everyone in the city should be lining up to eat at Pete’s Pizzeria.
If you weren’t already aware, social media is one of the most effective ways to expand your reach and grow your business. Without it, you’re leaving a giant, untapped pool of potential customers on the table and you risk losing existing, hungry customers to other restaurants that they follow. What you need is a social media marketing strategy to showcase your delicious restaurant in order to increase sales and customer loyalty.
Fortunately, uGrow can help. We’ll leverage Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to get your name out to millions of users. Here’s how: First, we’ll get you set up on each of the platforms and work with you to establish the Pete’s Pizzeria brand and voice. Then, we’ll take some stunning pictures of your food and write captions with trending hashtags. After that, we’ll create a consistent content calendar and posting schedule to maximize engagement. And to top it all off, we’ll manage all of the accounts to grow follower counts and increase traffic to your website. With this approach, we expect to increase your sales by 25% before year end.
At uGrow, we specialize in helping small, Toronto restaurants like Pete’s Pizzeria reach their full potential and grow their business. We’ve worked with over 75 restaurants across the city and throughout the GTA, and every one of our clients saw an increase in sales within three months of us taking over their social media. We’ve had several posts go viral, which resulted in our clients’ restaurants being completely sold out for the following weeks. All this to say: we love Pete’s Pizzeria and want to help you get the attention you deserve.
If you’re interested in increasing your sales by at least 25% by the end of the year, we can make it happen. This proposal goes into more detail on how exactly we plan to execute on your social media marketing strategy, and what you can expect once we start. Let’s get Pete’s Pizzeria trending.
In this sample executive summary, uGrow does a great job at playing to Pete’s Pizzeria’s pain points (whew!), and offers specific solutions and outcomes to build credibility with the prospect. uGrow also makes a great use of social proof to demonstrate its effectiveness with evidence from past clients.
3. Example of Cleaning Services Executive Summary
Prospect: ELC Holdings -- Property management company Sender: CLEAND -- Commercial cleaning services company Project title: Cleaning Services Proposal
With over 15,000 rentals in 3 states, ELC Holdings is one of the biggest property management companies in the midwest. Your growing portfolio of residential and commercial properties is seriously impressive, but we heard you could use some help keeping your commercial spaces in good shape. As people begin to return to the office, it’s essential that your properties are clean, safe, and compliant to public health guidelines.
As you know, maintaining commercial spaces is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of time and effort to clean even one floor, let alone 4. And that’s just one of your many buildings. But now more than ever, it’s important that your spaces are well-maintained so that your tenants feel safe and secure. It’s not an easy task, especially if you lack the staff and equipment. This is why you need commercial cleaning services.
Having spent over 25 years in the cleaning services industry, we’ve built an experienced team and an arsenal of cleaning equipment that will leave your building absolutely spotless. We offer daily, weekly, and biweekly cleaning arrangements to ensure that your buildings are always in perfect shape for your tenants. From the carpets to the ceilings and everything in between, we can help you clean and sanitize every last corner of your properties so you can rest assured that your tenants are happy.
CLEAND specializes in commercial cleaning services, and has worked with over 200 businesses across the Midwest. We currently have contracts with the United Center and the Auditorium Building in Chicago, and haven’t had a single complaint in the 10 years they’ve been using our services. We provide consistent, reliable results, and stand by our commitment to quality. In fact, if you aren’t happy with our services, we’ll pay the first month’s bill if you switch to another cleaning services company.
ELC Holdings is one of the biggest property management companies in the Midwest, and CLEAND is one of the best cleaning services companies in the area. What do you say we join forces? This proposal outlines how our services could benefit your company, and details what to expect if you choose to seize this opportunity.
This sample cleaning services executive summary immediately highlights the prospect’s pain points and explains why CLEAND is uniquely positioned to help relieve them. It incorporates all five components of a well-written executive summary and even highlights different service offerings before the prospect digs into the solutions section of CLEAND’s cleaning services proposal .
4. Executive Summary Template Example
Here's an example of an executive summary made using a customizable proposal template from Proposify's gallery.
Of course every executive summary needs to be tailored to your specific project, your potential client's needs, and your brand voice. But if you're looking for more inspiration, we have many other business proposal templates that you can customize yourself.
Executive summary tips: The Do’s and Don’ts
Some other important points and guidelines to keep in mind when writing your executive summary:
Do: use a template for your executive summary Getting started is the hardest part of writing a proposal executive summary. If you’re struggling to get the ball rolling, consider using a business proposal template that includes a sample executive summary. This can help ensure that you cover everything an executive summary should include.
Don’t: make it too long
Some people recommend that the executive summary should be 10% of your entire proposal, but it’s best if you try to keep it to one page, two tops if it’s a larger proposal. Be mindful that if you’re working on an RFP, they may already set out a particular length limit, so you’ll want to stick to that.
Don’t: use jargon
This rule applies to everything but is especially important when writing proposals. Jargon can act as a smokescreen to mask the fact that someone doesn’t really know what they’re talking about, or it can confuse people if they’re not familiar with the same terms.
Don’t: use overly technical language
Unless you are absolutely sure that the only person who will read the executive summary is an engineer or a developer or someone who will understand exactly what you’re talking about, don’t get too technical. In some situations, you may need to reference certain details, but remember that this is a persuasive document—sell the benefits, not the features. Save the tech stuff for the proposal.
Don’t: talk about your company history
The history of your company does not belong in the executive summary. After all, the executive summary is about your prospective client, not about you. However, if it is appropriate and relevant, put it in the body of the proposal under “About Us” or something.
Do: focus on your prospective client
Think about what they want to know, not what you want to tell them. Like any piece of copy, you need to write for your audience, so make sure you think about them; what turns them off and what turns them on.
Do: mention your potential client’s company name
People like to hear their names and the same holds true for businesses. Make sure you reference your prospect’s full company name several times in the executive summary, so they feel like you’re focused on them.
Do: use plain language
The regular rules for writing apply to executive summaries. Use simple, short sentences that are clear and can be understood at almost any reading level, especially if you might be writing for people whose first language is not English. Don’t be pretentious - you’ll come off like an ass. Be concise, and be persuasive. Here are some more writing tips for writing an effective business proposal .
Do: proofread and edit
This probably goes without saying, but you really, really don’t want any typos in your executive summary. Get more than one set of eyes on your document before it goes out, and preferably someone who wasn’t involved in its creation.
We hope this executive summary guide will help turn your ho-hum executive summaries into wicked pitches of excellence. Remember to be persuasive, not pedantic. And if anyone has a suggestion on a new name for executive summary, bring it on.
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May 18, 2021
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5 Steps for Writing an Executive Summary
Table of contents.
Anyone starting a new business must create a business plan that clearly outlines the organization’s details and goals. The executive summary is a crucial element of that business plan.
We’ll explore five steps to writing your business plan’s executive summary, including what to include and avoid. We’ll also point you toward executive summary templates to help you get started.
What is an executive summary?
New entrepreneurs or business owners typically use a business plan to present their great business idea to potential stakeholders like angel investors . The purpose of the business plan is to attract financing from investors or convince banking executives to get a bank loan for their business . An executive summary is a business plan overview that succinctly highlights its most essential elements.
It’s not just a general outline; the executive summary might be the only part of your business plan that busy executives and potential investors read.
“The executive summary of a business plan is designed to capture the reader’s attention and briefly explain your business, the problem you are solving, the target audience, and key financial information,” Ross Kimbarovsky, CEO and founder of Crowdspring, told Business News Daily. “If the executive summary lacks specific information or does not capture the attention of the reader, the rest of the plan might not be read.”
While your executive summary should be engaging and comprehensive, it must also be quick and easy to read. These documents average one to four pages – ideally, under two pages – and should comprise less than 10% of your entire business plan.
Along with an executive summary, a business plan will include your business’s legal structure , the products and services you sell, and a financial plan with sales forecasts .
How do you write an executive summary?
Your executive summary will be unique to your organization and business plan. However, most entrepreneurs and business owners take the following five steps when creating their executive summary.
- Write your business plan first. The executive summary will briefly cover the most essential topics your business plan covers. For this reason, you should write the entire business plan first, and then create your executive summary. The executive summary should only cover facts and details included in the business plan.
- Write an engaging introduction. What constitutes “engaging” depends on your audience. For example, if you’re in the tech industry, your introduction may include a surprising tech trend or brief story. The introduction must be relevant to your business and capture your audience’s attention. It is also crucial to identify your business plan’s objective and what the reader can expect to find in the document.
- Write the executive summary. Go through your business plan and identify critical points to include in your executive summary. Touch on each business plan key point concisely but comprehensively. You may mention your marketing plan , target audience, company description, management team, and more. Readers should be able to understand your business plan without reading the rest of the document. Ideally, the summary will be engaging enough to convince them to finish the document, but they should be able to understand your basic plan from your summary. (We’ll detail what to include in the executive summary in the next section.)
- Edit and organize your document. Organize your executive summary to flow with your business plan’s contents, placing the most critical components at the beginning. A bulleted list is helpful for drawing attention to your main points. Double-check the document for accuracy and clarity. Remove buzzwords, repetitive information, qualifying words, jargon, passive language and unsupported claims. Verify that your executive summary can act as a standalone document if needed.
- Seek outside assistance. Since most entrepreneurs aren’t writing experts, have a professional writer or editor look over your document to ensure it flows smoothly and covers the points you’re trying to convey.
What should you include in an executive summary?
Your executive summary is based on your business plan and should include details relevant to your reader. For example, if your business plan’s goal is pitching a business idea to potential investors , you should emphasize your financial requirements and how you will use the funding.
The type of language you use depends on whether your audience consists of generalists or industry experts.
While executive summary specifics will vary by company, Marius Thauland, business strategist at OMD EMEA, says all executive summaries should include a few critical elements:
- Target audience
- Products and services
- Marketing and sales strategies
- Competitive analysis
- Funding and budget allocation for the processes and operations
- Number of employees to be hired and involved
- How you’ll implement the business plan
When synthesizing each section, highlight the details most relevant to your reader. Include any facts and statistics they must know. In your introduction, present pertinent company information and clearly state the business plan’s objective. To pinpoint key messages for your executive summary, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want the reader to take away from the document?
- What do you want to happen after they read it?
“Put yourself in the business plan reader’s shoes, and think about what you would like to know in the report,” Thauland advised. “Get their attention by making it simple and brief yet still professional. It should also attract them to read the entire document to understand even the minute details.”
If securing financing is your priority, read our reviews of the best business loans to compare options.
What should you avoid in an executive summary?
When writing your executive summary, be aware of the following common mistakes:
- Making your executive summary too long. An executive summary longer than two pages will deter some readers. You’re likely dealing with busy executives, and an overlong stretch of text can overwhelm them.
- Copying and pasting from other executive summary sections. Reusing phrases from other sections and stringing them together without context can seem confusing and sloppy. It’s also off-putting to read the same exact phrase twice within the same document. Instead, summarize your business plan’s central points in new, descriptive language.
- Too many lists and subheadings in your executive summary. After one – and only one – introductory set of bullets, recap your business plan’s main points in paragraph form without subheadings. Concision and clarity are more important for an executive summary than formatting tricks.
- Passive or unclear language in your executive summary. You’re taking the reins of your business, and your executive summary should show that. Use active voice in your writing so everyone knows you’re running the show. Be as clear as possible in your language, leaving no questions about what your business will do and how it will get there.
- Avoid general descriptions in your executive summary. Kimbarovsky said it’s best to avoid generalities in your executive summary. For example, there’s no need to include a line about “your team’s passion for hard work.” This information is a given and will take attention away from your executive summary’s critical details.
- Don’t use comparisons in your executive summary. Kimbarovsky also advises staying away from comparisons to other businesses in your executive summary. “Don’t say you will be the next Facebook, Uber or Amazon,” said Kimbarovsky. “Amateurs make this comparison to try and show how valuable their company could be. Instead, focus on providing the actual facts that you believe prove you have a strong company. It’s better if the investor gives you this accolade because they see the opportunity.”
When you’re starting a new business, the first people you should hire include a product manager, chief technology officer (CTO) , chief marketing officer and chief financial officer.
Executive summary templates and resources
If you’re writing an executive summary for the first time, online templates can help you outline your document. However, your business is unique, and your executive summary should reflect that. An online template probably won’t cover every detail you’ll need in your executive summary. Experts recommend using templates as general guidelines and tailoring them to fit your business plan and executive summary.
To get you started, here are some popular executive summary template resources:
- FormSwift. The FormSwift website lets you create and edit documents and gives you access to over 500 templates. It details what an effective executive summary includes and provides a form builder to help you create your executive summary. Fill out a step-by-step questionnaire and export your finished document via PDF or Word.
- Smartsheet. The Smartsheet cloud-based platform makes planning, managing and reporting on projects easier for teams and organizations. It offers several free downloadable executive summary templates for business plans, startups, proposals, research reports and construction projects.
- Template.net. The Template.net website provides several free business templates, including nine free executive summary templates that vary by project (e.g., business plan, startup, housing program development, proposal or marketing plan). Print out the templates and fill in your relevant details.
- TemplateLab. The TemplateLab website is a one-stop shop for new business owners seeking various downloadable templates for analytics, finance, HR, marketing, operations, project management, and time management. You’ll find over 30 free executive summary templates and examples.
- Vertex42. The Vertex42 website offers Excel templates for executive summaries on budgets, invoices, project management and timesheets, as well as Word templates for legal forms, resumes and letters. This site also provides extensive information on executive summaries and a free executive summary template you can download into Word or Google Docs.
Summing it all up
Your executive summary should preview your business plan in, at most, two pages. Wait until your business plan is complete to write your executive summary, and seek outside help as necessary. A thorough, engaging business plan and executive summary are well worth the time and money you put into them.
Max Freedman contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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How to Write an Executive Summary (Example & Template Included)
Here’s the good news: an executive summary is short. It’s part of a larger document like a business plan, business case or project proposal and, as the name implies, summarizes the longer report.
Here’s the bad news: it’s a critical document that can be challenging to write because an executive summary serves several important purposes. On one hand, executive summaries are used to outline each section of your business plan, an investment proposal or project proposal. On the other hand, they’re used to introduce your business or project to investors and other stakeholders, so they must be persuasive to spark their interest.
Writing an Executive Summary
The pressure of writing an executive summary comes from the fact that everyone will pay attention to it, as it sits at the top of that heap of documents. It explains all that follows and can make or break your business plan or project plan . The executive summary must know the needs of the potential clients or investors and zero in on them like a laser. Fortunately, we’ll show you how to write and format your executive summary to do just that.
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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.
The language used should be appropriate for the target audience. One of the most important things to know before you write professionally is to understand who you’re addressing. If you’re writing for a group of engineers, the language you’ll use will differ greatly from how you would write to a group of financiers.
That includes more than just the words, but the content and depth of explanation. Remember, it’s a summary, and people will be reading it to quickly and easily pull out the main points.
You also want to capture a reader’s attention immediately in the opening paragraph. Just like a speech often opens with a joke to break the tension and put people at ease, a strong introductory paragraph can pull a reader in and make them want to read on. That doesn’t mean you start with a joke. Stick to your strengths, but remember, most readers only give you a few sentences to win them over before they move on.
Don’t forget to explain who you are as an organization and why you have the skills, personnel and experience to solve the problem raised in the proposal. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy biography, often just your name, address and contact information will do, though you’ll also want to highlight your strengths as they pertain to the business plan or project proposal .
The executive summary shouldn’t stray from the material that follows it. It’s a summary, not a place to bring up new ideas. To do so would be confusing and would jeopardize your whole proposal.
Establish the need or the problem, and convince the target audience that it must be solved. Once that’s set up, it’s important to recommend the solution and show what the value is. Be clear and firm in your recommendation.
Justify your cause. Be sure to note the key reasons why your organization is the perfect fit for the solution you’re proposing. This is the point where you differentiate yourself from competitors, be that due to methodology, testimonials from satisfied clients or whatever else you offer that’s unique. But don’t make this too much about you. Be sure to keep the name of the potential client at the forefront.
Don’t neglect a strong conclusion, where you can wrap things up and once more highlight the main points.
Related: 10 Essential Excel Report Templates
What to Include in an Executive Summary
The content of your executive summary must reflect what’s in the larger document which it is part of. You’ll find many executive summary examples on the web, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus on business plans and project proposals.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan
As we’ve learned above, your executive summary must extract the main points of all the sections of your business plan. A business plan is a document that describes all the aspects of a business, such as its business model, products or services, objectives and marketing plan , among other things. They’re commonly used by startups to pitch their ideas to investors.
Here are the most commonly used business plan sections:
- Company description: Provide a brief background of your company, such as when it was established, its mission, vision and core values.
- Products & services: Describe the products or services your company will provide to its customers.
- Organization and management: Explain the legal structure of your business and the members of the top management team.
- SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis explains the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business. They describe the internal and external factors that impact your business competitiveness.
- Industry & market analysis: This section should provide an overview of the industry and market in which your business will compete.
- Operations: Explain the main aspects of your business operations and what sets it apart from competitors.
- Marketing plan: Your marketing plan describes the various strategies that your business will use to reach its customers and sell products or services.
- Financial planning: Here, you should provide an overview of the financial state of your business. Include income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.
- Funding request: If you’re creating your business plan to request funding, make sure to explain what type of funding you need, the timeframe for your funding request and an explanation of how the funds will be used.
We’ve created an executive summary example to help you better understand how this document works when using it, to sum up a business plan.
To put all of that information together, here’s the basic format of an executive summary. You can find this same information in our free executive summary template :
- Introduction, be sure to know your audience
- Table of contents in the form of a bulleted list
- Explain the company’s role and identify strengths
- Explain the need, or the problem, and its importance
- Recommend a solution and explain its value
- Justify said solution by explaining how it fits the organization
- A strong conclusion that once more wraps up the importance of the project
You can use it as an executive summary example and add or remove some of its elements to adjust it to your needs. Our sample executive summary has the main elements that you’ll need project executive summary.
Executive Summary Example
For this executive summary example, we’ll imagine a company named ABC Clothing, a small business that manufactures eco-friendly clothing products and it’s preparing a business plan to secure funding from new investors.
Company Description We are ABC Clothing, an environmentally-friendly manufacturer of apparel. We’ve developed a unique method of production and sourcing of materials that allows us to create eco-friendly products at a low cost . We have intellectual property for our production processes and materials, which gives us an advantage in the market.
- Mission: Our mission is to use recycled materials and sustainable methods of production to create clothing products that are great for our customers and our planet.
- Vision: Becoming a leader in the apparel industry while generating a positive impact on the environment.
Products & Services We offer high-quality clothing products for men, women and all genders. (Here you should include pictures of your product portfolio to spark the interest of your readers)
Industry & Market Analysis Even though the fashion industry’s year-over-year growth has been affected by pandemics in recent years, the global apparel market is expected to continue growing at a steady pace. In addition, the market share of sustainable apparel has grown year-over-year at a higher pace than the overall fashion industry.
Marketing Plan Our marketing plan relies on the use of digital marketing strategies and online sales, which gives us a competitive advantage over traditional retailers that focus their marketing efforts on brick-and-mortar stores.
Operations Our production plant is able to recycle different types of plastic and cotton waste to turn it into materials that we use to manufacture our products . We’ve partnered with a transportation company that sorts and distributes our products inside the United States efficiently and cost-effectively.
Financial Planning Our business is profitable, as documented in our balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. The company doesn’t have any significant debt that might compromise its continuity. These and other financial factors make it a healthy investment.
Funding Request We’re requesting funding for the expansion of our production capacity, which will allow us to increase our production output in order to meet our increasing customer demand, enter new markets, reduce our costs and improve our competitiveness.
If you’d like to see more executive summary examples for your business plan, you can visit the U.S. small business administration website. They have business plans with executive summary examples you can download and use.
Executive summaries are also a great way to outline the elements of a project plan for a project proposal. Let’s learn what those elements are.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Project Proposal
An executive summary for your project proposal will capture the most important information from your project management plan. Here’s the structure of our executive summary template:
- Introduction: What’s the purpose of your project?
- Company description: Show why you’re the right team to take on the project.
- Need/problem: What is the problem that it’s solving?
- Unique solution: What is your value proposition and what are the main selling points of your project?
- Proof: Evidence, research and feasibility studies that support how your company can solve the issue.
- Resources: Outline the resources needed for the project
- Return on investment/funding request: Explain the profitability of your project and what’s in for the investors.
- Competition/market analysis: What’s your target market? Who are your competitors? How does your company differentiate from them?
- Marketing plan: Create a marketing plan that describes your company’s marketing strategies, sales and partnership plans.
- Budget/financial planning: What’s the budget that you need for your project plan?
- Timeline: What’s the estimated timeline to complete the project?
- Team: Who are the project team members and why are they qualified?
- Conclusions: What are the project takeaways?
Now that we’ve learned that executive summaries can vary depending on the type of document you’re working on, you’re ready for the next step.
What to Do After Writing an Executive Summary
As with anything you write, you should always start with a draft. The first draft should hit all the marks addressed above but don’t bog yourself down in making the prose perfect. Think of the first draft as an exploratory mission. You’re gathering all the pertinent information.
Next, you want to thoroughly review the document to ensure that nothing important has been left out or missed. Make sure the focus is sharp and clear, and that it speaks directly to your potential client’s needs.
Proofread for Style & Grammar
But don’t neglect the writing. Be sure that you’re not repeating words, falling into cliché or other hallmarks of bad writing. You don’t want to bore the reader to the point that they miss the reason why you’re the organization that can help them succeed.
You’ve checked the content and the prose, but don’t forget the style. You want to write in a way that’s natural and not overly formal, but one that speaks in the manner of your target audience . If they’re a conservative firm, well then, maybe formality is called for. But more and more modern companies have a casual corporate culture, and formal writing could mistakenly cause them to think of you as old and outdated.
The last run should be proofing the copy. That means double-checking to ensure that spelling is correct, and there are no typos or grammatical mistakes. Whoever wrote the executive summary isn’t the best person to edit it, however. They can easily gloss over errors because of their familiarity with the work. Find someone who excels at copy-editing. If you deliver sloppy content, it shows a lack of professionalism that’ll surely color how a reader thinks of your company.
Criticism of Executive Summaries
While we’re advocating for the proper use of an executive summary, it’d be neglectful to avoid mentioning some critiques. The most common is that an executive summary by design is too simple to capture the complexity of a large and complicated project.
It’s true that many executives might only read the summary, and in so doing, miss the nuance of the proposal. That’s a risk. But if the executive summary follows the guidelines stated above, it should give a full picture of the proposal and create interest for the reader to delve deeper into the documents to get the details.
Remember, executive summaries can be written poorly or well. They can fail to focus on results or the solution to the proposal’s problem or do so in a vague, general way that has no impact on the reader. You can do a hundred things wrong, but if you follow the rules, then the onus falls on the reader.
ProjectManager Turns an Executive Summary Into a Project
Your executive summary got the project approved. Now the real work begins. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you organize tasks, projects and teams. We have everything you need to manage each phase of your project, so you can complete your work on time and under budget.
Work How You Want
Because project managers and teams work differently, our software is flexible. We have multiple project views, such as the kanban board, which visualizes workflow. Managers like the transparency it provides in the production cycle, while teams get to focus only on those tasks they have the capacity to complete. Are you more comfortable with tasks lists or Gantt charts? We have those, too.
Live Tracking for Better Management
To ensure your project meets time and cost expectations, we have features that monitor and track progress so you can control any deviations that might occur. Our software is cloud-based, so the data you see on our dashboard is always up to date, helping you make better decisions. Make that executive summary a reality with ProjectManager.
You’ve now researched and written a persuasive executive summary to lead your proposal. You’ve put in the work and the potential client sees that and contracts you for the project. However, if you don’t have a reliable set of project management tools like Gantt charts , kanban boards and project calendars at hand to plan, monitor and report on the work, then all that preparation will be for nothing.
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How to Write a Powerful Executive Summary [+4 Top Examples]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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
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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
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
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How To Write an Executive Summary With Example
Make Writing Your Executive Summary Easier With This Example
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.
How To Write an Executive Summary
What to include in an executive summary, executive summary example.
The Balance / Jo Zhou
An executive summary is a brief overview at the beginning of your business plan. It should provide a short, concise summary of your business that captures the reader's attention and gives them an interest in learning more about it. See an example of a business plan's executive summary so you can begin writing one of your own.
- An executive summary is a concise overview of the business plan.
- Place the executive summary near the beginning of the business plan.
- Before you write the executive summary, you'll have to write the rest of the business plan first.
- The executive summary should contain all relevant information about the business, including name, mission, services offered, market, and financial projections.
The executive summary goes near the beginning of the business plan but is written last. To include a summary of the different parts of your business plan, you'll need to write them first.
When you write the executive summary, keep it under two pages. The executive summary should contain brief summaries of other sections of the plan.
The idea is to give a brief overview of your business first before going into detail about each of the different parts.
The executive summary should contain all of the important information about your business, such as:
- Business name
- Business location
- Your mission as a company
- A history of the company
- Management and advisors
- Services or products offered
- The market for your offerings
- Your business's competitive advantages
- Your financial projections
- Startup financing required, if any
Format the executive summary clearly and attractively, with headings for each section. Your word processing software may have a template you can use that will make your business plan look good.
It's always easier to write something if you can read an example first, so here's an executive summary example that you can use as a model for your own business plan's executive summary.
This executive summary is for a fictional company called Pet Grandma Inc.
Pet Grandma Inc. offers superior on-site pet sitting and exercising services for dogs and cats, providing the personal loving pet care that the owners themselves would provide if they were home. Our team will ensure that pet owners can take business trips or vacations knowing that their pets are in good hands.
Company and Management
Pet Grandma Inc. is headquartered in the City of West Vancouver and incorporated in the Province of British Columbia. The company is owned by partners Pat Simpson and Terry Estelle. Pat has extensive experience in animal care while Terry has worked in sales and marketing for 15 years.
The management of Pet Grandma Inc. consists of co-owners Pat Simpson and Terry Estelle. Both partners will be taking hands-on management roles in the company. In addition, we have assembled a board of advisors to provide management expertise. The advisors are:
- Juliette LeCroix, partner at LeCroix Accounting LLP
- Carey Boniface, veterinarian and partner at Little Tree Animal Care Clinic
- John Toms, president of Toms Communications Ltd.
Our clients are dog owners and cat owners who choose to leave their pets at home when they travel, or who want their pets to have company when their owners are at work. Pet Grandma Inc. offers a variety of pet care services, all in the pet’s home environment, including:
- Dog walking
- Daily visits
- 24-hour care for days or weeks
- Administration of medications by qualified staff
- Emergency treatment in case of illness (arranged through veterinarians)
- Plant watering
- Mail collection
Across Canada, the pet care business has seen an explosion of growth over the last three years. West Vancouver is an affluent area with a high pet density. Our market research has shown that nine out of 10 pet owners polled in West Vancouver would prefer to have their pets cared for in their own homes when they travel rather than be kenneled and six out of 10 would consider having a pet sitter provide company for their dog when they were at work.
While there are currently eight businesses offering pet sitting in West Vancouver, only three of these offer on-site pet care and none offers “pet visit” services for working pet owners.
Pet Grandma ’s marketing strategy is to emphasize the quality of pet care we provide (“a Grandma for your pet!”) and the availability of our services. Dog owners who work, for instance, will come home to find happy, friendly companions who have already been exercised and walked, instead of demanding, whiny animals.
All pet services will be provided by animal care-certified staff.
All employees are insured and bonded.
Based on the size of our market and our defined market area, our sales projections for the first year are $340,000. We project a growth rate of 10% per year for the first three years.
The salary for each of the co-owners will be $40,000. At startup, we will have six trained staff to provide pet services and expect to hire four more this year once financing is secured. To begin with, co-owner Pat Simpson will be scheduling appointments and coordinating services, but we plan to hire a full-time receptionist this year as well.
Already we have service commitments from more than 40 clients and plan to aggressively build our client base through newspaper, website, social media, and direct mail advertising. The loving, on-site professional care that Pet Grandma Inc. will provide is sure to appeal to cat and dog owners throughout the West Vancouver area.
Startup Financing Requirements
We are seeking an operating line of $150,000 to finance our first-year growth. Together, the co-owners have invested $62,000 to meet working capital requirements.
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What is an executive summary?
Why write an executive summary, how long should it be, executive summary outline, what to include in your executive summary, tips for writing an effective executive summary, additional resources to write a great executive summary.
How to Write an Executive Summary
An executive summary isn’t just the beginning of your business plan – it’s your opening act, your first chance to impress potential investors, banks, clients and other stakeholders.
An effective executive summary gives decision-makers critical information about your business instantly.
Creating an executive summary is more than just a writing exercise. It requires careful crafting and strategic thinking, as well as an ability to balance the needs to be both succinct and comprehensive.
The executive summary is a brief introduction and summary of your business plan. It introduces your business, the problem you solve, and what you’re asking from your readers. Anyone should be able to understand your business by simply reading this section of your plan.
While structurally it is the first chapter of your plan—you should write it last. Once you know the details of your business inside and out, you will be better prepared to write this section.
The business plan executive summary provides quick access to critical information from your more detailed business plan.
It is essential for informing anyone outside of your business. Many people—including investors and bankers—will only read your summary. Others will use it to decide if they should read the rest. For you, it is a snapshot of your business to reference when planning or revising your strategy.
Now if you’re writing a business plan solely for internal use you may not need an executive summary. However, some internal plans may necessitate writing an executive summary for assignment—such as for an annual operations plan or a strategic plan .
It takes some effort to do a good summary, so if you don’t have a business use in mind, don’t do it.
Business plan executive summaries should be as short as possible. Your audience has limited time and attention and they want to quickly get the details of your business plan.
Try to keep your executive summary under two pages if possible, although it can be longer if absolutely necessary. If you have a one-page business plan, you can even use that as your executive summary.
Two pages isn’t a ton of space to capture the full scope of your vision for the business. That means every sentence of your executive summary counts.
You will want to immediately capture the reader’s attention with a compelling introduction. Without getting too lengthy, present who you are as an organization, the problem you are seeking to solve, your skills, and why you are the best entity to solve the problem you’ve outlined.
It’s crucial to establish the need or problem your business is solving in a clear manner, in order to convince your audience that it must be addressed. Following that, recommend the solution and show its value. Be clear and firm in your recommendation, making sure to justify your cause and highlighting key reasons why your organization is the perfect fit for the solution you’re proposing. Finally, a strong conclusion is needed to reiterate the main points and wrap up the executive summary.
1. Business overview
A one-sentence description that explains what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.
Summarize the problem you’re solving in the market and reference any data that solidifies that there is a need.
Describe your product or service and how it addresses the problem you identified.
4. Target market
Who is your ideal customer? Describe who they are, how they’ll benefit, and why they’re an attainable customer base.
Who are your competitors? List out any primary competition as well as alternatives that your customers may consider. Include key details about their current offerings, promotions, and business strategy.
6. Your team
In your executive summary, outline your organizational structure and current team. List out brief explanations of who you and your team are, your qualifications, and what your function will be within the business. It may be valuable to also highlight any gaps in your team and how you intend to fill them. If you have potential partners or candidates in mind, briefly mention them and expand on their qualifications within your full business plan.
7. Financial summary
Highlight key aspects of your financial plan that address sales, expenses, and profitability. Try to keep these in chart or graph form to ensure the information is easy to consume and resonates visually.
8. Funding requirements
This section is only necessary if you’re seeking out funding or pitching to investors. Be sure to throw out your financing number and reasoning upfront, rather than hiding it later on in your plan. It helps investors understand your position, what you’re asking for, and how you’ll use it.
9. Milestones and traction
Add initial sales, pre-sales, newsletter sign-ups, or anything else that showcases customer interest. Outline what steps you’ve already taken to launch your business, the milestones you’ve hit, and your goals and milestones for the next month, six months, year, etc.
Executive summary vs introduction
A common mistake some people make when starting an executive summary outline is thinking it performs the same function as the introduction to their business plan. In fact, the two serve different purposes and contain different types of information, even though they are both essential.
As we’ve discussed, the executive summary is a high-level overview of the entire business plan. The introduction, by contrast, dives deeper into your business, providing information about the nature of your business, the history of your company, your mission statement, products or services, and the specific problem that your business solves.
The introduction is more detailed, and usually comes right after the executive summary.
On the other hand, the introduction gives investors or lenders – anyone reading your business plan – a sense of why they should continue reading. Think of it more as the space to tell stakeholders why you are speaking to them. An executive summary can also serve this purpose, but the introduction is meant to speak more directly to your target audience, while an executive summary could give a larger audience a general overview of your business.
Here are a few best practices to make writing your executive summary easier, and ultimately more effective.
1. Think of an executive summary as your pitch
The executive summary is like an elevator pitch. You’re selling someone on reading your full plan while quickly summarizing the key points. Readers will expect it to cover certain areas of your business—such as the product, market, and financial highlights, at the very least.
While you need to include what’s necessary, you should also highlight areas that you believe will spark the reader’s interest. Remember, you’re telling the brief but convincing story of your business with this summary. Just be sure that you’re able to back it up with the right details with the rest of your business plan.
2. Write it last
Even though the executive summary is at the beginning of a finished business plan, many experienced entrepreneurs choose to write it after everything else. In theory, this makes it easier to write since all of the information is already written out and just needs to be condensed into a shorter format.
Now, if you’ve started with a one-page plan, this process is even easier. Just use your one-page plan as a starting point and add additional details to any sections that need it. You may even find that no changes are necessary.
3. Keep it short
Ideally, the executive summary is short—usually just a page or two, five at the outside—and highlights the points you’ve made elsewhere in your business plan. Whatever length you land on, just focus on being brief and concise. Keep it as short as you can without missing the essentials.
4. Keep it simple
Form follows function, so don’t overcomplicate or over-explain things. The best executive summaries are a mixture of short text, broken up with bullets and subheadings, and illustrations, such as a bar chart showing financial highlights.
Run through a legibility test after writing your summary. Is it easy to skim through? Are the right pieces of information jumping out? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then work back through and try breaking up information or adjusting the formatting.
5. Create an executive summary outline based on importance and strengths
Organize your executive summary outline so that the most important information appears first. While there are specific components to include, there is no set order of appearance. So, use the order to show emphasis.
Lead with what you want to get the most attention, and add the rest by order of importance. For example, you may start with the problem because that can add drama and urgency that tees up the solution you provide.
Need more information and guidance to craft a convincing executive summary? Check out these in-depth resources and templates.
Key mistakes to avoid when writing an executive summary
Here are the critical mistakes you should avoid when writing your executive summary.
How to write your executive summary for specific audiences
The executive summary should tell your audience exactly what your business is, what it does, and why it’s worth their time. Here’s how you can take it a step further and fine-tune it for specific people.
How to develop a mission statement
Learn to put a heart behind the business and create an easy-to-understand narrative by writing a mission statement.
Executive Summary FAQ
What is in an executive summary?
The executive summary of a business plan is a brief introduction and summary of your business strategy, operations, and goals.
What is the purpose of an executive summary?
An executive summary is typically written to convince someone to read your more detailed plan. For investors, it may be the only thing they look at when deciding if they’d like to hear your pitch. Loan officers may review it to determine if your business seems financially sound. And partners, mentors, or anyone else may use it to determine if they want to be involved with your business.
How do you start an executive summary?
While there is no required order for an executive summary, it’s often recommended that you lead with the problem you’re solving or the purpose of your business. This will help frame your intent for the reader, and ideally make them more interested in learning more.
How do you write a good executive summary?
A good executive summary is brief, convincing, and easy to read. Focus on keeping things short and concise, only including necessary information. Be sure to lead and highlight anything that is especially interesting or important about your business. And after writing, spend some time reviewing and reformatting to make your summary as attractive to read as possible.
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