When pitching a business plan to investors, it’s important that you keep it concise and brief. You probably have a long, well thought out business plan written that covers all the bases, and that’s great! It’s important that you know your plan inside and out.
But let’s face it. Potential investors’ time is valuable and they don’t have a whole lot of it to spend reading your entire plan.
To really get through and wow them, you’ll need to write a good executive summary.
What Is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a brief but comprehensive introduction to your business plan describing your business, how it provides value, your target audience, and financial highlights.
Think of it like a miniature version of your complete business plan.
It’s incredibly important that you have an executive summary ready when pitching to investors. If you’re looking to get more capital, handing off a full ream of paper’s worth of notes isn’t the way to do it.
Investors and money lenders are looking for a summary to give them the important details of your business plan. In fact, many will decide whether they want to invest in your plan off of the executive summary alone.
But you’ll need to draft an enticing summary in order to get that sort of response.
What to Include in an Executive Summary
The trick to a perfect executive summary is to include all of the details that you’d include in your business plan in as concise a way as possible. Hitting all the key details is important:
- A summary of your company and what value it provides
- Your target audience
- Business plan goal
- Financial projections
Where to Put an Executive Summary
There’s often a bit of confusion over where exactly to put the summary within the business plan document. Technically, it’s a standalone document that just lives within the business plan. So where does it truly belong?
Best practices say that it should be put after your table of contents.
By placing it before the main document, you maintain the flow from the executive summary into the official introduction, bringing the business plan into context smoothly.
And, if necessary, the reader can bounce from the main document back to the summary without being interrupted by the table of contents.
How Long Should an Executive Summary Be?
This can vary by the size of your business plan, but a general rule of thumb is to keep it within two pages. You’ll want it to be able to fit on a single page, front and back.
If you have to go beyond that, then you probably need to rework your summary to be more brief.
Executive Summary Format
Making your summary unique and consistent with your brand is important, but there’s a skeleton format that you can follow and take at least part of the planning work out.
Hook Them In the Introduction.
A throwback to your school essay writing days, your introduction should always play the role of capturing the reader’s attention quickly.
Explain what your company does and what its values are. Include your mission statement. This paragraph should be pretty strong compared to the rest of the summary.
Address Market Needs.
This is where you bring up your target audience and their pain points.
Every business is founded to meet some sort of need. Depending on subjective perspectives, some needs are smaller than others. Make the one you’re addressing feel pretty important.
Pitch Your Business As the Solution.
This is your opportunity to pitch your company as a market hero.
Detail how your business plans on solving the problems of your target audience and, if there are competitors, how you’re going to do it better than anyone else. Pitch your idea and justify its value.
Back It Up.
This is where you use statistics and research to prove that your business plan is the solution to the problem. It can be handy to paraphrase any studies or research you have in the body of your business plan here.
Ask For What You Need.
Alright, here’s the ringer. How much is it going to cost?
Be detailed in your request and your goals. Touch on any fiscal research that will assure investors that their money isn’t going to be wasted. How is it going to yield return for them?
6 Tips on How to Craft Your Executive Summary
With the structure laid out, it makes writing the summary a lot easier to plan. Still, there are some tips that can help the process of crafting one that’ll have a serious impact a lot easier.
Here are some quick tips on how to make your executive summary impress a reader:
Treat It As Its Own Piece.
Sometimes, a summary winds up sounding general or vague because it’s written under the assumption that an investor will look for more detail in the business plan. But we’ve already established that they’ll likely just stick to the summary.
Your executive summary should be able to be handed to someone on its own and still communicate all the same necessary information as your business plan.
By treating it as a standalone document, you’ll be sure to give as much detail as concisely as possible.
Think of it this way: The summary on the back of the book doesn’t tell you the full story. Aim for SparkNotes, not a teaser.
Write It After Your Business Plan.
The content of your summary will flow a lot easier once you’ve already detailed everything out in your actual business plan. All of the details will be top-of-mind and you’ll be able to paraphrase effectively.
Leverage the Five Section Formula.
Like the summary format we used above, five sections gives you enough space to touch on all of the important topics without being superfluous. Remember, the goal is to stay as close to two pages as possible.
If you start breaking ideas up, you can lose track of what you’ve covered and start adding on excess content.
Make It Feel Exciting.
You’re pitching a solution to a problem! You’re aiming to fulfill a need! That’s a positive thing!
By using positive language and keeping an upbeat tone, you’re influencing the reader’s perspective on the idea to be more positive as well. All of your content should be aimed at making your plan feel like a great idea. Avoid talking about risk or consequences.
Keep it positive. Keep it exciting. (And maybe avoid using exclamation points. Maybe.)
One of the most important rules of any pitch or presentation, make sure that you read through your summary, once at the very least. Twice, ideally.
Not only will you spot grammatical, spelling, and technical errors, but you may find that you can rework information also.
Perfect How to Start an Executive Summary.
Nailing the perfect intro will set you up for your entire career. Every executive summary is different, varying from plan to plan. But each one should always start off strong.
Your introduction needs to capture attention right off the bat. You can include a relevant and inspiring quote or an impressive statistic to draw your reader in and get them aligned with your idea quickly.
Free Executive Summary Template
To help get the ball rolling for you, we've built a template for you to build your summary in.
Executive Summary Example
Here's a fun example to help inspire you.
Mud House LLC offers premium cafe services to local residents, providing coffee and similar industry products and goods. Our team will provide superior service to customers looking for fast, quality service when purchasing their coffee and pastries for the day. In an effort to continue delighting customers, our team aims to move into a larger space to entertain more patrons in a more popular area.
The Company and Management
Mud House LLC has been located in Brooklyn, New York City since 2017, when Mateo “Theo” Ramsey realized he could turn his coffee obsession into a profitable business. Established on a busy corner in the popular borough, the company now has three full-time employees and six part-time employees, combining over 25 years of barista experience.
Management consists of Theo and his assistant manager, Heathcliff Potter. They are aided by board of advisors. The advisors are:
- Hunter Nixon, partner at Generic Accounting LLP
- Bartholomew Winchester, president of Coffee Beans Exports Inc
Our clients are young professionals who appreciate our local, small business atmosphere. We provide them with a variety of services, including:
- Premium coffee and tea drinks
- Small plates
- Pre-made lunches
- In-house made pastries (gluten-free options available)
- Free wi-fi
- Event space (open mic nights, book clubs, etc.)
Our Competitive Advantages
While there is currently one Starbucks location and two other independent coffee houses nearby, none of them offer event space rental at discounted rates. Local residents appreciate the celebration of community that Mud House focuses on highlighting. With regular community events taking place on site, Mud House sees upwards to 150 patrons in attendance on event nights. Customers enjoy communing with their family, friends, and neighbors while drinking quality beverages and eating their choice of food.
Our sales projections for the first year are $375,000 and we project a growth rate of 15 percent per year for the next three years.
We will have five full-time employees with a salary of $45,000.
Start-up Financing Requirements
We are seeking to raise $175,000 to finance our move into a new, larger location within the same neighborhood.
The owner and advisors have invested $75,000 to meet working capital requirements and will use a loan of $100,000 to supplement the rest.
Build Your Executive Summary Today
Your executive summary is your best deliverable pitch to potential investors and money lenders. If you can perfect it, you'll have a lot more confidence, both in yourself when presenting and in your business.
With a great summary, you'll be able to help your company grow and save time for investors all at once.