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Why your business plan's executive summary is so important.

Why your business plan's executive summary is so important (+ how to write one)

If you plan to launch your own small business , then you'll need to write an executive summary as part of your full business plan. In this article, we'll answer all your pressing questions, including: What the heck is an executive summary, anyway? What’s the purpose of an executive summary? And how do I actually create a well-written executive summary?

Executive summaries are arguably one of the most critical sections of a business plan —and they're also one of the trickiest to write. The executive summary is the first part of your complete business plan that someone will read, so it needs to be compelling in order to convince someone to read the whole thing.

But here’s the catch: 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds actively reading content, based on data published in Time Magazine . This means the limited window of time you have to convince someone your business plan is worth their attention depends on a strong executive summary. No pressure or anything.

For that reason, it’s important to know how to draft a concise executive summary that makes an impact and communicates the goals of your small business. But have no fear, just read on to learn how!

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is essentially an outline of your business plan. If your full business plan is a roadmap, your executive summary is your roadmap's roadmap. It gives your readers a heads up about what you'll talk about in the rest of your business plan. For all intents and purposes, your business's executive summary is your elevator pitch.

Business Plan Executive Summary Example and Template.

The purpose of an executive summary

If there's one section of your business plan everyone is going to read, it's the executive summary. Your business plan's executive summary exists to give readers an overview of the entire document. It should outline what they can expect to learn and motivate them to keep reading on.

“Investors will read the executive summary to decide if they will even bother reading the rest of the business plan. It’s rare for an investor or lender to read an entire business plan, at least in the initial stages of analysis and consideration for funding,” says Eric Markowitz , Inc.com Staff Writer.

Keep your goals and purpose in mind when writing your executive summary.

If your business is a startup, the purpose of your business plan (and executive summary) will likely be to get banks or investors to provide you with financing. So, when writing your executive summary, highlight the financial requirements of your business and why your business is worthy of funding.

If you're a more established business owner, then your executive summary will talk more about your achievements, evolution, and goals for the future.

How to write an executive summary for a business plan

Your business's executive summary should be as short as possible, ideally only one or two pages long.

Remember that you're vouching for yourself and your business in your executive summary, so make sure your language is confident and positive!

Bad example : We might not be the best or the most established protein powder brand, but we probably have the most passion and love out of all our competitors.

Good example: With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.

It's best practice to avoid talking about more fluffy, subjective points and cliches (like passion, hard work, etc.) so you can focus more on the practical information and facts your readers want to know about (like why they should actually invest or partner with your business). You also want to seem confident in yourself and your business, so avoid words like "might," "maybe," or "could" and opt for more definitive words, like "will"!

Remember that your executive summary should fill in the blanks for your readers. Keep your target audience in mind and try to answer their questions, rather than create new ones, or they may get confused and stop reading. Give them a reason not to go back to checking their current value of Bitcoin. 

"Put yourself in the business plan reader's shoes and think about what you would like to know in the report," Marius Thauland, business strategist at Leiekontor, told Business News Daily . "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."

There's no specific way to order the different sections of your executive summary, but you'll want to put the most important information or your strongest points first . The first sentence and paragraph of your executive summary is especially important, since these are what will reel your readers in.

We'll give you an idea of how to do this below.

What to include in the executive summary of your business plan

Questions to ask in your executive summary: Who's your competition?; Is there demand?; Who's running your business?; Who's your target audience?; How will you launch your business?

Despite being the first page of your business plan, it’s a good idea to write your executive summary section last. This trick allows you to get a clear picture of what specific material from the full business plan you need to introduce in the executive summary. So if you haven't written the rest of your business plan yet, stop, maybe check out our articles on writing a business plan (wink wink nudge nudge), and come back here once you're done.

Since the goal of a business plan is to persuade the reader to invest in your business, your executive summary needs to demonstrate why this investment would be a smart financial decision. The kicker is: you need to do all of this in 1-2 pages.

To get started, The Balance Small Business suggests including the following eight sections. Choose the topics most relevant to your business and write one or two sentences about each of them. And remember to order them from most important to least important! ‍

1. Business opportunity

What demand or need is there for your business and how will you meet this demand? Talk about a problem or a gap in the market, and why your business alone has all the answers. ‍

2. Target market

What demographic do you intend to reach as your customer base? Who's going to be buying your product? ‍

3. Business model

Use this part to give more juicy details about your business idea. What products or services will your business offer, and what makes them desirable? ‍

4. Marketing/Sales strategy

What will your methods be to create brand recognition for these products or services? You might want to consider marketing techniques like social media, paid media, or email marketing. ‍

‍ 5. Competition

Give your readers the low-down of your industry. What businesses will you compete with for market share, and what does your business offer that your competitors do not? How big and competitive is your industry? How will you stand out against other small businesses? Are there any industry trends you should bring up? ‍

6. Financial analysis

Investors and banks will be especially interested in this part. What is your plan to manage your business finances, and what is your projected revenue for the first three years of your business? You should go into detail about how you will distribute your funding and spell out what your investors will get out of it. ‍

7. Owners/Staff

In this section, you can give a brief overview of your business's history. Who are the owners and lead staff members of your business and what important skills or credentials do they bring? ‍

8. Implementation plan

What is your framework and timeline to move from a concept to launching an actual business?

Effective executive summary examples

Sitting down to start writing an executive summary and putting all the pieces together can be challenging .  

To think about it differently, you might consider grouping the above details into a few specific categories: ‍

Mission statement

What are the core values and central purpose of your business? ‍

Company information

What products or services do you offer, how long has your business been in operation, who are the owners and lead staff members, and how many business locations do you manage? ‍

Financial summary

What is the current and projected state of your finances and do you need an investor to help you expand? ‍

Future goals

What objectives or projects will this financial investment be used for?

Keep in mind that, as you write your own executive summary, you should consider the industry and market that you are entering, the customers you’ll be interacting with, and the things your business will need to succeed (financial backing, upfront costs, additional workforce, etc). Here’s an example of a good executive summary template to guide you as you embark on writing your own executive summary.

Executive summary/business plan example: Vegan Protein Blitz

Company: Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-free protein powder ‍

Our Mission

Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder offers 25 grams of protein per serving without any use of animal protein—similar to, and in many cases, more than, the average amount of protein in similar products. We intend to appeal to those within the fitness community who are looking for a great-tasting protein powder without compromising on the amount of protein per serving. With some vegan protein powder products on the market currently, we expect mild competition and are confident we will be able to build a strong market position.

The Company and Management

Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder was founded in 2018 by Sarah Bailey, a certified personal trainer and former food scientist, who couldn’t find a vegan protein powder that tasted good and provided the amount she needed to fuel her fitness routine. Her kitchen is based in San Diego, California, where she employs two full-time employees and three part-time employees.

Along with Sarah Bailey, Vegan Protein Blitz: Animal-Free Protein Powder has a board of advisors. The advisors are:

  • Laura Henry, partner at Food Inc.
  • Kristin Smith, CEO of Just Nuts Vegan Health Bars

Our Product

We offer animal-free protein powder that is made with all-natural sugar sources and no preservatives. Our customers are health-conscious and serious about fueling their bodies with animal-free whole foods. We plan to grow quickly, with an initial goal of building a full-time marketing team of fitness advocates and professionals who understand the industry and our customers’ needs.

Our Competitive Advantages

While there are other vegan protein powders on the national market, there are none that are made with all-natural sugar and with a comparable amount of protein as that of an animal-based powder. With the expertise of our founder Sarah Bailey, we also stand out as a company that truly understands the audience. Please see our market research (Section 3) for more information on why consumers are demanding this expertise.

Financial Considerations

Our sales projections for the first year are $600,000 with a 10% growth rate over the next two years. By year three, we project 55% gross margins and will have ten full-time employees. The salary for each employee will be $60,000 USD.

Startup Financing Requirements

We are seeking to raise $250,000 in startup funds to finance the first year. The owner has invested $40,000 to meet working capital requirements, and will use a loan of $80,000 to supplement the rest.

More executive summary templates

Need more business plan examples, or ready to create your own executive summary with a template? Here are a few we found around the web:

  • US Small Business Association
  • Template.net

Final tips for writing an executive summary

Earning investor interest in your business is critical to getting access to the things your business will need to succeed, and a solid executive summary can help you do that. Writing your full business plan first can help you get clarity on the strongest key points of your business proposal, which you can use to build out your executive summary.

Most importantly, keep this section of your business plan straightforward and concise, making it easy for the reader to understand what you’re doing and why it matters.

Brush up on your writing skills

You're an entrepreneur, and you probably didn't start your business to write business plans . Free online editing tools and resources like Hemingway and Grammarly can help you punch up and polish your writing. Just copy and paste your executive summary into the software, and it will let you know where your writing needs to be more clear.

Get to the point

Remember what we said about keeping it short? We mean it. Even if there's a really clever sentence that you're super proud of, it's gotta go if it doesn't contribute to your summary. You don't want to give too much detail (that's what the rest of your business plan is for!) or repeat yourself.

Always proofread your work a couple of times before calling it a day! Reading your executive summary out loud can help you identify awkward phrasing and catch any typos you might have missed. Another idea is to copy and paste it into a text-to-speech program to hear what it sounds like out loud. It also helps to print out your executive summary and edit the physical document, which helps you see it from a fresh perspective. 

Get feedback

If you have a kind friend, family member, or fellow business owner, you should ask them to take a look at your executive summary/business plan and give their constructive criticism. If they understand your goals and plan and seem excited about your idea, that's a good sign! If they give your business plan back to you with a bunch of red marks and a confused look on their faces, that's probably a sign for you to make sure your executive summary flows more logically.

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what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

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what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

Business Plan Executive Summary The Full Guide

Business Plan Executive Summary - Unlocking Reader's Attention

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on a business plan executive summary. Although often an afterthought an executive summary is perhaps the most critical part of this document. It's the gateway to the entire plan, and its effectiveness can determine whether time-strapped investors or potential partners continue to read your document. Fear not, however, as this blog post will walk you through the art of crafting an executive summary that captivates readers and effectively communicates your business's value. Whether you're starting a new venture or seeking growth for an existing one, the principles and tips shared here will help you create a compelling and persuasive executive summary.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Executive Summary - Why So Important?

Business plan executive summary - know your audience, keep it focused and concise, key elements of an effective business plan executive summary, the power of a strong hook, showcasing your achievements and traction, being realistic and transparent to build trust, polishing your business plan executive summary, wrapping it all up, business plan executive summary - faq.

Imagine a busy investor or decision-maker flipping through piles of business plans, searching for their next big opportunity. The executive summary is your golden chance to stand out from the crowd and make a memorable first impression.  It's the first section they will read and if it fails to capture their attention, the rest of your meticulously prepared business plan might not even be read. A well-written executive summary provides a concise overview of your company's vision, mission and value proposition.  The brevity and clarity allow busy readers to grasp the essence of your business swiftly. If they like what they see in the business plan executive summary, they will be motivated to read on further.

Business Plan Executive Summary Can Make Or Break Your Business Plan

Before diving into crafting the perfect executive summary, it's crucial to understand who will be reading it. Your audience might include potential investors, lenders, partners, or even key team members. Tailoring the executive summary to their specific interests and concerns will greatly increase your chances of success. The goal is to frame the information in a manner that will appeal most to the reader. For example, if applying for a loan through your bank, focus on your company's ability to repay loans. Highlight existing collateral, cash flow projections, and solid credit history.  For a company looking for investors, think about what matters the most to these individuals. Investors are primarily interested in the potential return on their investment. Present the market opportunity and the scalability of your business. Demonstrate the size of the target market, growth potential, and your unique value proposition that sets your company apart from competitors. 

The adage "less is more" really holds for a business plan executive summary.  Ensure to present only the most critical information to avoid overwhelming the reader. An overly long or convoluted summary might be perceived as a lack of clarity or a sign of inefficiency in communication. As a general guideline, aim to keep your executive summary within one to two pages.

Business Plan Executive Summary Less is More

Now that you understand the importance of tailoring your Executive Summary to your audience, let's dive into the key elements that should be included in this critical section of your business plan.

  • Market Analysis : Identify your target market and define its size, growth rate, and key characteristics. Try to convey why your product is needed and what pain points or unmet needs it addresses.It is important to highlight what makes your business different from its competitors.
  • Product or Service Offering : Clearly describe your core product or service and what makes it unique.Relate your product and service to the problem or pain point that you are servicing. If applicable, showcase any intellectual property or proprietary technology that gives your company a competitive advantage.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy : Outline your go-to-market strategy. How do you find and target your ideal customers, if applicable mention any stats from earlier campaigns.
  • Financial Projections: Provide a high-level overview of your financial projections for the next three to five years. Focus on key financial milestones, such as the breakeven point or when profitability is expected.
  • Funding Requirements: Specify the amount of funding you are seeking from investors or lenders.Clearly explain how the funding will be used, including its allocation to different aspects of the business (e.g., product development, marketing, hiring). If you targeting investors with your business plan don’t forget to highlight their expected return on investment.
  • Team Presentation: Introduce critical members of your management team and their roles. Emphasise the team's collective capabilities and how it positions the company for success. If there are any advisory board members or industry experts supporting your venture, mention their contributions.

Crafting a compelling Executive Summary requires a delicate balance between providing sufficient information to pique interest and avoiding excessive details. Remember, the Executive Summary serves as a snapshot of your entire business plan, and its purpose is to entice the reader to explore the full document.In the next section, we will share expert tips on how to lead with a strong hook and effectively showcase your company's achievements and traction. This plays an important role in making your executive summary stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression on potential investors and stakeholders!

In this section, we will explore two critical aspects of creating a captivating business plan executive summary: starting with a strong hook and showcasing your company's achievements and traction.  The opening lines of your Executive Summary are your chance to make a powerful first impression. Think of it as your "elevator pitch" – a concise and compelling statement that immediately grabs the reader's attention. Here are some strategies for creating a strong hook:

  • Pose a Thought-Provoking Question : Begin with a question that highlights the problem your business solves or addresses a pain point in the market. This encourages readers to keep reading in search of an answer.
  • Use a Surprising Statistic or Fact : Start with a surprising or attention-grabbing statistic related to your industry or target market. This can quickly draw the reader into the significance of your business.
  • Tell a Compelling Story : Share a short anecdote or story that exemplifies the impact your product or service has had on a customer or the community. Stories can create an emotional connection with the reader.
  • Highlight a Notable Achievement : If your company has achieved something noteworthy, such as winning an award or reaching a significant milestone, lead with that achievement to build credibility and intrigue.
  • State Your Unique Value Proposition : Concisely express what makes your company truly unique and why it stands out from the competition. Convey the value your business brings to customers.

Business Plan Executive Summary Create A Good Hook

Remember, the opening of your Executive Summary sets the tone for the entire document. Make it memorable and compelling to encourage the reader to continue exploring.

Investors and stakeholders are more likely to be interested in a company that has demonstrated some traction and achieved significant milestones

  • Highlight Key Milestones: Summarise your company's achievements, such as successful product launches, partnerships, or revenue milestones. This demonstrates that your business is making progress and reaching goals.
  • Include Testimonials or Case Studies: If you have satisfied customers or clients, consider including short testimonials or case studies that highlight the positive impact your product or service has had on them. The addition of social proof can be very compelling.
  • Highlight Key Data and KPIs: Incorporate important metrics that show growth and success. Whether it's user acquisition, revenue growth, or customer retention, data-backed evidence strengthens your credibility.
  • Mention Notable Partnerships or Endorsements: If your company has partnered with well-known organisations or received endorsements from industry leaders, mention them in the Executive Summary to build trust.
  • Discuss Future Growth Potential: After showcasing your achievements, outline the exciting growth potential for your business. Paint a clear picture of how your company plans to scale and succeed in the long term.

Demonstrating your company's accomplishments and traction not only builds confidence in your business but also reassures potential investors and partners that their involvement can be rewarding.

As you craft your executive summary, it's crucial to strike a balance between showcasing your company's strengths and being transparent about its challenges. Honesty and authenticity are vital to building trust with potential investors and stakeholders. While it's natural to be optimistic about your business's future, it's essential to provide realistic and data-driven financial projections in your executive summary. Be prepared to explain your calculations so don’t put anything in the plan that you can’t justify when questioned. Being realistic and transparent in your Executive Summary demonstrates your integrity and professionalism. It reassures readers that you are well-prepared, honest, and capable of navigating challenges. Remember, investors and stakeholders appreciate a candid approach and are more likely to engage with a business that acknowledges potential risks and offers well-thought-out solutions.

A well-polished and visually appealing Executive Summary can make a significant difference in how it is perceived by potential investors and stakeholders. Here are some final tips to help make your executive summary as readable as possible:

  • Maintain Consistent Formatting: The use of a consistent format is essential for creating a professional and cohesive executive summary. Pay attention to headings, subheadings, and bullet points to maintain a clean and organised layout.
  • Use Visuals Sparingly and Purposefully: While visuals can enhance understanding, avoid overloading your executive summary with unnecessary graphics. Use visuals such as charts, graphs, or images only when they add value and help convey complex information more effectively.
  • Prioritise Readability: Ensure that your business plan executive summary is easy to read and comprehend. Use clear and concise language, avoid jargon, and break down complex ideas into digestible points. Consider using bullet points or numbered lists for key information.
  • Review and Edit Thoroughly: Proofread your executive summary meticulously to eliminate any grammatical errors or typos. Pay attention to sentence structure and ensure that the document flows smoothly. Edit for clarity and remove any unnecessary repetitions.

Remember, an attractive and well-organised Executive Summary not only makes it easier for readers to absorb information but also reflects positively on your attention to detail and commitment to presenting your business professionally. Here at Action Planr we have a full range of guides on business lans for various industries which can be found in our business plans guide section.

Congratulations! You've now learned the essential elements and best practices for creating a compelling business plan executive summary. This gateway section of your business plan holds the power to captivate readers, spark interest, and open doors to potential investors, partners, and opportunities.  Now, armed with the knowledge and insights from this guide, go ahead and create an executive summary that stands out, impresses your readers, and sets your business on the path to success. Best of luck in all your endeavours, and may your business plan lead to remarkable achievements and growth!

Remember, an attractive and well-organised Executive Summary not only makes it easier for readers to absorb information but also reflects positively on your attention to detail and commitment to presenting your business professionally. If you are looking for help on other sections of your business plan, check out our other in-depth guides in our Learning Zone .

What is the purpose of an Executive Summary in a business plan? The executive summary serves as the opening section of a business plan and provides a concise overview of the entire document. Its purpose is to capture the reader's attention, introduce the business and its value proposition, and entice potential investors, partners, or stakeholders to explore the entire plan. ‍ How long should an executive summary be? Aim to keep your Executive Summary within one to two pages. While there is no strict rule on length, it's essential to maintain brevity and ensure that the most critical information is conveyed effectively. Should I tailor my executive summary for different audiences? Yes, customising your executive summary to your specific audience is crucial. Different stakeholders have varying interests and concerns, so tailoring the content can increase its relevancy and impact. What should I include in my executive summary? Your executive summary should include a brief business description, market analysis, product/service offering, marketing and sales strategy, financial projections, funding requirements, and team presentation. How can I make my executive summary stand out and capture attention? Start with a strong hook, such as a thought-provoking question, a surprising statistic, or a compelling story. Showcase your achievements, highlight key metrics, and demonstrate traction to build credibility. Should I include financial projections in the executive summary? Yes, including high-level financial projections is essential to demonstrate your business's potential. Keep them realistic and supported by market data and industry benchmarks. What is the significance of being transparent in the executive summary? Transparency builds trust with readers. Address potential challenges, risks, and mitigation strategies honestly. Investors appreciate businesses that are candid about both opportunities and obstacles. Is seeking feedback on my executive summary important? Yes, feedback is invaluable in improving the quality of your executive summary. Share it with colleagues, mentors, or industry experts to gain fresh perspectives and identify areas for improvement. Can I use visuals in my executive summary? Yes, visuals can enhance understanding, but use them sparingly and purposefully. Charts, graphs, and images should add value and complement the text. Should I end the executive summary with a call to action? Absolutely! End with a compelling call-to-action, inviting readers to explore the full business plan or engage in further discussions. Provide clear contact information to facilitate communication.

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How to Write an Executive Summary in 6 Steps

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

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

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

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

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

What is an executive summary?

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

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

How much do you need?

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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Why write an executive summary?

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

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

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

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

What to include in an executive summary

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

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

1. The hook

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

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

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

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

2. Company description summary

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

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

3. Market analysis

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

Who are your competitors?

Is there a demand for your products or services?

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

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

4. Products and services

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

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

5. Financial information and projections

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

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

6. Future plans

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

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

Tips for writing an executive summary

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

1. Be concise

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

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

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

2. Use bullet points

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

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

3. Speak to your audience

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

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

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

4. Play to your strengths

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

5. Get a test reader

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

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

How long should an executive summary be?

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

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

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

What to avoid in an executive summary

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

Your executive summary should avoid:

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

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

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

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The bottom line

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

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

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

On a similar note...

Everything you need to write a killer executive summary for your business plan

What is Executive Summary—and Why Should You Care?

Executive Summary is the first and most important section of a business plan, providing a snapshot of the overall plan with the aim to compel the reader to continue reading the full document by highlighting its most important components and strengths .

Keep reading for insider tips from a professional business writer on how exactly to write a captivating executive summary that will maximize the impact and success of your business plan.

You’ll discover:

  • Why: Critical importance of an executive summary
  • What: The key elements you need to include
  • How: The best structure—length, layout and components

Importance: Why is Executive Summary Important in a Business Plan?

Executive summary is the most important part of a business plan because it is the first and only opportunity to grab readers’ interest as they review this section prior to deciding whether or not to read the rest of the document.

No matter how excellent your business idea, it is the executive summary alone that persuades a reader to spend more time with the plan to find out more about your venture.

Some financiers receive hundreds of business plans every month. Understandably, they do not read them all . Instead, they can tell in a couple of paragraphs if it is something they may be interested in.

The Executive Summary is so important, in fact, that some investors and lenders prefer to receive just the summary and financials before requesting the full business plan. So if you can hook your readers here, they will ask for more.

Similarly, senior decision-makers on many company or bank boards and committees will often read nothing else than an executive summary when approving a decision to back a business.

In other words, your Executive Summary is the  first impression  many readers will get of your business. Make sure it is a great one. Only a  clear ,  concise , and  compelling  summary of your business right up front twill persuade readers to wade through the rest of the plan.

Contents: What Should an Executive Summary for a Business Plan Include?

Executive summary brings the separate parts of a business plan together to sum up what the business is, where it is going, why it will be successful – and why it is worthy of backing . Highlight the most important and impressive facts about the company , management , offering , market , strategy and financials .

When completed, your executive summary will answer these questions for your readers:

  • What is your business all about ?
  • What are the most compelling qualities?
  • Is the business likely to succeed and why?

Executive summary is an introduction to your business, which provides a brief snapshot of your plan as a whole. To that end, concisely highlight the most important concepts and impressive features from each section of your completed plan, addressing the following areas:

Essentially, you should make it crystal clear to the that a compelling market opportunity exists for your product/service and demonstrate that your business is well-positioned to exploit it .

Remember to be brief and concise . Organize the information in a way that gives the best impression of your business to your target reader. Combine related topics if that improves the flow of the document.

If the readers of your executive summary conclude that the above elements exist in your business, they are likely to commit to reading the rest of your business plan.

So, let’s examine each of the key elements in more detail to make the reader excited about the potential of your business plan and interested to read further:

Mission Statement

Answer this question for your readers:

  • What is your business on a mission to create and why?

Aim: Convince the reader that your basic business concept makes sense.

Give a concise overview of your business idea, purpose and goals. Summarize why you have created this company and what your business is all about in one or two sentences, but no more than a paragraph.

Products and Services

Answer these questions for your readers:

  • What product(s) and/or service(s) does your business provide?
  • What problems are you solving for your target customers and how?
  • What makes your product/service different and compelling for the customers to buy?

Aim: Demonstrate to the reader that your product/service solves a real problem in the market and that the problem is worth solving.

Briefly describe the products and services your company provides and what problems you solve for your target customers, making the case for why your product will be successful:

Description:

List the products or services your company sells or plans to sell.

Problem & Solution:

Explain the need for the products or services:

  • Problem: Summarize the problem your product/service solves and why it is worth solving. In other words, what is it that your customers need and cannot find elsewhere.
  • Solution: Summarize how you will solve the problem that your customers face.

Value Proposition:

Outline why your product or service will be valuable to your customers and the advantages that will make it compelling enough for them to purchase.

Market Opportunity

  • Who are your (ideal) target customers?
  • Is there a real market demand for your product/service?
  • What is the size of the market opportunity?

Aim: Convince the reader that large and compelling market demand opportunity exists for your product/service.

List the target market you intend to reach and explain why you chose it:

Target Market:

Provide a brief description of your ideal customers and how do they break down into recognizable types or segments.

Market Analysis:

Indicate that you have done thorough market analysis by providing a summary of your market research results, including:

  • How many potential customers are there for your solution (target market)
  • What proportion of the market your company can reasonably capture (market share)
  • Forecast estimating what the future holds for the industry and market demand

Competitive Advantage

  • Who are your competitors?
  • How is the market currently divided?
  • What advantages does your company have over the competition?

Aim: Convince the reader that your business has a significant competitive edge to succeed in your target market.

This section is where you describe the gap in your target market, how your solution can fill it, and the competitive advantages that will enable you to exploit this market gap.

Hence, include information about your competition and what differentiates your business:

Competitors and Market Distribution:

Who are you up against? What other options do your customers have to address their needs? Indicate the nature of your competition and how the market is currently divided.

Competitive Advantage:

What comparative advantage does your product/service have?

Show your conclusions on your company’s competitive position and why your company will be able to compete successfully. Remember to list any important distinctions, such as patents, major contracts, or letters-of-intent.

Unique Selling Proposition:

What unique selling proposition will help your business succeed?

What makes your solution better for your customers compared to the competition?

Is competition going to get tougher?

Summarize your conclusions on whether competition is going to intensify going forward.

Company Description

Company information:.

  • Is the management team capable?
  • What are the basic details of your business?
  • What is the company’s current stage of development?
  • What are some of the milestones you’ve met?

Aim: Convince the reader that your business has the right structure and capable management team in place to succeed.

Your goal is to demonstrate that you are well-positioned to exploit the market opportunity by highlighting the positive factors in your company’s management, structure and history.

Company Details:

Include a short statement that covers the basic company details, such as the company name, when your business was formed, the names of the founders and their roles, number of employees, business location(s), and legal status.

Stage of Development:

State whether your company is a startup or continuing business, when it was founded, how far along the product or service is in its creation, and if you’ve already made sales or started shipping.

Track Record:

  • If you are an established business, provide a brief history of the company’s trading activity to date, including financial and market growth highlights.
  • If you are just starting a business, you won’t have as much information as an established company. Instead, focus on your experience and background as well as the decisions that led you to start this particular enterprise.

Management:

Briefly describe the bios of the key members of your management team , particularly those of company founders/owners , as well as the key professional advisors .

What do they bring to the table that will position your company well to take advantage of the market opportunity and make the business a success?

Highlight management’s vision and passion , along with the relevant skills , experience , qualifications , subject-matter expertise , business acumen , industry connections and other capabilities as they relate to the venture.

Operations:

Showcase the key operational features that will give the business a competitive edge.

This could include anything from an advantageous location, through innovative manufacturing technology and processes, to preferential supplier and distribution agreements – and anything in between.

Outline the strategy to achieve the company’s goals and continuously strengthen its competitive position.

Next, indicate the keys to success that you intend to use in order to implement that strategy, such as:

  • Marketing and Sales: Briefly describe the methods you will utilize to reach your target customers to market your offering and secure sales.
  • Operations and Resources: Summarize the most important resources and operational features your company will deploy to implement its strategy.

Address your plans for where you would like to take your business in the future.

Spell out the objectives you have for the company, what you plan to do:

  • Where do you expect the business to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years ?
  • What are some of the key milestones you plan to meet?
  • What are your long-term goals ?
  • What is your potential exit strategy ?

Make an educated projection for the expected performance of your business, including:

  • Sales volume and value
  • Cash flow position
  • Profitability
  • Number of employees
  • Number of locations
  • Market share
  • New products

Financial Forecast

Summarize the expected financial outlook and performance for your business, answering the following questions for your readers:

  • How much do you expect to make in the first year of your business?
  • What kind of growth do you expect to see in the following years?
  • If you do not expect your business to be profitable , do you have a strategic reason for running at a loss?
  • What are the key metrics that you need to watch?
  • Will your backers (if any) be able to get their money back and when ?
  • Are your financial projections realistic ?

In general, it is customary to indicate financial information for years one through three or five , depending on the requirements of the business plan reader. Typically, this includes Year 1 and Year 3 / 5 results; and Year 10 / long-term goals.

However, your readers can find the detail of the projected financials further on in the plan. In this section, only provide the highlights of your forecast and encourage the reader to keep reading to learn more about your company.

Funding Requirements

How will you fund your business to get it started and grow it to the next level?

  • Is it already self-sufficient?
  • Do you plan to invest your own money?
  • Do you seek outside financing?

If the business does not require any outside financing, you can note that here or just remove this section from your plan altogether.

When you are using the business plan for financing purposes, explain how much money is needed, from whom, and how you will utilize it to grow your business, hinting at an exit opportunity:

  • Existing Source of Funds: Include information about your current lenders and investors, if any.
  • Funding Requirements: Indicate how much money you are seeking, from what sources, and perhaps even under what conditions.
  • Use of Funds: Specify how the raised funds will be used.
  • Exit Strategy: Hint at how the backers will get their money out, with the expected timing and returns.

Tips: How Do You Write an Executive Summary?

Writing an executive summary is arguably the most fun – and important – part of writing a business plan.

You have already completed all the research, thinking and writing about market demand, competition, strategy, operations and financials.

All that is left to do now is to summarize the key conclusions into a coherent narrative , answering the million-dollar question:

Why is your plan worthy of backing?

Here are 7 tried and tested tips to prepare a compelling summary of your business that will convince the readers to read through the rest of your plan:

Target Audience (Tip #1)

Ask yourself: “Who will be reading my business plan?”

Since the summary is what the reader reads first, and may be the only section read at all, you can significantly improve your chances of a positive reception if you know the answer to that question before you prepare your executive summary.

Remember, your reader is only going to spend a few minutes , or even seconds , on your executive summary. This is especially true if you are targeting busy investors or lenders for whom it is not unusual to review more than 1,000 each year.

Naturally, the readers are going to focus on the issues that interest and concern them most . If you understand their priorities, you will be better able to craft the summary to “push the right buttons”. For example:

  • Bankers are likely to look for aspects of your business that minimize risk to make sure the loan is secure and they will get their money back.
  • Investors are focused on aspects that maximize the potential of your company scaling significantly and rapidly, because they will receive a share of that success.
  • Management may be interested in accessing new markets for the company.

Do your homework to discover the interests and concerns of your most likely business plan recipients, and then write and organize the summary in a way that most appeals to your target audience:

  • Place the issues most important to the reader near the top of your summary.
  • Order the sections in any way that gives the best impression of your business to your target reader.
  • In the text itself, give more emphasis to those aspects that concern your reader most.

If you are not able to identify the specific person who will read your plan, just focus on the general type of a person that is most likely to receive it and their concerns. 

However, it is not a good idea to tailor the executive summary for just one specific person or organization, especially if your plan is likely to end up in the hands multiple and/or unknown recipients.

To be on the safe side, target your summary to address general institutional concerns rather than individual preferences.

Insider Tips: Writing a Winning Executive Summary

Convey your enthusiasm (tip #2).

The Executive Summary enables the readers to quickly understand the highlights of your business and decide whether to commit more of their time to reading the full plan.

To that end, you need to motivate and entice the readers by your own optimism about how well-positioned your business is to exploit a compelling market opportunity, conveyed in a dynamic , positive and confident tone.

Write Executive Summary Last (Tip #3)

Your executive summary will be the last chapter of the business plan that you prepare.

Even though the executive summary always appears first in the completed document, it is usually crafted last after you have had a chance to carefully consider all key aspects of your business throughout the rest of the plan.

The executive summary is the place where you bring all your planning together and sum up the separate parts of your business proposal to provide an overall outline and highlight the strengths of your entire plan.

Therefore, you will find it much easier and faster to come back and produce this section once you have completed the rest of your business plan.

That way, you will have thought through all the elements of your business, work out the details, and be prepared to summarize them. This approach will not only increase the consistency and accuracy of the plan, but also help make it more compelling .

So, if you have not yet finalized the other sections of your plan, proceed to the next section, and return to the executive summary when you have completed the rest of your plan.

Once finished, the executive summary will become “ Chapter 1 ” of your business plan document.

Summarize Highlights (Tip #4)

A good summary contains highlights from all of the subsequent sections of the business plan.

To achieve that, select the key points from each section of your completed plan by summarizing conclusions you have reached in each area. Remember to focus only on the most important and impressive features of your business.

What sets your business apart from the competition? Early on in your summary, showcase your distinguishing qualities and make sure you describe your winning concept in a way that any reader can easily grasp .

Use logical writing to tell a story, freely changing the order of sections and combining related topics if that helps to improve the flow and make a good impression.

Make Each Word Count (Tip #5)

The executive summary provides a brief snapshot of your business, casting a spotlight on the most important facts and concepts from your entire business plan.

As a result, this section should be clear , concise and to the point. Make each word should count.

Avoid Jargon (Tip #6)

In case the summary read by people unfamiliar with your industry, avoid any technical jargon or provide sufficient explanatory notes .

Edit, Edit, … And Edit Some More (Tip #7)

By the time you reach the executive summary, you may be tired from all the planning and writing. However, remember that this really is the most important section of the business plan.

The best investment you can make is to spend sufficient time to perfect the summary, including ruthless editing . There are professional editors who can help you make it flawless.

Design: How Do You Design an Executive Summary?

Looks matter. Your business plan will be well researched, analysed and written, but it must also be well presented. While your plan will ultimately be judged on the quality of your business concept and strategy, you also want to make sure it gives the best first impression possible.

And nowhere is presentation more important than in the executive summary, because for all readers it will be the first page(s) they read – and some will read nothing else.

The key advice here is: Break it Up . Large, dense blocks of text intimidate readers.

Dividing the Summary text with paragraph headings, bullet points and white space makes the information on a page more inviting and appealing:

  • Paragraphs: Break up the Summary into paragraphs that roughly mirror the sections of your business plan
  • Brief: Keep each topic as brief as possible
  • Subheads: Insert informative topic headings at the beginning of each paragraph to help readers’ quick comprehension
  • Bullets: Use bullet points to highlight the most compelling information
  • Numbers: Use numbers instead of words where appropriate
  • Visuals: Include a (small) chart or graph if it helps to clarify an important point
  • Spacing: Use white space to break up the text to make the page look less intimidating. Single space text, but leave an extra line of space between paragraphs.

Because you are limited to so few pages, it may seem counterintuitive to give up space for visual considerations, but these effective techniques make your Summary much more accessible to the business plan readers.

The way you prepare and present the executive summary is an indicator of your professionalism. A polished Summary sheds a favourable light on your business. A sloppy one works against you.

Length: How long is an executive summary?

The executive summary in a business plan should be no more than 2-3 pages in length, with 1 page being perfectly acceptable and often preferable. The advantage to the busy business plan reader is that they are able to skim through this short summary in a few seconds and read it in full in less than 5 minutes .

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How to Write an Executive Summary

Folder with a light bulb emerging from it. Represents summarizing your business as an executive summary from a larger document.

9 min. read

Updated December 13, 2023

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.

YouTube video

  • What is an executive summary?

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.

  • Why write an executive summary?

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.

  • How long should it be?

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.

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

  • Executive summary outline

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.

What to include in your executive summary

1. business overview.

A one-sentence description that explains what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.

Summarize the problem you’re solving in the market and reference any data that solidifies that there is a need.

3. Solution

Describe your product or service and how it addresses the problem you identified.

4. Target market

Who is your ideal customer? Describe who they are, how they’ll benefit, and why they’re an attainable customer base.

5. Competition

Who are your competitors? List out any primary competition as well as alternatives that your customers may consider. Include key details about their current offerings, promotions, and business strategy.

6. Your team

In your executive summary, outline your organizational structure and current team. List out brief explanations of who you and your team are, your qualifications, and what your function will be within the business. It may be valuable to also highlight any gaps in your team and how you intend to fill them. If you have potential partners or candidates in mind, briefly mention them and expand on their qualifications within your full business plan.

7. Financial summary

Highlight key aspects of your financial plan that address sales, expenses, and profitability. Try to keep these in chart or graph form to ensure the information is easy to consume and resonates visually.

8. Funding requirements

This section is only necessary if you’re seeking out funding or pitching to investors. Be sure to throw out your financing number and reasoning upfront, rather than hiding it later on in your plan. It helps investors understand your position, what you’re asking for, and how you’ll use it.

9. Milestones and traction

Add initial sales, pre-sales, newsletter sign-ups, or anything else that showcases customer interest. Outline what steps you’ve already taken to launch your business, the milestones you’ve hit, and your goals and milestones for the next month, six months, year, etc.

Executive summary vs introduction

A common mistake some people make when starting an executive summary outline is thinking it performs the same function as the introduction to their business plan. In fact, the two serve different purposes and contain different types of information, even though they are both essential.

As we’ve discussed, the executive summary is a high-level overview of the entire business plan. The introduction, by contrast, dives deeper into your business, providing information about the nature of your business, the history of your company, your mission statement, products or services, and the specific problem that your business solves.

The introduction is more detailed, and usually comes right after the executive summary.

On the other hand, the introduction gives investors or lenders – anyone reading your business plan – a sense of why they should continue reading. Think of it more as the space to tell stakeholders why you are speaking to them. An executive summary can also serve this purpose, but the introduction is meant to speak more directly to your target audience, while an executive summary could give a larger audience a general overview of your business.

Tips for writing an effective executive summary

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.

Additional resources to write a great executive summary

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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Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

Table of Contents

  • What to include
  • Writing tips
  • Additional resources

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what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

5 Steps for Writing an Executive Summary

Table of contents.

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

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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What is an executive summary in a business plan?

Including an executive summary in your business plan can grab attention and help communicate key information quickly.

A business plan written up in a notebook

What is a business plan?

A business plan is the blueprint for how your business will run. It describes your product or service, identifies your customer and the problem they face, and explains how you’ll succeed in fixing that for them.

Your business plan also helps other people understand what you do and how you do it. Groups like banks and investors will want to see your business plan before deciding to put money into your business, for example. Your accountant should also be able to easily understand what your business idea is and how you’ll make money from it.

It’s a living document that can help you clarify your ideas and maintain a clear direction as you grow. It shouldn’t be just a one-off document – you can return to it at any time and add to it or change it as your business changes.

Looking for help to build your business plan? Download our free business plan templates to get started.

The executive summary is the elevator pitch for the rest of your business plan. Use it to highlight what you do, why you do it and how you’ll succeed.

It’s often the first section that a person will read in your business plan, so this is your opportunity to "sell" your idea and its potential for success.

It should explain enough that a reader could understand the key information about your business without having to read the whole document – this is especially helpful for readers who are pushed for time. However, a compelling executive summary will also grab someone’s attention enough to make them want to keep reading.

While it’s a helpful section for rushed readers, you may feel an executive summary isn’t absolutely necessary just yet. Think about your audience and the complexity of your business plan when weighing up the benefit of having an executive summary.

How does an executive summary differ from a mission statement or business objective?

A mission statement outlines the overall purpose and vision of your business, and a business objective is a specific goal or target you’ll aim for to help you achieve that vision.

The executive summary could include both your mission statement and business objectives. However, it should ultimately be a high-level overview of your whole business plan.

What to include in an executive summary

Treat your executive summary as the one and only section someone may read in your business plan. What must they know in order to understand your business?

Pull the key high-level information from other parts of your business plan, including:

  • what your business does and why you do it
  • your mission statement, if you have one
  • your target customers, the problem they face and how you solve it for them
  • the product or service you’re selling
  • any key information from competitor or market research that helps tell your story
  • a schedule to launch, or steps to implement your business plan

If you’re approaching lenders or investors for financing, include key financial information and your plans for growth in your executive summary too.

How to write an executive summary

It’s a good idea to fill in the other sections of your business plan first, before deciding what goes in an executive summary. This way, you have complete information for you to draw from.

Aim to summarize the key sections of your business plan in a few sentences using plain language that’s easy to understand. Include any important data or information that backs up your ideas, and leave out personal opinions.

Beware of copying and pasting information from other parts of your plan; the executive summary should be as specific and concise as possible. An executive summary that’s too general, or padded with unnecessary detail might lose the reader’s interest.

Think about who will read your business plan, and what they’ll be interested in. For example, if you want to connect with lenders or investors, promote the size of the opportunity for your business, and how much money you’ll need to make it a success.

There’s no strict rule about length, but it should remain clear and engaging the whole way through. Keeping to one page is a good general guide to maintain your reader’s attention without overwhelming them.

Ultimately, an executive summary should benefit your business plan by laying out critical information clearly and simply upfront. An engaging, informative summary will help key people understand your plan and your needs, so they can offer guidance and support your success.

You can find tips on business planning and more in How to start a business

Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

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

Caroline Forsey

Published: August 31, 2023

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

Executive summary with examples

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

Executive Summary

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

Some documents that may have an executive summary include:

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

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

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

Free Executive Summary Template

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

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

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Executive Summary vs. Business Plan

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

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

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

Executive Summary vs. Mission Statement

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

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

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

Executive Summary vs. Company Description

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

Executive Summary vs. Objective

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

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

What is the purpose of an executive summary?

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

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

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

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

Follow Along With HubSpot's Executive Summary Template

Executive summary template from HubSpot

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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

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

Download Your Free Template Here

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

What to Include in Your Executive Summary

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

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

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

How long should an executive summary be?

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

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

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

Executive Summary Template

executive summary template from hubspot

Download Your Free Executive Summary Template Here

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

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

Ready? Download your free executive summary template .

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

Executive Summary Examples

1. connected.

executive summary example: connected

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How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

3-minute read

  • 19th November 2023

An executive summary is the part of a business plan that gives an outline of the main plan. So to write an executive summary, we first need to read the business plan carefully and understand its key points. These key points are what we will condense to form the executive summary. It’s important to ensure that the executive summary can stand alone because plenty of users will read only that and not the main business plan. We could say that the business plan is the original TL;DR (too long; didn’t read)!

But first, let’s take a quick look at what goes into a business plan so we can focus on the sections we need for our executive summary.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that sets out a business’s strategy and the means of achieving it. The business plan usually contains the following sections:

How to Write an Executive Summary

The executive summary covers the same headings as the main business plan but not in so much detail. This is where our editing skills come to the fore!

The following six steps explain how to approach writing the executive summary.

Consider the Audience

Who will be using the summary? The business plan might be issued only to a very specific group of people, in which case, their needs are paramount and specialized. If the business plan is going out on wider release, we need to think about what a general reader will want to know.

Check That It Makes Sense on Its Own

Make sure the summary can be read as a stand-alone document for users who won’t read the whole plan.

Use Formatting Effectively

Make good use of formatting, headings, numbering, and bullets to increase clarity and readability.

Keep It Brief

One page (or around ten percent of the total word count for a large document) is great.

Avoid Jargon

Try to avoid jargon and use straightforward language. Readers of the executive summary might not have business backgrounds (for instance, if they are friend and family investors in a small start-up business).

Find this useful?

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Proofread the Executive Summary

The executive summary will very likely be the first – and perhaps the only – part of the business plan some people will read, and it must be error-free to make a professional impression.

●  Consider the audience .

●  Ensure that the executive summary can stand alone.

●  Use formatting tools to good advantage.

●  Keep it brief.

●  Keep it simple.

●  Proofread it.

If you’d like an expert to proofread your business plan – or any of your writing – get in touch!

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what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

When you’re starting a business, one of the most important documents you’ll need to create is a business plan. A well-written business plan can help you secure funding from investors, convince suppliers to do business with you, and give you a roadmap for how your business will grow.

Wondering how to develop a good business plan ? In addition to all of the usual sections–like your company overview, products and services, market analysis, and financial projections–you also need to write an executive summary. The executive summary will decide whether potential investors will read the next sections of your business plan, which is why it’s the most crucial part of your proposal. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what an executive summary is, tips for writing a good one, and the mistakes you should avoid at all costs. 

What Is an Executive Summary, and Why Do You Need One?

An executive summary is a brief, yet comprehensive overview of your business plan. It should touch on all of the key points of your business, and then convince the reader to keep reading.

You can think of it as a preview of what’s to come, written in a concise, easy-to-understand format that describes your company goals, objectives, and projected financial impact. Although all sections of your business plan are important, the executive summary is critical because investors will base their decision on whether or not to read the rest of your proposal on how well you write it.

What’s more, if you’re writing for potential investors, they might even turn down a well-written business plan that doesn’t include an executive summary, which is why it might be a good idea to invest in a dedicated freelance business plan writer .

How to Write an Executive Summary for Your Business Plan

Now that you know why an executive summary is important, it’s time to learn how to write one–but before you set out to write an executive summary, make sure you’re clear about what a business plan is and why it’s important . 

With that being said, here are a few tips to help you write your summary: 

1. Start With a Bang

When readers see the first sentence of your executive summary, they should be hooked immediately. This means that you need to start with a strong opening that will grab their attention and keep them reading.

2. Explain Your Business in Detail

Your executive summary should provide a detailed overview of your entire business plan, including its core ideas and projected financial impact. This means that you need to describe all aspects of your company in enough detail so that readers can easily understand what it is and how it will succeed.

3. Back Up Your Claims With Data

When you’re writing an executive summary, it’s important to back up all of your claims with relevant data and statistics. This can include things like market research or financial projections, which will help illustrate the potential value of your business.

4. Use Persuasive Language

An executive summary is not the time to be shy–you need to use persuasive language that will convince readers to invest in your business. This means using strong verbs and making bold statements about your company’s potential.

5. Keep It Short and Sweet

Although you want to include all of the important details about your business in your executive summary, you also need to keep it concise. Aim for no more than two or three pages, and use clear, direct language.

6. Include a Call to Action

Your executive summary should end with a strong call to action that encourages readers to learn more about your business. This can be something as simple as inviting them to read the next sections of your business plan, or a suggestion to get in touch with you for more information.

What Are the Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Executive Summary?

Just as there are steps you can take to write a strong executive summary, there are also mistakes that you should avoid at all costs. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be vague or overly general . Your executive summary should be detailed and specific, not just a vague overview of your business.
  • Don’t include anything that isn’t relevant to your goals as a company . An executive summary is meant to highlight the most important aspects of your business, so save the details for later sections.
  • Don’t be afraid to make bold claims . When you’re writing an executive summary, it’s okay to be confident and assertive in your language. Just remember to back up your statements with data and statistics.
  • Don’t forget to proofread . Once you’ve finished writing your executive summary, be sure to proofread it carefully for any errors or typos. This is not the time to skimp on quality and may be another reason to hire a professional business plan writer.

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How to Write a Business Plan Executive Summary

  • Written By Dave Lavinsky

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What is the Executive Summary?

A business plan executive summary is a short overview of your business plan for investors who are interested in learning more about your startup or existing business. It should be concise, engaging, and informative.

What is the Purpose of the Business Plan Executive Summary?

The purpose of an executive summary is to give potential investors insight into your goals and intentions as well as an understanding of the specifics surrounding your business. It includes all the information the reader needs to know in order to make an investment decision.

The executive summary is the first thing that your audience will read to get an idea about what your business is all about. You can make it easy for them by providing a concise explanation of what your business does, why it’s needed, how you plan on making money from it, and what customers you’re targeting. This means that the document needs to cover all these important points while being brief enough to not scare away readers who might want more information about your business venture.

How Long Should a Business Plan Executive Summary Be?

The executive summary for a business plan should generally be between one and three pages long; more than that may appear excessive to the reader, while less may not provide enough information to convince an investor to provide funding for your company.

Steps to Writing an Executive Summary

  • Write the Executive Summary Last . Once you’ve completed writing your entire business plan, you’ll have learned the key points which set your business apart and which should convince readers to join you.
  • Make a List of the Most Important Points . Write a sentence or bullet point for each argument you want to include in the executive summary. Include all the things you want to cover in your summary, including market research and analysis, management team, financial information, product development plans, and projected growth plans. You can also use headers to keep your thoughts organized.
  • Describe Your Company’s Unique Background . Potential investors will want to know what makes you qualified to execute on your ideas, so here’s where you elaborate on all of your experience and insight into the business world. Include any other projects that your team members have been successful with in the past along with information regarding why you’re qualified to achieve the business’ goals.
  • Identify Your Product or Service . You need to provide a description that gives potential investors a clear image of what you’re offering whether it’s something tangible, like a product, or something intangible, like software or a service.
  • Explain the Benefits of Your Product or Service . This is a key part of your executive summary. Here you need to identify why your product or service is better than other options and how it appeals to your target audience.
  • Address Issues or Concerns Head On . Your potential investors are going to want to know if there are any risks involved with working with their company so they can decide if they want to take them on. Here you need to talk about the problems that may arise from implementing your plan and how they can be addressed if or when they happen.
  • Describe Your Management Team . Document the qualifications of your team and how your team has the experience and expertise to make your company a success.

Tips for a Great Executive Summary

Make it short but informative. If you can summarize the key points in just one page, do it. If you need up to 3 pages to detail the key information, that’s ok too.

Investors invest in people more than ideas. The most successful business plan summaries highlight the founders’ passion and enthusiasm for their project as well as their background and achievements. Investors want to know about the team members involved in the venture – who are they? Why do they matter? Who is managing whom? How experienced are the entrepreneurs?

Explain exactly what your product or service does. This includes how it will benefit customers and why there’s a need for it. You should also show how your business is different and why you’re better than the competition.

Make sure you proofread everything. It all comes down to attention to detail, so make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors before you distribute the document. Not only will this make it look professional, but it’ll also show potential investors that you respect their time and don’t plan on wasting it by making careless mistakes during your business endeavors.

Business Plan Executive Summary Example

The executive summary is a brief overview of your business that serves as the first thing an investor will read when they consider investing in your business. It should be concise and informative without sounding like a marketing brochure. It includes all the information needed for them to make their decision about whether or not they want to invest in your business venture.

Below is an example of an executive summary:

Hosmer Sunglasses Executive Summary

Company & concept.

Hosmer Sunglasses (hereinafter referred to as “Hosmer” or “the Company”), is a California-based sunglass manufacturer offering the most cutting-edge sunglass frames in the world today. Along with a chic appearance, DNS frames have a unique characteristic that satisfies sport enthusiast consumers – silicon hinges. These hinges are exceptionally flexible and can be bent from a 90-degree angle to a 180-degree angle without breaking. This characteristic results in an intricate blend of comfort and durability heretofore unseen in the sunglass industry.

The Hosmer brand is poised for success in the U.S., and throughout North America, because it is a proven, unique product with meaningful consumer benefits. Consider the following:

  • The Hosmer brand is currently distributed in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and England, where over the past two years, over 1 million pairs have been sold per year.
  • The brand’s success in fashion-conscious France and western Europe should translate well to fashion-conscious Americans.
  • Hosmer’s hinge differentiates the brand from every other sunglass company. It is a unique product difference that provides consumers with both fashion and performance, two key consumer needs.
  • Hosmer recently launched U.S. operations and has already sold Hosmer sunglasses through nearly 15 retailers in four western states, and has established endorsements with over 20 sports celebrities.

Hosmer has a solid foundation from which to grow, great products with unique features, a superb management team, and an ideal climate to break into the $2.9 billion U.S. sunglass industry.

Industry Analysis

According to the Sunglass Association of America, retail sales of plano (non-prescription) sunglasses, clip-on sunglasses, and children’s sunglasses (hereinafter collectively referred to as “sunwear”) totaled $2.9 billion last year. Premium-priced sunglasses are driving the plano sunwear market. Plano sunglasses priced at $100 or more accounted for more than 49% of all sunwear sales among independent retail locations last year.

The Sunglass Association of America has projected that the dollar volume for retail sales of plano sunwear will grow 1.7% next year. Plano sunglass vendors are also bullish about sales in this year and beyond as a result of the growth of technology, particularly the growth of laser surgery and e-commerce.

Customers and Competition

Buyers of premium sports sunglasses are typically males aged 15-35 who participate in non-traditional outdoor sports referred to as “extreme sports” — i.e., skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, mountain bike riding, and motorcycling. They also include participants of certain traditional sports, including skiing, volleyball, and golf.

Customer ratings show that a key need of extreme sports participants with regards to sunglasses is durability. While many participants are satisfied with the looks of sunglasses by manufacturers such as Oakley, they vigorously complain that such glasses tend to break easily. Since sunglasses are most prone to break at the hinge, and since Hosmer sunglasses have silicon hinges, they are unlikely to break. And, although several companies market premium sports sunglasses to this customer base, none manufactures sunglasses with silicon hinges or with the superior quality of DNS frames.

Within the premium sunglass market, it is projected that Hosmer’s primary competitors will be Smith, Dragon, Arnette (owned by Luxottica Group), Spy, Black Flys, Oakley, and Bolle.

Marketing Plan

Hosmer’s initial target market is males aged 15-35 who participate in the extreme and traditional sports noted above. This group consists primarily of “early adopters” who are most likely to be attracted to the unique Hosmer brand. Penetrating this segment will build a “buzz” around the brand, which will cause other customer groups to purchase the product soon thereafter.

Hosmer will initially offer the 8 DNS frames that have hinges. These frames will be available in a variety of colors and lens types, resulting in a selection of approximately 50 different SKUs. Hosmer controls the lenses it installs in the DNS frames. Currently, the Company uses Paletz Sulter lenses and is considering a switch to Sola lenses for some or all its frames. Both Paletz Sulter and Sola are top-notch brands, either of which would protect Hosmer wearers from the well-documented perils of excessive exposure to sunlight. By virtue of the superior design and quality of both its frames and lenses, Hosmer’s sunglasses command a premium price of $90 to $130.

Distribution will be developed through a network of representatives. At the outset, Hosmer will utilize the following outlets for distribution of the Hosmer brand: (1) independent sporting goods specialty stores; (2) sporting goods retail chains; (3) sunglass specialty stores; (4) specialty/trendy stores; and (5) optical retailers.

Hosmer has developed a comprehensive promotions strategy. It will market to retailers through advertisements in trade journals and trade show exhibitions, in addition to direct sales from representatives. Consumers will be targeted via grassroots marketing campaigns including attending and sponsoring various surfing events, biking events, and skateboard tournaments and exhibitions. The company will also advertise in the print and cable media that is most popular among the target audience. Hosmer will also continue to recruit celebrity endorsers and create strategic alliances. Dozens of professional and amateur athletes already wear the Hosmer brand. Finally, Hosmer is developing a comprehensive website that educates consumers about the Company and its products.

Management Team

The Company has not only assembled a top-notch management team but one with extremely strong marketing backgrounds. The team includes:

  • Jane Smith , President, whose experience includes…
  • Bob Smith , Vice President of Sales & Marketing, whose experience includes…
  • Jen Smith , Sales Manager, whose experience includes…
  • Mike Smith , Manager of Endorsements, whose experience includes…

Financial Plan

The average pair of Hosmer sunglasses wholesales for $55.39 and costs Hosmer approximately $15 landed (after shipping, etc.). The result is substantial gross margins of 72.9%. The Company expects sales and profitability over the next five years to be as follows:

Year 1 losses result from the substantial infrastructure (e.g., staffing, general and administrative expenses, etc.) and marketing expenditures needed to promote the Hosmer brand. The long-term increase of sales due to these efforts yield a nearly break-even Year 2, and increasing sales and net income thereafter.

Hosmer currently seeks $5 million, primarily for infrastructure, marketing, inventory, and working capital needs. The Company’s exit strategy is the most likely strategic acquisition or sales of distribution rights in the U.S. and/or other regions.

How PlanBuildr Can Help

If you need help writing an executive summary, our business plan writers are here to help. We’ve worked with 1,000+ entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives to help them craft a successful business plan including an executive summary to grab an investor’s attention from the very beginning.

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How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

Back to Business Plans

Written by: Carolyn Young

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by: David Lepeska

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

Published on February 27, 2023 Updated on December 12, 2023

How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

Launching a business involves countless tasks, but a crucial early hurdle is writing a business plan . Many entrepreneurs who aren’t looking for funding think they can skip this step, but that’s never a good idea . 

A sharp business plan is essentially a business owner’s commitment to and preparation for the road ahead, and the executive summary might be the most important part. Investors and lenders usually only read the executive summary, unless it succeeds in grabbing their interest. 

Thus, if you’re looking for financing, an excellent executive summary is absolutely essential. But even if you’re not, writing a strong executive summary can help gather your thoughts and lessons learned. Lucky for you, this guide shows you just how to do it. 

  • What is an Executive Summary?

The executive summary opens your business plan, but it’s the section you’ll write last. It summarizes the key points and highlights the most important aspects of your plan. 

Again, often investors and lenders will only read the executive summary; if it doesn’t capture their interest they’ll stop reading, so it must be as compelling as possible, even at two pages or less. 

  • What to Include in the Executive Summary

Several key points should be included in the executive summary.

1. The Business Opportunity

What problem are you solving in the market and for whom? Write a few sentences about the opportunity and your target market . This should be at the top of your executive summary after a very brief introduction of your concept and vision. 

2. The Business Idea and Model

Provide specific information about your product or service, how it solves a market problem, and how you’ll sell it. Will it be one-time sales or a subscription? Focus on your product or service as a solution, discussing how it solves the problem and why it’s better than other solutions. 

3. Company History

What have you done to this point? When you’re just getting started, this may be nothing more than coming up with the idea, choosing a business name , and forming a business entity. Highlight milestones you’ve achieved. 

4. Market Summary

Discuss the state of the industry, market size, and projected growth. Include data points with links to sources. Also, touch upon why you chose your target market and the competitive landscape of your market. Don’t go into too much detail, just mention the most intriguing elements.

5. Competitive Advantage

Write a strong statement about how your company is going to stand out in the market – why will customers choose your product over those of competitors? This is extremely important to investors, so take your time on this one after you’ve done your full competitive analysis . 

6. Objectives

Write a short list of specific goals that you plan to achieve in the short term, such as developing your product, launching a marketing campaign, or hiring a key person. 

7. Management team

Provide a summary of your management team, their roles, and the relevant experience that they have to serve in those roles. Don’t be overly self-promotional here; just state the facts in a positive way. 

8. Financial Highlights

Provide a summary of your financial plan including revenue and profit projections (best in bullet form) for at least three years and a break-even analysis in a simple chart form. If you’ve already made some sales, include your revenue numbers.

9. The “Ask”

Your “ask”, if applicable, is what you’re requesting from the investor or lender. You’ll include the amount you’d like and how it will be spent, such as “We are seeking $50,000 in seed funding to develop our beta product”.  

It’s best not to specify the terms of funding you’re requesting, such as stating an equity offer. That will be a matter of negotiation.

10. Other Compelling Points

If there are any other points from your business plan that illustrate how your business will be unique and successful, be sure to include those as well. The executive summary should be as persuasive as possible. 

If you finish your executive summary and it’s more than two pages long, cut it down. Investors and lenders aren’t looking for a long read; they want you to get to the point and to be “wowed” by your vision. That will persuade them to dig into your full plan. 

So take all the time you need to write an excellent summary, then have somebody you trust review it to make sure it delivers. The future of your business could depend on it.

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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.

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

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.

Key Takeaways

  • 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
  • Garbage/recycling

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.

Competitive Advantages

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.

Financial Projections

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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How to Write an Executive Summary

Written by Dave Lavinsky

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Executive Summary of a Business Plan

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

  • Other Helpful Business Plan Articles

An executive summary of a business plan gives readers an overview of your business plan and highlights its key points.

The executive summary should start with a brief overview of your business concept. Then it should briefly summarize each section of your business plan: your industry analysis, customer analysis, competitive analysis, marketing plan, operations plan, management team, financial plan and funding needs.

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

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

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shoutmouth.com Executive Summary Template

Business Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Success Factors

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

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

Unique Investment Metrics

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

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

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

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

Financial Strategy, Needs and Exit Strategy

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

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

Topline projections over the next three years are as follows:

Other Resources for Writing Your Business Plan

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

What is the purpose of an executive summary?

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

What is included in an executive summary?

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

How long is an executive summary?

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

How do you start off a summary?

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

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide for Small Businesses

BUS101: Introduction to Business

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

The Business Plan

Read this section to see why business plans are essential and what sections should be included.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is a one- to three-page overview of the business plan. It's actually the most important part of the business plan: it's what the reader looks at first, and if it doesn't capture the reader's attention, it might be the only thing that he or she looks at. It should therefore emphasize the key points of the plan and get the reader excited about the prospects of the business.

Even though the executive summary is the first thing read, it's written  after  the other sections of the plan are completed. An effective approach in writing the executive summary is to paraphrase key sentences from each section of the business plan. This process will ensure that the key information of each section is included in the executive summary.

What Is an Executive Summary Business Plan?

  • Small Business
  • Business Planning & Strategy
  • Executive Summary Business Plans
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What Is a Business Plan Outline?

Basic business plan structure, the breakdown of a marketing plan.

  • How to Write an Executive Summary on a Marketing Plan
  • What Is an Appendix in a Business Plan?

If you understand the importance of an executive summary in a report, then you should understand the role of an executive summary business plan. Just about every small business should have an executive summary business plan. More than just a page or two tacked to the beginning of your company's business plan, this is a stand-alone document used to get the interest of potential investors and other key people who may be interested in your company.

Role of the Executive Summary Business Plan

Traditionally, the executive summary is the introduction to a full business plan and summarizes the important parts contained in the full document. It's essentially what a busy executive would read to get an idea of what the business plan contains.

While it should be added to the beginning of the full business plan, the executive summary can also be used as an independent document, and Forbes recommends you should write it as one. The reason for this is that if someone reads your executive summary and isn't interested in reading the rest, your relationship with them has ended.

You can give the executive summary by itself to potential investors, potential business partners and potential new hires for your company. If they're interested in what they read, you can give them the full business plan. If they aren't interested, you don't have to worry about them walking away with sensitive information that is included in your full business plan.

Components of the Executive Summary Business Plan

The executive summary business plan should be between one and three pages, written in the third person. The executive summary format should follow the same order as the full business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that a business plan include the following sections, in this order:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management team
  • Product or service line
  • Marketing and sales
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections

Obviously, there isn't an executive summary inside the executive summary, but the other components should all be there. Bullet points are fine. In fact, use any opportunity you can to condense important information to make it brief and easy to scan.

There are many templates available online, which you should look at before drafting your own executive summary. The SBA, for example, has business plans geared towards different business sectors, as well as plans for traditional companies and lean startups.

Writing the Executive Summary Business Plan

The experts at Hubspot recommend writing the executive summary first, while others recommend writing it after your full business plan is complete. Perhaps the ideal approach is to do both: Begin by drafting the executive summary, compose the rest of the business plan, and then go back and revise the executive summary as needed.

Just like the facts in your business plan, the facts in your executive summary should be accurate. Hubspot compares this document to the back cover of a book designed to get the readers' interest in your company. However, this doesn't mean it should read like a sales pitch.

Keep in mind that the ideal reader will be someone who likely has as much experience in your industry as you do, if not more. When readers finish the document, they will ideally see you as someone with the right facts and the right plan to succeed.

Keep the adjectives to a minimum, proofread the document several times and get feedback from others – preferably people with experience in your business sector or investors who have experience reading executive summaries.

  • Forbes: Executive Summary Template: What to Include
  • Hubspot: How to Write an Incredibly Well-Written Executive Summary

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines and online publications including About.com, Re/Max and American Express.

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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

what is the most essential role of the executive summary in the business plan

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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  1. Executive Summary

    An executive summary is the first section of a business plan or proposal that provides a brief overview of the document and contains its main points. In other words, it is a condensed version of a complete business plan or proposal. It is primarily used in the business world, but its application in academia is also possible.

  2. Business Plan Executive Summary Example & Template

    Bottom Line. Writing an executive summary doesn't need to be difficult if you've already done the work of writing the business plan itself. Take the elements from the plan and summarize each ...

  3. Why the Executive Summary is a Critical Part of Your Business Plan

    ‍ The purpose of an executive summary If there's one section of your business plan everyone is going to read, it's the executive summary. Your business plan's executive summary exists to give readers an overview of the entire document. It should outline what they can expect to learn and motivate them to keep reading on.

  4. Business Plan Executive Summary

    A Business Plan Executive Summary plays an important role in captivating the reader's attention and compelling them to invest further time into reading your business plan. ... This plays an important role in making your executive summary stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression on potential investors and stakeholders!

  5. How to Write an Executive Summary in 6 Steps

    An executive summary tells the story of what your business does, why an investor might be interested in giving funds to your business, why their investment will be well-spent, and why you...

  6. Business Plan Executive Summary: The Exhaustive Guide

    Executive summary is an introduction to your business, which provides a brief snapshot of your plan as a whole. To that end, concisely highlight the most important concepts and impressive features from each section of your completed plan, addressing the following areas: Business plan sections: What readers look for: Products and services.

  7. How to Write a Killer Executive Summary

    Updated December 13, 2023 Download Now: Free Executive Summary Template 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.

  8. How to Write an Executive Summary

    "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...

  9. What is an executive summary in a business plan?

    Guide What is an executive summary in a business plan? Including an executive summary in your business plan can grab attention and help communicate key information quickly. What is a business plan? A business plan is the blueprint for how your business will run.

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

    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.

  11. Executive Summary of the Business Plan

    By Susan Ward Updated on October 13, 2022 Reviewed by Thomas J. Catalano Photo: CP Cheah / Getty Images An executive summary of a business plan is an overview. Its purpose is to summarize the key points of a document for its readers, saving them time and preparing them for the upcoming content.

  12. How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

    19th November 2023 How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan An executive summary is the part of a business plan that gives an outline of the main plan. So to write an executive summary, we first need to read the business plan carefully and understand its key points.

  13. How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

    With that being said, here are a few tips to help you write your summary: 1. Start With a Bang. When readers see the first sentence of your executive summary, they should be hooked immediately. This means that you need to start with a strong opening that will grab their attention and keep them reading. 2.

  14. How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

    Write a sentence or bullet point for each argument you want to include in the executive summary. Include all the things you want to cover in your summary, including market research and analysis, management team, financial information, product development plans, and projected growth plans. You can also use headers to keep your thoughts organized.

  15. How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan

    Write a few sentences about the opportunity and your target market. This should be at the top of your executive summary after a very brief introduction of your concept and vision. 2. The Business Idea and Model. Provide specific information about your product or service, how it solves a market problem, and how you'll sell it.

  16. How To Write an Executive Summary With Example

    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.

  17. Executive Summary of a Business Plan: Quick Tips on How to Make Yours

    For many business owners, the most intimidating piece of content to create is the executive summary of a business plan. When writing an executive summary, you need to focus on concisely explaining your key points in a skimmable yet compelling way. This forces you to take a step back and review the business plan from a higher level and distill ...

  18. How to Write an Executive Summary

    1) Complete the rest of your business plan. Your executive summary provides highlights of each section of your business plan. As such, you need to first write those sections. Then, read each section and figure out what information from each must be included in the executive summary.

  19. Write an Executive Summary

    Most business owners have a general idea of the executive summary that comes with the traditional business plan. However, in the real world, summaries come up much more often than just in the business plan. How to create the summary, and how to use it, depends on the business objective. The summary you say every day

  20. The Business Plan: Executive Summary

    The executive summary is a one- to three-page overview of the business plan. It's actually the most important part of the business plan: it's what the reader looks at first, and if it doesn't capture the reader's attention, it might be the only thing that he or she looks at. It should therefore emphasize the key points of the plan and get the ...

  21. What Is an Executive Summary Business Plan?

    Role of the Executive Summary Business Plan. Traditionally, the executive summary is the introduction to a full business plan and summarizes the important parts contained in the full document. It ...

  22. 10 Important Components of an Effective Business Plan

    1. Executive summary The executive summary is the first and one of the most critical parts of a business plan. This summary provides an overview of the business plan as a whole and highlights what the business plan will cover.

  23. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

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