The executive summary is quite possibly the most crucial part of a successful business plan. While different prospective reviewers of the plan may focus on other key areas, the executive summary will almost certainly be seen by the most people. While the executive summary serves as an index of sorts for your business plan, summarizing the salient points, it should be viewed as an opportunity to excitedly introduce people to the company. The emphasis put on this key area of the business plan makes the executive summary worth spending the additional time needed to ensure it is done well.
Starting the executive summary, because of how it is used and developed, is best done after the completion of the remainder of the business plan. Because the executive summary serves to summarize the balance of the document, completing the summary after the document is done will take the guess work out of what information is included and what was left out.
Start the executive summary with a short benefit statement regarding the product or service the company provides. This introductory note is not designed to fully introduce a reader into the specific attributes of the product or service, but rather a quick note on the value it brings to the market in general and the end-user in particular.
Share with readers of the executive summary broader data regarding the business. For example, the markets served by company products or services, target markets and opportunities, as well as competitor market information. These areas will be discussed in much greater detail in the business plan, but this is an opportunity to (relatively) succinctly share key data about what makes the company unique. This is another example of why developing the executive summary after completion of the remaining document makes sense.
Introduce key management team members in the executive summary. As with all areas of the document, try and be distinctive. In the summary portion of the plan, a less detailed introduction to senior executives is more appropriate. Adding years of experience specific to the industry, and major accomplishments if any, should be ample for this portion of the document.
Request what the company needs to meet the objectives outlined in the plan document, along with what an investor or contributor might see back in return. If the executive summary is being sent (along with a business plan) to prospective investors, make certain they see what is being requested of them. The balance of the document will explain why they should support your efforts, this simply lets them know how. With this part of the summary, make sure to share projected (realistic) returns and time frames. The document will include supporting information, the executive summary should get straight to the expected returns.
Tim Brugger has been writing professionally since 1995. He has published newsletters, white papers and informational articles for organizations such as IDS Financial Services, Red Chip Review and Western Independent Bankers. His fiction has also been published online. Brugger majored in business studies at the University of Oregon.