An executive summary is as vital as a business plan, and nearly every decision made in a company involves an executive summary.
Unfortunately, most people confuse it with a business plan. This post will break down what an executive summary is and how you can write an excellent executive summary for your company.
What is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a brief section of your business plan that is meant to grab the reader’s mind and put the information across without reading the entire business plan.
Ideally, an executive summary is meant to clarify the most critical information and recommend whether the organization should proceed with a specific move.
For example, if company X does a competitor analysis to know what business strategy to take, a business plan would be drafted. This business plan will begin with an executive summary.
So how do you write a compelling executive summary? Let’s find out, shall we?
How to Write an Effective Executive Summary
1. Tell a Story
Perhaps one of the things you have never known is the power of storytelling, how people relate to stories, and how they can get emotional with them.
When you write an executive summary, you should put the reader (investors or CEOs) first. Make it easy for them to understand what your business is all about.
This is where the power of storytelling comes in handy—state what your company does, and most probably how your company does it.
2. Do Adequate Research
While we need to tell our business story, you must not forget that people only believe when you can prove your point. And the only way to do that is by doing your homework – research.
When you research adequately, you will have facts to back up your statements. If you did a competitor analysis, include it with your findings.
In other words, you need to think of an executive summary as a pitch. Assume someone has to go through it in a minute or less; what must you include and what should you leave out?
3. Get the Right Tone
Your writing tone can make or break your writing; it can turn writing with flair into a poor regurgitated robotic writing, and that must not happen.
You need to set the right tone. The first thing is to know who you are addressing, your target audience, and how to communicate with them effectively?
Most business writing should have a formal tone, but this is not a guarantee. Do your research and know your audience and whom you will be addressing before choosing your tone.
4. Don’t Use Cliche Language
Sure, cliche writing can be fun and enjoyable to read, but it’s not suitable for some industries. In a business setting, you need to get your point across in fewer and simple words.
Don’t overpromise, and make your executive summary sound sleazy. For example, don’t say, “the best bakery in town,” yet your bakery is not yet proven to be the best in town.
Instead, use simple and clear statements backed with facts that someone reading your executive summary can prove and relate to.
5. Craft it Last
Your executive summary is like your introduction, and it needs a fresh mind to put it up. Writer’s block is common not only to bloggers but also to business writers.
And you probably don’t want to stare at the blank screen when the muse is gone, thinking that you will put a few lines up there and think it will make an excellent summary.
Instead, write your executive summary last and when you are fresh after you have taken a break.
Expert Tip: 5-Paragraph Structure to Follow
We have discussed some tips to help you write an excellent executive summary, but how about if we now broke those tips into what you should include in every paragraph?
Paragraph 1: Get the Overview Across
The first paragraph should capture the reader’s attention and help them understand what your business is all about. A statistic and a brief overview of your company (name and nature) would do the magic.
Paragraph 2: Explain the Target Audience, Marketing Strategy, and Competition
Your second paragraph should name your target audience, highlight the marketing strategy, and showcase your target audience. This is to help whoever is reading your executive summary to know more about your business.
Paragraph 3: Briefly Explain the Operational Highlights
Get your operational highlights across. For example, it would help if you provide where your business will be located, the nature of the company, whether a sole proprietor or a partnership, whether an online business or a brick and mortar business.
Paragraph 4: Forecast
You need to point out your forecast; where you see your business in the next few years after your business plan is implemented. Forecasting will require you to have a better understanding of the marketing trends. That means that you will need to research and know what trends are forthcoming.
Paragraph 5: Make Your Investment Needs Clear
Don’t beat around the bush – state your investment needs. Does your business need financing? And if yes, how much will you need. It is also important to note that the investment needs should correlate to your forecast/ projections.
While we have five paragraphs to write, you should make sure that you keep your executive summary as short and precise as possible. Additionally, try to break down your paragraphs into 2-3 lines to make them easy to read. Otherwise, the above tips should help you craft an excellent executive summary.