How to Write an Executive Summary

AU’s business students need to learn how to write an executive summary.  But, let’s face it, we may all need to learn how to write one at some point, particularly if we plan on becoming entrepreneurs or managers.  Managers make decent salaries, so learning this skill may come in handy.

An executive summary is a small document that summarizes a big document, such as a business plan.  Brevity is key to an excellent executive summary.  Have you ever heard the expression that writing a shorter letter is more challenging than writing a longer one?  Succinct writing is an art.  Try to boil your ideas down to a condensed format.  Use three pages maximum, but ideally one or two.  And use bullet points wherever they may be efficiently applied.

The executive summary should feature highlights and touch on the key parts of your business plan, such as the marketing plan, products and services, and financials.  In those key parts of the business plan, extract essential quantitative facts and stats along with your major corporate goals.  These will dress up your executive summary.  And gear your executive summary toward someone who has no clue about what your business offers.

To start, structure your executive summary with a clear introduction, body, and summary.  The intro should start, just like an essay introduction, with a thought-provoking quote, statistic, or fact.  The introduction should also contain your company history: business name and a brief background and key industry insights.  Perhaps most importantly, your intro should contain your vision.

Next, write about your marketing plan: your target market, your company’s solution to the target market’s need, your competitors, and your key marketing strategies for reaching your target market.  Don’t discuss how your competitors are taking the majority of market share or how your product is failing to sell during COVID.  Only talk about your strengths.  Leave the negatives for discussion within the body of the business plan and not anywhere within the executive summary.

After that, indicate your corporate structure going forward (corporation, sole proprietor, etcetera).  Also mention whether you’ll be doing business online or in person or a hybrid of online, etcetera.  Talk about where you will be conducting business and on what platforms.

Then, discuss your financial projections, including your break-even number and your expected timeframe for profit margins.  Also discuss your projected financials over the next few years.  Will you be growing into other cities and reaching out to investors to achieve this goal?

Many factual claims need to be supported with citations.  Citing leads to credibility in your findings and views.

If the above outline of how to write an executive summary seems too confusing, then follow this simple model instead: write an introduction and then a brief paragraph about each section in your business plan.  That perhaps best sums up how to write an executive summary.

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