The executive summary can be the hardest part of a business document to write. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, we’ve pulled together some tips to get you started, including an executive summary example.
An executive summary is usually the first section in a longer business document, or it can be a short document in its own right. It gives readers a brief but comprehensive overview of a more detailed document or report without them having to go through the whole thing.
There are several examples of documents for which a small business owner might need to write an executive summary, including but not limited to:
If it’s a customer-facing document, your executive summary is your chance to hook them into your idea. You could even say it’s the most important section of your document.
Our article below explains how to write an executive summary. Why not download your free executive summary template, which you can fill in as you read our tips?
Download your free template – it’s editable, so you can fill it in on your computer, or you can print a copy.
Your executive summary is your chance to pull out the key selling points of your business document for your readers to see at a glance.
With this in mind, you’ll need to have the rest of the document written before you can pick out its top highlights.
Top tip: as an executive summary is an overview of a wider plan or report, it’s common to write it last.
Capture your reader’s attention from the start by including an attention-grabbing statistic or research finding in the first line of your executive summary.
Think about your core selling points
At this point it might be helpful to do a SWOT analysis to really dig deep into what makes you stand out as a business. Use bullet points to summarise areas that would capture your audience’s attention, for example:
Back up your claims
If you’re making claims about your business or project, make sure you back them up with research, and reference it in the footnotes for added credibility.
Keep it short and concise
Your executive summary should contain only the most important points from your wider document. This lets your readers quickly understand and buy into your ideas.
Keep it positive
While the risks and challenges relating to your proposal are important points to include in your wider document, it’s best to limit the executive summary to the plus points. This way your reader won’t be put off before you've had a chance to explain all the positives.
Tailor it to your audience
Think about who’s going to be reading your executive summary and tailor it for them. If it’s part of a client report, for example, you’ll want to give an overview of performance and key wins. Whereas if it’s for a potential investor, you’ll want to highlight how your business is going to succeed and what’s in the opportunity for them.
Top tip: spend time reading and refining your summary as it’ll be the first thing your readers will read.
Keeping the above points in mind, you can use the executive summary template below to write an effective document for your business. Each point below can represent one paragraph of your executive summary.
This is your chance to tell your reader about your business, including its name and what it offers. You should include any insights into your industry that back up the aim of your document.
You can then go on to talk about your target market and competition. Tell your reader about the problem your idea will solve. Explain what your competitors do and what sets your business apart from them.
You can then move on to describe the two or three main ways you’ll market your idea to your target audience to pique your reader’s interest. There’ll be plenty of opportunity to delve into your marketing strategy in more detail later on in your document.
Next, describe where and how you’ll operate for this project. This includes a description of your business structure and where you carry out your business activities.
Your reader will want to see how successful your project is likely to be. Show them using sales projections for one and two years into the future. Explain how you’ll know when you’ve broken even and when you expect to turn a profit.
This is the place to talk about any money you’re asking for – how much do you need to get your project off the ground? Make sure any number you include here tallies with your calculations in section 5.
As we mentioned, an executive summary is useful if you’re looking for financial investment. If you’re not sure what options are available to you, take a look at some of our business finance guides below:
Do you have other tips for writing an executive summary? Let us know in the comments below.
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