What Is an Executive Summary? Definition and Guide

what is an executive summary

An executive summary is the first section of a business plan and is generally considered the most important.

Typically 2-4 pages long, the executive summary is often written last, after the entire plan has been finalized. The executive summary then covers the highlights of all the other sections.

The Role of an executive summary

In a business plan being used to pursue funding from banks, venture capitalists, or angel investors, an executive summary is designed to intrigue the reader. Its goal is to provide enough information that the reader will want to dig in and read all the specifics of the plan.

It is not an introduction. You do not want to write an executive summary that is a lead-in to the plan as a whole. It needs to be more of a highlight reel.

For business plans that are meant more as internal guides, the executive summary is a good place to state objectives and goals.

Outline

While there is no set format for a business plan, there are guides to make the task easier. However, there are certain topics that should be addressed in an executive summary, including:

  • Business descriptionRight up front, make it clear what the business does and the types of products and services it offers. Who is the target market? What problem does the company’s offerings address?
  • History: After leading with basic information about the company, it’s time for a little history lesson—more details about when the business was started, by whom, what their backgrounds and roles are, where it is located, and where the business stands.
  • Achievements: Since this section is meant to focus on highlights, be sure and reveal its revenue growth rate, customer growth rate, and any relevant milestones that speak to the company’s rising success.
  • Product or service description: One or two paragraphs of the executive summary should go into more detail regarding the company’s products and/or services, how they serve a need, what their competitive advantage is, and why demand is growing for them.
  • Financial overview: If the plan is being used to solicit financing, this section is critical. It should have top-line projections as well as a run-down of how much money is needed and how it will be used.
  • Future plans: Where is the business headed? What expansion plans exist? What will it look like in 3-5 years? Those should all be addressed in the last paragraph or two of the executive summary.

At the conclusion of an executive summary, the reader should have a good sense of the type of business being described, its level of success so far, and what kind of money is needed for the company to ramp up its growth and expansion.

What Is an Executive Summary? FAQ

What should include in an executive summary?

  • A brief description of the business, including its purpose and mission statement.
  • A summary of the product/service offering.
  • A description of the target market.
  • A description of the company's competitive advantage.
  • A summary of the marketing, sales, and operational plans.
  • A brief overview of the management team and any advisors.
  • A financial summary, including key financial projections.

What is an executive summary example?

An example of an executive summary is as follows: ABC Corporation is a leading provider of high-quality, cost-effective IT solutions for businesses of all sizes. Our company has been in business for 10 years and is equipped with the latest in IT technology and a team of highly-skilled and experienced professionals. We specialize in providing custom IT solutions, IT support services, website development, cloud services, and software development. Our services enable our clients to stay ahead of the competition and maximize their ROI. We have helped many businesses achieve their goals and have earned a reputation for providing superior service. ABC Corporation is committed to providing superior customer service, innovative solutions, and value-added services.

What are the 5 parts of an executive summary?

  • Background: Provide a short introduction of the business, the purpose of the executive summary, and the project or plan being summarized.
  • Objectives: Outline the goals and objectives of the project or plan.
  • Strategies: Describe the strategies that will be used to achieve the objectives.
  • Benefits: Explain how the project or plan will benefit the company or organization.
  • Financial Summary: Provide a brief financial summary of the project or plan, including estimated costs and potential returns.

How do you start an executive summary?

The executive summary should begin with a summary statement which provides an overview of the main points that will be discussed in the document. This statement should be concise and should capture the key points of the document. It is important to provide the reader with a clear idea of what the document is about and why it is important.
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