Must-Read Guidelines for Writing an Executive Summary

An executive summary is your preface to your report. It enables your readers to know what you are proposing to do and why she or he should spend more of their precious time on reading your in-depth proposal or report.

Basically, it is the document that advertises your intent; puts forth the major points of the report, and it describes any results, conclusions, or recommendations from the report; and will grab their attention and get them interested in your proposal.

executive summary

An Executive Summary:

  • Should be concise and clear.
  • Should be one to four pages. The overall length shall be directly proportional to the length of your business plan.
  • Should be written in a professional tone.
  • Should be a stand-alone document.

Now that you know what an executive summary should be, let us focus on how to write one that is as described above. Here are few guidelines to help you write a knock-out executive summary.

guidelines for executive summary

  • Do not underestimate the value of your reader’s time. Clearly, state the intent of your business plan.
  • Keep the tone crisp and precise
  • Start with a bang. The first paragraph is crucial as it is the summary of your summary that advertises its contents. A hook is required to keep the reader reading.
  • Use “we” or “our” instead of “company” to give a personal touch to it.
  • Draw attention to your selling points- what makes your idea a winner one in the current market, what are your core strengths, what gives you an edge over your competitors.
  • Include these: Company Description Summary, The Problem, Your Solution, Why Now and Financial Summary
  • Present the major points in the same order they are written in the report.
  • Do not give information that is not present in the report.
  • Do not keep graphs, numbers, and analysis in the executive summary. Leave them for the main business plan.
  • Just give brief summaries of the results, recommendations, and conclusions in the main business plan.
  • Paraphrase the headings given in your business plan and use them as headings for your executive summary. This way you avoid redundant language.
  • Format the summary in the same way as the report;
  •  Include whatever wow factor is in your plan (may be you are proposing something innovative that caters to a market requirement).
  • Know your target audience. Due diligence is key to any successful endeavour.
  • Tweak your executive summary depending on your target reader. Have several versions of the same summary ready for a different set of audience.
  • Avoid using common terms like “ground-breaking”, terrific”, “excellent”, “cutting-edge”, etc. Your reader faces them on a daily basis and this does nothing to peak their interest. All it does is increase the size of your summary.
  • Make sure to read and re-read (making adjustments as you go) before submitting to a prospective investor. Ask yourself, "Is the key point getting across? Is it clear and easy to understand? Would I be interested in the full business plan based on this summary?"
  • Proofread and edit.
  • Give your executive summary to a friend, relative, spouse. See how they react to it and if the idea is easily understandable to them. If not adjust accordingly.

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