The executive summary is one of the most important parts of a business proposal. It provides a description and overview of what readers will read in the proposal
It’s the first thing your readers will read, which is why it is critical to nail it from the get-go. But what exactly it is and why is it so important? These are the questions we will answer in the blog post below – the what, why and how of an executive summary. Read on…
WHAT IS AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY?
Wikipedia defines an executive summary as:
“An executive summary, or management summary, is a short document or section of a document, produced for business purposes, that summarizes a longer report or proposal or a group of related reports in such a way that readers can rapidly become acquainted with a large body of material without having to read it all.”
In human terms…
An executive summary is a brief outline of your business proposal, describing what your business is about, what is the problem you are trying to solve, what your needs are and ultimately what you want your audience to do for you.
If your business proposal is a soccer match, the executive summary is its highlight reel. It only includes the key elements from the proposal in order to give an overview without getting into too much detail.
The executive summary must build enough interest in the reader’s mind that he/she moves on to your business proposal. This becomes extremely critical if you have written a business plan to convince banks, investors or venture capitalists to invest in your business and provide the capital to get it off the ground.
It is advisable to write the executive summary last after you have written a quality business proposal.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY?
A typical executive summary summarizes the entire business proposal in a page or two. However, a great executive summary covers all the important attributes of the proposal in a concise manner. It may also include rich media (charts, graphs, images, projections, etc.) to keep the readers hooked. Enticing them to read the whole thing. Keep in mind, it is not an introduction to your document.
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Here are the main components that you should include in your executive summary:
- Who you are
- What are you offering
It’s time to shake hands with your clients and introduce yourself. This is the moment where you familiarize yourself with the audience and present basic details like:
- Company Description: This can include your business name and the area of the establishment.
- What are you offering: You’ll want to include a brief introduction about your product or service offering and its benefits. Make the pitch short and crisp.
You don’t need to include the technical details in your executive summary, leave that for the rest of the proposal. For example: If you are the owner of the portable vinyl player, RokBlok, you can write something like “RokBlok is the world’s smallest, wireless record player that works by placing it on top of any record to instantly listen to your favorite vinyl, anywhere.”
- Define the problem you are solving
- What is your target market?
- How are you better than the competition?
Here you need to justify your existence and talk about what problems in the society you are aiming to solve. Make it seem important and back up your claims by stats and figures. Make sure that your clients get the idea that the problem you are addressing is worth solving.
- The problem- An executive summary needs to clearly define a problem, whether it’s big data or blockchain implementations. Make sure you articulate the problem in a way that speaks to the reader and creates a sense of urgency.
- Target Market – Talk about the people or the market you will be addressing. You can include stats about the total size of the market and the lucrative opportunity it holds if addressed properly.
- The Competition – Here’s your spotlight moment. Successfully presenting and effectively communicating your USP (unique selling proposition) can be the make or break point of your whole document. It is a great opportunity for you to grab your reader’s attention your competitive advantage like a patented technology or partnerships with big companies.
- The solution you offer
- The business model
This is the section where you give the details about how you are going to solve the problem you are addressing. The solution should ooze of confidence and convince the reader that you are capable enough to pull it off successfully. The solution should be something well thought out and detailed.
TThis is also the perfect occasion to show off your business model. Give a short description of how you are going to take your product to the market and generate money for the business and for investors.
- Why your team is best suited to solve the problem
- Financial projections and milestones achieved
After successfully describing the problem and its solution, its time to provide proof as to why YOU are more than capable enough to deliver results. For example, if you already have experience in the particular niche, or have worked for a company in the industry, now is the time to mention it to gain some valuable points.
Major points to include in this section:
- Financial Projections – Talk about valuations and summarize the financial plan including projections for the next three to five years.
- The Team – Let your readers know your professional background and why you and your team are the perfect group of people to take this business to exceptional heights.
- Achievements – describe the various accolades and achievements your business has garnered since its inception. This can include year-over-year revenue increase, awards, and recognition, profitability, increased customer base, increased market share, etc.
- What you need from your audience.
Now is the time to close the deal and state clearly what you need from your audience. Are you looking for financial help? Do you need a loan or perhaps mentorship? You should strengthen your case by reminding them about:
- The pain points your business aims to solve.
- The vast market potential.
- Financials that are to be gained from it
- Why your team is best suited to successfully run the business.
Let your readers know how their experience and expertise can help your business go from point A to point B. A little flattery can go a long way!
WHY IS THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY IMPORTANT?
The primary purpose of your executive summary is to SELL the reader on your business proposal. By giving the reader, a crisp, concise and to-the-point overview of your document, you aim to capture their attention. Your goal is to get them excited to read the entire thing. A weak executive summary can easily turn off investors and clients and hamper your chances of a great first impression.
Here are some of the benefit of writing an exceptional executive summary:
1. Saves Time
How many times have you heard this phrase” I don’t have time for this?” A billion times you say?!
This is one of the reasons why executive summary exists. It saves your high profile audience time and peaks their interest in your business proposal from the get-go. Your clients, partners, lenders or investors are all busy people. Time is the most valuable asset of investors and they surely don’t want to spend it reading a 100-page document right out of the gate. You need to begin with a solid case and get them intrigued to read the entire proposal.
2. Captures Attention
This is one of the biggest reasons why the executive summary is the most critical part of your business proposal- it decides whether it is going to get the attention it deserves or not. The job of an executive summary is to grab reader’s attention and pique their interest in your proposal. It acts as a doorway to your business proposal.
3. Provides Clarity
Writing an executive summary forces you to compress your 50-page document into roughly two pages and place your focus only on the most important points. This gives you a better clarity of thoughts improves your own understanding of your business. It also improves your ability to pitch someone quickly and effectively and is a great confidence booster.
HOW TO WRITE AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY- IMPORTANT TIPS
Start with a Bang!
An exceptional executive summary lays the foundation for a solid business proposal. Similarly, the first paragraph of your document lays a foundation for your executive summary. Yep, your executive summary needs an executive summary. If your readers are planning to skim the whole thing, they are still highly likely to read the first paragraph. Build a solid case by starting with a bang.
Keep it Simple
Don’t go into too much detail about how your product or service is going to revolutionize the industry. Don’t ponder on the history of the founders. Keep the details for the rest of the document and only focus on the most important stuff. Most executive summaries include short paragraphs and or bullets and subheadings. Include pictures, graphs or videos (if it’s a cloud based document) to get your point across quickly and easily, without using too much text.
Keep it Short
Depending on the length of the business plan or investment proposal, the length of the executive summary will vary. There’s a common “formula” out there – your executive summary should be about 5%-10% as long as the primary document. We say keep the executive summary as short as possible- without sacrificing important details. It’s a tricky situation but keeping it ‘short is always a good thing.’
Write it at the End
Even though it is the first thing that someone reads from your business plan, it is often the last section to write. Once you are satisfied with your proposal, only then begin writing the executive summary. This gives you clarity as to which sections are more important than others and help you prioritize. Since you are familiar with the ins and outs of the entire document, you can write the executive summary quickly.
Make it interesting: It’s not just table of contents
One way to capture the reader’s attention is to make your executive summary an interesting read. It must be clear, crisp, professional and with an identifiable goal. Just a friendly reminder, make sure to avoid embarrassing grammatical errors. It’s important to be cognizant of your audiences time and avoid getting into the nitty-gritty. Nothing gets investors excited more than results. Demonstrate a clear path to success/profitability and back up your statements with stats, figures and or market potential.
Appeal to the Audience
Do your research. Tailoring your business proposal and executive summary according to the wants, needs, and characteristics of the reader can play out positively. Don’t stop yourself from crafting different versions of the executive summary based on the reader’s personality. Let them know about the great opportunity that’s in front of them and provide them with a sense of urgency so that they are intrigued to read and invest in your document further.
The executive summary is truly the most important part of your business document. You cannot afford to take it lightly and just “wing it.” Here’s a recap of some of the key elements of the blog post that you need to keep in mind while writing your executive summary:
- It provides a brief overview of the key elements of the documents,
- It is aimed at generating interest, gaining reader attention and enticing the reader to continue reading.
- It should be written in a plain and simple language.
- It should not be too lengthy.
- It should be persuasive and interesting.
I hope this guide will help you craft the perfect executive summary and get the results you want. It’s the first thing your readers will read. Be wary to not make it the last!