January 20, 2011

The Executive Summary is Your Business Plan's First Impression

The executive summary is not a mini version of the entire business plan. Keep it brief, two to three pages long. The purpose of the executive summary is to entice the reader to review, or request to review, the entire business plan. While the executive summary is presented first, it is written after the entire plan has been completed. It should not contain any information that cannot be found elsewhere in the business plan. Don't write the executive summary first, with the idea you can always expand it later into a full blown business plan, that just doesn't work.

If your business plan will not be presented for investors or bankers you don't need to complete the executive summary.

A brief two to three page overview of the company with one or two paragraphs under each of the following headings:

Business Activity: The company's products or services.

Market Opportunity: Define the company's market base, the customers, where they are located. Number of customers or dollar size of market.

Business Profile: A very brief description of when the company was established, by whom, number of employees, any recent changes.

Competitive Factors: The competitors, their strengths and weaknesses.

Marketing Strategy: The company's marketing: advertising, promotions, methods of distribution, and sales force.

Management Team: Brief description of senior management.

Capital Required: Amount, uses and type of the capital requested.

Financial Summary: Brief summary of the financial performance of the company for the last three to five years, if available and what is projected for the next three to five years.

Some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make in their executive summary include forgetting to put their contact information, name and phone number on each page. Not including the amount of your capital request. Not clearly articulating what business the company is in. Losing the reader in technical jargon. Some entrepreneurs think shorter is better but a one page executive summary isn't long enough to entice the reader. Most entrepreneurs have the intention to keep to no more than 3 pages but keep adding "just one more thing," until the summary is 10 or more pages long. Additional mistakes include forgetting to discuss the accomplishments of the management team. Not clearly stating who the customers (market) are. Not including the marketing strategies.
And finally not including any financial projections.

If you want to know how to write a business plan you need to know what's included in the executive summary.

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