How to Write an Executive Summary for Business
Last updated on January 8th, 2024
A business’s executive summary contains the overall highlights of the business plan or proposals. It should depict the business motives, targets, planning factors, execution plan, and financial insights too. It is generally between 2 to 3 pages long or 1-slide in the case of presentations.
It is one of the most important pages of the business plan and one of the most important slides in a business plan presentation because it defines the actual purpose and the goals that will be achieved through a business plan. So try to incorporate every important aspect of your business in the executive summary.
The goal of an Executive Summary is to provide provide enough information but in a concise way at the same time, in a way to cover the highlights of all the other sections and to intrigue the reader to generate curiosity for the reader to dig in and formulate questions or read all the specifics within the plan itself.
In the case of presenting business executive summaries to investors, they usually just do not respond immediately after reading a top-notch executive summary but it should clearly represent a good first expression of your business plan. You should instill a sense of curiosity and profitability in the context of your executive summary so that it captures the reader’s attention at the first glance.
Why is it necessary to write a good executive summary?
If you are raising capital for your business plan, preparing a pitch deck or trying to engage some investors and stakeholders in your business plan then you should consider the drafting and presentation of a good business summary. If you are using the business plan for internal usage of the company then, it is okay to sometimes not write a summary but even then some critical strategic plans require summaries. Some managers will request employees to present an Executive Summary when raising reports. Use a digestible language style in the business’s executive summary so that readers will not get confused or may become uninterested.
Using concise language for potential readers, you can facilitate them by mentioning all the key points of the relevant business plan. Synthesizing & summarizing skills are both two main skills for anyone who really want to make an effective executive summary. This summary should not be confused with the abstract of the document because the abstract is the generalized perspective of the document providing not as much value to the readers. On the other hand, by mentioning the all main points of the prospective document in the same order, the executive summary outshines the abstract and conventional overviews by facilitating the audience to know the right message with an effective tone.
Key elements of an executive summary
There are many elements that formulate the basic structure of an executive summary, be it part of a business document or an Executive Summary slide template. The main and the most important parts can be described as follows.
Business summary or description
The first elements of a professional executive summary should include what type of service or product you are offering, what are its impacts on the people and business market, potential benefits, financial insights, competitors’ details, and an overall executive summary of the whole project. You can also mention the mission or vision that will be targeted through your business summary.
Now is the time to show the credibility of the whole business in the context of historical background and working style. You can explain what is your business all about, what are your specialties, and what are the main goals of the business. You can explain when the company was founded, who founded it, and who are the members.
Problems and achievements
You should explain in bullet points the problems in the market, their prospective solutions, and what are the previous achievements of your company to tackle the problems in the marketplace. Since this is a summary, try to give insights about the growth rate of the company and the customers. Try to give proper solutions in an engaging way to your audience so that they can understand the potential significance of your business plan.
Details about products or services
You can explain the competitive advantage of your products and services in-depth explaining the value aspect that your clientele is getting from them. Try to mention all the market’s needs and the gap in the specific sectors. Use your service or product as a solution to the prevailing need in the consumer marketplace mentioning the cost and structural benefits. You can use specific figures and facts about the credibility and efficient performance of the products or services. Identify the already existing problems in the company and how do you plan to cope with them.
This section is important as most of the investors and stakeholders will try to know the feasibility of the project in terms of cost measures. If you are a new business, try to explain the already successful models relevant to your projected plan with the presentation of the executive summary including all the financial details, figures, and aspects. If you are in business try to give your previous business insights and offer them to forecast your future plans.
What are the future plans of the business? Where will it lead to the financial value of the company? Where do you see the profit margin in the coming 3 to 5 years? What innovative measures or initiatives can be followed in the future? Is there any space to upgrade the existing plan? After answering all these questions, you can decide the future of your business plan using the executive summary.
5 Steps to Write an Effective Executive Summary
The executive summary sums up all the content of a business plan or document so it should include the aspects of the business proposal or plan so that no point gets missed. There is a vital role of the executive summary in getting the end results of a business plan hence you should be aware of how to write an executive summary that is effective and professional.
Step #1. Grab the attention of the reader at the opening
Your opening should be curious and remarkable at the same time. It should capture the interest of the reader at the first sight, They don’t need to look anywhere else once they start diving into your marketing piece of art. Explain the benefits that the audience will get from it. Don’t talk about yourself. Once your message is conveyed properly, you will not need to introduce yourself. Your summary will introduce the potential and effectiveness of the business plan to the readers.
Step #2. Describe the problem
You should be aware of the exact problem that you are going 6to talk about. Define that problem in a way that seems to be a serious pain point of the consumers and there is an opportunity in investing in the solution of that problem. You should not brag about yourself here either. Try to think like a customer. What will he want to know? What will be the concerns of the consumer? In this way, you can identify and explain the problems of the customers in a better way.
Step #3. Offer your project as a solution
Try to offer your project as the only possible solution to the potential stakeholders and executive investors. They will want to know the benefits of the project in business terms and what type of time, efficiency, money and authority leverages they will get from this business plan. You should depict the best possible points and features of your project so that it can impress the audience.
Step #4. Prove your worth
In this stage, you will solely focus on the advantages of having you and your team on board. You will describe your previous background, your successful launches, and the versatile clientele portfolio that you already have. You can mention exact facts and figures to the audience so that they can decide about your proposal clearly. You should describe your weaknesses along with the prospective solutions that you will implement to resolve them. You can win the trust of the investors, stakeholders, and listeners in this way.
Step #5. Implement your call to action
Your end goal is to convert your listeners into clients. So leave a lucrative proposal at the end of the summary with your contact details and general information so that the interested investors may get in touch with you. Your call to action should be persuasive and does not look too salesy. Narrate your offer with a natural tone and you will get desired results when someone interested happens to interact with your executive summary.
Executive Summary Placement
Where to put the Executive Summary? Typically, the Executive Summary is placed upfront in the document or the presentation slides (in the case of presentations, it is one of the first slides right after the cover slide). Sometimes, a separate section is reserved for Executive Summaries. Why placing the executive summary upfront? The reason is simple, the purpose of this section is to distill information to the audience or reader upfront.
Despite it is typically placed upfront, some writers and presenters prefer to prepare the executive summary slide and section after finishing the rest of the presentation. This allows the presenter or writer to think and develop all conclusions and arguments during other stages of the writing process. Then, simply focus on summarizing the concepts and ideas in the executive summary.
Types of the Executive Summary
There are various types of executive summaries for various purposes. Understanding the different types is the first step toward writing a winning executive summary. You can design and implement your own strategy in writing an effective business executive summary. Sometimes, using an executive summary template can help as a basis or starting point.
Executive summary for a business proposal
This summary identifies the key beneficial elements of a business and its plan and incorporates the main reasons why to trust and work with a business on their proposal. It briefly describes the features and benefits of the proposed project for the customers, its business and financial benefits, and the feasibility of the actual framework of the project for investors. Identifying the main competitive edges, you can market and present your business proposal’s executive summary in an effective way.
Executive summary for financial reporting
Showcasing the current financial statement and relating it to the previous financial insights, you can describe the probable future monetary benefits with exact financial facts and figures to the stakeholders and investors. Try to include your vision and mission too to achieve your financial goals.
Executive summary for Sales
If you need to define the sale potential of your business with existing sales status and the future forecast, you can choose the sales executive summary for your relevant needs. Here you can explain the recent metric, the customer growth rate, the driving factors for the sales, and the best possible future predictions about the sales growth.
Executive summary for the company’s profile
This type of executive summary can separate your prospective company from the competitors on the basis of business, innovation, technology, and productivity measures. You can highlight the key features of the company on a national and global scale and also the current market value. By mentioning the esteemed clientele portfolio, you can leave a long-lasting impression in the minds of the audience. Try to include the history, main goals, and the social initiatives of the company too. If your company sponsors some corporate social responsibility initiatives, then mentioning those can give you a staggering advantage that may result in a possible conversion of the readers into potential consumers.
Executive summary for the customer journey
When a product or service is offered in the market, every customer interacts with it in a different style. He/she may have different experiences along the whole product usage journey and this journey is extremely beneficial for the marketers to identify the needs and demands of the users. This helps them to devise the best strategies for defining the most suitable and effective customer experience. This customer experience can also be described in an executive summary shortly illustrating the engagement statistics and user experience of the clients. This gives a proper picture of the whole business journey regarding the actual process of the client’s interaction with the prospective company.
Benefits of a one-pager or one-slide executive summaries
The executive summaries should be brief enough to maintain the retention of the reader, and also concrete enough to fully explain the whole purpose of the business plan or proposal in the simplest way. One-pager or one-slide presentations are examples of such executive summaries that highly condense the given data and information in the simplest and shortest way possible and engagingly describe the business’s or startup’s marketing strategies.
The one-slide executive summary presentation provides an opportunity for the investors to look deeply into the benefits of the project in the most familiar way. If the goal is to prepare an executive summary slide then pre-made executive summary templates can be goldmine, as provides a starting point for presenters to prepare their executive summary presentations. A one pager executive summary PowerPoint presentation (or for Google Slides) can represent a great opportunity for the executives to capture the audience or reader’s attention and intrigue them on the top concepts and ideas present in the business document. To speed up the preparation time, you can use a one-pager executive summary template.
You can effectively communicate your ideas and concepts and clear the confusion arising in the mind of the listener.
Your potential listener may convert into an investor after listening to your one-slide presentation. This will also help the investor to offer the proposal to other interested investors too in the briefest manner. The investor will not have to spend his time and energy to further squeeze the data and present it in the shortest way possible. Your one-pager will be a relief for everyone. The investors may get many business proposals in a week but they may ignore them due to their complex written structure with unstructured data. Your one-pager may get the exact desired attention that you want because it will be both concise and easy to focus on.
Moreover, the visual element of the one-page presentation can help you make your data and information more interesting. You can increase the focus and attention span of the audience and can market your product’s benefits in a decisive way. In the article how to write an executive summary for presentations, you can learn despite executive summaries are the shortest part of a document or presentation proposal, they often leave the biggest impression on the audience or reader.
When to present an Executive Summary?
We have seen that an executive summary is a brief, easy-to-read overview of the main points of a longer document. It’s an essential part of any written communication, but it is not only limited to business documents (from marketing materials to reports). Executive summaries are also used in scientific projects and papers.
When to present an Executive Summary? It will depend o the kind of presentation or document you are preparing, but typically the executive summaries are presented at the beginning of the presentations or documents. This way, it can grab the audience or reader’s attention and capture the important information at a glance.
Examples of Good and Bad Executive Summaries
Example: Good One Pager Example of Executive Summary
A good executive summary helps to achieve the organizational goals faster while a bad one does not necessarily focus on the end results. Here is an example of a good executive summary for a marketing report:
“This summary is specially drafted to address the problem of decreasing sales of Joy Candy that had its peak profits in 2005 and the ways to increase the descending sales volume
The research depicts that back in 2005, Joy candy’s market share was 40% while our prominent competitors Luke Bars and Jennies enjoyed 24% and 30% of the market share. While the whole market value was almost 45 Million USD. But with the passage of time, our market share remained the same but the awareness regarding the health disadvantages regarding sugar and chocolate candies intake increased. Moreover, in 2008, rival health candies were introduced. So most of the market consumers turned towards these products consequently affecting our sales.
But our new product Trio Candy has been researched by our Research and development team and we have included organic sugar and ingredients that are 100% health-friendly for people of all ages and health conditions can be easily marketed with new innovative and engaging packaging designs. Moreover, the taste, quality, and quantity, and cost measures of the material used are the same as the previous product. We can use our previous portfolio to renovate our new business strategies marketing our updated candy that everyone will love.
The trio candy will be available in health shops and candy stores equally. It will have added benefits of an effective consumer approach and good imaging and branding.
We will also include the endorsement statement from the health professionals in the marketing campaigns.”
The above executive summary example clearly focuses on the prospective problem at the first, key researched finding and facts with figures, solutions, and at the end future recommendations. This is a clear and most engaging summarized version of a business or marketing report. While considering the same report, a bad example can be described as follows.
Example: Bad Example of Executive of Summary
“Whenever a buyer or a consumer buys and uses a certain product, his user experience may be affected by certain factors that run alongside the marketing process.
In this summary, we will analyze the tech industry and will find the 3 key points of Apple’s products or services.
It enables what type of behavior and expressions are shown by the buyer while purchasing a certain product or service. This enables us to draw a conclusion based on reality, not a hypothesis.
While a full understanding of the consumer’s behavior is impossible, we can get a general view from the individual buyer behaviors. Even Apple, a tech giant, can’t predict the exact overall consumer behavior.”
This summary is the clear depiction of an unstructured and mismanaged report with no proper opening and understanding of the core problem. Moreover, the research-based statistics, facts, and comparisons have not been made to understand the report better. This also doesn’t include financial and production insights. Hence this type of report summary will not engage any investor and will ultimately be neglected.
‘Executive summary writing is a technique that can grab the investor’s or stakeholder’s attention quickly. It saves both the time and energy of the listeners to read the full business plan or proposal. Investors also manage to digest the statistics and information being presented in the shortest way possible, if offered in a single slide presentation. A single page or slide presentation executive summary will appeal more to the audience and will have a long-lasting impact on their minds that will help to achieve the business goals more effectively.
A proper executive summary should include an engaging opening with proper problem identification, its solution in the form of your project, your credibility measures, and ultimately the financial and future forecasts of the whole project. An executive summary is vital in obtaining the targeted purposes of the businesses readily with a concise and concrete collection of words, facts, and figures.