The good news is that an executive summary is brief. It’s part of a larger document, such as a business plan, business case, or project proposal, and it summarises the broader report, as the name implies.
The bad news is that it is an essential document that might be difficult to create because an executive summary serves numerous functions. Executive summaries are used to outline each section of your business strategy, investment proposal, or project proposal.
On the other hand, they are used to introduce your company or idea to investors and other stakeholders, therefore they must be convincing in order to pique their attention.
The temptation to write an executive summary stem from the fact that it will be read by everyone because it is at the top of the pile of documents. It describes all that comes after and can make or break your business or project plan. The executive summary must understand the needs of potential clients or investors and laser-focus on them. We’ll show you how to draught and format your executive summary to do this.
What Exactly Is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a condensed version of a longer document, such as a company strategy, investment proposal, or project proposal. It’s usually used to provide investors and stakeholders with a high-level summary of key information in a business plan, such as the company description, market analysis, and financial data.
It includes background information, a concise analysis, and a conclusion, as well as a short statement that addresses the problem or proposition mentioned in the linked documents. An executive summary is vital since it helps executives and investors determine whether or not to proceed with the project. Pitch decks are frequently used in conjunction with executive summaries to discuss the benefits and key selling aspects of a company plan or project.
Unlike an abstract, which is a brief overview, an executive summary format is a shortened version of the proposal’s papers. Abstracts are more typically employed in academic and research-oriented writing to entice the reader to continue reading.
Executive summaries differ based on the document to which they are connected. An executive summary can be written for a business plan, project proposal, research paper, or business case, among other documents and reports.
However, there are principles to follow while creating an executive summary to ensure that you cover all of your bases.
Length of Executive Summary
According to the many publications on executive summaries, as well as training courses, seminars, and professional speakers, the agreed upon length for an executive summary format should be roughly 5 to 10% of the length of the entire report.
Use Appropriate Language
The language used should be suitable for the intended audience. One of the most important things to know before writing professionally is who you are writing to. If you’re writing to a group of engineers, your terminology will be quite different than if you’re writing to a group of financiers.
This involves not just the words themselves, but also the content and depth of explanation. Remember, this is a summary, and people will read it to extract the principal elements quickly and easily.
You also want to grab the reader’s attention right away in the first paragraph. A solid introduction paragraph can draw a reader in and make them want to read more, much as a speech typically begins with a joke to relieve the tension and put people at ease so they can hear what’s ahead. That doesn’t mean you should begin with a joke. Jokes are difficult to make. Stick to your skills, but keep in mind that most readers will only give you a few phrases to win them over before moving on.
Remember to clarify who you are as a company and why you have the abilities, employees, and expertise to solve the problem presented in the proposal. This does not have to be a long biography; frequently, just your name, address, and contact information will suffice, however you should also highlight your abilities as they relate to the business plan or project proposal.
The executive summary should not deviate from the material that comes after it. It’s a recap, not a forum for the latest ideas. This would be unclear and damage your entire plan.
Determine the need or problem and persuade the target audience that it must be addressed. Once something is in place, it is critical to suggest the solution and demonstrate its worth. Make a clear and solid recommendation.
Justify your position. Make a list of the primary reasons why your company is the best fit for the solution you’re proposing. This is the stage at which you distinguish yourself from the competition, whether through methodology, testimonials from satisfied customers, or whatever else you offer that is distinctive. But don’t make this all about you. Keep the potential client’s name in the forefront of your mind.
Don’t forget to include a solid conclusion where you can wrap things up and stress the important themes once again.
What Should An Executive Summary Contain?
The content of your executive summary must be consistent with the content of the bigger document to which it is attached. Many executive summary examples can be found online, but to keep things simple, we’ll stick to business plans and project proposals.
How To Write A Business Plan Executive Summary
As previously said, your executive summary must summarise the essential ideas of all sections of your business plan. A business plan is a document that defines all aspects of a company, such as its business model, products or services, objectives, and marketing strategy. Start-ups frequently use them to pitch their ideas to investors.
The following are the most often utilised business plan sections:
- Business description
- Goods and Services
- The SWOT Analysis
- Market Research
- Marketing Strategy
- Financial Management
- Request for Funding
Executive summaries are also useful for outlining the components of a project plan in a project proposal. Let’s find out what those elements are.
How To Write A Project Proposal Executive Summary
The most critical information from your project management strategy will be included in an executive summary for your project proposal. Here’s how our executive summary template looks:
- Introduction: What is your project’s goal?
- Company description: Explain why you’re the best team for the job.
- Need/Problem: What is the problem that it is attempting to solve?
- One-of-a-kind Solution: What is your value proposition and what are your project’s primary selling points?
- Evidence: Evidence, research, and feasibility studies that demonstrate how your organisation can solve the problem.
- Resources: Describe the resources required for the project.
- Return on Investment/Funding Request: Describe the profitability of your idea and what the investors stand to gain.
- Market/Competition Analysis: What is your intended market? What are your rivals’ names? What sets your company apart from the competition?
- Marketing Plan: Create a marketing plan that outlines your company’s marketing strategy, sales strategies, and collaboration plans.
- Budget/Financial Planning: What is your budget baseline for your project plan?
- Timeline: What is the projected completion date for the project?
- Team: Who are the members of the project team, and why are they qualified?
So, put all of that material together and you should have a noteworthy executive summary.
Just to recap what you need to include:
- Introduction, be sure to know your audience
- A bulleted list serves as the table of contents.
- Explain the company’s role and identify strengths
- Explain the need, or the problem, and its importance
- Recommend a solution and explain its value
- Justify said solution by explaining how it fits the organization
- A strong conclusion that once more wraps up the importance of the project
What to Do After Writing an Executive Summary
As with anything you write, you should always start with a draft. The first draft should hit all the marks addressed above, but don’t get yourself bogged down in making the prose perfect. Think of the first draft as an exploratory mission. You’re gathering all the pertinent information.
Next, you want to thoroughly review the document to ensure that nothing important has been left out or missed. Make sure the focus is sharp and clear, and that it speaks directly to your potential client’s needs.
Proofread for Style & Grammar
But don’t neglect the writing. Be sure that you’re not repeating words, falling into clichés, or other hallmarks of bad writing. No, you’re not seeking the Pulitzer Prize in Literature, but you also don’t want to bore the reader to the point that they actually miss the reason why you’re the organisation that can help them succeed.
You’ve checked the content and the prose, but don’t forget style. You want to write in a way that is natural and not overly formal, but one that speaks in the manner of your target audience. If they’re a conservative firm, well then, maybe formality is called for. But more and more modern companies have a casual corporate culture, and formal writing could mistakenly cause them to think of you as old and outdated.
The last run should be proofing the copy. That means double-checking to make sure that spelling is correct, and there are no typos or grammatical mistakes. Whoever wrote the executive summary is not the best person to edit it, however. They can easily gloss over errors because of their familiarity with the work. Find someone who excels at copy-editing. If you deliver sloppy content, it shows a lack of professionalism that will surely colour how a reader thinks of your company.
Every good argument needs a rebuttal, and whilst there is a definitive need for a good executive summary, it would be neglectful to avoid mentioning some critiques. The most common is that an executive summary example by design is too simple to capture the complexity of a large and complicated project, and essentially it is a synopsis of the entire proposal or project.
It’s true that many executives might only read the summary, and in so doing, miss the nuance of the proposal. That is a risk. But if the executive summary follows the guidelines stated above, it should give a full picture of the proposal and create interest for the reader to delve deeper into the documents to get the details.
Remember, executive summaries can be written poorly or well. They can fail to focus on results or the solution to the proposal’s problem, or do so in a vague, general way that has no impact on the reader. You can do a hundred things wrong, but if you follow the rules, then the onus falls on the reader.