The Executive Summary 10 Commandments

Adam Hoeksema · November 29, 2010 · Short URL:

How to Write a Business Plan Executive Summary

Thou Shalt Know Thine Audience – Your banker is concerned about collateral, while your venture capitalist investor is concerned about growth potential and business valuation. You must be willing to change your executive summary for your unique audience or risk losing your one chance to impress.

Thou Shalt Write NO More Than 2 Pages – If you are long-winded in your executive summary you will undoubtedly be long-winded in your business plan. Nothing could turn off a reader more than knowing your business plan will be long, dry and boring.

Thou Shalt Use Bulleted Lists, Headings, Tables, and Graphs – Much like a child your banker and potential investors like picture books. If you can tell your story with a table or graph, your reader will be drawn in to learn more.

Thou Shalt Not Merely “Summarize” - If you summarize your business plan why would the reader want to continue reading? They will just assume that you highlighted all of the important information and not give your business plan a second glance.

Thou Shalt Be Intriguing – Again don't just write a boring summary. Instead you should “tantalize”. Give the reader bits and pieces of the most important and intriguing information to compel them to read on.

Thou Shalt Not Waste Words with Company History – If your executive summary starts out with, “17 years ago I had a dream about opening a coffee shop” your reader is probably already rolling his or her eyes. Sorry, but they don't care. Just cut to the chase and don't waste precious space with the entire history of your company.

Thou Shalt Leave Out Some Key Information – If the reader believes you have already disclosed all the key information for your business why would they waste time continuing to read you business plan. It is not enough to simply leave out info from the executive summary you need to make it clear to the reader in a creative way that there is more important details in the business plan.

Thou Shalt Ask Yourself “So What” - After every section of your executive summary you should ask yourself “So What”. Will your audience even care about what you just wrote? If not then change it, throw it out. Every word should be valuable and vital to your message.

Thou Shalt Write at a High School Level – Many business owners are technicians that are experts in some technology, process, or profession. By writing as an engineer to a group of bankers you are going to be way over their head. No matter how complicated the technology you must find a way to dumb down the process for a high school student to understand.

Thou Shalt Remember that One Size Does Not Fit All – Just because your executive summary impressed a banker does not mean it will impress a venture capitalist or an angel investor. Different stakeholders are looking for different things in a business plan and executive summary, so take the time to write a unique executive summary for your specific audience.

Follow these 10 rules when crafting your executive summary and you will certainly be more successful for your efforts.

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