Knowing how to write an effective, attention-grabbing executive summary is an essential skill to have in all areas of business. Whether it's communicating with stakeholders, seeking funding, or writing strategies and plans, an executive summary tends to be the initial contact between you and your proposed audience of potential investors, partners or senior members of staff. Therefore, it's crucial that you make the best impression possible in your written communication.
Instead of being bogged down in business details, a strong executive summary is without unnecessary information, illustrating the most salient facts and information in a bold, impactful way. If effectively conveying what you can do and how you're going to do it is something you've struggled with in the past, then our guide to writing an executive summary is sure to make the reader stand up and take note next time.
Whoever your audience is, it's important to consider the fact that they have their own duties and tasks to attend to throughout the day. Put simply, investors, executives, directors and managers are all busy people, and perhaps don't have the time to pore over an 80-page proposal or business plan. If such a document lands on their desk, they're unlikely to read it.
That's where your executive summary comes in. Since it might be the only thing that gets read, a strong executive summary could well be the difference in giving your proposal some legs.
Before moving onto the body of your summary, most agree that a strong hook in the form of an impactful opening paragraph is the best way to go. There's no need to try and be creative or humorous here; a simple, effective opening that explains what it is what you want, or what your company does, is the best way to go.
Something that the audience will find compelling and eager to read on is essential. If you've found a problem in the marketplace that you feel your business or service can rectify, now's the time to show how you're going to do that.
Broadly, your executive summary needs to touch on the following:
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An executive summary is like a job interview in writing. The language you use should reflect who you're going to address, so do some research into their background and tailor your verbiage as appropriate. For example, if it's a particularly corporate client, then you might consider leaving the humour out altogether.
Though you'll want to keep things professional, you don't want things to sound stuffy or sterile either. Using personal pronouns ("we", "you") in favour of general ones such as "the company" can help to establish a relationship with the reader, who will, in turn, feel connected with you, your brand and your idea.
If your company holds patents or intellectual property, then mentioning them will offer a huge advantage. And don't be afraid to bring up your competition; if you assert you have no businesses competing alongside you, it might look like you haven't done the appropriate research or there's no market. When bringing these things up, do so in positive terms; what matters here is what you can do as opposed to what others cannot.
Illustrate the potential return on investment, then highlight realistic financial projections, including future revenues, expenses, losses/profits, and cash. The business decision has to be one that'll be worth it for all involved; the level of success should ideally exceed the required capital and, ultimately, make the company a lot of money.
It should go without saying, but an executive summary that's not been read and re-read might end up hamstringing itself. Proofread the finished document for any mistakes, and if there are any glaring errors or unnecessary sentences then be sure to get rid of them.
Nailing an executive summary is often a case of ‘less is more’. Below, we list some of the things to avoid when penning this form of business statement:
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