An executive summary provides an overview of the most essential information in a business document. You can use it to grab the reader's attention in investment proposals, business plans and other documents for potential investors, lenders and partners. Understanding how to create powerful executive summaries for your business plans can increase your chances of getting funding for your project proposals. In this article, we discuss what the executive summary is, its benefits, what's included in one and how to write an effective executive summary using templates and examples.
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is an overview that summarizes the most essential information in a business document, such as a business plan, project proposal or research document. The executive summary may also include your company's or project's mission and vision and its short-term and strategic objectives to showcase the benefits and importance of the work.
An executive summary is commonly used by small-scale businesses to secure traditional funding from banks and other lending institutes. When well-written, an executive summary can quickly and convincingly convey the potential benefits of a proposed investment and help you secure much-needed capital for your business.
Depending on the format and template of your business plan or proposal, an executive summary can be listed as a formal section of the document in the table of contents or be the first page. It might also be a summary memo or just a paragraph that briefly describes the purpose of your plan or proposal.
The length and format of the executive summary also depends on the type of industry where it is used. For example, the wording and format of a business plan in the private sector will differ from that of a research-focused report in academia or civil service.
Read more: How to Write an Executive Summary
Benefits of a strong executive summary
This component is designed to attract a reader's attention and encourage them to read further for more details. If the executive summary delivers enough value to the reader, it can motivate them to take the desired action on your business plan even without reading your main document.
An executive summary also quickly provides readers with the most important information in your document, like a shorter version of the complete business plan. The traditional audience of business plans, such as lenders, investors and senior-level management executives, may not have time to read the entire comprehensive document, so they must get the focal points of a business plan from the executive summary, aiding them in quickly reviewing many proposals at one time.
What to include in an executive summary
The elements of an executive summary depend on the content of the main body of your business plan, project or report. However, the key elements include:
- Company, organization or business overview: This includes the name, location, mission and vision of the organization or venture.
- Company description: This is a brief history of the organization, its management, staff and partners.
- Market analysis: Include information about your product, service or project, its position in the market and the features and benefits that make it competitive in the industry.
- Financial analysis and funding request: This includes financial considerations, sources of funding, how you intend to use the funds and how the reader can help your venture achieve its objectives.
- Unique proposition: This is the identification and analysis of a problem or proposition with verifiable facts, figures and data backing your arguments.
- Proposed solutions and their justifications: Showcase the products, services or project outcomes that meet the market needs.
- Financial projections: Include the exact funding you need from investors and lenders.
- Clear and well-defined conclusions: Recap your key findings, pain points you want to solve and proposed solutions.
How to write an executive summary in five steps
Here are five steps to help you write an effective executive summary:
1. Provide an overview of your project
The first section of an effective executive summary is an introduction that provides readers with an overview of your proposed project. Here, include details of your organization, including the name, address, the type of business, products or services you provide and other vital industry insights relevant to your organization.
2. Discuss strategy
In the second part of the executive summary, include information about your target market, project or program and the problems you intend to solve. This section also needs to provide insights about the industry or field. If you are writing a business proposal, include details of your competitive advantage and other marketing insights. For academic and research purposes, talk about previous research experience and the qualifications that make your team capable of tackling the subject.
3. Offer insights into proposed operational plan
In the third section of your executive summary, provide information about the operations of your venture, including the office, lab or other central location. Mention whether the venture or project will be mostly online or a brick and mortar office, among other operational highlights. If you are writing a research report, outline how to carry out experiments or perform field surveys for data collation.
4. Outline information on projections
Section four should provide information about financial and sales forecasts for one to three years after executing a business plan. Include details of your breakeven point and when the business is expected to make a profit. If you are creating an executive summary for a project or research, mention the milestones and the results you intend to achieve.
5. Highlight information funding needs
In section five, talk about the amount of money you want the readers to invest in your business or project. Quote an accurate figure that supports your financial and sales projections, including manufacturing costs and other overhead. For research and other non-commercial programs, talk about the funding needs for researchers, experiments, logistics and other resources required to achieve desired outcomes.
Executive summary templates
Here are examples of templates you can use to create executive summaries for different business needs:
1. Executive summary template for a business plan
[Company profile (with relevant history)]
[Company contact details]
Products and services
[Description of products and/or services]
[Potential price of goods]
[Projected profit margins for year one and two]
[Summarize main points]
2. Executive summary template for marketing plan
[Unique customer characteristics]
[Customer spending habits]
[Relationship to product]
[Value and credibility of product]
[Product competitive advantage]
Strategy and objectives
3. Executive summary template for research report
[Name | Date]
4. Executive summary template for project executive
Example of executive summary for business plan
Here is a sample of an executive summary for a business plan:
Gladstone Foundries provides cutting-edge computer-assisted metalwork operations for the automotive industry. Our clients value us for being able to deliver millions of precision-made fasteners at short notice. Our team will ensure that customers get the best quality inputs for their manufacturing operations to ensure they meet the highest regulatory, technical and safety standards.
The company and management
Gladstone Foundries is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. The company has a unique organizational structure that guarantees employees 49% equity in the company. The current CEO has 30 years' experience working in the automotive manufacturing industry, while the General Manager is a 21-year veteran of the company.
Our clients include, but are not limited to, automakers such as Stucker, GF, Tornado Autos and thousands of kit car and classic car enthusiasts throughout the continental United States and beyond. Gladstone Foundries offers a variety of products, including:
- Trunk covers
- Composite spoilers
- Heady-duty brake pads and calipers
With the new drive to re-domesticate manufacturing in the United States, our company is primely positioned to benefit from unprecedented growth in the local automotive manufacturing industry and supporting sectors. Data from our market research shows that the demand for our products is expected to grow by over 35% in the next one year and 50% in the next two years.
Our competitive advantages
We are an American company to the core and pride ourselves as the go-to foundry for precision-manufactured fasteners within a 500-mile radius. While there are currently five other businesses offering similar products in our vicinity, our company has the latest CNC and programmable lathe and milling machines in the industry. Our investment in cutting-edge precision tools, ability to handle large order volumes for multiple clients simultaneously and highly experienced staff set us apart as the favorite provider of fasteners for the automotive industry.
Gladstone Foundries' marketing strategy relies on our pedigree and reputation for producing massive volumes of items at scale to the highest level of technical requirements. Automotive clients trust our bolts and nuts to support joints and hold surfaces together without breaking or failing under load. We have the best standardized regulatory practices in the industry and the most stringent workshop health and safety protocols.
Based on the size of our market, we forecast sales for the first year at $75 million. We project a growth rate of 15% per year for the first three years. While we already have 35 employees, the company plans to hire 15 additional staff to cater for the expected increase in orders.
At present, we have over 30 clients with firm order commitments and have plans to increase our client base to over 50 through our professional networks and in-person outreach. We are confident in our ability to leverage our professional reputation and the quality of our products to increase orders within a short period.
Workshop expansion financing requirements
We are seeking an expansion fund of $12 million to expand our facility to better serve our customers and increase our share of new emerging markets. The company has already raised $10.5 million to install state-of-the-art fabrication equipment and staff training.
We are confident that our technical expertise, flawless track record and exceptional ability to meet and exceed clients' expectations will help us maximize the benefits of this expansion.