How to write a good executive summary

Business planning know-how for (future) entrepreneurs. 

The new season of the Bavarian Business Plan Competitions has begun! To mark the occasion, we are launching a business planning special in November in the Facebook group "Gründen auf Bayerisch" with valuable tips and tricks on building a business plan, a business planning talk and digital networking.

Developing new business ideas and preparing them according to business management criteria is an important process in building up your company. At the beginning, you are usually faced with the challenge of realistically assessing where your idea should go. Business planning helps you to develop insights in a structured way.

What are the most important elements when drawing up a business plan? We explain this in our new blog series. We start with the executive summary.

This is how we support startups in business planning:

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What is an Executive Summary?

In the executive summary you write your company's business card. With the "story" of your company and its solution and a selection of relevant information, you must succeed in building up an arc of suspense that motivates people to read on. In a business plan, the executive summary is intended to arouse interest and contains a brief outline of all the important aspects of the business plan.

It has the character of a stand-alone document, and must be convincing in the role of an "exposé" even without the other chapters. It is not an introduction to your business plan, but a summary of the most important points in order to get a quick overview.

Why do you need an executive summary?

A potential investor or business partner usually first looks at this summary of your business idea. The executive summary alone is unlikely to persuade an investor to invest in your project, but on the other hand it can "convince" him or her not to take a closer look at your project in the first place and thus not to invest. By presenting your project clearly, objectively and coherently, you can show that you know something about your business. Therefore, be especially careful when writing your executive summary. It is decisive for whether the reader/investor will subsequently deal with the business plan more intensively. 

What should be included in the Executive Summary?

Briefly explain your product, your service, your solution to the customer's problem. In addition, outline the resulting relevant customer benefit and competitive advantage and signal that you are operating in a market with growth potential.

Pay special attention to the underlying business model of your solution or offer. Show how and with what you earn money. In addition, highlight the competences of the management team. Of particular interest are also your investment and financial requirements as well as the potential turnover. A hint at the strategy of how you want to achieve your business goals should not be missing either.

In the Bavarian Business Plan Competition, we recommend a total of eight chapters in the business plan. All of them must be briefly described in a factual and concise manner in the executive summary on one to a maximum of two pages:

  1. Product / Service / Solution
  2. Market and competition
  3. Marketing and Sales
  4. Business Model and Organisation
  5. Entrepreneurial team
  6. Implementation roadmap
  7. Opportunities and risks
  8. Financial planning and financial requirements

Furthermore, it is important that you state the status quo of your project and already describe in the Executive Summary which phase your company is in. Information regarding MVP, prototype, proof of concept and market proof is described briefly and concisely in the executive summary. Here, too, describe the stage your company is in and answer the following three questions in the executive summary:

  • Is there a prototype?
  • Have you already been in contact with customers?
  • Are there already first sales?

I don't have a complete business plan yet – at what point do I need an executive summary?

A complete Executive Summary is essential. If you do not yet have information on some areas of business planning (perhaps because you are still at the very beginning of your project), you can work with estimates or note that your business plan is not yet fully completed. For example, if you want to participate in the Bavarian Business Plan Competitions in phase 1 but have not yet determined your capital requirements, you can write that you are not yet ready and that the information will follow in a later phase.

Can the Executive Summary contain graphics?

Try to avoid graphics, pictures, tables, links or other graphic elements. At best, work with clear, concise, short main sentences to provide the reader with compact information.

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