Image by: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget
By Charles Lewis
Don’t let the word “summary” fool you – business plans live and die based on the strength of a good executive summary. The point of the ES is to sell investors on the business model you have put forth in a quick-read, yet deeply informative format. It needs to be powerful, concise and compelling. Experts suggest that your summary should be no longer than three pages … that’s great advice.
But one or two pages would be even better.
Your executive summary should include three rock-solid reasons why your plan is a solution to a problem in the marketplace. Don’t have three compelling reasons? Then you are not ready. Go back and look at your summary and find what’s missing. You can do better.
The executive summary should also be written in a very easy-to-understand manner – skip the intense jargon and heady analysis. This is where you get down to business in a way that even the greenest investor can understand. That makes your summary quickly digestible by someone in a matter of a few minutes (because sometimes that’s all you have). Would you want to read that complicated mess while sitting in the back of a limo or town car?
Be persuasive in your pitch. You are trying to sell the reader on your vision, so lay it on thick. However, a key is to stick with these three rules: state, prove and apply.
State exactly how your plan will benefit the end user. Prove your statement by backing it up with facts about your team, your business processes, how it all applies to your model and then feature highlights from your research. Talk about the risks, but don’t forget about contracts and compliance issues – if the reader finds a weakness in your executive summary, he or she will think you are wasting their time.
Then, apply this information to your plan, showing exactly who will benefit on both the consumer and investor side of the equation. Keep your language from turning into used car salesman-esque grandiosity – stay away from words that seem less serious. Bold, true statements ring truer than hype words and flim-flammery.
Bullet points are OK on an executive summary. In fact, many suggest using them. But make sure they highlight brief portions of important info, and are not simply used as window dressing for an underwhelming report. Nobody wants to be shot down with their own bullets.
It is understandable that some of you aren’t great writers. If you are a strong number-cruncher but fall apart at the sight of QWERTY, bring in a specialist to make your summary sing like the glorious song bird it can be. Otherwise, average text and barely-there sentence structure will be a bird alright, one that will poop on your head.
And finally, can your executive summary stand on its own if it were to venture out into the world alone? You should hope so – an executive summary should not suffer from separation anxiety. In fact, it should soar on its own and fire up the reader to write a check or join your crusade to solve that problem that exists somewhere in the world.