Tuesday, April 30, 2013

10 Tips For Writing An Executive Summary

By Richard Lindfield

1.  Write it LAST! Although the Executive Summary (ES) comes at the front of a Business Plan, it must be written after all other sections of the plan have been completed. It is an introduction to your business, so craft it accordingly. Your ES will include summaries of each of the sections within the plan, including a few of the sub sections.

2.  Keep it BRIEF! It is a summary; don’t clutter it up with details. The appropriate section of the business plan will provide all the details required. If you put too much information into the ES readers might not bother to read the rest of it! Also, you don’t want to waste the reader’s time including details that will be covered again later.

3.  Be POSITIVE! Don’t speak in maybes full of wishing and hoping. Never say you may do something. Always say you will do something. Be emphatic and positive about everything you write.

4.  Add some PUNCH! Since the ES is the first thing that readers see, you want it to stand out and make them want to read more. If you fail to capture their attention during the ES then they are less likely to read the rest of the Business Plan.

5.  Be ORIGINAL! Don’t cut and paste sentences from other sections. It is better to select the most important sentences and then paraphrase them instead. This keeps the readers from encountering a feeling of déjà vu when they are reading the actual section later on.

6.  Get their ATTENTION! Start with a well crafted opening paragraph that says who you are, what you do, and why they should care about your business. Start with a general truth (e.g., “For many years there has been a need for X in industry Y”), follow it with a bridge to your business (e.g., “That’s why insert name here introduced insert product or service here to alleviate that need”), then tell readers why it matters. After you write the bridge, read it aloud and then ask yourself “So What?” and write the answer into your plan.

7.  Lose the CLUTTER! Just state the facts; keep it concise and “earn the right” to take up more of the readers’ time. Keep your ES to one or two pages (under 1000 words). Don’t try to jam too much information in by writing long convoluted run on sentences. Brevity, clarity, and enthusiasm should be the order of the day.

8.  Be ACCURATE! Spelling and grammar are important. Use software to check for errors, and if possible hire a professional to edit it for you. Don’t make any extravagant claims that you cannot back up with solid proof somewhere in your Business Plan.

9.  Get some FEEDBACK! It isn’t done when you are done. Set it aside for an hour, then come back and read it out loud to yourself. If it sounds awkward when you read it, refine the wording until it sounds smooth. Once you are comfortable with the way it reads and sounds read it to someone else and elicit feedback from them.

10.  Finish STRONG! Write a closing sentence summarizing the essence of why your business will be successful. Essentially it is a closing “So What?” statement. (e.g., “In short, ABC Company’s unparalleled customer support coupled with our innovative products ensures that…”).

Richard Lindfield is the Director of Training at Fraser Valley Training Group.  He's also a social media strategist, LinkedIn trainer, and business coach.  You can get in touch with Richard through Linkedin at  http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/richard-lindfield/1a/757/38a.