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How to write an executive summary for your business plan

An executive summary is a synopsis of all the key sections of your business plan, and it’s one of the most important parts of your plan. 

It should enable the reader to see at a glance your organisation’s core capabilities, strengths, past achievements, and strategic focus and direction, as well as provide an explanation of how these factors set your business apart.

An executive summary should explain succinctly why you wrote the report, emphasise your conclusions and recommendations, and include the essential information used to support those conclusions. 

It's important readers like investors and lenders can grasp this information quickly and are encouraged to read on.

In other words, your executive summary should be able to be read as a separate, standalone document, communicating the whole story independently of the full business plan.

What to include in an executive summary

Think of your executive summary as an introduction to your business. Include:

  • your mission statement 
  • company information and management team
  • growth highlights 
  • products/services
  • financial information 
  • The market and your customer
  • market opportunity
  • marketing and sales
  • competition and your competitive advantage
  • business operations
  • financial projections and plans
  • summary of future plans.

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Best practices for writing an executive summary

  • Make it compelling. Investors and lenders read this section first, and you want them to continue reading. For example, if you're selling a business idea to investors, include highlights that will encourage potential investors to read on. This might be related to growth rates, your competitive edge, or an exciting new technology.
  • Focus on providing a summary. The business plan itself will provide the details. Keep it short and concise, but ensure you explain clearly why you have arrived at your conclusions. The suggested length is one to three pages. 
  • Don't introduce any information that isn't covered in the business plan.
  • Organise it according to the sequence of information presented in the full plan.
  • Write it after you have completed the plan and decided on your recommendations.
  • Use keywords from the main plan to ensure continuity.   
  • Insert the executive summary as the first section, after or before the table of contents, even though it will be the last component you have written.  
  • Create the summary by rephrasing information – don't just cut and paste. 
  • Include all key fundamentals of the proposed business from the body of the plan, including the financial implications.
  • Identify the purpose of the plan and include at least the major recommendations or requests.
  • Be clearly articulated, positive, reasoned, concise and to-the-point.

When using an executive summary and business plan to apply for a loan or funding, state clearly and definitively:

  • how much you want
  • how you're going to use it
  • how the money will make your business more profitable
  • how you'll repay the loan.

And finally, remember it's important to finish with a compelling closing sentence or two that answers the reader's key question: "Why is this a winning business?"

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