The executive summary is the most read and often hardest to write section of a business plan.

A great executive summary can be used as a teaser to prospective investors, collaborators or partners.  It needs to sell the concept without giving away too much to the reader.  It is a teaser that summarises the core outcomes of the opportunity without fully disclosing how it will be done.  Ideally it will convince the reader that potentially it is possible to achieve what is outline, but leave them wanting more – to read the full business plan.

After having advised hundreds of clients throughout the business planning process, we believe the use of an “Opportunity Profile” as well as a formal executive summary can pay dividends.  Particularly for organisations that are seeking to raise capital, the investor will have a sector and venture profile they are seeking to invest in.  The Opportunity Profile enables them to quickly skim the parameters of the opportunity and clearly identify if it fits with their portfolio.

In writing numerous business plan executive summaries and submitting these to potential investors, we have come to understand the need to be brief and concise.  To assist clients in meeting this need, we have developed a unique and  proven approach called “Question Led Planning”.  This approach is applied across the entire business planning process, with the answers to key questions being populated in the main body of the document as well as in the executive summary.

By asking clear concise questions, planners are able to simply provide answers to questions rather than letting their writing style get in the way of the message.  As an example, it is far easier to answer a question “When was the business formed”, than to write a free form section called “Business Overview”.   The question led approach automatically embeds the answer into the appropriate places within the document.  By using concise facts about the business the quality and clarity of the executive summary is significantly enhanced.  Additionally and perhaps even more importantly this information is used in the body of the document, ensuring absolute consistency between what is disclosed in the executive summary and the broader body of the business plan.