One is never alone in project management. So, you can’t just sketch a business or project plan for yourself, depending on the fact that you already know what the business or project involves. You must write a comprehensive business and project plan to convince stakeholders, investors, and project members that your proposal is viable, profitable, and doable.
However, these plans are lengthy documents, and your audience may have a short attention span. How can you ensure they receive all vital data and make an informed decision? Well, you can write a practical executive summary for your business. And here is how to do it professionally.
An executive summary is a high-level overview of a business or project plan. It summarizes all the vital information in the document and briefly presents everything the reader needs to know about the project, proposal, or study. An executive summary communicates the value of your plan and captures the reader’s attention, making them want to know more details and eager to read the entire document. It’s your proposal’s opening act.
The executive summary is an essential elevator pitch that grabs the reader’s attention and motivates them to keep reading. To do that, the executive summary focuses on goals, purposes, expectations, and viability. It proves your goals are achievable and, more importantly, beneficial for the reader. The executive summary also shows the strong points of your company or team, winning the reader’s trust. It’s a comprehensive business card, a convincing pitch, and an attractive offer, all in one short text.
Without an executive summary, the reader must read the entire document before concluding. Many people are too busy to spend this much time reading documents. They prefer to have a quick overall perspective before reading a long document. So, if you don’t provide an executive summary, you risk having them put away your document or give a negative answer without reading it.
One can find executive summaries in any large document, such as business plans, project proposals, research papers, studies, and marketing strategies. However, they all follow the same 4-step structure:
The executive summary should first include a convincing description of the purpose or problem the project addresses. Explain why your proposal is important, why it matters, and why solving this issue is a good thing to do. Include research, data, and statistics that support your point of view and outline how your project will benefit your readers (e.g., stakeholders, investors, managers, etc.). Focus on your audience when writing the executive summary and check all the points they want to hear (e.g., environmental issues, financial benefits, etc.).
Example: Recent studies [reference] have shown that managers are reluctant to allow work from home or remote work because they fear HR processes will become a burden. At the same time, more and more employees say they prefer a flexible work schedule or remote work [study/reference]. They feel they are more productive, manage their time better, and accumulate less stress. To increase flexibility in small and medium companies representing our target customers, we need to offer easy-to-implement and use employee self-services that streamline HR processes, reduce repetitive tasks, and provide the best tools for people management.
Step one is supposed to capture the reader’s attention and get them interested in solving the problem your project addresses. The next step is to explain how you intend to solve the problem. Here, you can outline your goals but also actionable steps, technological solutions, and marketing strategies. You don’t have to present a tiny detail just to convince your audience that you have the solution and it’s the best they can get. Be practical, but keep it simple.
Example: Our solution is an HR app that runs on any device with a browser and internet connection, such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The system is built for small to mid-size businesses from all parts of the world and from a wide range of industries, from advertising, e-commerce, entertainment, schools, and non-profits. The app will include everything an employee needs, from leave balance, planning a vacation, requesting time off, checking the team calendar, and other employee self-service features. The managers will receive instant notifications and have access to metrics, payroll info, and attendance reports. The app will safely store data in the cloud, avoiding all risks of losing valuable data.
While the previous step explains a solution that could work, the current step describes why you are the person or company to implement this solution. Based on previous experience, technological advances, and team expertise, build your case and outline what results and benefits the reader should expect, financial data, risks and how you intend to avoid them, and details about your team. Until now, the executive summary has presented a generic problem and a generic solution. Now it’s time to become personal and show why you and your team/company are the best to implement the solution and fix the problem.
Example: Based on our experience in the HR apps field, our solution is easier to use, has more automation, and is more affordable than the competition. We understand the needs of small and medium companies and provide the right service for a price they can afford. For example, we offer a free version for companies with few employees, gaining their loyalty. Later on, they become paying customers. By the end of the first year, we estimate we will achieve the first objective, reaching the 1,000 paying customers milestone. We already have good feedback in this regard from our existing customers. 63% said they would invest in an HR solution to ease remote people management. Before launching the new app, we will closely work with our existing customers to ensure the product meets their expectations.
The last step is a summary of the executive summary, reminding the reader of the text's strong points. It concludes the main ideas, ensuring the reader takes away what matters the most. It may also include a call to action, such as scheduling a meeting or call, inviting the reader to a live event, or asking for feedback.
Example: Our time-tracking app is a trademark of our brand and allows us to develop long relationships with our loyal customers and break easily into new markets. We intend to cover the demand for remote HR apps and increase the market share by the end of the first year. We will provide more data and information at our live presentation that will take place at [location][date]. We look forward to seeing you there. You can find all the details of the event here.
If you don’t want to start the executive summary from zero, download our free executive summary template and customize it to match your document type and audience. The template is versatile and easily adjustable to any requirement. Remember that your readers should feel the document is written for them.
Sometimes, it’s easier to understand an example than a template. So, we’ve put together step-by-step examples and our free executive summary template. Download the complete example here and see how an executive summary should look.
The first step toward a successful business is knowing how to express your ideas concisely and efficiently. No one will invest in your projects if you can’t clarify what you need from them and why. Focus on goals, problems to solve, and solutions, and your executive summary will gain people’s trust and attention.
What is the difference between an executive summary in project management and a business plan?
An executive summary in project management is meant for collaborators, stakeholders, and managers and clarifies the project’s details (e.g., timeline, tasks, teams, budgets, etc.). It’s brief of a project plan and may act as a roadmap anyone can get back to along the project’s development.
In a business plan, the executive summary is meant mainly for investors and business partners and outlines business ideas and concepts that may attract the audience’s attention. It helps them understand the business concept and decide whether to participate. In this scenario, the executive summary may focus more on marketing, sales, financial revenue, etc.
How long should an executive summary be?
An executive summary is a short text, usually between one and two pages. It needs to be concise and on-point because your reader often doesn’t have time to read the entire document. At the same time, you should convey all vital information and win your audience.