Writing a Business Plan: The Executive Summary (pt 1)

Business plans are daunting. Even for the more experienced entrepreneurs, sitting down over a few weeks to compose a masterpiece plan is a pain. It’s time-consuming, scary, daunting, and worst of all  it doesn’t seem like you’re actually producing anything directly for your business. Although there are some who argue that writing a business plan isn’t necessary, there’s plenty of evidence to show that companies with even minimal plans are nearly twice as likely to grow their business. This is all the more true if you’re seeking funding of any kind (equity, loans, etc.).
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With that in mind, over the next three months we’re going to publish a series of blog posts to walk you through writing an entire business plan. Each blog will describe a chapter of your plan, what your focus should be, and what information you really need to define within that chapter. We’ll focus on technology business plans (we are Technology Ventures Corporation after all) for companies looking for funding. And, if that’s not your goal, you should still find the information interesting. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.

Single Pages

Before getting into the summary, I just wanted to make a quick note about single page topics within your plan. The Cover Page, Intro Letter, and Table of Contents don’t really need an entire blog post themselves, but I did want to make a few suggestions.  First, don’t include any NDA (non-disclosure agreements) or fancy legal mumbo-jumbo. If any investor or mentor reads that, your plan will hit the shredder before a single page is read.  Second, don’t include too much in the Table of Contents–you only need the important sections. Third, if you do include a cover letter, make sure it is very specific to the reader. If you use a generic one, it will be obvious and not help you in any way.

 The Executive Summary

If you’ve ever read any books or articles about writing a plan, you’ll often see the author stresses, “Always write your Executive Summary LAST!” It’s one of the most important parts of your plan, so you are almost required to write it last, right?

Wrong.

At least in my opinion anyway. I’ve never been able to save the summary until the end. There’s something fun and exciting about writing the summary first.

I always write it first. I’m starting a business and this is the elevator pitch. I’m excited about the prospect of creating something from nothing, and I want to write a summary now! The enthusiasm and excitement needs to be in your summary, and by waiting, you run the risk of making the summary extremely dry and boring. You’re exhausted by the end and you just want it done so you can get on with actually working directly on building your business. Start your plan by writing your summary with enthusiasm and excitement about your business. Make sure that comes across to the reader.

“Write your Executive Summary first… and last.”

The caveat to writing your executive summary first is that after you’ve completed the plan, you have to come back and rewrite most of your summary. But now you can do it with a starting version that shows your excitement. You can fix the numbers and specifics to match with the rest of you plan, while keeping the raw enthusiasm. The opinion of writing it last isn’t wrong, just not completely right.SCcartoon

So, start with the summary. Put your dreams and overall vision into it, then start with the rest of you plan.  Feel free to go back to your summary and update or change it.  It’s not final until you send it out.

In the next post, we’ll go over the things you’ll need to include in the summary, as well as how useful it is for you and your audience.

 

Steve Cook

 

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