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9.3 Developing an Executive Summary: Crafting a Business Story

One of the most common reframes we hear from entrepreneurs is that:

They just don’t understand our business model.

They just don’t understand what we are doing.

Who are they? They can be friends, family, investors, and even the business founders. In reality, they sometimes do not understand because the business concept is faulty, but sometimes they do not understand because you have not communicated the essence of the vision to the relevant parties. The Ten–Ten planning templates can alleviate some of the confusion; furthermore, at some point, the Ten–Ten templates will have to be converted into a well-crafted executive summary that tells an interesting story. This will help further refine the business model, and it will also serve as a platform for communicating with the many theys that are encountered.

The executive summaryTo communicate a business model to readers in a one- or two-paged story or perhaps even three. should tell a story in one or two pages or perhaps even three pages. The best way to prepare the business plan is to use Business Plan Overview template information as a starting point and use the Industry and Organizational and the FAD templates for additional input into the development of the executive summary. Here is a general format for the executive summary:

  • Paragraph 1: Introduce the idea (four to six sentences).

    • The first line of the executive summary should be a catchy sentence that captures the essence of the mantra.
    • The remaining sentences of the paragraph should discuss the mission of the company.
  • Paragraph 2: Describe your business model and what products or services will be produced (four to eight sentences).

    • Describe your target customers.
    • Describe your product or service and tell what it does.
    • Describe how it will benefit consumers or other businesses.
    • Discuss why your business model will work in terms of product differentiation, being the low-cost producer, or both.
    • If appropriate, describe how your approach and your products are superior to the competition.
    • If appropriate, describe the size of the market and if it is a Blue Ocean opportunity.
    • You can add additional paragraphs if you think that more detail is needed to describe your product or service. Sometimes a technology or a concept is very unique and it needs additional discussion.
  • Paragraph 3: Discuss your strengths (three to six sentences).

    • Use the SWOT analysis to discuss the strengths, core competencies, and resources that are keys to the company’s success.
  • Paragraph 4: Discuss the opportunities and how the goals and objectives relate to achieving the opportunities.

    • Use the opportunities in the SWOT analysis to identify the business opportunities.
    • Discuss how you will make money and generate revenues.
    • Use the goals and objectives in the Business Plan Overview to indicate how the firm will take advantage of the opportunities.

The executive summary can be up to three pages and have additional paragraphs, but you should still aim for brevity, crispness, and clarity. Remember, the goal of the executive summary is to communicate your business model to the readers by telling a story. One of the best ways to communicate ideas is to keep the readers interested and avoid long meandering discussions. Here are a few ways for increasing attention and interest.

The first thing is to avoid using bullet points in your executive summary. Bullet points create the impression that you have just cut and pasted the presentation into the executive summary. In addition, readers tend to skim bullet points and sometimes even ignore them. You should also vary the length of your sentences. For example, have two short sentences, one long sentence, and one short sentence followed by a long sentence and then a short sentence. The idea is to mix up the sentence structure and create interest. Always try to begin and start your executive summary with a catchy phrase related to the mantra. Finally, editing is important, and having someone else edit your plan is essential. Even if you do not use the edited version, you will obtain insight into where the executive plan is unclear and needs work.See Section 9.5 "Conclusion" for an example of an actual business where the templates have been filled in. One example of an executive summary is exhibited in the Appendix at the end of this chapter.