What do entrepreneurs need to include in an executive summary template for it be successful and effective?
The executive summary template is a crucial and pivotal document for all startup businesses, and even over the years as you reach and stretch to new stages.
If you haven’t read The Art of Startup Fundraising yet, it details just how vital this is and how to use it when raising money for your business. It’s a critical tool whether you are looking for a small business loan or line of credit from a bank, are trying to lock in partners, cofounders and advisors, or are seeking angel capital, VC money or are planning a crowdfunding campaign.
Your executive summary will make or break almost every opportunity, and has the power to open all kinds of doors for your business. What goes into crafting an excellent one, and what should it look like?
Sadly, most entrepreneurs seem to get this delicate piece of the puzzle wrong. Here’s how to crush it…
What’s an Executive Summary?
Before the pitch deck, before the full business plan or loan application comes the executive summary.
This is both an internal and external tool. Internally it helps you begin fleshing out your business, what you are doing, what you need to work on next, and how you look to others on paper and in a pitch.
It helps keep you and your core team focused. In turn it will demonstrate to others that you are focused and know how to keep it simple, while understanding the details.
Executive summaries are pivotal for landing commercial real estate loans for your business, and in fundraising. As well as for enrolling the help of powerful advisors and the best talent to join your organization. Investors, advisors, and other experts are incredibly busy. They are not going to waste their time on digging through a full business plan or other items unless they are already interested and feel it is a great fit.
This is what the executive summary is for. If you nail this, everything else can be relatively easy and worked out. If you blow it here, you won’t get any further or any more of their time and attention.
The executive summary is all about giving them a quick snapshot of your business, that you know what you are doing and are capable, getting them excited and wanting to help you make the next step happen.
An executive summary template is a short document that sums up what your business is all about and your current ask.
It’s like your entire business plan boiled down to a single page. Or a pitch deck in a suit instead of a hoodie.
You’re not getting anywhere without this. Try talking to a lender or potential partner or investor. They want to see this before they’ll talk to you. Whether your request will get any further or you’ll be headed for the shredder and oblivion will all depend on these few paragraphs.
None of us have the time to bury ourselves in stacks of paper to decide if we’re interested or not. This is like a resume for your startup business. It’s your ticket to the interview and payday. If all the details in your bigger business plan aren’t perfect, they’ll work with you. Providing you’ve hooked them with your summary.
It is true that executive summary templates are most common in commercial finance, real estate, and traditional small business lending. Yet, even experienced startup investors will ask for them.
Pitch decks are different in that they are far more visual than executive summary templates. If that’s what you are looking for, check out my pitch deck template.
Crafting an Effective Executive Summary
The goal of your executive summary template is to get the reader to say to themselves “I’m interested. This business has real potential. This team is highly qualified to execute on it. They get this space and have done their research. I want to invest, providing everything they’ve told me here is true.”
It should be no more than 1-3 pages according to Ashford University, and you should have it written in the third person.
York University and the Miami School of Business are more specific in saying an executive summary template should be 5-10% of the length of your complete business plan and should be laid out in the same order. Make sure you stick to brief and concise sentences and paragraphs.
The most common and perilous mistake that startup entrepreneurs make is too many sales and hype. Yes, it should be exciting and convincing, but you’ll be selling yourself out of any help if you are overdoing it. Don’t over-exaggerate or only focus on the most optimistic outcome.
Those who have the money and smarts to invest in a business like this are also experienced and smart enough to know the difference between fluff and a real opportunity. You’ll win more respect by sticking to the facts.
What to Include in Your Executive Summary
So, what goes into a winning executive summary template?
This is a brief 1-3 page document that can be delivered in Word format or shared via cloud based storage and collaboration tools like Google Drive.
You don’t need or want to try and reinvent the wheel here. It’s about giving the reader what they want in a format they like. Find a successful executive summary template, fill in the blanks and make it yours.
If you’ve already created a pitch deck or business plan then it should be very easy to transfer the essential information over to your executive summary template. You just may need to slightly expand or compress the facts to make it fit here.
If you still need to complete those documents and assets as well, then an executive summary template is a fantastic way to get it on paper and then repurpose the data for those items. Check out my fundraising training for more help with creating your business plan and deck.
Here’s what to include in your summary…
Sum it all up in a couple of sentences. What’s your mission and vision?
How is your company solving the issues and making money?
What key data points does your research show? How big is the market? What’s your advantage over the competition?
You may want to talk about what is the specific problem you are striving to solve? It can help if you can quickly give an analogy they can relate to. A version of the problem they have encountered themselves.
Also, how are you solving this problem? What’s your silver bullet?
Moreover, how big is this market? How big is the opportunity for this business venture? What does the competitive market landscape look like? Who are the players and what big gaps are there?
How is your company organized? Where is it incorporated? How long have you been around? How do you plan to make money? What is the monetization strategy, pricing plan, and anticipated profit margins?
Who are the key cofounders, startup advisors, and team members involved and why do they make you the best team to do this? If you are applying for a traditional small business loan you may also need to include some basic credit and financial information on the owners and guarantors.
Answer the who and why here. Who are you, what led you to this, why are you so passionate about seeing this through? Why is now the moment you all need to take action on it? For early-stage startups it is all about betting on you as the founder.
Your advisors make up for any gaps in your founding team’s qualifications, and can add a lot of credibility and confidence to investors and other parties. Who is on your advisory board?
What are you making and selling? What are the key features, facts, and USP?
How are you going to gain customers? What channels will you use? Are there any unique pitches and avenues you are using
Funding Request & Use Of Funds
How much money are you asking for? Who should it come from? What are you going to do with the money? What type of outcome should investors and lenders hope for?
What is your forecast for sales, revenues, profits, and balancing cash flow for the next 12 to 60 months?
This is a way to talk about traction. How far have you gotten with this business already?
If you haven’t actually started operating your business yet, this space could be used to describe your unique and qualifying experience to execute on this venture, and any research and steps you’ve already taken to validate your business idea and its commercial value.
If you have started, then break down the key data in simple bullets. For example, your revenue, number of customers, and growth rate.
Follow this with the milestones you’ve completed already. They don’t have to be revenue or profit-based. It could be development, lending partners, or other key factors on the journey.
Don’t forget to provide key methods for contacting you so that you can get the results you put this all together for.
An executive summary template is one of the most important documents you’ll ever create as an entrepreneur. It will make or break you. Use this executive summary template to craft an excellent one that will help you gain the funding and backing you need to make this work and get to the next level.
Remember that storytelling plays a key role in fundraising. This is being able to capture the essence of the business in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
ACCESS THE PITCH DECK TEMPLATE
Still not after going through the pros and cons of different sources of startup funding? Check out this fundraising training where we help founders from A to Z with fundraising.