Executive Summary

A condensed version of a complete business plan or proposal

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What is an Executive Summary?

An executive summary is the first section of a business plan or proposal that provides a brief overview of the document and contains its main points. In other words, it is a condensed version of a complete business plan or proposal. It is primarily used in the business world, but its application in academia is also possible.

Executive Summary - Image of the words executive summary in the cover of a folder

Breaking Down Executive Summary

Generally, an executive summary is relatively short, with an average length of one to four pages. It should be written in short paragraphs, using clear and concise language appropriate for the target audience. One should know well the target audience of the document to convey the message as clearly as possible. In addition, the summary must have a similar structure and flow as the main document.

The executive summary must not be confused with an abstract of the document. The abstract is a complementary overview of a larger document that does not provide much value to the reader by itself. On the other hand, the executive summary is a shorter version of the main document and can be read separately because it provides all the key points of the document.

Components of the Summary

Despite the fact that the components of the executive summary may vary depending on the specifics of the main document, some major parts are still presented in the majority of the summaries. The key components typically include:

  • Overview of a company/business
  • Identification of a main problem or proposition
  • Analysis of a problem or proposition, with supporting facts, data, and figures
  • Possible solutions and their justifications
  • Clearly defined conclusions

Importance of an Executive Summary

The primary goals of the executive summary are to provide a condensed version of the main document, such as a business plan, and to grab the attention of the reader(s). Since the readers of the business plans and reports (investors, lenders, and C-level executives) generally do not have time to read all the lengthy documents they receive, a well-written summary can help you to grab their attention and subsequently achieve your business goals.

As the executive summary is the initial representation of the complete document, it should cover the main parts of a plan or proposal and indicate the points that are elaborated on in the final document.

More Resources

CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:

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