Mistakes To Avoid When Writing an Executive Summary

Learn how to create a strong executive summary for your business plan

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Writing an executive summary is a key step in creating a business plan. An executive summary is a brief synopsis of your business's main points—but more than that, it's an opportunity to draw in the reader.

If you plan to apply for small business loans or seek funding from investors, it's important to have an executive summary that makes a solid first impression. Crafting a well-written summary begins with knowing which mistakes to avoid.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan executive summary offers an overview of the plan itself and what the business is all about.
  • An effective executive summary conveys the most important aspects of the plan in short form while pushing the reader to want to learn more.
  • Rambling and including unrealistic goals or projections are some of the most common mistakes business owners make when writing an executive summary.
  • It may be worth investing in a professionally written business plan if you're struggling to create a memorable executive summary or flesh out the other parts of the plan.

Writing Your Executive Summary Before Other Parts of the Business Plan

An executive summary is meant to sum up the main takeaways of the business plan. Focusing on writing an executive summary before you've outlined the rest of your business plan can be a mistake if you're not able to summarize the business accurately.

A traditional business plan looks something like this:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management
  • Service and product line
  • Marketing and sales
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • Appendix

Although the executive summary is the first thing the reader sees, it should be the last thing you write after you've covered all the other sections in detail. This can help ensure you're including the most important elements in the executive summary.


A business plan for a startup may look very different and emphasize things such as key partnerships, customer relationships, revenue streams, and the company's overall value proposition.

Making the Executive Summary Too Long

An executive summary should encapsulate all the major points of your business plan in a few paragraphs. A good rule of thumb when writing an executive summary for a business plan is to make it no more than three to five pages. Anything longer than that and your reader may get confused or bored.

Allocating one paragraph for each section included in your business plan can help you keep the length under control. Remember, the executive summary is sort of like the highlight reel that you're using to pique the reader's interest. You want to hit the high points first and dig into the meatier details later.


If three to five pages doesn’t work, aim to have your executive summary length be equivalent to 5% to 10% of the total business plan length.

Not Engaging the Reader

A good executive summary should capture your reader's attention and encourage them to continue reading the rest of your business plan. Writing an executive summary that's dry or lacks a sense of personality can be off-putting to readers.

While your business plan executive summary should include some key facts about your business, it doesn't simply have to be a lot of figures or bland details. Instead, think of it as telling your business's story in a nutshell. Be selective with your wording and leave out anything unnecessary to the key points you're trying to make.


Consider what kind of return on investment (ROI) you might be able to get by outsourcing the executive summary or business plan to a professional writer versus writing it yourself.

How To Write a Good Executive Summary

Writing an executive summary for a business plan shouldn't be stressful if you know what mistakes to avoid and what to include. Here are some simple tips for writing an effective executive summary:

  • Write it last: It's worth repeating that the executive summary should be the last thing you write after you've completed the rest of the business plan. Writing the summary last ensures that you have all the information you need to write it comprehensively.
  • Tell your story: Your executive summary is a chance to hook readers, and sharing some of your business story can be a great way to do just that. Just remember to keep the summary on point and avoid unnecessary tangents.
  • Show your passion: It's OK to show your passion for or belief in your business in the executive summary. In fact, that can be a good thing if it conveys to investors or lenders that you're committed to making the business a success.
  • Tailor it to your reader: The way you approach a small business lender may be very different from how you approach an investor if you need funding to launch or grow your company. So your executive summary should be written in a way designed to appeal to each type of reader while offering the most pertinent information they want to see. Also, consider the industry you're in. If you run a retail store, for example, your executive summary and business plan may look different from one for a construction business.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread: Spelling errors, grammatical errors, and typos can tank even the most well-written executive summary. Before finalizing your business plan, it's wise to review it thoroughly to look for any mistakes that need to be corrected. You can also ask someone else to copy edit it for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is the introductory section of a business plan that showcases key information about the business. An executive summary offers an overview of your business at a glance and should be designed to entice the reader to learn more.

How long should an executive summary be?

Generally speaking, an executive summary should be no more than five pages or 5% to 10% of the total length of the business plan. An executive summary that's too long may cause readers to lose interest, while one that's too short may not be compelling enough to convince them to keep reading.

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  1. Small Business Administration. "Write Your Business Plan."

  2. Virginia Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. "Writing a Business Plan."

  3. Arizona State University. “Executive Summary.”

  4. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. "The Executive Summary."

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