Why Every Business Needs an Executive Summary

Start-up incubators and business accelerators are fond of drilling their cadres to memorise a 60 second ‘elevator pitch’ which they can fire out at any potential investors they meet on their travels. Your average SME owner isn’t quite so desperate to land a large business funding package out of the blue, but it’s still worth having a concise document to guide your strategic thinking.

In the start-up world, this document is known as the executive summary or ‘one pager’. As the name suggests, this is effectively a summary of your business plan, including your unique selling proposition, pitch to customers and business finances.

We’ve already pointed out that every SME should have a business plan and that it should be reviewed regularly to ensure management is sticking to it. As we said back then: “A good business plan is a living document at the heart of your strategy. It should reflect current circumstances as well as ambitions, plus it should provide a realistic map for ensuring the two meet.”

Why Do You Need an Executive Summary as Well as a Business Plan?

The purpose of the summary is different to the plan. Whereas a business plan is primarily for management to build, monitor and maintain a strategy – whether for growth or survival – the one-pager represents the face you want to present to the business world.

As you battle to stick to a strategy, manage the vagaries of your customer market, and ensure cashflow cover is in place for lean months or growth opportunities, the one-pager acts as a set of guiding principles for yourself, your stakeholders and your partners. Otherwise it is all too easy to veer away from the plan when tangential opportunities appear, potentially ending up with the wrong suppliers, buyers or business finance providers.

When entrepreneurs are encouraged to memorise a short pitch, it’s not just because they might meet a business angel in the lift: they are also being encouraged to be clear about what they do, where they are going, and what they want. Owners of more established businesses are probably pretty clear about what their companies do. But it’s still important to write things down in a document that encompasses the basics as well as the latest strategy and financial requirements for the firm.

There are too many things going on around a business to simply keep these values in your head. You need to write them down in one simple document for yourself and others to understand – this also helps with succession planning and delegating management as you grow.

Powerful Words Will Build Your Brand

The same powerful pitch you use to investors, potential suppliers, bank managers and customers is also a reminder to you of what you are trying to sell, build and achieve. Whatever is going on in the background, it is important to present a clear image to all these stakeholders.

Establishing these principles on a page alongside your business fundamentals will also help you establish a brand image as you grow. In building the perfect single-page pitch, you will discover the very core of your business; words and phrases will emerge that perfectly encapsulate your brand, and that is a very useful and powerful business and marketing tool.

As a business grows beyond the small business stage, the owner must again learn skills and manage change, including the establishment of uniform branding and guiding principles for a growing number of staff. Having it all written down is the key to this.

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