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Writing a business plan - executive summary and business outline

First impressions count - and the first thing that a prospective investor will look at before reading the rest of your business plan is the executive summary.

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The executive summary is one of the most crucial elements of any business plan. It should give an overview of your business without going into detail, providing enough information for a potential investor to decide whether to read the rest of your Business plan.

Try to:

  1. Explain your core product or service in plain English, without overly relying on  'salesy' language. The investor just wants to know exactly what your business is principally about - save the details for later.

  2. Demonstrate an understanding of your business within the marketplace and any specific opportunities will show that you’ve done your research and project confidence.

  3. Give an overview of the management team - particularly where certain members are well regarded in the business sector - this can often persuade a potential investor to read further.

  4. Provide a synopsis of your current financial situation and the amount of investment sought, together with the reasons you require the additional capital, will help an investor to know exactly where you stand.

  5. Reach a set of financial projections. It's important to include realistic goals and expectations in this section to show you have a firm grasp of your target market and the potential of your business within it. A projected return on investment (or ROI) will indicate the value of an investor's contribution.

The business outline is the next section that most investors will look at, if the executive summary succeeds in drawing them in. This part should go into greater detail, explaining your business concept and the background to your start-up and detailing any existing assets.

In this section try to:

Explain your business

Explaining exactly what your business is about is crucial when it comes to persuading anyone to help you make a go of it. Show that you have a thorough knowledge of your product or service, the industry in general and your target market. Avoid unnecessary jargon but demonstrate that you are well versed with any industry concepts and use specific terminology if appropriate. Explain what makes your business stand out from the competition or why everyone is going to love it - its unique selling points (USP). List any existing key assets (eg intellectual property, retail space, vehicles or equipment).

Include background information

The background to your business idea will often be as important to potential investors as the concept itself. If you previously worked in the relevant industry and decided to go it alone, this will show that you already have a grounding and possibly useful contacts. Don’t shy away from selective name dropping, particularly if you can get a good reference from leading industry figures.

Detail any work already carried out

Doing this with a view to starting your business will show that you are willing to put in the required effort on your own, without waiting for a helping hand.

Explain who will own the business

Outlining the ownership structure of the business (eg shareholdings or partnership details) will allow the reader to decide if they should be talking to anyone else.

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