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How to create a formal executive summary for any business

As businesses get more creative, more innovative and take advantage of new social and technology trends, they are losing many of the formal business practices that help a company succeed. A strong foundation for your start-up strategic plan is a formal executive summary – to be used by you, your team and investors/partners in the marketplace.

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Your business strategy

Business schools across the United States and around the world are successfully teaching business strategy, tactical business solutions and business management, and in doing so often discuss the importance of a sound corporate business plan. Lost in translation, though, have been the skills for actually creating a robust business plan that can practically be used to maximize potential.

When done well, these plans are productive planning tools as well as a good tactical roadmap for executing one’s business. Let’s take a look at this process, and also about how to make your business plan work for you.

Step 1 – for corporations as well as individuals or small teams – is to develop a well thought out, focused and informative executive summary. This document should be a powerful 2-4 pages that captures what drives your business. It needs to succinctly illustrate your value to anyone reading the document. To do this you will be force to tightly define what really drives your business and where your true competitive advantages are. This article will walk you through how to create your own executive summary, and how to use this strategic document to increase your success.

Mission Statement

Your Mission statement is a powerful summary of what value your business brings to the market and what you focus on everyday to get better and better at what you do.

Example: Use unique content, interactive web technology and discount pricing to provide a a better shopping experience for expecting moms.

Goal: Your goal should be what your company wants to accomplish from a business perspective. Essentially, if you fulfill your mission, what will the results be?

Example: Achieve a 10% market share (by total revenue) in the United States maternity shopping industry.

Business Overview

Succinctly introduce your company’s history, the milestones you have hit and the current state of your operations. Has your business strategy evolved over time? Have you won any awards or received any advanced certifications? Finally, summarize your current business strategy.

Opportunity

Describe your industry and the business opportunity it presents. Identify total market size as well as market factors that you can take advantage of to earn business and grow your revenue.

Management

Provide a short bio of leaders in your organization. Describe past experience and success, and make it clear how this will help you succeed with this venture. Even if it’s just you, this section is important.

Unique Selling Advantage

What makes your company different from every other business in your industry? Advantages can be technology based, or a unique service you provide for clients, pricing and/or more. If you are going to succeed, you NEED a unique selling advantage.

Success

What have you achieved in this current business. Use specific examples or hard data to illustrate that you know how to achieve tangible results.

Strengths

What are your strengths verses the competition? How will you leverage them for success?

Weaknesses

What are your weaknesses verses the competition. How will you overcome them?

How You Get Paid

Detail how (and how much) your business makes money, and prioritize these ways if there are multiple revenue channels.

Projections

Make top line revenue, gross revenue and net profit projections for the next 2 years, broken out by quarter. Base these projections on actual market data and what your strategy, as it gets more and more effective, can achieve. Don’t guess.

Capital Needed / Requirements

What do you need to execute on your mission statement, successfully implement your strategic plan and hit your projections? List any essential investment money needs, technology development, content creation, marketing, etc. that are required to make your business succeed. Next, what is your plan for securing what you need?

Maximizing your success:

Developing a strong executive summary forces you to evaluate your business in a productive way and answer hard questions that are important to maximizing your success. Taking the creation of this document seriously is a productive process in itself, but it should not end there. I suggest having quarterly business reviews where you document the state of your business in all of the categories above including the financial projections. If you are off track, determine if the company has come up short or if the market has changed (if so, you may need to change your strategy and/or your projections). What have you learned that can make you more effective and more productive? Is everything still relevant?

It is important to create an executive summary (and later a business plan), but it is equally important to understand that this is not a static document. You should be evaluating your performance, the market and your strategy, and updating your plan and projections accordingly. If you do this well, your team will have a powerful tool to turn your business into a market leader… and stay a leader.

Hoyt David Morgan is an entrepreneur, angel investor and business strategy leader. He is an investor and/or adviser to a handful of exciting and high growth companies, and has been a part of several high-value exits. He is passionate about customer experience, smart business and helping innovative companies grow... and sailing.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Krisz Rokk

    May 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing these valuable insights. Having a strong business and marketing plan is imperative. Knowing your target market, your USP, focusing on the strengths but being aware of the information provided by a well done SWOT analysis – is critical. After creating and designing a plan you must implement it. And still you’Re not done – revision is something a lot of companies forget to do.

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Business Entrepreneur

Customize your Zoom calls with your brand using these tools

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Work-from-home types, Zoom appears to be here to stay, and here are the tools you need to add or update your Zoom background to a more professional – or even branded – background.

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Zoom call on computer, but there's more options to customize.

If you haven’t had to deal with Zoom in 2020, you may be an essential worker or retired all together. For the rest of us, Zoom became the go-to online chat platform around mid-March. For several reasons, and despite several security concerns, Zoom quickly pushed past all online video chat competitors in the early COVID-19 lockdown days.

Whether for boozy virtual happy hours, online classes for school or enrichment, business meetings, trivia nights, book clubs, or professional conferences, odds are if you are working or in school, you have been on a Zoom call recently. Many of us have been on weekly, if not daily, Zoom calls. If you are the techy type, you’ve likely set up a cool Zoom background of a local landmark or a popular spot, a library, or a tropical beach. Comic-con types and movie buffs created appropriate backgrounds to flex their awesome nerdiness and technical smarts.

Many people have held off creating such an individualized background for our virtual meetings for one of any number of reasons. Perhaps it never occurred to them, or maybe they aren’t super comfortable with all things techy. Many people have been holding out hope of returning to their offices, thus seeing no need to rock the boat. I’m here to tell you, though, it’s time. While I, too, hope that we get the pandemic under control, I am realistic enough to see that working or studying from home will continue to be a reality for many people for some time.

Two cool, free tools we’ve found that can help you make your personal Zoom screen look super professional and even branded for business or personal affairs are Canva and HiHello. While each platform has a paid component, creating a Zoom background screen for either application is fairly simple and free.

Here’s how:

Canva is the online design website that made would-be graphic designers out of so many people, especially social media types. It’s fairly user-friendly with lots of tutorials and templates, and the extremely useful capabilities of uploading your own logo and saving your brand colors.

Using Canva, first create your free account with your email. It functions better if you create an account, although you can play around with some of the tools without signing up. The fastest way from Point A to Point B here is to use the search box and search for “Zoom backgrounds.” You now can choose any one of their Zoom background templates, from galaxy to rainbows and unicorn to library books or conference rooms. Choose an inspirational quote if you’d like (but really, please don’t). Download the .jpg or .png, save it, and you can upload it to Zoom.

To create a branded Zoom background in Canva, it will take slightly more work. It was a pain in the butt for me, because I had this vision of a backdrop with my logo repeated, like you see as a backdrop at, you know, SXSW or the Grammys or something. Reach for the stars, right? OK, the issue with this was that I had to individually add, resize, and place each of the 9 logos I ended up with. I figured out the best way to size them uniformly (I resized one and copied/pasted, instead of adding the original size each time (maybe you’re thinking “Duh,” but it took me a few failed experiments to figure out that was the fastest way to do it).

Once you have your 9 loaded in the middle of the page, start moving them around to place them. I chose 9, because the guiding lines in Canva allow me to ensure I have placed them correctly, in the top left corner, middle left against the margin that pops up, and bottom left. Same scenario for the center row.

Magical guide lines pop up when you have the logo centered perfectly, so I did top, middle, and bottom like that, and repeated for the right hand margin. Then I flipped them, because they were
Showing up in my view on Zoom as backward. That may mean they are now backward to people on my call; I will need to test that out! Basically, Canva is easy to use, but perhaps my design aspirations made it tricky to figure out.

Good luck and God bless if you choose more than 9 logos to organize. Oh, and if you are REALLY smart, you will add one logo to a solid color or an austere, professionally appropriate photo background and call it a day, for the love of Mary. That would look cool and be easy.

HiHello is an app you can download to scan and keep business cards and create your own, free, handy dandy digital business card. It comes in the form of a scannable QR code you can share with anyone. Plus, you can make a Zoom background with it, which is super cool! It takes about five minutes to set up, truly! It works great!

The Zoom background has your name, the company name, and your position on one side and the QR code on the other. The QR code pulls up a photo, your name, title, phone number, and email address. It’s so nifty! And the process was super easy and intuitive. Now, If I took my logo page from Canva and made that the background for my HiHello virtual Zoom screen, I would be branded out the wazoo.

Remember there are technical requirements if you want to use HiHello on a Mac. For example, if you have a mac with a dual core processor, it requires a QUAD. However, on a PC, it was really simple.

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Business Entrepreneur

What freelancers need to know about new tax form 1099-NEC

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) There’s a new tax form for freelancers, but don’t hyperventilate. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

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Freelancers checking their numbers and writing in notebook to keep track of expenses.

Dear freelancers and workers of the gig economy: You can stop banging your head on your desk. Or your table at a café. Or any hard surface near your couch.

The words “new tax form” are terrible, horrible, no good words for anyone, let alone independent workers. In this case, the “new” form is really a resurrected old one that replaces the 1009-MISC you’ve been getting from clients who’ve paid you more than $600.

And that’s the most important thing you need to know. Make sure your clients have sent you the right form – 1099-NEC – by Feb. 1, 2021. NEC stands for nonemployee compensation.

Of course, there could be all sorts of exceptions and blah-di-blah that might apply to you. Look to Forbes.com for the gritty accounting details, including why this came about.

TL;DR: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) aims to fight tax fraud by closing the time between when independent contractors can file their returns (Jan. 31) and some employers’ deadlines for submitting their own tax forms to the government (sometimes as late as the end of March). That meant fraudsters could file tax returns and claim a refund before the IRS had time to match up the numbers.

Speaking of matching up numbers: Make sure the number in Box 1 on the 1099-NEC is the same number you have in your records. Paying taxes on money you didn’t earn is what experts call “not good.”

So… you are keeping those records as you collect payment, right? Just a tip: If you’ve been keeping track of invoices, payments, and business expenses on a spreadsheet, you might want to check out the free accounting software Wave.

The IRS is going to release more info about filing requirements later in the year, but it’s always a good idea (for freelancers especially) to get a head start on collecting and adding up the receipts.

You may even minimize your banging-head-on-the-table headaches in 2021.

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Business Entrepreneur

Here’s why you shouldn’t start a startup

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Building your own startup and being your own boss sounds tempting, but be sure you make these considerations before starting out.

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Man at a whiteboard outlining his startup plan.

2020, a year for our generation that will most likely be marked in infamy for decades to come. At least I hope that this is the bottom of the barrel, because if there’s even further to go… Those fallout shelters are starting to look homey.

A lot of people, myself included, are looking for different options for new careers. Maybe it’s time to place some faith in those back-burner dreams that no one ever really thought would come to fruition. But there are some things about starting up a new business that we should all really keep in mind.

While you can find any number of lists to help you to get things going, here’s a short list that makes beginning a new business venture a monumental effort:

  • You need to have a unique idea with an impeccable execution. Ideas are a dime a dozen. But even the goods ones need the right business-minded person behind it to get things going for them.
  • Time, time, and more time. To get a startup to a point where it is sustainable and giving you back something that is worthwhile, takes years. Each of those years will take many decisions that you can only hope will pan out. There is no quick cash except for a lottery and you have to be extra lucky for those to get you anything. This whole idea will take years of your life away and it may end in failure no matter what you do.
  • You have to have the stamina. Most data will show you that startups fail 90% of the time. The majority of those are because people gave up on the idea. You have to push and keep pushing or you’ll never get there yourself. Losing determination is the death of any business venture.
  • Risk is a lifestyle. To get anywhere in life you have to risk something. Starting a business is all about risking your time and maybe your money to get a new life set up. If you can’t take risks for the future then you can’t move up in the business world.
  • Bad timing and/or a bad market. If you don’t have a sense for the market around you, which takes time and experience (or a lot of luck), you won’t make it. A keen business sense is absolutely necessary for you to succeed in a startup. Take some time and truly analyze yourself and your idea before trying something.
  • Adaptability is also a necessity. The business world can be changed at the drop of a hat, with absolutely no warning. Rolling with the punches is something you have to do or every little change is going to emotionally take a toll on you.
  • Lastly, not all of this depends upon your actions. If you start something that relies on investors, you’re likely going to get told “no” so many times that you’ll feel like it’s on repeat. Not everything is dependent upon your beliefs and whims. You need to be able to adjust to this and get people to see things from your point of view as well. But ultimately, it’s not all about you, it’s also about them.

These are just a few ways that starting a startup could stress you out. So, while the future could be bright, stay cautious and think twice before making any life changing decisions.

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