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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

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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startup optimize to key metric

In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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Business Entrepreneur

Startups love pondering inclusion, yet half have no women in leadership

(STARTUPS) Tech startups are a huge part of discussing diversity and inclusion, but something as simple as hiring women in management somehow remains elusive.

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women in leadership lean out

According to the Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report, over half of startups have no women on their leadership team. None.

As hard as this fact is to believe, it is also hardly breaking news. Organizations who have surveyed startups and technology companies for the past several years have seen that long-standing trends that disadvantage women and other genders in the tech space are still at play.

Like many other gendered debates about the treatment of women and other minority workers, this problem is seemingly a Catch 22 or a chicken and egg situation. Critics will continue to argue that the reason ladies aren’t in leadership roles is because they don’t have innate leadership qualities or that once their non-male employees have proven themselves, then they will start getting the resources and promotions that they say that they desire.

Like many other myths about women in the workforce, these beliefs only serve to reinforce the status quo by transferring the responsibility for these frustrating conditions onto the marginalized party.

These beliefs are busted not only because they’re tired gender clichés, but because we have hard data that proves the financial and cultural benefit in long-term effects of women leadership in tech.

However, for all the discussion of diversity initiatives, the likelihood of traditional funding going to women-led startups is still small.

For now, startups with women in leadership roles were more likely to get their funding from investing teams that were also led by females. Wouldn’t it be great if other investors began to not only understand that in 2019 it’s imperative that a company’s leadership reflect the diversity of the employees that comprise it? That workers will be more motivated, feel more understood, and have greater buy-in when they identify with their management?

Empowering women is how more get involved in tech. Diversity of leadership helps organizations thrive. And if something as simple as binary gender diversity is such a tremendous challenge, all other diversity issues are still (unfortunately) a large mountain to climb.

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Business Entrepreneur

C. J. Walker: America’s first self-made millionaire was a black orphan

(ENTREPRENEUR) When you think of our nation’s first self-made millionaire, C. J. Walker is probably not the picture that may come to mind, but this generous genius made it to the top, breaking every glass ceiling possible.

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These days, it seems like Oprah gets all the bragging rights. I don’t think it’s quite fair that some car-gifting mogul gets to bask in the glory of a path that was paved a century ago. **No offense, O Great Winfrey. You’re cool, too. Please don’t take my Altima back.**

It’s time to pay our respects to the first female self-made millionaire in America. My friends, I’d like to introduce you to your new idol, Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C. J. Walker.

This gal had just about every card in the deck working against her. Both of her parents and all of her siblings before her were born into slavery. Her mother died when she was five, and her father passed the following year. Orphaned, she lived with her older sister until she married at age 14.

As if that wasn’t enough, a mere two years after her first child was born, Sarah’s husband died. I mean, she just couldn’t catch a break. Unfortunate event after unfortunate event. She then moved to St. Louis to live with her brothers, working as a washer woman for a mere dollar a day. Classic rags-to-riches stuff.

Her brothers worked at a local barber shop, and she wound up learning a thing or two about hair care while sharing a home with them. This planted the seed that would lead to her working with Annie Turnbo Malone, selling African American hair care products. As she learned more about hair, she must have realized she had a knack for it, because she decided to roll up her sleeves and put some indie elbow grease in.

After moving to Denver to work on her own products, she married Charles Walker, who provided the advertising know-how that would help her venture succeed. She adopted the name C. J. Walker and began traveling and training women in the fields of beauty and sales.

Eleven years later, in 1917, she called her first convention of so-called “beauty culturists” in Philadelphia. Here, she rewarded her top agents as well as those who were the most philanthropic towards local charities.

What I love about C. J. is that as her business grew, so did her awareness of the social climate around her. She never forgot where she came from, never hesitated to give back, and never gave up. She lectured on topics such as women’s independence, helping educate other black women in the ways of business.

Upon her death, it was determined that she was the wealthiest African-American woman in the country. In true C. J. style, she left two-thirds of her future profits to charity.

If I ever get mega-famous, I’m doing it the C. J. Walker way: Keep a level head, educate and help others, and put your community first.

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