Good and poor examples of executive summaries
This is a GOOD example from an Accounting & Finance assignment.
This report provides an analysis and evaluation of the current and prospective profitability, liquidity and financial stability of Outdoor Equipment Ltd. Methods of analysis include trend, horizontal and vertical analyses as well as ratios such as Debt, Current and Quick ratios. Other calculations include rates of return on Shareholders Equity and Total Assets and earnings per share to name a few. All calculations can be found in the appendices. Results of data analysed show that all ratios are below industry averages. In particular, comparative performance is poor in the areas of profit margins, liquidity, credit control, and inventory management.
The report finds the prospects of the company in its current position are not positive. The major areas of weakness require further investigation and remedial action by management.Recommendations discussed include:
improving the average collection period for accounts receivable·
improving/increasing inventory turnover·
reducing prepayments and perhaps increasing inventory levels
The report also investigates the fact that the analysis conducted has limitations. Some of the limitations include:
forecasting figures are not provided nature and type of company is not known nor the current economic conditions data limitations as not enough information is provided or enough detail i.e. monthly details not known results are based on past performances not present
methods of analysis
Recommendations (note that conclusions and recommendations can be bulleted)
Limitations of the report.
Excerpt from Woodward-Kron, R. (1997) Writing in Commerce: a guide to assist Commerce students with assignment writing, (Revised edition), Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, The University of Newcastle.
This is a GOOD example of an executive summary from a marketing report.
This is a POOR example of an executive summary from a marketing assignment
Every time a business or consumer purchases products or services they display forms of buyer behaviour that are influenced by many factors. The following report looks at the fast food industry and will analyse four McDonalds’ key products and services.It highlights what type of consumer buying or business buying behaviours are displayed in the purchase of a product or service and explains why each behaviour may occur. This enables a conclusion to be drawn from applying theory to reality. Although a full comprehension of buying behaviour is impossible, since everyone is an individual, it is useful to reflect on common behaviours and attempt to divide behaviours in types and stages. Even McDonalds, a leader in marketing cannot always predict consumer behaviour.
Background to problem
Outlines what information the report deals with but FAILS to provide a summary of the results gained, conclusions drawn and recommendations made. These are the functions of an executive summary and are absent in this example.
The information in this executive summary is vague rather than summarising what the report found.
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I. Writing an Executive Summary
Read the Entire Document
This may go without saying, but it is critically important that you read your entire research study thoroughly from start to finish before beginning to write the executive summary. Take notes as you go along, highlighting important statements of fact, key findings, and recommended courses of action. This will better prepare you for how to organize and summarize your study. Remember this is not a brief abstract of 300 words or less but, essentially, a mini-paper of your paper, with a focus on recommendations.
Isolate the Major Points Within the Original Document
Choose which parts of the document are the most important to those who will read it. These points must be included within the executive summary in order to provide a thorough and complete explanation of what the document is trying to convey.
Separate the Main Sections
Closely examine each section of the original document and discern the main differences in each. After you have a firm understanding about what each section offers in respect to the other sections, write a few sentences for each section describing the main ideas.Although the format may vary, the main sections of an executive summary likely will include the following:
- The opening statement, brief background information,
- The purpose of research study,
- Method of data gathering and analysis,
- Overview of findings, and,
- A description of each recommendation, accompanied by a justification. Note that the recommendations are sometimes quoted verbatim from the research study.
Combine the Information
Use the information gathered to combine them into an executive summary that is no longer than 10% of the original document. Be concise! The purpose is to provide a brief explanation of the entire document with a focus on the recommendations that have emerged from your research. How you word this will likely differ depending on your audience and what they care most about. If necessary, selectively incorporate bullet points for emphasis and brevity.
Re-read the Executive Summary
After you've completed your executive summary, let it sit for a while before coming back to re-read it. Check to make sure that the summary will make sense as a separate document from the full research study. By taking some time before re-reading it, you allow yourself to see the summary with unbiased eyes.
II. Common Mistakes to Avoid
Length of the Executive Summary
As a general rule, the correct length of an executive summary is that it meets the criteria of no more pages than 10% of the number of pages in the original document, with an upper limit of no more than ten pages. This requirement keeps the document short enough to be read by your audience, but long enough to allow it to be a complete, stand-alone synopsis.
Cutting and Pasting
With the exception of specific recommendations made in the study, do not simply cut and paste whole sections of the original document into the executive summary. You should paraphrase information from the longer document. Avoid taking up space with excessive subtitles and lists, unless they are absolutely necessary for the reader to have a complete understanding of the original document.
Consider the Audience
Although unlikely to be required by your professor, there is the possibility that more than one executive summary will have to be written for a given document [e.g., one for policy-makers, one for private industry, one for philanthropists]. This may only necessitate the rewriting of the conclusion, but it could require rewriting the entire summary in order to fit the needs of the reader. If necessary, be sure to consider the types of audiences who may benefit from your study and make adjustments accordingly.
Clarity in Writing
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is related to the clarity of your executive summary. Always note that your audience [or audiences] are likely seeing your research study for the first time. The best way to avoid a disorganized or cluttered executive summary is to write it after the study is completed. Always follow the same strategies for proofreading that you would for any research paper.
Use Strong and Positive Language
Don’t weaken your executive summary with passive, imprecise language. The executive summary is a stand-alone document intended to convince the reader to make a decision concerning whether to implement the recommendations you make. Once convinced, it is assumed that the full document will provide the details needed to implement the recommendations. Although you should resist the tempation to pad your summary with pleas or biased statements, do pay particular attention to ensuring that a sense of urgency is created in the implications, recommendations, and conclusions presented in the executive summary. Be sure to target readers who are likely to implement the recommendations.
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