Business Writing Training: Creating RFPs, Executive Summaries & Business Cases – Christchurch, Tauranga, Wellington


There are numerous types of business documents used in day-to-day business operations aside from the normal meeting agendas, business reports and proposals.

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In this article we provide you with an outline of four other types of business documentation: the Request for Proposals (RFP), Projections, Executive Summaries and Business Cases.

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Requests for Proposals (RFP)

A Request for Proposals (RFP) is an invitation for vendors and/ or service providers to submit a qualified document to address a company’s need for products or services. At the very least, RFPs inform the public that you are in the look-out for potential partners in an endeavour. At best, a well-written RFP helps you source vendors and service providers whose business solutions fit well with the needs and objectives of your business.

There is no single correct format for an RFP. Some can be informal and as short as 1-2 pages while bigger projects, especially those that involve government funding or private interest groups, could have RFPs that are more than 100 pages in length!

Effective RFPs should at least explain the following items:

  • What the project is
  • What exactly do you require as output (your deliverables)
  • How proposals would be reviewed
  • Your contact information

More detailed RFPs can include additional information like the background of your company or organisation, your project timetable, your budget for the project, specific legal stipulations (e.g. the need to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDS)), incentives for superior service or value-added support, and how the project would be monitored, reported on and evaluated.

The best way to know what you include in a Request for Proposals is to put yourself in the shoes of your targeted vendor or service-provider.

Ask yourself: what would you need to know to submit an accurate and qualified bid? What would motivate you to submit a great proposal?

RFP’s are often a precursor to a full blown tender document, so if you have a tender documentation team they can supply you with content for the RFP.  Or you can review previous tenders/RFP’s for guidelines as to how your company deals with the RFP process.

Projections

Projections are documents that show estimates/predictions of future performance, alongside data that can substantiate those predictions or estimates. The most common types of projection documents are financial projections, which show future income potential based on present and anticipated cash flow, sales volumes or various manufacturing models.

Projections can be very short-term; forecasting income in the next month or next fiscal quarter. They can also be focused on the long-term, going as far forward as 1o years or more. Some projection documents present “business case” scenarios, showing predictions of growth or loss based on changes in particular variables.

Projections are usually supported with specific dollar amounts, figures, tables and spreadsheets. The statistics included in a projection document will depend on the purpose of the document.

The key thing to remember is to accurately label and place figures, tables and spreadsheets in the document, so that your reader can easily understand what you are presenting. Don’t insert a graph related to content on page 2 on page 3.

You have the option of placing your numerical data with the text, or including them as an appendix and reference back to the appendices throughout the document.

Executive Summaries

An executive summary is a 1-2 page abstract of a business plan. It is a non-technical review of the highlights of your in-depth report.

An executive summary usually include the following sections:

  • Overview of the company, including products and/or services
  • Company Mission Statement
  • Management and Staff
  • Market and Customer
  • Your Competitive Edge
  • Business Operations
  • Financial Projections and Plans

It is recommended that you write an executive summary after you’ve written the entire business plan. This way, you can easily summarise in 1-2 sentences each section of the business report.

A key guide in writing executive summaries is to use positive and proactive language. Executive summaries are a selling paper; they are usually used to get capital, win contracts, or showcase a company’s achievement. This is why most executive summaries end with a ‘pitch’ for the business at the end.

Business Cases

A business case is documentation about a specific process, project, or situation. It is like a business plan, except the focus is on a particular ‘case’ rather than the entire business.

A business case is usually written to justify a project, solicit extra investment for a specific outcome, or simply create a record of how a project was delivered (or how the project is proposed to be delivered.)

Business cases can be comprehensive and formal, as well as informal and brief, depending on the purpose of a document.

A business case can include the following sections:

  • Background of the problem/ opportunity
  • Problems encountered
  • Options considered and cost-benefit analysis
  • Solution selected and implementation strategy
  • Expected costs of the project

An executive summary and a projection may also be found within the business case.

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