Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CEOs Share Optimism in Quarterly Survey

CEOs in central Virginia anticipate increases in capital spending and hiring during the next six months, but expect sales to remain relatively level due to concerns about slow growth and continued economic uncertainty, the 1st quarter 2012 CEO Economic Outlook survey reveals.


Top executives of small and mid-sized companies participating in the survey plan to hire more staff, and some 71 percent predict increased sales during the next two quarters, an increase from 68 percent last quarter. The results also show that slow growth is currently the most significant business issue CEOs face. While economic uncertainty is still a concern, it is no longer the most significant one, as in previous surveys, showing a 7 percent drop.


The Virginia Council of CEOs and University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps central Virginia companies anticipate business decisions and plan for growth.


“We see in these data a continued trend of increased optimism (Outlook index of 94.10 relative to 88.63 in Q4 2011) that started in Q2 of 2011,” said Jeff Pollack, assistant professor of management at the Robins School, who calculated the results. “We see more CEOs predicting increases in capital spending and employment over the next 6 months. Economic uncertainty, slow growth, and staffing remain the primary areas of concerns noted by the current sample of CEOs.”


Pollack adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally.

The council and the Robins School collected responses from 93 business owners and CEOs in central Virginia. The average annual revenue year-to-date for CEOs responding was $9.7 million. The data were compared to the 4th quarter 2011 of 88 participants. Multiple industries are represented in the sample (for example, construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and retail).

“I am pleased to see the numbers this quarter,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the council. “Nearly 60 percent say that they will increase hiring. I think that is a very good sign in an environment where business owners are still reluctant to hire unless absolutely necessary. We have strung together three consecutive increases in the economic outlook index. That trend highlights the growing optimism I hear from area CEOs.”


The results also provide an overall economic outlook index, which is based on businesses’ projected six-month sales, spending and employment figures.


Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date


CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q1 2012


Q4 2011


Q3 2011


Q2 2011


Q1 2011


Q4 2010


Q3 2010


Q2 2010



The council continues to expand the survey beyond its members, offering any area business owners whose companies gross at least $1 million in annual revenue the opportunity to participate. If enough businesses participate, the council will provide survey results by industry. Participation is free, and all participants will receive copies of the survey data.


Business owners and CEOs who would like to participate in the next survey should contact McRoberts at


The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to connect the CEOs of second-stage companies so they can learn from each other and grow their businesses. Learn more at


The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, top-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a top-ranked liberal arts university. Bloomberg Businessweek ranks both the Robins School’s undergraduate and part-time MBA programs among the top 20 in the country in their respective categories. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development programs for individuals and businesses.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 1:49 pm

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