Friday, June 12, 2020

Economic Survey Continues to Improve But CEOs Want Faster Action

Although COVID-19 has forced many employees to work from home, CEOs report that productivity is “about the same”.


Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage >


Each quarter the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) and University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business partner to take the pulse of top executives in the region through a comprehensive Virginia CEO Economic Outlook Survey. 

For the first time ever, the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs conducted a follow-up to their quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey to determine how CEO sentiment had changed after dealing with COVID-19 for another month.  

The second edition of this special survey found that CEO sentiment has continued to improve after dealing with COVID-19 for another month, but CEOs are not happy with the pace of reopening the state.

Overall expectations for sales, capital spending, and employment over the next six months all increased compared to expectations at the end of April. Fifty-eight percent of CEOs reported that compared with their expectations for their businesses at the end of April, the last month had been “about as expected.” Nearly 28% reported it to be “much better than expected,” while about 14% reported “much worse than expected.”

Economic Index Historical Data (May 27, 2020)

YearQuarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4
May 27, 202026.2
April 27, 2020-1.33
2020-18.73 (historic low)
2017108.97 (historic high)103.6399.17106.3


Says Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs, “I’m relieved to see that small business CEOs feel like the worst is over, and that optimism is ticking up slightly. I think it is also a good sign that few of these CEOs have resorted to layoffs, indicating a belief that business will rebound sooner, rather than later.”

“Despite the uncertainty that remains around future policies, we see a gradual increase in CEO sentiment,” said Randy Raggio, Associate Dean at the Robins School of Business. Raggio administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. He adds,  “These monthly surveys have given us a unique look at how sentiment has inched upwards as the situation has begun to stabilize.”  

Mickey Quiñones, Dean of the Robins School of Business, says, “As companies begin the slow climb out of this steep downturn, they will have to draw upon the ingenuity and skill of their employees to discover new ways of doing business.”


  • More than 67 percent expect to continue to operate without significant layoffs. (Only 19% expect significant layoffs, while about 14% are uncertain at this time.)
  • Seventy-three percent of CEOs whose workforce has shifted to work-from-home report that productivity is “about the same.” Twelve percent rate it “much better,” while 15% rate it “much worse.”  And 42% expect that compared with their workforce in January, more employees will work from home after the crisis is over.  
  • Although nearly 37% of CEOs indicate that Virginia’s timetable for reopening the state is “about right,” nearly half find it “a little too slow” (17%) or “way too slow” (30.4%).  About 11% rate it “a little too fast,” and only 5% rate it “way too fast.”    


This month found that executives’ expectations for sales, hiring and employment improved slightly over last month. To summarize, CEOs predictions over the next six months include:

  • 56.1 percent expect sales to be lower over the next six months (an improvement from 77% last month). 42.7 percent expect the decline to be more than 10 percentage points (compared 66 percent). 
  • About 32 percent expect sales to increase (vs. 13 percent), while 12.2 percent expect sales to remain flat (vs. 10 percent).  
  • About 52 percent of CEOs expect capital spending to decrease (compared with 73 percent last month)
  • Nearly 10 percent expect capital spending to increase over the next six months (no change).
  • More than 38 percent expect capital spending to remain flat (vs. 17 percent).  
  • Twenty-seven percent of respondent CEOs expect employment to decrease over the next six months (down from 37 percent last month).
  • 51 percent expect employment to remain flat (vs. 53 percent), and 22 percent expect an increase in employment (vs. 10 percent).  
  • 82 CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered May 20-22. 
  • Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and retail.
  • The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $21 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period.
  • The average employment was about 47.


The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which regularly asks about expectations for sales, capital spending and employment, plus other relevant issues, helping Virginia companies anticipate business conditions and plan for growth.

The Robins School adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage >


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 Scot McRoberts at



The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association whose mission is to connect the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for learning and growth. The Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, advisory board and a small staff. Currently, there are more than 200 CEO members, mainly in Richmond and Charlottesville. Learn more at



The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, highly-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a highly-ranked liberal arts university. U.S. News ranks the Robins School’s MBA program #35 in the country. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development, training and consulting to area businesses.

Posted by Staff at 8:23 am

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