Small and Midsize Business Confidence Shows Gradual Improvement

Vistage CEO Confidence Index Inches Up, Although Hiring Plans Dip to Post-Pandemic Low

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Small and midsize business (SMB) CEO confidence saw a modest uptick in Q3 2023, according to the latest CEO Confidence Index from CEO coaching and peer advisory organization Vistage.

The small gain was driven by an increase in revenue projections and stabilization in profit expectations as a good proportion of SMBs are experiencing some levels of growth while still facing the headwind of increased costs that negatively impact profitability. Meanwhile, CEOs’ hiring plans for the year ahead have slowed to their lowest level in the last 10 years, with the exception of Q2 2020.

Vistage has measured SMB CEOs’ sentiment on a variety of economic and business factors every quarter since 2003. Analysis using ITR Economics’ rate-of-change methodology has revealed the Vistage CEO Confidence Index to be a leading indicator of the U.S. Industrial Production Index nine months in advance. In Q3 2023, the Vistage CEO Confidence Index continued to trend upward to 76, a slight but continued increase from 74.2 in Q2 2023 and 72.6 in Q1 2023.

“The last five quarters have established a new floor for the Vistage CEO Confidence Index, one that is well below historical norms. The heat on hiring has been turned down considerably with 48% planning on increasing headcount in the year ahead, the lowest percentage in the last ten years with the exception of Q2 2020,” said Joe Galvin, Vistage’s chief research officer. “It’s no surprise the top challenge we’re hearing from CEOs across the board is managing growth. Sluggish demand due to hesitant customers, a desire for profitable growth, and the need to scale for future growth cycles indicates that the new abnormal has become the status quo.”

ITR Economics Vice President of Economics Jackie Greene noted, “Small and midsize businesses are experiencing growth to some extent, but increased costs, specifically wages, will continue to impact profitability. This gap between revenues and profits indicates a profitless prosperity.”

Q3 2023 Vistage CEO Confidence Index highlights include:

Declining economic pessimism amongst CEOs.

  • 16% of SMB CEOs report that the economy has improved during the past year, on par with 15% last quarter and 16% last year.
  • 46% believe the economy is worse than a year ago, compared to 60% in Q3 2022.
  • 42% anticipate economic conditions to worsen during the next 12 months, compared to 50% last year. However, this is just a slight improvement from last quarter’s 44%.
  • When asked about their view of the U.S. economy:
    • 34% report approaching a recession
    • 17% indicate a current recession
    • 32% anticipate a soft landing will occur
    • 12% report a soft landing has already occurred

Workforce expansion plans are becoming more conservative.

  • 48% of SMB CEOs plan to increase hiring in the year ahead, matching last quarter as the lowest proportion in the last ten years with the exception of Q2 2020.
  • 10% plan to decrease headcount in the next 12 months, up from 8% last quarter.
  • 35% report it is easier to fill job openings than at the start of the year.

Healthy revenues and stagnant profits reveal “profitless prosperity.”

  • Over half (55%) of SMB CEOs expect increased revenues in the year ahead (up from 50% in Q2 2023 but equal to Q1 2023).
  • 42% anticipate higher profits in the year ahead (equal to both Q2 2023 and one point below Q1 2023).

Small and midsize businesses are beginning to adopt emerging technologies.

  • When looking at those budgeting for AI, 65% of small businesses are early adopters of AI, with 10% planning to increase spending with existing vendors, 25% reporting they will increase their spending with new vendors, and an additional 30% plan to reallocate existing budget for new tools.

See the full results for the Q3 2023 Vistage CEO Confidence Index at

About the Vistage CEO Confidence Index
Established in 2003, the Vistage CEO Confidence Index surveys small to midsize business CEOs, presidents, and business owners about the U.S. economy on a quarterly basis. The Q3 2023 Vistage CEO Confidence Index includes responses from 1,511 U.S. CEOs, surveyed between September 5 and 19, 2023. Using ITR Economics’ rate-of-change methodology, analysis has revealed that the Vistage CEO Confidence Index is a leading indicator of the U.S. Industrial Production Index 9 months in advance.

Now in its 20th year, the Vistage CEO Confidence Index is recognized as the definitive voice of high-performing, high-integrity small and midsize business leaders. As a trusted resource, the Index provides world-class insights to inform decision-making for CEOs and other key leaders of small and midsize businesses.

About Vistage Worldwide, Inc.
Vistage is the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. For more than 65 years, we’ve been helping CEOs, business owners and key executives solve their greatest challenges through confidential peer groups and one-to-one executive coaching sessions. Today, more than 45,000 members in 35 countries rely on Vistage to help make better decisions for their companies, families and communities. The results prove it: Vistage CEO members grew their annual revenue on average by 4.6% in 2020, while nonmembers with comparable small and midsize businesses saw revenue decrease by 4.7%, according to a study of Dun & Bradstreet data. Learn more at

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