SMB CEO Optimism Recedes Slightly Following Decade Peak at 2017 Year-End

Vistage CEO Confidence Index finds CEOs remain optimistic and expect to hire and invest more in their businesses this year

SAN DIEGO, April 3, 2018 – CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses are optimistic about their future financial prospects and plan to invest and hire more this year, according to the Q1 2018 Vistage CEO Confidence Index. The index declined slightly to 105.8 from its decade-high peak of 110.3 at the end of 2017 and was also slightly below last year’s first-quarter reading of 106.9.

“The key takeaway is that SMB CEOs anticipate strong economic growth in 2018 and their confidence is at near-record highs,” said Dr. Richard Curtin, director of research at the University of Michigan, who analyzed the data. “Some have moderated their expectations for the national economy’s growth this year, which is why their confidence dipped slightly this quarter compared to last quarter.”

Despite some of the concerns about the national economy, CEOs are bullish about the prospects for their own businesses. Vistage Chief Research Officer Joe Galvin notes, “The majority of CEOs plan to hire next year, and they are responding to the talent shortage by investing in employee training, wages, and benefits.”

The Q1 2018 Vistage CEO Confidence Index found:

  • Robust hiring and benefits:
    • 64 percent of CEOs plan to increase hiring this year, compared to 60 percent who planned to add employees in Q1 2017
    • Finding and retaining talent remains a challenge, but CEOs are responding by investing in employee training (67 percent), increasing wages (62 percent) and expanding benefits (33 percent)
  • Strong investment spending:
    • Roughly half of CEOs (51 percent) expect to invest in new plants and equipment, slightly below last quarter’s decade-high response of 54 percent
    • Just 7 percent planned to invest less in the past two quarters, the lowest since 2004
  • Expectations for higher revenues and profits:
    • 79 percent of all firms anticipate revenue growth this year and 66 percent of all firms expect profits to increase

Read the full results .

About the Vistage CEO Confidence Index
The Vistage CEO Confidence Index, established in 2003, is a quarterly survey of small- to mid-sized business CEOs, presidents, and business owners about the U.S. economy. The Q1 2018 Vistage CEO Confidence Index includes responses from 1,712 U.S. CEOs, surveyed between March 5 and March 12, 2018. Since its establishment in 2003, the Index has proven to be a reliable indicator for changes in GDP and employment, two to three quarters hence.

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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