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3 key takeaways from ‘CEO Projections for 2019’

softening economy

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After riding high on optimism in 2018, many CEOs of small and midsize businesses say they feel the tide is turning for the U.S. economy — and choppier waters may lie ahead for their companies.

That’s according to data from the Q4 2018 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey, which polled 1,257 CEOs from small and midsize businesses in December. While the majority of CEOs reported feeling positive about their company’s prospects for 2019, survey results show they feel less certain about the trajectory of the U.S. economy.

“Confidence with caution” best describes how CEOs responded to different questions about their plans, priorities and projections for 2019. These insights are the foundation of the Vistage annual report: CEO Projections for 2019.

Here are 3 of 8 takeaways that are highlighted in the report:

1. Economic optimism has plummeted.

According to the CEO Confidence Index, the economic optimism of business leaders has taken a nose dive in the past 12 months. The index fell from 110.3 in Q4 2017 to 94.5 in Q4 2018, which is the lowest level recorded since Q4 2015. Only 14% of the CEOs participating in the survey said that they expect the economy to improve this year, compared to 45% one year ago. In addition, 33% of CEOs expect the economy to get worse this year, compared to just 10% one year ago.

2. CEOs are focused on talent, customers and financial decisions.

What issues will keep CEOs up at night this year? The survey found that leaders anticipate making key decisions related to talent (28%), customers (21%) and financials (21%). If we apply the Vistage Decision Model to this data, another insight emerges: CEOs are primarily focused on decisions related to optimizing their business in 2019.

3. Employee development is the No. 1 strategy for retaining top talent.

In spite of a softening economy, the majority of CEOs (65%) said that they’ll continue to hire new employees in 2019. Meanwhile, the talent war continues, prompting 70.6% of CEOs to use employee development to retain a strong workforce and build an internal pipeline of talent.

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