Business Chiefs Preparing For Return To Growth

Conference Board Reports Survey Findings

Corporate ceos are prepping for recovery, according to The Conference Board's annual survey of company chiefs.

“Both the year-on-year movement and rank order of challenges suggest that ceos' focus has moved from crisis reaction to preparations for recovery,” said Jonathan Spector, ceo of The Conference Board. “Clearly, ceos in the United States in particular are returning their focus to the road to growth. We're seeing a similar trend in the overall business questions we capture from our members.”

Each year, The Conference Board ceo Challenge Survey polls hundreds of senior executives across of variety of industries to guage and rate their most pressing concerns.

Production of the 2008 report was stopped and the survey refielded in late 2008 in response to the exploding global financial crisis. Nearly 200 ceos, chairmen, and company presidents updated their responses, resulting in a “pre” and “post” insight.

“With no control over a turbulent global economy, ceos retrained their sights onto 'bread and butter' survival issues, while longer-term challenges, especially in talent management, were de-emphasized,” according to The Conference Board.

In late 2008, ceos were concerned about global economic performance, business confidence, geofinancial instability, and integrity of capital markets. Each of those measures has now dropped at least 10 places, said Linda Barrington, managing director of human capital at The Conference Board and one of the report's authors. “This year, all the challenges that jumped into the Top 10 in the crisis have now jumped back out.”

In the new survey (which was fielded October-December 2009), growth-oriented challenges received higher ratings as “greatest concerns.” They include sustained and steady top-line growth, customer loyalty/retention, and profit growth Also moving up were corporate reputation for quality products/services, and stimulating innovation/creativity/enabling entrepreneurship.

Business leader's focus on those measures “suggests that recession-weary customers need to be wooed with significant new value to win back their business,” Barrington added.

The challenge of government regulation also made significant leaps in the United States (from 19th place to 6th) and in Europe (from 28th place to 6th), particularly in the financial services industry.

“U.S. and European ceos are bracing for the potential regulatory aftermath of the near collapse of the global financial system and the associated recession,” Spector said.

Chris Gigley | Contributing Writer, Casual Living

Chris Gigley has covered the home furnishings industry for more than 20 years as an editor and contributing writer.

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