Robins School - VACEO survey finds overall economic outlook index up from previous three quarters

April 12, 2013

The first quarter 2013 CEO Economic Outlook survey by University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds the overall outlook index of top executives has increased, compared to the three previous quarters.

Among the executives of small and mid-sized companies participating in the survey, 64 percent anticipate an increase in sales, up 5.8 percent from last quarter. Expected capital spending has increased 3.7 percent from last quarter to 29.3 percent. Employment expectancies also increased to 53.3 percent, up from 44 percent last quarter.

The survey also found staffing and financial issues, along with growth and economic uncertainty to be the most significant issues CEOs currently face. Some 29.7 percent of CEOs said their business performed about as expected over the past six months, with 14.9 percent saying performance was mostly better than expected, up 6.5 percent from the fourth quarter survey.

“We see in these data a departure from the previous trend of declining optimism—here, anticipated sales, projected capital spending, as well as employment growth are all more positive, relative to Q4 of 2012. And, the overall outlook index is up dramatically compared to Q4 2012,” said Jeff Pollack, assistant professor of management at the Robins School, who calculated the results. “Staffing issues, financial issues and too slow growth are the top three areas of concerns noted by the current sample of CEOs.”

The Virginia Council of CEOs and the Robins School jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps central Virginia companies anticipate business decisions and plan for growth.

Pollack adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally.

The following survey results, from the fourth quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013, show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

2013 Q1

2012 Q4


No Change



No Change


How do you expect your company’s sales to change in the next six months?







How do you expect your company’s U.S. capital spending to change in the next six months?







How do you expect your company’s U.S. employment to change in the next six months?








The council and the Robins School collected responses from 75 CEOs in central Virginia. The average annual revenue year-to-date for CEOs responding was $10.8 million. The data were compared to the fourth quarter of 2012 responses of 91 participants. Multiple industries are represented in the sample (for example, construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and retail).

The results also provide an overall economic outlook index, which is based on businesses’ projected six-month sales, spending and employment figures.

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date


CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q1 2013


Q4 2012


Q3 2012


Q2 2012


Q1 2012


Q4 2011


Q3 2011


Q2 2011


Q1 2011


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 organization, whose mission is to connect the CEOs of second-stage companies so they can learn from each other and grow their businesses. Learn more at

The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, top-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a top-ranked liberal arts university. Bloomberg Businessweek ranks both the Robins School’s undergraduate and part-time MBA programs among the top 20 in the country in their respective categories. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development programs for individuals and businesses.