The second quarter 2014 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs highlights the challenges of finding and retaining talent, especially in sales, marketing and information technology.

Among the 87 chief executives of small and mid-sized companies participating in the survey this quarter, 70 percent said staffing is a significant issue. Finding, recruiting and retaining sales talent was identified as a significant challenge by 25.3 percent of CEOs. Operational talent was cited as a challenge by 16.1 percent of respondents, while 14.9 percent cited marketing talent. The other categories of talent noted as challenges by more than 10 percent of respondents were engineering, information technology and general management.

When asked how much their annual revenues might increase if their talent concerns were resolved, more than half of all CEOs (51.7 percent) indicated they would experience growth of 11 percent or more, with 17.2 percent of firms indicating potential revenue growth of more than 20 percent if they could solve their staffing issues.

“Workforce development continues to be a key concern for these executives,” noted Richard Coughlan, senior associate dean of the Robins School. “For the first time, we collected data that allow us to quantify the very significant financial impact of talent gaps in their firms.”

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

Overall, the Economic Outlook Index for the second quarter reflects slightly more optimism among CEOs compared to first quarter results. The higher score was driven largely by an increase in the percentage of firms expecting to grow the number of employees over the next six months, to 49.4 percent of firms from 44.6 percent a quarter ago.

The following survey results from the first and second quarters of 2014 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2014 Q2

2014 Q1


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?








Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q2 2014


Q1 2014


Q4 2013


Q3 2013


Q2 2013


Q1 2013


Q4 2012


Q3 2012


Q2 2012


Q1 2012


Q4 2011


Q3 2011


Q2 2011


Q1 2011


Q4 2010


Q3 2010


Q2 2010


The council and the Robins School collected responses from 87 CEOs in central Virginia. The median annual revenue for CEOs responding was $3.1 million. Multiple industries are represented in the sample (for example, construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and retail). The median employment of member companies for this survey was 20.

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 25 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.

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Related Campus Units

Robins School of Business