The first quarter 2015 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs shows positive views prevailing among chief executives in central Virginia.

Among the 53 CEOs of small- and mid-sized companies participating in the survey this quarter, 70 percent expect their revenues to grow over the next six months, with 32.1 percent of respondents expecting revenues to climb by 11 percent or more. Several executives noted that their current customers had begun to spend more in the early part of 2015.

There was a small increase this quarter (from 33.9 percent to 35.9 percent) in the percentage of CEOs planning to increase capital spending. That was accompanied by a small decrease (from 53.2 percent to 47.2 percent) in the percentage of executives expecting to increase the number of domestic employees. Approximately half of those surveyed expect no change in hiring or capital spending during the next six months.

“Small business owners are finding firmer ground these days,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “For the first time in its five-year history, the Economic Outlook Index has strung together three quarters above 90. As always, innovators are winning. There is no longer any ‘business as usual.’”

For the first time, the survey asked CEOs about the impact of a possible interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve Bank. A slight majority of executives (52.8 percent) indicated such a move would not make much difference in their business. Another 45.3 percent indicated it would have an unfavorable impact while only one of the 53 respondents indicated the impact would be favorable.

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.  Richard Coughlan, senior associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter.

The following survey results from the first quarter of 2015 and last quarter of 2014 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2015 Q1

2014 Q4

Increase

No Change

Decrease

Increase

No Change

Decrease

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

70.00%

20.00%

10.00%

 75.44%

17.54%

7.02%

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

35.85%

 54.72%

 9.43%

33.87%

 50.00%

 16.13%

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

47.17%

 49.06%

 3.77%

53.22%

 45.16%

 1.61%

 Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q1 2015

93.90

Q4 2014

95.92

Q3 2014

96.10

Q2 2014

88.71

Q1 2014

86.07

Q4 2013

89.57

Q3 2013

92.53

Q2 2013

91.60

Q1 2013

86.40

Q4 2012

77.57

Q3 2012

81.17

Q2 2012

81.13

Q1 2012

94.10

Q4 2011

88.63

Q3 2011

81.17

Q2 2011

74.17

Q1 2011

85.63

Q4 2010

 92.27

Q3 2010

 94.47

Q2 2010

 81.33

The Council and the Robins School collected responses from 53 CEOs in central Virginia. The median annual company revenue for CEOs responding was $3 million. Multiple industries are represented in the sample (for example, construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance, and retail). The median number of full-time employees for responding companies in 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 smcroberts@vaceos.org.

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 www.vaceos.org.

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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