The third quarter 2015 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs shows considerable optimism among chief executives in central Virginia. The survey’s index, which measures executives’ views on projected hiring, capital spending and sales, reached its highest level ever in the third quarter of 2015. The survey has been administered for more than five years.

Among the 60 CEOs of small- and mid-sized companies participating in the survey this quarter, there was a large increase (from 36.8 percent to 63.2 percent) in the percentage of CEOs who expect to enlarge their workforce over the next six months. No respondent indicated that his or her company would have a smaller number of employees over the next six months.

The executives’ outlook on sales remained strong, with 73.2 percent of respondents expecting an increase over the next six months, nearly identical to the 73.1 percent that projected an increase when surveyed a quarter ago. More than a third of respondents expect capital spending to increase, down slightly from the 37 percent reported in the second quarter of 2015.

“It’s not surprising that the index is up,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “The small business CEOs I work with are uniformly busy, and dealing with growth issues like acquiring talent.”

For the first time, the survey asked respondents about the composition of their executive suites. While 37 percent of respondents indicated that the CEO handles the duties of a chief operations officer, 22 percent of executives indicated that they have a full-time COO. When asked about the presence of finance executives, 46 percent of CEOs said they handle the duties of a chief financial officer, while 10 percent employ a full-time CFO and another 13.6 percent employ a CFO on a fractional basis. The remaining respondents have finance managers who are not part of the executive team.

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 second and third quarters of 2015 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

 

 

2015 Q3

2015 Q2

Increase

No Change

Decrease

Increase

No Change

Decrease

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

73.21%

17.86%

8.93%

73.08%

21.15%

5.77%

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

33.90%

54.24%

11.86%

37.04%

51.85%

11.11%

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

63.16%

36.84%

0.00%

38.89%

59.26%

1.85%

 
Economic Outlook Index
Survey Date
CEO Economic Outlook Index
Q3 2015
99.80
Q2 2015
93.42
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 60 CEOs in central Virginia. The median annual company revenue for CEOs responding was $3.6 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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