Robins School of Business, Virginia Council of CEOs survey index remains strong for third straight quarter

July 12, 2017

The second quarter 2017 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) finds that the level of optimism among central Virginia CEOs remains near the highest levels seen in the survey’s seven-year history.

The survey’s index, which measures executives' views on projected hiring, capital spending and sales over the next six months, was the third-highest ever, surpassed only by the two all-time highs reached in the previous two quarters (Q4 2016, Q1 2017). The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

Executives' expectations for sales fell slightly from last quarter's. More than 73 percent of respondents expect sales to increase over the next six months, down about eight percentage points from the first quarter results. Nearly 33 percent expect sales to increase by more than 10 percent over the next six months, which is down only slightly from the 37 percent who expected double-digit increases last quarter.

Forty-two percent of respondents expect capital spending to increase over the next six months, compared with 46 percent last quarter; more than 53 percent expect capital spending to stay flat. More than 56 percent expect employment to increase over the next six months, which is down from about 65 percent last quarter, while more than 42 percent expect employment to remain flat.

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps central Virginia companies anticipate business conditions 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. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter.

The following survey results from the first quarter of 2017 and second quarter 2017 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2017 Q2

2017 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?







"The past three quarters have generated the three highest in the history of the survey," said Raggio. "Current results seem to be driven by actual market conditions rather than speculation about the economy under a new administration, as CEOs cite higher business and consumer demand as driving their responses. However, several CEOs cited difficulty finding appropriate talent to fuel their efforts." 

"As I work with the CEOs of small and mid-sized companies across central Virginia, I hear almost universally that the most significant restraint on growth is their ability to attract and retain the talent they need," said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. "Some of these CEOs are getting pretty creative. One is offering five weeks of vacation to new hires!"

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q2 2017


Q1 2017


Q4 2016


Q3 2016


Q2 2016


Q1 2016


Q4 2015


Q3 2015


Q2 2015


Q1 2015


Q4 2014


Q3 2014


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 Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association whose mission is to connect the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for learning and growth. The Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, advisory board and a small staff. Currently, there are 210 CEO members. Sixty-four CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 27 – July 6. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance and insurance and retail. The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $12 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 52.

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, highly-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a highly-ranked liberal arts university. U.S. News ranks the Robins School’s part-time MBA program #33 in the country. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development, training and consulting to area businesses.

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