Robins School of Business, Virginia Council of CEOs survey index falls slightly after three strongest quarters ever

October 20, 2017

The third quarter 2017 CEO Economic Outlook survey by the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs finds that optimism among Virginia CEOs remains high, but falls from levels seen in the previous three quarters, which were the highest 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 sixth-highest ever. The three previous quarters (Q1 2017, Q4 2016, and Q2 2017), saw the index reach the highest marks in the survey’s history. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.

Executives’ expectations for sales and employment rose from last quarter, while expectations for capital spending fell. More than 74 percent of respondents expect sales to increase over the next six months, up one percentage point from the second quarter results. More than 38 percent expect sales to increase by more than 10 percent over the next six months, up from the 33 percent who expected double-digit increases last quarter.

Fifty-nine percent of CEOs expect employment to increase over the next six months, which is up from about 56 percent last quarter; more than 34 percent expect employment to remain flat. Expectations for capital spending fell from last quarter, when 42 percent expected to increase capital spending. This quarter, about 38 percent expect to increase capital spending over the next six months; more than 52 percent expect capital spending to stay flat.

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which helps 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 second quarter of 2017 and third quarter 2017 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

2017 Q3

2017 Q2


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?







“Despite a drop in the index, CEOs remain optimistic as more expect sales and hiring to increase over the next six months,” said Raggio.

One CEO noted that with the strong economy “lots of cash is finally trickling down from multi-nationals to mid-sized companies.”

Raggio added, “Although expectations for increased capital spending fell this quarter, they were high for the previous three, so companies seem to be catching up with higher sales and staffing.” 

"Small business CEOs are thriving in this environment. It is fascinating to watch. Some are growing rapidly in order to capture market share or acquire competitors, while others are throttling growth to focus on higher profits,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “The economy could move faster, but we can live with this for a while!”

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q3 2017


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 215  CEO members. Seventy-eight CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered September 27 – October 3. 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 $9 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 55.

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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