UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND – The University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs’ quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey finds that expectations over the next six months for sales, capital spending, and employment all improved compared with expectations at the end of May. More than half of CEOs (57%) indicated that compared with their expectations for their businesses at the end of May, the last month has been “about as expected.” More than 28% reported it to be “much better than expected,” and 15% reported “much worse than expected.”

More than 78% of CEOs expect to continue to operate without significant layoffs. Only about 10% expect significant layoffs, while about 11% are uncertain at this time.

About 54% of CEOs whose workforce has shifted to work-from-home report that productivity is “about the same.” A little more than 8% rate it “much better,” while about 15% rate it “much worse.” More than 40% expect that compared with their workforce in January, more employees will work from home after the crisis is over, while about 45% expect “about the same” number will work from home.  

Although more than 32% of CEOs indicate that Virginia’s timetable for reopening the state is “about right,” more than 16% find it “a little too slow” and about 24% rate it “way too slow.” About 24% rate it “a little too fast,” and less than 3% rate it “way too fast.”  

At the end of June, 43% of CEOs expect sales to increase over the next six months and almost 18% expect double-digit increases. But nearly 38% expect sales to decline, and 20% expect a double-digit decline. Roughly 19% expect sales to remain flat. 

Nearly 37% of CEOs expect capital spending to decrease over the next six months (compared with 52% last month), while more than 20% expect capital spending to increase. More than 43% expect capital spending to remain flat. 

More than half (53%) of respondent CEOs expect employment to remain flat over the next six months. But nearly 30% expect employment to increase. Almost 18% expect employment to fall.

All of the results pertaining to sales, capital spending, and employment represent improvements in economic outlook over results from the end of May.

The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which regularly asks about expectations for sales, capital spending, and employment, plus other relevant issues, helping 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. The quarterly survey has been administered since 2010.

The following survey results from Q2 2020 (June) and May 2020 show projections for the next six months for sales, spending and employment:

Projected 6 months sales, spending and employment

 

 

2020 Q2

2020 May

Increase

No Change

Decrease

Increase

No Change

Decrease

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

43.2%

 18.9%

 37.8%

31.7%

 12.2%

 56.1%

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

 20.3%

 43.2%

 36.5%

 9.9%

 38.3%

 51.8%

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

 29.7%

 52.7%

 17.6%

 22.2%

 50.6%

 27.2%

“Survey results over the past four months indicate a positive and steady increase in economic outlook.” said Raggio. “With the move to Phase 3 on July 1, companies will have more opportunity to participate in the recovery.”

“The dramatic rebound of this index, from minus 18 to plus 54, reflects the nature of these entrepreneurs,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of VACEOs. “CEOs of small and mid-sized Virginia businesses have been resilient and creative in adapting to a tremendously difficult business environment. We certainly are not out of the woods yet, but these data are a good sign.” 

“These positive results are very welcome news at a time when stress from the continuing uncertainty is taking a toll on employees and business owners,” said Mickey Quiñones, dean of the Robins School. “They show that the hard work and sacrifices being made by many are making a difference in the performance of Virginia businesses.” 

Economic Outlook Index

Survey Date

CEO Economic Outlook Index

Q2 2020

50.43

May 2020

26.2

April 2020

-1.33

Q1 2020

-18.73

Q4 2019

101.47

Q3 2019

86.33

Q2 2019

94.13

Q1 2019

100.5

Q4 2018

97.97

Q3 2018

104.3

Q2 2018

92.73

Q1 2018

94.6

Q4 2017

106.3

Q3 2017

99.17

Q2 2017

103.63

Q1 2017

108.97*

Q4 2016

107.37

Q3 2016

89.67

Q2 2016

89

Q1 2016

102

Q4 2015

92.67

Q3 2015

99.8

Q2 2015

93.42

Q1 2015

93.9

Q4 2014

95.92

Q3 2014

96.1

Q2 2014

88.71

Q1 2014

86.07

Q4 2013

89.57

Q3 2013

92.53

Q2 2013

91.6

Q1 2013

86.4

Q4 2012

77.57

Q3 2012

81.17

Q2 2012

81.13

Q1 2012

94.1

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

* Record high

Eighty-two CEOs responded to the survey, which was administered June 23-28. Multiple industries are represented in the sample, including construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and retail. The average company whose CEO responded to this survey had about $12.8 million in revenue for the most recent 12-month period. The average employment was about 53.

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 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 235 CEO members, mainly in Richmond and Charlottesville. Learn more at www.vaceos.org.

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 MBA program #2 in Virginia. The school’s executive education division offers customized training and consulting to area businesses.

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