PwC: Trendsetting Firms Focused on Growth, Worker Retention

March 15, 2004 ( - Now that the economy appears to be improving, Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of the nation's fastest growing companies are turning their attention to sales growth and managing expansion.

Thirty-six percent of the 387 CEOs polled by PricewaterhouseCoopers said the most important issue facing their business in the next 12 months is sales growth. This was followed by managing growth/execution (16%) and managing financials (15%), according to the latest reading of the Trendsetter Barometer.

Workforce Management

Key to managing that business growth is management of the workforce, and most trendsetting CEOs (78%) see the retention of their key workers as the top factor their business can plan for. This was followed by flexible business strategies (47%), partnering with others (31%), getting more from IT (26%), increased available funding (23%).

Risk management (20%), expansion in markets outside of the United States (16%) and mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs (15%) rounded out the list of factors business can plan for that will be most critical for success over the next 12 months.

However, once corporate financials were taken care of, 12% of CEO respondents said the most important issue facing their business in the next year is the strength of the economy. Rounding out the list were:

  • Qualified/Skilled employees (9%)
  • Domestic/Foreign (7%)
  • New Product Development (5%)
  • Legislation/Regulation (5%)
  • Productivity/Efficiency (3%)
  • Health-care costs/issues (2%)
  • All other mentions (10%).

Wild Card Factors

CEOs though still see the economic recovery on shaky ground. When asked what the top “wild card” factors that could emerge to derail their business, far and away the greatest factor was weak market demand (77%). “These CEOs continue to be concerned about a possible return of weak market demand for their products and services,” said Calzaretta. “This would suggest that many are still in the early stages of recovery. These worries should abate as a steady pattern of customer re-orders is established.” Other wild cards CEOs are on the alert for include:

  • New government regulations (45%)
  • Rising interest rates (34%)
  • Emergence of new technologies (25%)
  • Rescinded tax cuts (16%)
  • New market or corporate scandals (13%)
  • A stronger dollar (11%)
  • A weaker dollar (9%).

The results differ by company. More service and technology companies cite emergence of new technologies, 30% and 35%, respectively, and a stronger or weaker dollar is more of a wild card in the product sector, and for technology businesses.

The surveyed companies range in size from approximately $5 million to $150 million in revenue/sales.A copy of the barometer can be found at .