For months now, economic prognosticators have been sending mixed signals on the potential global economic recovery. Recent stock market volatility has only added to this uncertainty. Yet, a new Saugatuck-BusinessWeek study of more than 400 global C-level executives  shows clear signs that most businesses are optimistic about economic growth.

The study, Shifting C-Level Business Priorities as the Recovery Takes Hold, boldly states that “…we are solidly entering a new business cycle: expansion after the tough 2008/2009 meltdown.” This conclusion was fueled by the majority of CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, and CMOs surveyed who have made “Sales/Revenue Growth” and “Reaching New Customers” their companies’ top priorities, followed closely by “Increasing Market Share.”

Such sentiment is in stark contrast to the past two years when “decrease operational expense” — including cutting headcount — was job #1 for most top executives. Yet, there is evidence that most businesses are still cost-conscious, as execs kept “Increase Profit Margins” among their top priorities (see below figure)

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Despite the generally optimistic report, researchers careful to point out that, while “growing C-level confidence and commitment that [they] can again drive the top line,” there are nuances to the recovery:

  • Global GDP is expected to climb 3.1% this year and another 3.3% in 2011, reversing two years of decline.
  • The rebound will be led by Asia and Latin America, fueled by hyper domestic demand and growing exports.
  • The US economy has entered a phase of sustainable — albeit tempered — growth, with hiring and housing both expected to rise. Growth in the States will be fueled by continued business investments in industrial equipment and technology, predominantly to replace or upgrade outdated software or IT equipment.
  • Unfortunately, Europe lags the rest of the global economy, with current growth supported by inventory replacement and government stimulus.

Upshot: While it’s not full-steam ahead, C-level execs are cautiously optimistic about the recovery. They will be looking to make calculated investments and strategies to drive profitable growth. We will examine the key strategies C-level execs have planned for growth in a future post. In the interim, access a complimentary copy of the Saugatuck-BusinessWeek study here.

Related Post: C-Level Executives: Four Strategies for Growth