Survey shows optimism among local CEOs

The top managers of local small businesses are optimistic about sales and hiring over the next six months, according to a survey.

About 75 percent of chief executive officers for small- to medium-sized companies who responded said they expect their sales to grow in the next six months, according to the fourth-quarter survey performed by the Virginia Council of CEOs and the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business.

That was up from 69 percent of CEOs who said they expected to see higher sales over the next six months in the previous survey, conducted during the third quarter.

About 30 percent of the respondents said they expect revenue to grow by 11 percent or more.

“All signs are pointing toward a strong 2015 for small business in Virginia,” said Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs.

A majority of executives surveyed — about 53 percent — said they expect to hire more employees in the next six months. That was down from the 58 percent who expected more hiring in the third-quarter survey. Less than 2 percent said they expect to cut employment, while 45 percent said they expect no change in staffing.

For the third straight quarter, the CEOs said that finding, hiring and retaining talent is a significant concern. In the most recent survey, about 66 percent described that as a concern, down from 78 percent in the previous survey.

About 75 percent of CEOs said they would expect their sales to grow by more than 11 percent with better talent acquisition.

The survey showed a decline in the number of CEOs expecting to increase capital spending in the next six months. About 34 percent said they expect to make more investments, down from almost 42 percent in the third-quarter survey.

The Council of CEOs and the Robins School collected responses from 62 CEOs in central Virginia in industries including construction, manufacturing, retail, finance and insurance.

The median number of employees for companies that responded was 25, meaning half employ more and half employ fewer, and the median annual company revenue was $4.5 million.

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