Top executives are bullish on 2019, but don’t know why

An excerpt from AXIOS.

Top executives say American companies will continue to grow in 2019, but expect the things that drive growth will slow, a new UBS survey of top corporate officers at 500 companies shows.

What it means: Relative to their positions less than a year earlier, UBS’s equity strategists found that responses for each of the 7 underlying drivers of profits turned less positive in this survey.

What they’re saying: 69% of CEOs and CFOs surveyed in December expected sales growth to accelerate in 2019, up from 61% in May. And 68% expected profit margins to expand, up 4% since May.

On the other hand: Net positive responses for demand and pricing fell by about 10 percentage points from their May levels.

  • Further, 17% of respondents expect labor costs to be a headwind, up from 14% in May and from 10% in November 2017.
  • Raw material cost concerns also rose, with 16% expecting a negative impact, up 5% from May.
  • Interest rates are expected to be less accommodative, with just 32% of executives saying it would be a net positive, down from 49% in May.

Still: “As investor concerns about growth have risen, only 20% of CEOs/CFOs expect a slowdown in sales growth, down from 26%, and just 7% expect a significant slowdown,” UBS analysts noted in the release.

Situational awareness: Businesses that plan for market slowdowns, possible downturns, uncertainty and volatility typically increase their capability to adapt and thrive under changing market conditions.

There’s nothing quite like a pressure-tested, solid strategy that is backed by a determined, aligned team. Grit, perseverance and financial foresight are competitive advantages to ensuring a business can weather storms. But, as the saying goes, timing can be everything.

How should businesses plan smartly to ensure they are adequately prepared to meet increased market volatility and well positioned to capture business opportunities in 2019?

Here are three fundamental business practices to consider and master (Wash. Rinse. Repeat.):

  • Prepare your strategy (Wash). Proactively plan to manage risks. Increase savings and realize its best not to cut back spending on the important innovations, team trainings and initiatives that will take you into the future. Consider and have a Plan A, Plan B, etc. in place to be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Assess and evaluate structures (Rinse). Get crystal clear on your strategy, goals and objectives. Then, prepare to adjust. Be open. Revise short-term objectives – hedging your bets and diversifying your customer/client base along the way – to ensure the business can focus and carry out your plans to successfully execute on long-term objectives.
  • Gauge the possible impacts (Repeat). Do industry research and competitive analysis. What’s happened during previous economic downturns? Understanding what unique demands your industry may have previously faced can present and provide new opportunities. Consider how to pursue, develop and offer new products/services. It could ultimately be a game-changer.

Remember, although bear markets are painful, but they are temporary. Our economy grows and shrinks in response to thousands of independent variables. Recent business experience suggests that ultimately, a solid strategy is made stronger when it is both strategic and adaptable.

Transform specializes in helping teams move forward, together. Let’s set time to talk about how to make it happen for you and your team.

Sources: Axios Markets (2/8/19 edition); UBS