February 2017: Are CEOs Getting Nervous?

CEO confidence dropped a nominal 1.1% in February 2017 after a three-month rise.

Is it a blip or the start of a trend? Only time will tell, but after a solid three-month incline (November-January), CEOs’ confidence about overall future business conditions (12 months from now) seems to have flattened out compared with the three months after Donald Trump was elected. February’s 6.99 rating is a slight 1.1% drop from January’s 7.07, on a 10-point scale with 10 being the highest.

Concerns are starting to rise to the surface. One CEO told ChiefExecutive.net “I believe that the new president and cabinet will create an unstable business and economic climate for the foreseeable future. The outcome will likely be negative for world trade, and for the U.S. economy as well.”

Another said, “The uncertainty associated with the administration’s “tweets” and its radical and arrogant approach to matters (I am paraphrasing, “like it or leave”, “it is what it is”, “get used to it” do not inspire me and others to be confident about the future. And then, there is the issue of a totally inexperienced president who appears to want to operate as if he is a “dictator”. I think all of these actions and others as well bode very seriously on our economic future.”

Even some of his supporters are beginning to worry. “Very supportive of making America great again,” still another said, “but concerned about a blanket nuclear policy that will have unintended consequences, therefore cautious about how this policy will be implemented, particularly if there is not a good understanding of how it will impact businesses that will make America great again.”

12 Months Out - February

Mid-market business leaders, however, continue to have a strong outlook, with a rating of 7.2, compared to just 6.6 for their larger counterparts, and 6.8 for leaders of small businesses.

Revenue growth looks positive for the future

Despite their worries, CEOs still are forecasting a good year. Fully 84.4% of respondents anticipate revenue growth over the next 12 months. Of that, 45.7% expect revenues to increase between 1 and 9.9%, 25.7% expect growth of 10% to 19.9%, and 13.0% expect growth over 20%.

Revenue Chart

Three industries—pharmaceuticals/medical products, consumer goods manufacturing and real estate—reported the highest overall revenue expectations, with 100% of respondents in these categories projecting at least some revenue growth. Of all sectors, however, it’s the high tech industry that anticipates the highest revenue growth, with 35.5% of respondents projecting growth above 20% within 12 months, followed by healthcare with 25.5% and real estate, with 20.0% projecting revenue gains of more than 20%.

The government/nonprofit industry anticipated the most reductions in revenue, with 40.0% of respondents saying they expect revenue to go down (20.0% said less than 10% and 20.0% between 10% and 19.9%). This is followed by the transportation/rail industry with 33.3% saying they anticipate a reduction of less than 10% in revenue by the end of the year. Twenty-five percent of respondents in the healthcare and advertising/marketing/entertainment/media industries said the same.

Those who anticipate revenue growth are likely expecting to benefit from reductions of tax regulations and renegotiated trade agreements, while those who anticipate lower revenues may be anticipating a setback from the elimination of existing trade agreements, among other issues.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    We are in a period of rapid change. Customer needs, technologies, competitors and internal capabilities require companies to review and update their strategies for the new realities. In this workshop, strategy experts Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison will show you a systematic approach to strategic planning to help you refine or redefine your business strategy and approach including:

    • Learn what you need to know to develop an effective strategic plan. Put the right players on the strategic planning team.
    • Develop strategies that leverage your company’s unique position in the marketplace. Lift your management team beyond “business as usual” thought processes and activities.
    • Translate your strategies into action. Achieve your vision for success and generate superior financial results.
    • Identify exactly what you need to do now to position your company for future success.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.