Economic / Future Trends

4 ways CEOs can find growth in a slow economy

Growth In Slow Economy

As we inch closer to 2024, one thing is clear: We must reset our understanding of the economic landscape.

After years of nearly nonexistent inflation and historically low interest rates, we have landed at a higher base level. The sales cycle has lengthened. The labor market–though resilient–has cooled.

As of now, the business community largely shares the sentiment that this period of slowness will persist. We are not yet at the on-ramp to the next growth cycle.

Amid this sluggish economic landscape, one of the most common hurdles to success for leaders has become finding growth.

The following are four best-in-class ways CEOs can uncover opportunities that can move their business forward, despite the overarching slow, low-growth economic backdrop.


1. Customers

It’s critical to remember customers have also experienced the disruptive impacts of heightened inflation and interest rates. Their buying behavior has had to shift as a result of the rising cost of doing business.

Leaders must realign their marketing messaging, outreach strategy, goals, and objectives to best fit customers’ evolving needs. There are no static solutions — particularly in the case of marketing, sales and customer experience.

To find growth, leaders must focus on customers and continue to adapt to meet them where they are, and where they want to go. Keeping customers close should always be at the forefront of strategy, but never more so than in a slowing economy.

2. Acquisitions

All companies are facing the same headwinds in this economic environment.

Therefore, this time period presents a unique opportunity to either: 1) hire a competitor’s best talent, 2) convert a competitor’s customers, or 3) acquire a competitor altogether.

Companies may be more willing to work out a deal due to the extensive challenges they are up against — including difficulties raising capital in the current market.

3. Talent

While the intensity of the talent wars of 2021 has decreased, the importance of employee engagement, and the continued push-and-pull between how people want to work and how organizations want to operate (i.e., the ongoing Return to Office debate), will continue to rattle the employment market for the unforeseen future.

Almost half (48%) of small to midsize business CEOs plan to increase headcount in the year ahead, per recent Vistage data, which is considerably lower than during the red-hot job market of 2021-2022. However, unemployment remains below 4%, and when organizations have made cuts, very few have been in employees or employee-focused programs, such as development, training, benefits or compensation.

Although employees may not have as much power as they did during the height of The Great Resignation, their demands for flexibility continue to hold weight, in part due to leaders learning the true value of having the right team in place during that time period.

Today, forward-thinking CEOs are still focused on slowing workforce velocity and increasing retention, ensuring their teams are ready to go when the growth cycle inevitably picks back up. Across the board, retention strategies will continue to serve a pivotal role in driving growth.

4. Costs

Wages are high, customers are reaching their limit with cost increases, and capital is expensive. As a result, we’ve moved into an environment in which CEOs are deploying the traditional tools of managing costs. Vistage research shows CEOs are delaying capital expenses, negotiating new prices with vendors, and sunsetting unprofitable products and services.

While growth will pick up eventually, we can expect to remain in this sluggish, albeit stable economy in 2024. CEOs who adjust to the new “normal” and use this time to focus on executing on the fundamentals–customers, acquisitions, talent, and costs–will find themselves uniquely positioned to pull to the front and find growth.

This story first appeared in Inc.


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About the Author: Joe Galvin

Joe Galvin is the Chief Research Officer for Vistage Worldwide. Vistage members receive the most credible, data-driven and actionable thought leadership on the strategic issues facing CEOs. Through collaboration with the Vistage community of…

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