Business Growth & Strategy

 4 growth strategies CEOs can use now to get ahead 

growth strategies

It’s hard to find growth in a slow economy. According to Vistage research, 50% of CEOs said the U.S. economy is either experiencing or will soon experience a soft economic landing. Nearly the same (46%) say we are either in or will soon be entering a recession. Inflation is slowing, but prices remain much higher than they were. Interest rates have peaked, but they are still at 30-year highs.

And although workforce velocity has slowed, it is still well above pre-pandemic levels. While a growth cycle is imminent, CEOs must first wade through 2024, a year of little-to-no growth alongside economic contradictions.

As business owners and leaders anticipate the rising economic growth tide of 2025, CEOs identified four opportunities they can hone in on to help bridge the gap between today’s economic stagnation and the acceleration that lies ahead.

1. Continue to prioritize talent

Despite the plethora of headlines announcing layoffs in 2023 and early 2024, the overarching labor market is still showing significant strength. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ January 2024 Employment Situation, unemployment kicked off the year at near-bottom lows (3.7%) while job growth soared past analysts’ expectations.

Retention has stabilized compared to the Great Resignation era, but the quit rate is still much higher than the pre-pandemic norm. We’ve entered a “talent truce” where employees are less likely to quit and employers acquiesce to the demands of the modern workforce.

Leaders must continue to keep this status quo to ensure employees don’t immediately jump ship en masse when the economy re-ignites similar to 2021.

2. Operationalize technology

As we think back to when Microsoft Office was first introduced in the workplace, early adopters were able to leverage it as a competitive advantage before it became common knowledge. AI will follow the same path.

According to the Q4 2023 Vistage CEO Confidence Index, at least 20 percent of CEOs are not using or testing AI, while 35 percent are currently testing it, and 17 percent are actively using it for daily operations. Those not dipping a toe into the power of AI are in danger of falling behind the curve.

For small and midsize businesses to drive digital transformation and maximize the benefits of AI at scale, leaders must first empower individual adoption.

Cross-organization implementation will be costly and time-consuming to implement and standardize; for now, business leaders can focus on upskilling and training programs to ensure individual contributors use AI to increase productivity and improve performance.

With the continued emergence of new technologies like AI comes inherent risk. Cybersecurity remains a top threat to business and an alarming 4-in-10 CEOs don’t feel they have an active and up-to-date cyber security strategy.

CEOs must invest in and enforce training programs and security safeguards to mitigate vulnerabilities. Otherwise, CEOs willingly put their most valuable assets — data and the trust of their customers, prospects and employees — at risk.

3. Stay close to customers

While it is always important for CEOs to prioritize their customer relationships, it is particularly critical given today’s economic landscape. Second to none are the insights from understanding customers’ evolving needs and monitoring subtle shifts that signal larger trends.

During a sluggish economy, CEOs need to put their ear to the ground on many things, including pricing. More than half (54%) of CEOs expect their prices to rise next year. However, pricing should be consistently right-sized to align with the overarching marketplace and remain competitive.

Those closest to their customers will also benefit from seeing the first signs of growth (such as a shortened sales cycle and increased order sizes) and be ready to accelerate their operations accordingly.

4. Shore up financial strategies

Almost a quarter (23%) of small and midsize business CEOs surveyed said they plan to exit their business. Of those, more than half plan to do so within the next 5 years. This trend puts valuation — or the understanding of what one’s company is worth in the marketplace — at the forefront.

As any Shark Tank viewer knows, CEOs and business owners often believe their company is valued much higher than it truly is. The valuation must be defendable and objective, and it must consider external factors, such as the geopolitical landscape, lack of access to capital and economic uncertainty. CEOs must seek to uplevel their process for evaluating valuation.

CEOs focusing on these four foundational elements — talent, customer, technology and financials — stand to weather the slow economy in 2024 and position themselves for the forthcoming growth cycle.

This story was first published in Inc.

Related Resources

CEO Projections 2024 Bridging the gap to growth [Webinar on-demand]

Confidence improves as CEOs wait for takeoff [Q4 2023 Vistage CEO Index]

Category : Business Growth & Strategy

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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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