Business Operations

5 critical challenges CEOs must overcome in 2024

Business leaders are inching through a sluggish economy. We’ve traded pandemic-era volatility for relative stability, though at historically low levels. Growth is forecasted to accelerate in 2025, but CEOs and business owners must first traverse 2024, which won’t be easy.

With growth waiting on the other side, Vistage’s recent research has uncovered the following top five CEO challenges as we move through 2024:

1. Economic Uncertainty

The economic landscape spurred widespread concern in 2023, keeping Vistage’s quarterly pulse of CEO sentiment suppressed to levels largely not seen since 2010. We can expect more of the same in 2024.

Interest rates have peaked but are still at 30-year highs. Inflation is starting to trend downwards, but prices are still 15% above where they were. And whether we are in, entering, or soft landing from a recession remains unclear. This persistent uncertainty will keep CEOs on edge until growth resumes at full speed in 2025.

2. Access to capital

Capital and credit have become markedly more difficult to access since the onset of COVID-19 nearly four years ago, with little expectation it will improve in 2024.

However, the waning volatility and subsequent economic lull will allow leaders to focus on financial management and planning for the first time in several years. And since we know a growth cycle is right around the corner, it will be critical for CEOs to ensure their businesses are ready to ride that rising tide when it arrives.

3. Leadership and management challenges

CEOs cited leadership management training and succession planning as two of their most pressing challenges. That concern is mainly due to their recognition that we’re moving into the early stages of the next growth cycle, which will carry us for the next four to five years.

As leaders look ahead, they are considering how to ramp up their headcount to handle this acceleration and progress their current team up the ranks. Further, nearly 50% of CEOs plan to either make an acquisition or sell their business between now and 2029, according to the Q3 2024 Vistage CEO Confidence Index. This revelation makes succession planning particularly timely for those looking to make a significant change in the next 5-6 years.

4. Talent management and workforce issues

While the labor market has softened somewhat in recent months, unemployment remains at near-bottom lows, leaving hiring and retention at the top of CEOs’ challenges. Workforce development continues to be a critical component, not just to productivity but to retention. And there’s a new issue now — remote and hybrid teams — an entirely new consideration for many managers.

Further, they must navigate rapidly changing dynamics as Gen Z enters the workforce, Gen X and millennials rise the ranks, and boomers phase out and begin to enter retirement, creating an increasingly digital-first environment. A rush for talent will re-emerge as the growth cycle kicks off. According to Vistage research, 56% of CEOs plan on increasing headcount in the year ahead; that number will balloon as the next growth cycle takes off.

5. The impact of technology

Artificial intelligence was the buzzword of 2023, but companies are making incremental progress on adoption on an organizational level.

However, incorporating AI can be particularly tricky for small to midsize businesses lacking the staff and resources to invest in testing AI and designating specialists. These businesses will have to rely on the gains made by individual contributors testing new tools and finding ways to harness AI to enhance their productivity.

Most of the major challenges that lie ahead in 2024 are persistent. And they are increasingly difficult in the context of a stabilizing yet slightly slowing economy as we prepare for the economy to rev back up in 2025. Those CEOs seeking opportunity in these challenges will best position their teams to ride the growth wave of 2025.

This article 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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