New York, Aug. 5, 2014 – Fifty-nine percent of private-company leaders are optimistic about U.S. economic prospects for the next 12 months, according to PwC US’s latest Trendsetter Barometer.® Indeed, the majority of these executives have felt upbeat about the domestic economy for a full year and a half. This confidence is translating into plans for major capital spending projects by more than one-third (36 percent) of Trendsetter companies, the highest number in over two years. The majority (56 percent) of survey respondents also plan to hire in the next 12 months, though in moderation.
Private companies that sell abroad are feeling positive as well. An overwhelming majority (92 percent) believe that the world economy is either growing or staying the same. Only 8 percent of these companies ̶ the lowest percentage in years ̶ describe the global economy as slowing.
“Despite the United States’ weak GDP performance early this year, private businesses see resilience in the economic recovery, both at home and globally,” says Rich Stovsky, U.S. leader of PwC’s Private Company Services practice. “This confidence is evident in the survey respondents’ strong revenue growth projections, which they put at over 8 percent for the next 12 months, with more than one-third of them expecting double-digit growth during that period.”
Capital Spending Is Climbing
Private-company leaders say they plan to invest an average of 8.4 percent of their sales in capital projects over the next twelve months, signaling a real bet on long-term growth. Just once in the past several years have we seen so high a level of spending commitment (10 percent in 3Q13). “During the economic downturn, we saw opportunistic companies invest strategically in capital projects to gain a competitive edge and spur faster growth,” says Ken Esch, a partner in PwC’s Private Company Services practice. “Now that the economy has stabilized, many of their peers are playing catch-up, investing in deferred maintenance, infrastructure upgrades, and emerging technologies to enhance their own growth.”
In asking a subset of private-company leaders about their technology investments, the survey found the following:
Meanwhile, the number or private companies voicing concern about headwinds continues to decline for the most part. Lack of demand still looms largest among private companies’ anticipated barriers to growth (cited by 59 percent of companies), but less so than a year ago, dropping six points. The biggest declines were in the number of companies registering concern about legislative/regulatory pressures (42 percent of companies voiced this, down 13 points from a year ago) and increased taxation (22 percent of companies, down 15 points).
Private Companies Seek Talent through New Business Initiatives
Finding qualified workers continues to challenge private companies, with nearly one-third (32 percent) of the survey respondents citing this as a barrier to growth. And so although a healthy 56 percent of Trendsetter private companies say they’ll add employees in the coming year, they intend to do so conservatively, planning to increase their headcount by just 1.8 percent as they continue to search for the right people with the right skills – at the right place and cost
The search for skilled workers is affecting more than just private companies’ HR policies. It’s influencing a variety of business initiatives, too. For instance, when geographically expanding Trendsetter businesses were asked why they’re heading into new U.S. markets, they said that tapping a better skills base was their top reason. They reported much the same when asked why they’re pursuing M&A, joint ventures, and strategic alliances – 54 percent said their chief objective was to access skilled employees.
“The survey results remind us that workforce planning needs to be tied closely to a company’s business objectives,” says Esch. “The overall number of anticipated hires may be small, but if the vacancies are for critical roles? An inability to fill those could quickly turn into a growth obstacle for businesses.”
Additional Survey Findings
About PwC's Private Company Trendsetter Barometer
Each quarter, PwC's Trendsetter Barometer® tracks the business issues and best practices of America’s leading privately held businesses. This quarter's report incorporates the views of 205 C-suite officers (CEOs/CFOs): 118 from companies in the product sector and 87 in the service sector, averaging $355 million in revenue/sales, and including large, $500M-plus private companies.
About PwC's Private Company Services Practice
Located in all major US markets, PwC’s Private Company Services (PCS) is a national practice comprised of more than 170 partners who provide customized tax, audit and advisory services to private companies, their owners and high net worth individuals. More than 60 percent of America’s largest private companies are PCS clients* They span a broad scope of sectors and industries ranging from manufacturing to retail to industrial to professional services.
A hallmark of PCS is a robust thought leadership program that provides clients with timely, thought-provoking information to help manage and grow their businesses and wealth.
Visit us online at pwc.com/us/pcs.
* Forbes 2013 List of America's Largest Private Companies
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