Private Company View: The Anxious Optimist in the Corner Office

21st CEO Survey

722 private company CEO’s interviewed / 85 countries

Operating in a world of growing complexity and wide-ranging risks, private-company CEOs are freer to operate with a degree of agility, flexibility, and pragmatism than many of their counterparts at public companies. However, cyber threats, global market uncertainty and a shortage of digital talent are still key concerns for private-company CEOs. Despite these concerns, CEOs are optimistic about the future.

What are private company CEOs thinking about?

Cyber threats

Cyber threats are one of the largest concerns for private-company CEOs, with 39% citing cyber threats as the leading threat facing their organisation, followed closely by the scarcity of key skills to mitigate those risks.  Although private-company CEOs see how digital technologies offer their companies new opportunities, they also see how it creates new threats and wonder if they are prepared for the changes to come. However, this isn’t a concern for all private-company CEOs as only 32% of CEOs of family-run companies see cyber threats as a leading concern.

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Shortage of digital talent

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of private-company CEOs are concerned about the availability of digital talent amongst their workforce, and 50% say it is very or somewhat difficult to attract digital talent. In particular, an even larger percentage - 57% - of CEOs of family-owned companies say attracting digital talent is very or somewhat difficult, in contrast to only 48% of private equity-backed companies who report similar levels of difficulty.

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Building trust and transparency

Private-company CEOs tend to rank highly on feeling the need to build trust between their senior leadership and their organisation’s workforce, and only 19% agree that such trust is declining at their organisations, compared with 20% of public company CEOs. Yet private companies trail publicly listed companies in actually measuring that trust, with 68% doing such measurement, compared with 74% of publicly listed companies overall.

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“Private companies that currently lag their public counterparts in attracting digital talent need to take note of this deficit if they want to drive innovation, improve decision making, enhance customer experiences, and create better business models.”

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In conclusion

Despite these challenges and concerns, most private companies, including family businesses, expect near-term growth amid strengthening macroeconomic fundamentals, increasing consumer spending, and, in many jurisdictions, loosening regulation. Promising new markets beckon, increased profitability frees up new funds for capital investments, and new technologies can enable better communication and greater efficiency.


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Sabrina Fitzgerald

Sabrina Fitzgerald

National Private Company Services Leader and National Capital Region Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 613 898 2113

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