Growth prospects for 2013 have fallen among 1,330 CEOs surveyed by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Continuing uncertainty about global economic growth weighed on the minds of 81% of the CEOs included in the survey. Other concerns include government responses to fiscal deficit (71%), over-regulation (69%), and lack of stability in capital markets (61%).
Major threats to business growth, according to the CEOs, are an increasing tax burden (62%), availability of key skills (58%), and the cost of energy and raw materials (52%).
The top investment priority is improving operational effectiveness, where 77% of CEOs have followed some kind of cost reduction program in the past 12 months, with 70% planning to do so in the next 12 months.
Interestingly, 48% have increased headcount in the past year, while 25% have kept headcount the same. Only 45% of CEOs plan to increase headcount in 2013, down from 51% in 2012. Some 23% plan to reduce headcount.
Along with better operational effectiveness and more targeted investment, CEOs expect their companies to become more customer-centric. Nearly half of CEOs see shifts in customer buying patterns as a serious threat in 2013 and 51% said their focus for the next 12 months would be growing their customer base. The survey indicated that 82% of CEOs expect to make changes to their customer growth and retention strategies during the year. Nearly a third expect to make major changes in these strategies.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey results are available here.