Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

What are Indiana business leaders thinking?

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010

By Amy Zucker, President and Founder of Synergy Marketing Group Inc.

As part of this effort, I recently surveyed 20 Indiana executives and asked them to share their concerns about 2011 and inquired about changes they plan to institute to affect positive change within their organizations. The response was overwhelming, surprising and encouraging.

Typically when you send out any type of survey, you expect a low response rate. That’s why I was so surprised when I reached out to 20 Indiana business decision makers and asked them to share their fears about the new year and their plans to make changes to achieve their business goals. Nearly everyone I queried responded back – almost immediately! I was surprised by their speedy and thoughtful responses. These executives seemed eager and relieved to share their concerns and their ideas. My poll included both men and women, a mix of business owners and executive-level staff at companies of all sizes across a variety of industries.

As I reviewed their responses I found three common themes: all of the respondents are/have recently become actively involved in the day-to-day operation of the business, all of the respondents are focused on getting back to the basics and they are all extremely optimistic about the future. The responses demonstrate that these executives have no problem getting their hands dirty to make an impact on the bottom line. Everyone is keeping their expectations realistic versus setting lofty goals as we’ve seen in other economic times. Also, all of the respondents expressed a clear vision for achieving success, despite the economy.

So, what are the top concerns among Indiana’s business executives?
1. With Indiana’s unemployment rate hovering around 9.5%, I was surprised that “recruiting qualified talent” was the number one concern among respondents. Once I delved deeper into this response, I learned that because business leaders have gotten so actively involved in daily operations, they don’t have the time to find, interview and train new employees. Interestingly, these executives want to be personally involved in this HR process and are hesitant to delegate it to others.
2. The second most common concern among respondents was two-fold: healthcare reform and tax increases. The executives are extremely worried about how these two issues will affect overhead and operational costs. While some are in a “wait and see” mode, most are prepared to roll with the punches and proceed with plans despite an anticipated increase in the cost to do business.
3. Managing cash flow was another commonly stated concern among respondents. Many executives shared that they are personally watching their accounts payables (AP) and aging reports on a daily basis – something they haven’t had to do in nearly a decade. Similarly, many respondents shared their challenges in finding the capital necessary to stay competitive and continue to invest in the growth of the business.
4. Waning buyer confidence was a repeated concern. Most of the responding executives report that lead generation is falling far behind last year and the sales cycle is more protracted than ever before. They say that companies are delaying purchasing decisions or forgoing new products, services and vendors altogether.
5. While it wasn’t the most dominant theme among respondents, managing growth, was mentioned in several survey responses. Surprisingly many executives aren’t worried about generating leads or maintaining revenue, they are focused on putting the people, processes and infrastructure in place to accommodate growth and maintain customer satisfaction.

While survey feedback highlighted a formidable list of valid concerns, the respondents just as candidly shared their plans for change. Most of them seemed confident about 2011, conveyed that they plan to be “bullish” and articulated a very clear vision for how they expect to affect improvement in their organizations. Their top ideas for change include:
1. Paying off debt was listed as one of the most common improvement strategies for 2011. Many respondents reported that they plan to get the company back on solid financial footing in order to ride out continued corrections and shifts in the economy and marketplace.
2. Targeting underserved markets was the second most common theme for improving the new year. Respondents acknowledged that just a few years ago, they would not have pursued extremely niche opportunities, but today these small sectors look attractive due to ease of penetration and the potential to quickly and affordably dominate these micro markets.
3. Pursuing and renewing certifications was another idea for improvement in 2011. Respondents reported that industry accreditations will be worth the time and investment because they will open up new opportunities and make them more marketable and competitive.
4. An interesting idea that emerged several times was providing more mentoring to staff. Executives want to ensure that the principles and skills that originally made the company successful are taught, mastered and embraced by the organization’s current generation. This is a great example of getting back to the basics.
5. Another recurring theme included a strategy for avoiding the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon that can result in lost revenue. According to the poll, several executives plan to increase marketing, communication and relationship-building efforts to improve visibility and credibility among customers, prospects, partners, referral sources and the business community.

If you want to know what an Indiana business leader thinks, just ask. Based on the eager and thoughtful responses I received, Hoosier executives have strong opinions and even stronger convictions. This poll proved that despite a down economy, Indiana breeds resilience, loyalty, hard work and optimism. Our state’s business leaders are in it for the long haul, they have a fiercely entrepreneurial spirit and they are survivors. They care about their business, employees and clients – and they won’t sacrifice ethics or standards for anything.