For most of 2020, CEOs focused their energy and resources on their response to the COVID-19-bred business operations emergency. Those that could repurposed operations and supply chains to provide needed supplies and services: Clothing manufacturers made masks and PPE; chemical companies made hand sanitizer; transportation companies rerouted ships and airplanes to deliver ventilators. But now CEOs are looking ahead.
“CEOs are betting that mass vaccination programs will thwart the virus in many regions through the middle of 2021, leading to something of an economic boom,” says Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “The majority have been anticipating a fast, sharp recovery and are already making moves to take advantage.”
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The 2021 Gartner CEO Survey captured responses from 465 business leaders from more than 30 countries. Conducted annually for more than 10 years, the CEO survey examines the business attitudes and priorities that are top of mind for business leaders.
Despite the severe disruption so many faced in 2020, the focus on growth remained unchanged from previous years, although with the following shifts.
Shift No. 1: CEOs look to new markets for growth opportunities
Sixty percent of CEOs expect their firm’s revenue to be back to 2019 levels by the end of 2021, and another 30% expect resurgence by 2022. Only 10% think they will need longer to recover.
More than half of respondents are backing up that optimism by naming growth as a top three business priority. Fewer CEOs than last year, however, expect new opportunities to come through old mechanisms, like simple, incremental sales revenue growth.
They are instead looking to new markets as the source for opportunities — with the caveat that “new markets” appears to focus on segments or adjacent fields. Large geographic leaps aren’t high on the agenda: The majority of leaders of North American, European and Asian companies name their own regions as their primary source of opportunities.