February 19, 2021

Inching Ahead

Inching Ahead

There’s no sugar coating it: It’s been a rough ride for middle-market companies since COVID-19 struck last March. But the most recent Marcum-Hofstra CEO Survey, issued last week, found that many leaders are more optimistic about the economy than they were in the fourth quarter of 2020. Nearly half have a positive outlook, compared to about 35% in the fall. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re seeing progress on many fronts, and that’s a good sign.

Undoubtedly, the vaccine rollout is making a real difference. Hopefully, as health officials continue to nail down the logistics the way they did with testing, we’ll see even greater progress. The sooner people feel safe being in public and returning to their pre-pandemic activities, the more quickly companies will be able to move forward and back into growth mode.

Not surprisingly, many CEOs – 60% – said they will require on-site employees to be vaccinated, once vaccines become widely available. The EEOC has already recognized this with a guidance that indicates that, in most cases, employers can require employees to get vaccinated, though there are exemptions. Time will tell how this plays out in the end, but it looks like a majority of our respondents are banking on it.

Another thing that stood out for me is how important government stimulus packages have been for many of the companies we serve. A whopping 78% of respondents said the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan is necessary for the recovery of the American economy in the coming year. Many anticipate a direct benefit, with 42% saying the plan will let them operate at full capacity and 32% saying it will allow them to work at reduced capacity. Only 14% said it would have little impact because it was not likely to be sufficient and just 15% said it would not affect them much because the pandemic has not had a big effect on their business.

Given these findings, many of our CEO respondents believe the next round of stimulus will play a vital role in the recovery of the economy in the coming year. It’s going to be critical to get cash flowing, to both businesses and consumers. But any stimulus is a temporary solution.

We need the economy to fully reopen for the real recovery to begin. There’s no way around that. At this point, we don’t have any time to waste when it comes to vaccinating people, re-opening schools safely, and otherwise allowing the wheels of business to start turning again in earnest. People are simply worn out by prolonged isolation. We all need to get back to normal life as we knew it. Fortunately, that’s a real possibility now, as long as we maintain the will and the stamina to plow through the end of the pandemic – and the snowdrifts that keep piling up. Let’s keep the faith that there’ll be an end to both in sight soon.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and remember, we’re all in this together.

P.S. I am proud and delighted to report that the Marcum Foundation recently made the largest gift in our history. Combining the proceeds of our inaugural charity golf outing (although we didn’t actually get to play thanks to a rainout) with the ongoing support of Marcum associates and partners throughout the year, we were able to contribute $268,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for their critical efforts to treat and prevent childhood cancer and other devastating pediatric diseases. St. Jude is Marcum’s first-ever national charity partner of choice, and we are honored to support this outstanding organization. Click here for a short video of our check presentation.