September 13, 2019

The Great Unknown

The Great Unknown

Uncertainty. If I had to describe the number one challenge business leaders are facing right now, that’s got to be at the top of the list.

This came through loud and clear in our latest Marcum LLP-Hofstra University CEO Survey released earlier this week. It includes input from 258 CEOs across all sectors.

The CEOs were almost equally divided on some big issues. When it came to whether current trade policies were helping the U.S., 46% said yes – while 43% said no. And when asked if these policies are benefiting their businesses, 35.7% yes, while 31.8% said their business was being harmed and 27.1% said they were unaffected.

It doesn’t surprise me their responses are split and so closely. Some businesses have closer ties to the global economy than others. If you’re selling to our trading partners and they can’t afford to buy your goods and services, you’re going to be hurting. And if you’re buying supplies from overseas, and the prices are going up, you’re going to be feeling the pinch, too. Very local businesses may be more insulated.

Still, uncertainty is never good for business. Businesses thrive when things are forecastable. When leaders feel confident they know what’s coming down the pike, they feel good about investing in growth and hiring. When they don’t know what’s around the corner, they’re less likely to break out their checkbooks and are more likely to conserve capital in anticipation of a rainy day.

Some people have been asking me if I think we’re heading into a recession. The short answer is no one knows. The economy is cyclical, but sometimes speculating about something can turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One very positive sign is that CEOs still feel good about the economy. Seven out of 10 CEOs rated their outlook an “8” or higher on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest. That’s up from 64% in the previous survey in January 2019.

And many companies seem to be planning on spending that will help their growth – with 67% of respondents saying technology is a top tier priority. That makes sense in today’s business environment, where you’ve got to innovate to win. As regular readers of this column know, I’m a big believer in investing in technology at Marcum, and we’ll continue to do that in the year to come.

What the future holds for our Firm is about to be front and center for our associates across the country. Next week kicks off our annual State of the Firm meetings where our senior management team travels to every Marcum market to discuss how things are going at the Firm and where Marcum is heading. This year’s meetings start Tuesday in South Florida, and then it’s on to Chicago on Wednesday. The following week has us in Nashville, Houston, LA & San Francisco. The lineup caps off in New York at the end of October, by which time we will have made our presentation eight times. Hopefully, we should have it down pat by then.

State of the Firm is just one focus of our annual event season – when several of our industry groups do a deep dive into their respective subjects to bring new insights to our clients and others in a series of forums and conferences around the U.S. We’ve got a lineup this year that’s truly packed with interesting events like the Marcum Government Symposium (now celebrating its 25th anniversary), the Marcum Women’s Forum, the Real Estate Summit and the Construction Summit. (You can see our calendar here). If you’re coming to any of the events I’ll be a part of, I hope we’ll have a chance to say hello.

In the middle of all this, of course, our tax team will be busy helping clients meet the October 15 deadline for C corps, sole proprietorships and LLCs on tax extension. And then the holidays will be upon us once again. Which means the annual Marcum Day of Service is just around the corner. More on that later.

For now, have a great weekend everybody!