Market Trends to Look Out for in the Coming Year
Each year, as part of my work leading Vistage groups, I have the privilege to ask leaders from a range of smaller, mid-sized and larger business about the topics that they are interested to address in the upcoming year. I use this information to plan relevant workshops with expert speakers.
The leaders I work with are CEOs, VPs, directors and COOs who run businesses that range from local (Los Angeles) to national (US) to global. They come from different industries and include both for-profit and non-profit organizations.
Working together, we focus on a specific topic and bring in an expert to work hands-on during the in-person or virtual group workshop. We are very much focused on actionable takeaways and application, not theory.
Cross-Section of Business Leaders Show Common Interests
The first step we take is to brainstorm a range of topics. Then, I follow up with a mini survey asking each leader to select his or her top topics from the brainstormed list, and also to add any additional topics that come to mind.
In July and August of 2022, we developed a starting list. From 20 topics brainstormed, 10 rose to the top for 2023. Since the votes were tied for the 10th spot, there are actually 11 on the list.
- Communication across cultures: by generation, use of emojis and remote communication
- Economy: what to expect for 2023, 2024
- Prepping for growth and managing expenses
- Training and development tools: making external resources worthwhile/formats/goals
- Budgets and operating expenses
- Employee retention
- Legal for mid-sized and smaller businesses: how to avoid issues
- Structure of the business to pay lower taxes
- Succession planning
- Tied: Employee recruiting / Growth strategies
While some of the top selections may seem like evergreen issues, the areas of greatest interest for these leaders changed considerably in the most recent years.
Top 10 Topics for Business Leaders Change Dramatically for 2023
The top 10 list for 2022 topics that was developed in August 2021 provides a point of comparison. At that time, the leaders had a greater focus on business valuation and preparing for sale through acquisition as well as inflation and supply chain.
The top 10 list from 2022 included:
- Selling the company (longer term topic)
- Transition from mid-sized to large organization
- Inflation, supply chain and pricing
- Owner/founder dependency and financial valuation
- Emotional intelligence and self-awareness
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Alignment between PE firm, sponsor and operator
- Employee Retention
- Why companies die: all the risk
In comparing the 2023 list with 2022’s top topics, one clear point of continuity is employee retention.
Employee Retention is an Ongoing Market Trend
Retention also made the list of topics of interest in 2020 and 2021, along with recruiting, culture, values, mission and vision, and marketing.
Topics of interest in 2020 and 2021 in alphabetical order (not ranked) were:
- Career pathing for key employees
- Employee recruitment/hiring
- Employee retention: keeping staff and long-term employees to stay
- Financial key metrics
- KPIs and goals
- Millennial values and motivations
- Time management
- Vision, mission and values
Vistage Speakers and Market Trends
After identifying topics, the next step in the process that I follow is to identify relevant expert speakers for 2023. These are people who are qualified by Vistage to work with its members and chairs in two- to three-hour workshops.
To do this, I enter a search term into the Vistage speaker database, e.g., succession planning.
To give a sense of the choices, my recent Vistage speaker search found 47 presentations on cross-cultural communication, 51 on remote communication, 107 on succession planning, 59 on the economy, 131 on taxes, 248 on employee retention, and 210 on managing expenses.
Vistage has over 1,000 qualified expert speakers as resources to draw upon. Since Vistage makes a practice of surveying members after each meeting, there is a lot of information.
Quantitative and Qualitative Speaker Reviews
Quantitative ratings included from member surveys of each presentation include:
- the percentage of members who recommend
- the quality of the content
- the quality of the delivery
- the applicability
- the number of speaking engagements completed
These surveys ask for detailed verbatim feedback in addition to scoring, so there is a wealth of information to consider. Since Vistage has several types of members, it’s also readily apparent whether the ratings come from emerging leaders, chief executives, key executives or other groups.
Beyond the monthly surveys, Vistage chairs have the option to write additional reviews. When a speaker has multiple chairs who take the time to write an in-depth review, this shows that these chairs felt the speaker really made an impact with their group, above and beyond the typical level. For instance, Kathleen Quinn Votaw has 14 chair reviews, which is a high level of endorsement.
One Vistage Chair, Artie Isaac, invests time to create short videos with interested speakers. In the videos, a speaker will explain his or her workshop. Here is an example of a video with speaker, Adrian Davis.
I also consider ad hoc recommendations from Vistage chairs that I speak with that are not captured in the database.
Narrowing Down Expert Speakers for 2023 Market Trends
For me, this process typically takes six to eight weeks to develop a first set of options. From there, a starting calendar for the year can be developed, which takes into consideration the expert speaker’s availability and interest.
Some highly sought-after Vistage speakers are routinely completely booked for the coming year even before the official start of the booking season, which typically is in September. Fortunately, there are many good options, and the Vistage speaker team continually refreshes and expands the group.
At this point, the 2023 calendar looks to be shaping up well, and we have room for flexibility as new topics emerge.
For readers who are interested in larger sample sizes, the Vistage research team has much data on file, for instance, The WSJ/Vistage Small Business survey in early August 2022 looked at economic trends.