Middle-Market Senior Executives Optimistic About Economy

According to a survey by global accounting firm Grant Thornton and Wirthlin Worldwide, eight out of 10 (79%) U.S. middle-market companies are optimistic about the future of their business over the next six months, and half plan to increase hiring.

“To survive and thrive in the current economic climate, middle-market businesses are tightening their belts and getting back to basics,” says John Desmond, partner-in-charge of the Grant Thornton Business Owners Council and the firm’s Long Island, N.Y., office. “With clear goals set for the future, these business leaders are preparing for business growth -- both financial and headcount.”

Additional findings of the Grant Thornton Survey of Middle-Market Business Leaders include:

• 84% are optimistic about the growth of their business over the next 12 months.

• 54% expect their business’ growth to be organic, 17% predict growth through a joint venture/strategic alliance, 16% by acquisition, and 4% by merger.

• 50% expect to hire more employees over the next six months, with only 7% expecting to reduce workforce.

• 73% approve of President Bush’s performance.

The planning paradigm is changing among middle-market business leaders. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents have changed their approach to business planning in the past year. Three-quarters (76 percent) report a change in planning priorities, 61 percent are shifting the balance between short- and long-term planning, and 60 percent have changed their planning process, including who is involved and the timeframe.

“It can be difficult for executives today to predict what the future holds for their businesses and the marketplace,” says Desmond. “This unpredictability has affected, and continues to shape, middle-market companies’ planning approach, process, and timeframe.”

The Grant Thornton Business Owners Council currently consists of 33 leading business owners and senior executives who meet twice a year to discuss emerging issue affecting the growth and profitability of middle-market companies. At each meeting, a topic is identified that is further explored through the Survey of Middle-Market Business Leaders.

The biannual Grant Thornton Survey of Middle-Market Business Leaders is conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, an independent market research firm. Telephone interviews were completed with 316 business leaders and senior executives across four industry sectors: technology, consumer and industrial products, services and other companies with annual revenues between $20 million and $1 billion.

To request a copy of the survey report, visit Grant Thornton’s Web site at www.grantthornton.com/boc.

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