Changing CEO Priorities in 2023 - CEO Search - Cowen Partners

      Changing CEO Priorities in 2023

      The past three years have served as a test for even the sturdiest of organizations in ways we couldn’t have possibly dreamed of ten years ago. The widespread panic that began in 2020 resulting from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic tested the mettle of senior leaders, causing them to shut their office doors and move business operations entirely online.

      Other global economic shocks, including strains on the supply chain driven by ongoing lockdowns in China, the sudden outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine, and rising fears of a recession here in the States, have only further put executives to the test. Ever-increasing interest and inflation rates have driven most to tighten down on business expenditures, and we’re waiting to see what the full impact of generative artificial intelligence will be on the future of work. 

      Succinctly, CEOs, over the past three years, have experienced a level of change that has not been seen since World War II, and a brighter future is not yet in sight, as many macroeconomic shocks remain unresolved. Thus, CEOs must remain resilient to future change while protecting their organizations from unexpected harm. 

      To that end, here are a few crucial traits CEOs must adopt for 2023 as we continue to ride the wave of change:

      Adopt an Attitude of Resilience

      You’re no stranger to change if you’ve been an organizational leader since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ve dealt with setbacks, and both you and your company are all the stronger for them. 

      Adapting to unexpected changes, especially when they’re likely to harm the business, is crucial to survival. Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’ve learned to sit down and think things through objectively. A resilient approach allows senior leaders to embrace shifts and setbacks and push forward even when things are at their hardest. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” 

      In today’s business environment, CEOs must adapt quickly and push through unfavorable circumstances. Their actions must be deliberate but quick, and even then, the reaction is only half the battle: Preparation is also critical.

      Therefore, to prepare their organizations for future obstacles, CEOs are wise to review their current operations and ask the following questions:

      • Do I have enough cash on the balance sheet to sustain ongoing company operations if our revenue drops by 20% this year? What if it fell by 40%?
      • What is the most considerable risk to my organization, and how can I mitigate the fallout if the worst comes to fruition?
      • Where can I create more value for my customers that will strengthen my retention rates?
      • Who are my most critical employees, and what are their roles? Do I have a solid backup in place if they leave?
      • Is the company technology up-to-date? Are we protected from cybersecurity risks?
      • Are there any compliance or regulatory risks I need to mitigate?
      • What is the impact on my organization from the current macroeconomic environment? Is there anything I should do to streamline operations further?

      Of course, you can likely come up with dozens of similar questions directly related to your organization. Writing them all down and creating a Catastrophe Plan for each one will force you to consider your options if unfortunate events occur, allowing you to react quickly and forcefully to protect your organization.

      Use Courage to Your Advantage

      Most CEOs looking at the current economy are taking a defensive stance, allowing events to happen around them and then reacting accordingly. However, it is critical not to let opportunities slide by, even during a rocky economic period. Keep an eye on your customer needs, and see where you can improve your products and services to meet them. 

      If you’re currently working on a brand-new product you plan to introduce to the public, don’t hold back simply because you’re uncertain of its reception in the current climate. Assess the risks and act courageously, and you may be surprised at the outcome.

      Similarly, if you’re considering a new merger or acquisition, lean into the challenges and move forward. There’s no reason to wait if you feel it’s the right move for your organization. 

      Be Open to Technology if It Will Add Value to Your Organization

      Whether it’s a new software promising to cut your accounting time in half or a piece of marketing software designed to increase your leads and automate your most mundane tasks, there seems to be a technology-driven solution available for just about any business need these days.

      Technology can certainly enhance your business operations and potentially improve productivity and streamline customer interactions, but before making any major investments, it’s critical to understand the value you’ll obtain from its implementation, if any. Not all software is created equal, and what works for one company may not be suitable for yours.

      As such, CEOs should work closely with their tech leaders to understand the features of new systems and software and how they will impact the business and its current processes. If the investment doesn’t have a positive ROI, poses a potential risk to customers, or won’t significantly improve operations, it isn’t worth purchasing. CEOs should also work to determine whether additional add-ons are necessary. 

      Consider the Company’s Impact on Climate

      There are a slew of new regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions and slowing climate change. Even if your company isn’t in an industry that must comply with these new rules and objectives, you should still pay attention to your organization’s environmental impact. 

      Currently, there’s a strong movement toward reducing food waste and the use of plastics, along with a focus on sustainability. See where your organization can positively impact the environment, such as a shift to more environmentally-friendly packaging or introducing a no-paper policy in the office. More investors and consumers want to see ESG-friendly policies in the companies they invest in.

      Regularly Tracking Priorities Helps CEOs Prepare for the Future

      Oxymoronic as it may sound, change is a constant. CEOs who prepare and lean into it are more likely to see the fruits of their labor, and in 2023, it’s critical to remain adaptable and resilient during tough times. 

      With that being said, however, don’t hold back from opportunities; instead, act with the courage to move forward. Similarly, pay attention to trends in technology that could benefit your business and see where you can improve your organization’s footprint on the environment. 

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