Many businesses continue to face significant hurdles, despite lockdown measures easing, with 50% of CEOs citing the diminished demand of products and services as the greatest obstacle to their business’s viability, according to the latest YPO Chief Executive COVID-19 Global Survey. Other significant hurdles include changes in consumer behaviour (44%) and operating restrictions from the government (32%). 

Conducted in May, the survey spanned 100 countries and interviewed 2,700 chief executives between the ages of 25-91 to find out how COVID-19 has affected their businesses and how their business outlook has changed since the previous survey conducted in April. 

The survey found notable regional differences in business outlook, finding that leaders in Australia/New Zealand (35%), Canada (35%) and United States (26%) had the most positive outlook while those in South Asia (51%), Africa (50%) and MENA (41%) have become significantly more negative.

Overall, there has been an increase in optimism among chief executives globally as compared to the previous month, though a majority of respondents (64%) remain pessimistic. The marked increase in optimism is indicative of the road to recovery, though sentiments of a slow recovery remain prevalent globally as CEOs anticipate lingering negative effects on revenue (49%), headcount (39%), and total fixed investment (39%). 

Though business activity has begun to resume, nearly half (49%) of respondents still believe that they are in the business continuity phase, while only 39% have indicated that their country is in the business revival phase. On average, leaders in Australia/New Zealand and the US believe they are the furthest along in the business disruption cycle.

When asked how they would handle the crisis differently in hindsight, 23% of business leaders stated that they would not change their leadership approach, while others indicated that they would be quicker to respond (21%), manage human resources differently (15%), improve communications (14%), and improve capital management (14%). 

The survey concluded that a resurgence of COVID-19 would have significant consequences for business globally, with 6% of chief executives indicating that their business would likely not survive a second outbreak of the virus, while 72% of CEOs called it a “moderate-to-severe threat”. 


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