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What Keeps You Up at Night?

What do business leaders really worry about?  Is it macro issues, like world economics, or micro issues, like On-Time Delivery in the factory?  Of course it is both, but what really keeps people up at night?  According to recent polls we’ve read by Forbes, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and others, here are some of the biggest concerns:

Cash Flow: Any business owner or senior company leader has felt the pain of meeting payroll or pushing out vendors when cash is tight.  That is always uncomfortable. The recession has meant we’re all stretched out on payments from customers, and tighter requirements from lenders.  Most businesses experience the crunch at one time or another.

Competition: The “pie” isn’t getting bigger, and we all worry about getting a bigger piece of the same pie.  Many companies who relied on legacy products for a long time have found themselves unable to respond quickly enough to build a better mousetrap.  New product introduction is a must, with aggressive selling.

The Unknown:  Catastrophic events, terrorism, social unrest, global volatility – all unknowns.  A-Type personality leaders like to control their environments, but there are many things beyond our control.

Regulations: Whether warranted or overblown, executives report that fear of the impact of current and future regulation often seriously affects business decisions.

Governmental Action/Inaction: Just this week we saw the stock market drop out of fear that the Fed might reign in its monetary stimulus policy (buying assets).  Business leaders never know what is coming out of DC or State Houses, but the rhetoric keeps fueling fears.

Economics: Global companies worry about more than just the US Recession.  They also worry about monetary policies abroad, and volatility in any area of the world that can impact sales, production, etc.

Talent: When the recession ends, and Baby Boomers begin to actually retire on schedule, there will be a growing shortage of skilled workers and managers.  The gap between now and 2030 could be as much as 20 million people who will be less skilled than the generation that preceded them.  This will cause a mad scramble for talent, and some companies are already beginning to experience this in key areas like engineering.

What is the key to surviving these threats, and being able to sleep at night? Agility and adaptability.  Companies that can move quickly, get new products in the market, beat the competition with true differentiation, and scale talent (both down and up), will stand a greater chance.  Their Execs will sleep a little bit better at night!