Global business leaders are potentially facing an execution challenge in order to ensure future success in the coming decade. That is one of the key findings from HLB’s Inaugural Survey of Business Leaders: The Execution Challenge for the New Decade.

To gain insights in the concerns and priorities of business leaders in 2020, HLB International surveyed 368 clients and relations in C-suite positions across 5 continents.

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Commenting on the findings, Marco Donzelli, HLB’s Global CEO, says: “In times of profound continued uncertainty, it comes as no surprise that business leaders are cautious about what is ahead. This new decade will see further accelerated change in terms of technology, business models and growth markets. But it will be those leaders that innovate and adapt quickly that will reap the most rewards.”

Some of the key findings:

The economy is rocky, but we’ll be fine

  • It comes as no surprise is that economic uncertainty is a top concern for business leaders, with 46% predicting global economic growth to decline in 2020. In addition to being troubled by the state of the economy, half of respondents cite geopolitical uncertainty as a worry.
  • When it comes to their own businesses, 87% of respondents have confidence (58% somewhat confident, 29% very confident) in their ability to grow revenue over the next twelve months.

New business models for a new decade

  • There appears to be a degree of consensus of what winning business models look like – with progressive leaders setting their sights on more mobile, flexible and cloud-enabled business models better suited to today’s business environment.
  • Our survey discovered that leaders are primarily focused on improving existing processes and focusing inward than preparing for the challenges of the 2020s.

Readiness to adapt and thrive in turbulent times

  • Turbulence in the economic and global trade environment requires business leaders to adapt to new realities and be quicker to respond.
  • 42% of leaders are looking to strengthen their ability to innovate with 31% seeking to improve their digital capabilities.

Harnessing technologies to succeed in the 2020s

  • Business leaders are now well aware of the role of new technology in transforming the way firms do business.
  • Business leaders regard the Cloud (48%) and AI (49%) as the technologies most important to ensure future success.
  • Technology will be a huge driver in overcoming cross-border business challenges, with 56% of leaders planning to deploy its use in the next 12 months.

The Execution Challenge

The results of our survey found that the ability to adapt will be key to future success in the coming decade. However, our experts’ question whether business leaders are focusing on the right areas in order to secure a competitive advantage in the 2020s. Firms may be too focused on internal and incremental operational improvements and cost reduction, as opposed to strengthening consumer insights. There is a risk that businesses will be left behind by the pace of change, as technological progress accelerates. Continuous innovation, informed by finely-tuned customer insight, will be critical to ensure competitiveness and profitability in the 2020s.

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About HLB
HLB International is a global network of independent advisory and accounting firms. Formed in 1969, we service clients through our member firms in 153 countries, with 27,485 partners and staff in 745 offices worldwide.
About HLB’s research
Between September and November 2019, HLB has collected 368 survey responses from business leaders across 55 countries and a range of industry backgrounds. Responses were collected via an online survey tool or telephone interview. The research sample was selected and controlled via HLB firms their CRM data.
A copy of the full report can be found on Note that not all figures in this report sum up to 100% as a result of rounding percentages, excluding neutral responses or when respondents could choose more than one answer. The base for all figures is 368 (all respondents) unless otherwise indicated.