Middle market executives are more positive about the health of their businesses and more optimistic about their prospects for future growth than at any time in the last three years, according to the findings of a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CIT Group.
“Middle market companies are important contributors to a healthy economy,” said Jim Hudak, president of CIT’s Commercial Finance division. “We are encouraged by survey results showing that a large majority of middle market leaders expect their companies will grow and invest in the year ahead.
“As a leading provider of financing to the middle market, CIT listens carefully to the opinions of middle market executives and stays in close touch with trends affecting their businesses. This ongoing research demonstrates our commitment to serving the middle market and looking out for its interests.”
Executives at middle market companies say the health of their company is strong (84%), that their company is better off today than a year ago (70%) and that their company has experienced increases in sales (77%), product demand (76%) and customers (73%) over the past year, according to the CIT survey.
As a group, these executives are pleased with the current state of the economy on the local (66%), national (71%) and global (51%) levels, and their perceptions on all three economic fronts have grown increasingly more positive since 2015 (local, 47%; national, 35%; global, 22%).
Middle market executives also foresee a brighter future, with a large majority expecting growth over the next 12 months through geographic expansion within the U.S. (85%), product diversification (83%), growing the scope of their products and services (83%) and expanding into adjacent markets (81%).
Most middle market executives (81%) expect to hire additional employees over the next 12 months, which may help accelerate future growth. A large majority (93%) plans to invest in their business in 2018, primarily in technology (74%), equipment (59%) and new personnel (54%). More than a third of the respondents (36%) are planning to invest at least $500,000 this year alone.
Despite their general optimism, middle market leaders do worry about such matters as data security and the challenges of hiring and retaining talent. Lingering economic uncertainty also remains an issue, though less so than in 2016. Inflation is increasingly seen as a pressing concern, rising from 62% of respondents in 2015, to 71% in 2016, to 81% in 2018.