Arizona CFOs reveal cautious optimism for 2020

[September 30, 2019 – PHOENIX] – Although early predictions for a downturn in 2019 have not come true, Arizona’s industry leaders are planning for the unexpected while hoping for the best. Results from the 2019-2020 Arizona CFO Spotlight Survey indicate a strong focus on operational efficiency, reputation management, and talent planning. The fourth annual survey was developed by BeachFleischman PLLC in collaboration with BOK Financial, Phoenix CEO-CFO Group, Financial Executives and Affiliates of Tucson (FEAT), Pinnacle Plan Design, LLC, and Contempo HCM — with survey development and support from Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC.

Workforce talent trends

Acknowledging for the fourth year in a row that talent is a major source of concern for companies across all eight industries surveyed, leaders are actively pursuing talent solutions that include:

  • Referral incentives and more flexible or remote work arrangements.
  • Absorbing increased mandated wage or benefits costs to maintain competitiveness.
  • Pursuing more in-house and online training to onboard or promote workers.
  • Deferring hiring in favor of investments in efficient processes and automation.
  • Re-assignments and promotions from within to expand career tracks and improve retention.

Capital investments on the rise

Because financing terms are attractive, leaders are also acting on long-term capital outlays for plant improvements, including technology upgrades that improve efficiency, as well as property expansions and larger equipment purchases. They are also paying down debt or refinancing to improve their debt position. This activity is leading to more optimism in the financial markets. Short-term, CFOs are considering changes to their accounting method and other ways to align with tax reform opportunities.

A focus on reputation management

As for reputation management, increased efforts to manage brands and customer or patient satisfaction are evident in health care, hospitality and nonprofit organizations. Health care leaders are investing in outcome-based patient satisfaction tools. Hospitality venues are updating their physical stores and adding personalized touches based on customer feedback. Nonprofit organizations are investing in their social channels and publicizing more results and success stories.

“Leaders are preparing, trying to anticipate change but also keeping their organizations efficient and focused,” noted Marc D. Fleischman, chief executive officer of BeachFleischman. “For example, construction backlogs overall are still high in our region and fees are up, but labor is tight and Arizona has a higher cost of living, which might deter new residents and business expansion. Or it might not. This environment of optimism and uncertainty is happening in every industry,” Fleischman added.

Other industry highlights

Health Care. Specialty health care leaders are more optimistic than leaders in hospitals and general care clinics due to improved specialty care coverage options as well as the willingness by some patients to pay out of pocket for non-surgical treatment options.

Technology. Tech companies experienced slower growth in 2018 than in 2017, which makes leaders cautiously optimistic for the coming 12 months — seeing growth opportunities in cyber, data management and broadband connectivity solutions.

Retail. Physical retail re-leasing rates are expected to drop by 20-30%. Real estate leaders and investors are shifting some focus to opportunity zones as well as changes in how manufacturing and office space will be leased.

Hospitality. Hospitality and entertainment leaders are upgrading facilities and expanding consumer choices to better position their brands.

Manufacturing. Supply line disruptions and continued tariff uncertainty make manufacturing leaders wonder about potential plant retooling needs and new orders through 2021, but optimism is high for 2019 results.

Nonprofit and Government. Nonprofit and government leaders are moderately optimistic, investing in field technology for boots-on-the-ground services and identifying new sources of revenue through potential public/private partnerships.

Overall, Arizona is still viewed as an attractive market for entrepreneurs. This perception gives most surveyed leaders a fairly positive view for the remainder of 2019 and for the next two years.

Eric Majchrzak
Eric Majchrzak

Eric Majchrzak is CEO and a Principal of BeachFleischman. He joined BeachFleischman in 2012 and is responsible for the firm’s overall strategic direction while ensuring the mission, vision, and values are met.