MEN CEO Daily CEOs Are Worrying About Politics, Not Economics

allan Murray

Good morning.

CEOs these days appear to be more worried about politics than economics. In our annual survey, we gave Fortune 500 CEOs the opportunity to tell us, briefly and in their own words, the biggest threat to their business in 2019.

The answers were diverse. But roughly 40% cited increased regulation, trade friction, and other political events as the top threat. Only 30% pointed to a potential macroeconomic problem, such as recession, labor shortages, or interest rates.

The remaining 30% either pointed to internal challenges—“our own inertia,” “integration challenges,” “execution”—or to non-political, non-economic external threats, including “cyber security” and “Amazon.”

Asked to name the greatest opportunity their business had in 2019, roughly a quarter of the CEOs pointed to technology and innovation. Economic growth and tariff relief each got mentioned by about 7% of respondents. And the remainder cited opportunities such as “gaining market share” or “moving into new markets.”

If you want to take the CEO survey yourself, I’ve created a copy here. Try it out…I’ll be eager to see how readers respond.

Separately, anyone who has ever had the honor of working with an iconic brand (we at Fortune think we’ve got one of the best) knows two truths: 1) iconic brands are powerful business tools, and 2) they are surprisingly resilient, and once built, are difficult to destroy. But while it’s difficult to kill them, it’s not impossible. This morning, Fortune published a fascinating package by Geoff Colvin and Phil Wahba chronicling how the owners of Sears have managed, through a long and concerted effort, to pull off that feat. After being a staple of American life for over a century—in 1969, two-thirds of Americans shopped at Sears in any given quarter—Sears now appears on the edge of oblivion. The two stories— one on Sears’s long-term strategic mistakes and another on its more recent blunders—are today’s must-reads.

Alan Murray