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The Conference Board is out with a new survey looking at the "the biggest issues that will keep business leaders up at night in the new year."

In short, "CEOs in the United States are more worried about higher corporate taxes and increased regulation, but less worried about global political instability and disruptions to global trade. And compared to their global peers, U.S. CEOs are more eager to have staff return to the physical workplace. U.S. executives also see the widespread availability of a vaccine as a game changer for their businesses."

Among the top external worries for US executives:

•  "U.S. CEOs think vaccine distribution will have an outsized impact on their businesses ,,, They see vaccine availability as a game changer, ranking it 2nd (the highest among CEOs globally)."

•  "U.S. CEOs are more worried about regulation & taxes, less worried about trade & global turmoil."

•  "More concern about corporate tax rates: In 2020, it was U.S. CEOs’ 14th top worry; in 2021, it rose to 5th."

•  "More concern about regulation: In 2020, it was their 9th top worry; in 2021, it rose to 4th."

•  "U.S. CEOs … rank recession risk as their 3rd top worry for 2021."

KC's View:

The US CEOs ranked "accelerate pace of digital transformation" as their top priority, with "improve innovation" ranked at number two.  However, they ranked "lower costs" at number three … which reminds me of something that Tom Furphy pointed out in this week's Innovation Conversation.

There will be a tendency, especially among public companies, to look to cut costs in 2021 because they'll be concerned about 2021's comps - the pace of pandemic-driven sales in 2020 will be hard to match and/or exceed this year.  

If they're serious about transforming their companies through innovation, that may not be consistent with a cost-cutting mindset.  For the time being, it may require investment, with a pedal-to-the-floor approach.

Which actually brings us back to where we started this week - the Feargal Quinn admonition that retailers should never let the accountants win.