Cyber and digital skills top growth threats to private business

Growth confidence is high amongst private business owners, for the 12-month and 36-month outlook, but technology and digital skill threats loom large on the horizon. This is according to research among 722 private business owners as part of PwC’s 21st Annual Global CEO survey.

Eighty-five percent of business leaders surveyed are confident about their growth prospects in the next 12 months, and 89% are confident in the three-year outlook. However, over a third (39%) of private business leaders cite cyber threats as the biggest threat to their business followed closely by the scarcity of key skills to mitigate those risks.

Gert Allen, PwC Partner, Africa Private Company Services Leader says: “Operating in a world of growing complexity and wide-ranging risks, private company CEOs are freer to operate with a degree of agility, flexibility, and pragmatism than many of their counterparts at public companies. However, cyber threats, global market uncertainty and a shortage of digital talent are still key concerns for private-company CEOs.

“Despite these concerns, CEOs are optimistic about the future. In fact, 85% of private-company CEOs stated that they are ‘somewhat confident’ or ‘very confident’ about their organisation’s prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months.”

Further expansion is on the agenda of some companies. The US (43%), China (29%), Germany (20%) and the UK (15%) are amongst the countries considered most important to private business growth in the next 12 months, with acquisitions in new markets playing a key role.

It is notable that only 32% of CEOs of family-owned businesses cited cyber threats as a leading concern, compared with 44% for private-equity-backed and 35% for those held in partnership. The recruitment challenge is particularly acute in family owned businesses, where 57% of CEOs say they are finding it difficult to recruit the digital skills they need.

In a rapidly changing digital world and with key skills in demand, private companies may wish to consider developing more formal, systematic means and mechanisms for communicating and reinforcing what the organisation stands for – and just as important, what it won’t stand for. They need to act quickly before the competition for talent grows even more intense,” Allen says.

Also, coming through in our research are themes we see and hear daily. Private companies and their CEOs value their relative autonomy, enabling a greater choice around transparency of culture, internal policies, strategies, external reporting and other areas of business.

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