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Lead Your Team Managing

20 Challenges CEOs Will Face in 2015

20 Challenges CEOs Will Face in 2015
Credit: pixfly/Shutterstock

A new year means new opportunities — and, of course, new challenges — especially for business. So what does 2015 have in store for business leaders?

From adapting to technological advances and economic changes, to retaining customers and recruiting top talent, business owners and CEOs will have a lot of issues to handle. How business leaders face these challenges might just make or break their businesses.

Business News Daily asked the experts what they thought the biggest challenges for CEOs will be this year. Ready to take on 2015? Brace yourself for these hurdles.

#1: Staying focused

"As the U.S.' economic recovery continues to outpace Europe and the rest of the world, American business leaders will be challenged to stay focused on their core business. The last time there was this amount of capital available — and, therefore, more choices facing CEOs — was [in] 2008. It will tempt some to diversify into the unknown and onboard seemingly unnecessary risk. Staying focused on core strengths is the biggest challenge and best opportunity ahead in 2015." – Michael Fogarty, owner, MF Digital Marketing

#2: Reaching online customers

"One of the biggest challenges facing CEOs and business owners in 2015 is how to effectively reach audiences online. With the revelation last year that sophisticated robots, not humans, are responsible for nearly 25 percent of Web traffic (at a cost of more than $6 billion), fraud at that level is a serious problem. Add the difficulty of appearing in natural search results, rising costs of online ad campaigns and privacy concerns related to tracing buying behavior online, [and] effectively reaching customers online will be one of the biggest challenges facing businesses this year." –Rob Marsh, owner,LogoMaker

#3: Finding and recruiting top talent

"As the economy continues to grow and the unemployment rate continues to fall, the already small pool of applicants that have the skills necessary to operate in the 21st century business will be further diminished. For this reason, I think CEOs' top challenge for 2015 will be finding the talent they need to run their business." – David Waring, editor, Fit Small Business

#4: Dealing with state regulations

"The biggest challenge I think business owners will face in 2015 is dealing with state regulations. With the on-demand and sharing economies continuing to grow, local and state regulations have been changing as well. Companies like Airbnb and Uber will continue to spawn competitors in the space and new verticals. All businesses will need to look at these verticals and, at the same time, deal with changing regulations." –Zalmi Ducuman, founder, The Fresh Diet

#5: Staying a step ahead of the economy

"We're in a period of tremendous growth right now, and there are some indications that, by 2016, we could be experiencing another downturn in the economy. For that reason, the biggest challenge for CEOs in 2015 will be stocking up on relationship capital, intellectual property and other strategic investments that you can cash in at the end of the year to ride out the coming storm."  – Ken Rutkowski, CEO, METal International

#6: Going mobile

"By far, the biggest hurdle — at least in my industry — will be [for] CEOs [to adapt] their infrastructure to the consumer's ever-increasing use of mobile devices. A business model which doesn't have a reach to a mobile device is going to dwindle away and become obsolete."  – Jason Fisher, owner, BestLifeRates.org

#7: Meeting customer expectations

"Business as usual is no longer usual. Customer activism is real, and companies who cannot keep up with changes in customers' tastes and expectations will struggle to keep pace. Customer tastes change faster than in the past, and social media can lead a niche microtrend to become an exploding market opportunity in a matter of weeks. Even CEOs of primarily B2B organizations will find that expectations are shifting, in no small part, to the cross pollination of consumer market trends and business market trends."– Tirrell Payton, principal, Payton Consulting [50 Big Ideas, Predictions and Trends for Small Business in 2015 ]

#8: Adapting to the minimum-wage increase

"Some CEOs' biggest challenges of 2015 will be the minimum-wage increase. In states such as Nebraska, increases of over 10 percent are seen. This makes CEOs have to make tough decisions to find ways to recoup this lost income. Raising prices on goods and services, outsourcing work to virtual assistants, or reducing staffed hours are now decisions the CEOs will need to make early in 2015, or they will likely see the wage increase affect their bottom dollar negatively."  – Eric Burns, owner, VendorBids

#9: Maintaining their reputations

"Reputation risk will be a top threat for CEOs in 2015. It will result from the same type of social media blowback that CEOs at AOL, Microsoft, Sony and several others experienced in 2014 after their statements or actions offended employees, consumers or both. Often, the issues relate to a lack of diversity in their companies, which is a growing area of concern among employees." – Shannon Wilkinson, CEO, Reputation Communications

#10: Handling commuter issues

"The most popular places to live and work are getting more congested, and people are spending longer and longer getting to work. Companies in those areas are at risk of losing employees once those time thresholds are crossed as the job market is improving drastically. All companies will need to have a mobility component of their business-resiliency planning to ensure they keep and retain the best employees." –Elizabeth Frisch, chief experience officer, The Thrival Company

#11: Going social (media, that is)

"Large service companies that have fallen behind the social media curve may find themselves scrambling to establish a social care strategy. I have several clients who once viewed social media as a take-it-or-leave-it marketing function [who are] now finding that their customers are demanding to resolve their issues through Twitter, Facebook and other forums." – Karin Hurt, CEO, Let's Grow Leaders

#12: Thwarting employee distractions

"I feel the biggest challenge CEOs will face in 2015 is employee productivity. As society becomes more technologically advanced, it will be hard for employees to concentrate on having good working habits due to the amount of distractions that will exist in the workplace. The best way to solve this issue is to design a working environment that is conducive to collaboration and mastermind breakout sessions." – Donny Gamble Jr., founder, PersonalIncome.org

#13: Knowing when to embrace change

"The biggest challenge CEOs will face in 2015 is to know when to adjust strategies around new innovations in the market, and when to stay the course. As the cost to enter a number of industries plummets, higher levels of competition will make for a much noisier environment, and by virtue of volume, it will be hard to find the actual challengers to your business, versus new ventures just making a lot of noise." – John Turner, CEO, UsersThink

#14: Being a strong voice for their companies

"In a world where 140 characters and 10-second sound bites rule the day, effective communication matters more than ever. Employees today versus [those] just a generation ago want to know why they are being asked to do something. No other executive is more uniquely qualified [than the CEO] to answer that question of 'why.' And no other executive is more qualified to 'own' the message that is communicated to his or her employees. CEOs can inspire, convince, persuade, explain and refute. A CEO who takes more ownership of their organization's communication can create better strategic alignment and a culture that is more dynamic in terms of its problem solving and innovation." – Matt Spaulding, president, Spaulding Communications

#15: Obtaining proper financing

"Attaining sufficient financing for a small business will be one of the biggest challenges for CEOs in 2015. The big banks continue to make it harder and harder for small business[es] to get financing, so the process for obtaining a traditional loan will become more and more difficult. New options and alternatives like peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding and other new nonbank entrants will continue to grow in order to help replace the inaccessible bank loan, offering promising new options to business owners and CEOs when it comes to financing." – David Gilbert, CEO and founder, National Funding

#16: Avoiding data security issues

"I believe that CEOs will be challenged with keeping their business secure. There is a lot of unrest in the world, and we are faced with the challenges of cyberattacks, bank account fraud, social media hacking and viral corruption in general. If these hackers are able to hack into such bigwigs as Sony, they will be able to attack many others as well." – MJ Pedone, president and CEO, Indra Public Relations

#17: Going global

"One of the biggest challenges for CEOs in 2015 will undoubtedly be how to easily, affordably and effectively go global. If you're a small business, how can you compete with established market players while effectively reaching customers around the world? If you're already a global business, how can you more effectively address underserved customers, optimize revenue globally, while controlling costs? Translating and localizing websites, mobile apps and other important digital content provides marketers with a simple and cost-effective way to yield even greater ROI from the content they have already paid to develop in English." –Jack Welde, CEO and co-founder, Smartling

#18: Rethinking the traditional work schedule

"Another big challenge CEOs will face this year is whether to stick with their traditional personal-leave policies or begin to move toward flexible schedules. As the CEO of a company which embraces flexible family and vacation policies, I hope more traditional companies don't change. We constantly receive résumés from people fed up with the old policies. The longer the 20th century mentality about work is in place, the better it is for companies like mine. The talent pool is hungry to work at places that respect their talents and time." – Kristi Piehl, founder and CEO, Media Minefield

#19: Dealing with health care reform

"One of the biggest challenges of 2015 for many CEOs will be changes in health care laws and increased costs that many have not experienced before. Balancing the tension between keeping costs of goods and services low with the reality of increasing prices to remain a profitable business will be an ongoing issue for companies trying to stay competitive and relevant." – David Hamilton, president and CEO, Impact Logistics

#20: Taking on more millennials

"With 10,000 [baby] boomers retiring a day, millennials will outnumber them in the workforce by 2015. In fact, the U.S. population now includes more than 70 million people from the millennial generation. In an increasingly competitive business environment, learning how to generate loyalty in employees, as well as customers, from the millennial generation is the biggest challenge facing CEOs in 2015." – Dov Baron, leadership speaker and author

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.