At Dakotah, we are always trying to make our offerings and services better focused and targeted for the companies we work with. We just completed a comprehensive survey of 2000 national executives designed to collect feedback regarding the priorities and challenges for their industry in 2017 and beyond. We have done our best in compiling all the answers so that they best fit an image of multiple industry needs.


What is the #1 priority or challenge that your business must address in 2017? 

Almost all surveyed said their biggest challenge was in marketing. Trying to fill the project pipeline with qualified leads and funnel those to sales and revenue while working with budget shortfalls. They are worried about their visibility in an overcrowded marketplace and being able to find new customers and in some cases trying to rebuild the trust of key current customers.

Many had legislative concerns with items that could affect their bottom line such as healthcare mandates – the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and business development in Quality Assurance in health care and cost reduction and complying with all the government regulations.

Some startup CEO’s indicated they needed to make the consumer aware that energy efficiency and process optimization is all around and it’s moving things forward by highly effective companies using the right resources and tools. Take advantage of it.

We had some executives that were in a good spot to be in… the challenge of expansion, and staying up with productivity increases. Keeping operational performance, project management and installation quality and efficiency while optimizing processes.

What is the plan for your business to satisfy the #1 priority or challenge?

In order to achieve their #1 priority or handle their #1 challenge the CEO’s we surveyed said they needed to reduce staff and some consolidation efforts while growing their distribution network and use processes more efficiently. Next in line was to work internally and with clients to develop new business.

In order to handle their #1 challenge, the CEO’s had some personal goals such as publish a book, expand network on LinkedIn, follow-up with contacts and look at speaking engagements to be more visible and reach out to current customers.

In some cases, there was already growth and indications of hiring new talent. In the medical industry, the challenge was to be more informed on healthcare legislation.

Some CEOs had specific goals still to accomplish of augmenting sales staff by implementing a consistent sales and marketing strategy based on the newest (i.e. non-traditional) and best approaches. Evaluating product design, and creating a more responsive corporate culture to customer needs. Others looked towards the combined collaboration and support of established partner companies with complimentary products, services, and vehicles for implementation.

 Describe your 3 most immediate business concerns.

This survey question had great answers that were pretty much across the board. Most CEOs were concerned over 7 areas:

  1. Client/Customer focus – meeting contractual requirements, expanding relationships
  2. Finance focus – getting AR caught up, creating a cost control cash management strategic integration plan, building new revenue, cash flow, and capital resources
  3. HR focus – margin improvement/cost reduction, finding people who can pass drug tests, training, scheduling and ensuring compliance to regulations.
  4. Branding focus – visibility/exposure of their product/services and getting the feedback and recommendations from their clients/customers, align with strong partners, expand product line, funding, finding companies that realize they need help
  5. Personal focus – they worried about time management
  6. Sales/Marketing focus – reaching new clients
  7. Startups focus – recognizing being a new business with no recognition (yet) the biggest concerns were getting effective and positive customer engagement and follow-through with partner companies

 If you had unlimited resources, what would your business look like in 5 years?

By asking this survey question, we wanted to find out if a company had all the resources and tools they needed, would that be enough for the 5-year plan? These are the answers simplified as best we could.

  • Revenue – growth of 20% per year, margins at 40%, $100,000,000 revenue, $24,000,000 EBITDA
  • Brand – reputation for technical quality, infrastructural updating, revolutionary energy-service powerhouse, be one of the messengers to the world that speaks of feasible ways to create energy independence for those groups, cities, countries, etc. who want or need to achieve it.
  • Expansion – expanded markets and products, expanding support for driving continuous improvement, expansion in synergistic businesses with value add
  • Managerial – regional core of a center for creative thinking, leadership, and innovation, CEO take a more managerial role as intended
  • Staff – hire more to run day-to-day operations, fully staffed, creating a problem solving culture, skill level of employees enhanced with training, efficiency and resource optimization implementation, and community service
  • Product/service – design improvements, conducting hundreds or thousands of energy-related projects worldwide related to energy generation, new technology R&D
  • Status quo – about like it does now or flat to growth, same as today…. resources are not limiting growth

 To what do you attribute your success?

This survey question was asked to find out if the CEOs attributed their success to hard work and the right choices or good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. Their answers were all very similar but we created categories with #1 spot being the team efforts.

  1. Team: Current team in place, motivated workforce hiring great people, training and empowering them and cheering their success
  2. Leadership: clear strategy and optimized plan to implement, good mentoring, my intellect
  3. Technical: technical knowledge, experience and the ability to look at things in a different way.
  4. Relationships: building strong relationships in Tulsa and from helping others in their work.
  5. Creativity: the invention of the new and rearrangement of the old in new ways
  6. Brand: Good reputation
  7. Economy: comparatively high margin protected by regulatory guidelines
  8. Experience: wide range of operating experience
  9. Hard work: perseverance, determination, yearning, support, focus

 What is unique about your business?

Each business is always unique in some form. A large number indicated their product or service was the unique factor for their business. But others looked at their experience, partners and technical capabilities. As they delved deeper into the question we had the majority of CEOs who felt their focus on employees and their customers were what made them unique – compassion, exceeding customer expectations, problem solving, small actions, customer service excellence and helping the customer find what works best for them.

 What are your responsibilities as the business owner?

Many CEOs seemed sure of this question with answers around revenue, growth, customers, and employees.

  • Financial growth with cost revenue, resources, process improvement, make a profit, absorption of financial and risk responsibilities.
  • Taking care of employee’s needs through safety and profitability, create an epidemic for re-perceiving people and organizations, guidance of employees in terms of techniques and professionalism.
  • Responsibility of caring for the patient lives as well as staff, driving the culture of the organization. Follow the plan, operational planning for and securing the future products/services.
  • Chief business developer and marketer, make good use of my face-to-face time with clients and peers in order to reinforce our connection and pave the way for future engagement, whether it be sales or meetings.

What is your most burning question about retention of good employees?

This question is always the hardest. How do you keep the good employees and where to find more of them. We were delighted that they actually asked questions back.

  • How do you figure out the competitive compensation/reward to drive performance?
  • How do we find out if employees are happy?
  • How do we create a positive and productive work environment?
  • How do we keep recruiting competitive and adaptable?
  • How do we find great talent at a fair price?
  • How do we keep employees challenged?
  • How do we keep staff if there are no pay increases seen on the horizon?
  • How do we motivate good employees to stick with us in a turn-around situation where our business is at risk and they have more secure opportunities elsewhere?
  • How do we find the best retention methods that are not obsolete for sales?
  • How do we know it’s not retention per se, as it is leadership?

 What’s not out there? What is the #1 product/service/tool/app you would like someone to create that would make your job easier or business more effective/profitable?

This question is the exciting offer of asking “what if”. What would a CEO of a company want that could make their job easier? It was surprising to us to see a few that were happy with what they had.

  • Tools:
    • Project management tools to improve contract adherence, quality installation plan
    • I’d really like a truly user friendly electronic medical record that increases my productivity
    • Ability to target and contact our target niche of high-net-worth & high earners.
    • Customer feedback tool that is not based solely on negative responses
    • Cheap cold fusion or at least approved nanoreactors for public use (limited only by the ability to use them not by the capability to build them).
  • Growth strategies
    • Taking time out of the equation for Deep Work
    • Predictability and stable business growth
    • Easier way to reach decision makers in healthcare and identify his or her needs.
    • Continued content to match employer needs
  • Happy with current tools:
    • Cannot think of it
    • I don’t know.
    • I have all I need
    • Not applicable for our situation.