The survey carried out by interim management services firm Interim Partners found that over half (52 per cent) of interim executives thought that pursuing organic growth should be the key focus for businesses over the next 12 months, compared to just four per cent who put pursuing mergers and acquisitions first.
Overseas expansion was next on the list, with 13 per cent of the vote, followed by reducing debt which was seen as top priority for nine per cent of the 700 interim managers or senior executives surveyed.
Interim Partners' managing partner, Steve Rutherford, said the research raised questions over whether businesses should be prioritising deals as a means of expansion.
“M&A is one of the quickest tools for businesses to enter into new markets, achieve economies of scale and generate growth. However, even though the value of M&A activity is currently at its highest level since 2007 reaching $1.3 trillion (£850bn) in the first four months of the year, senior managers and executives do question if it should be such a high priority,” he said.
Meanwhile more than a third (35 per cent) of respondents said that product and service development (including research and development) suffers the most from underinvestment. IT & business infrastructure came second (19 per cent), followed by operations (15 per cent).