Interview with Howard E. Van Auken

Howard_AukenHoward E. Van Auken is the Kingland Professor of Entrepreneurship at Iowa State University. He was a William J. Fulbright at the Instituto de Technologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Mexico) in 1989, a William J. Fulbright Scholar at Masarykova Univeszity v Brne (Czech Republic) in 1994, and a Visiting Professor at the Consortium International University (Paderno, Italy) in 2001. He was President of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  He has published more than 100 refereed papers in professional journals and has lectured or developed programs in many countries. He was President of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, serves on editorial review boards of numerous academic journals, and has received numerous professional awards.

Paper Published in the Journal of Innovation Management:

Van Auken, H. (2013). Influences on frequency of preparation of financial statements among SMEs. Journal of Innovation Management1(1), 143.

Journal of Innovation Management: Professor Howard E. Van Auken, thank you so much for your kind availability for this interview! Would you share with our readers what has actually followed the research published in this paper?

Howard E. Van Auken: The objective of research is to create or discover new information that is significant enough to justify publication.  As a research, the focus is to identify new opportunities to make significant contributions to the field of study. In doing so, the hope is that other researchers will embrace the stream of research to extend our understanding of the field.  My hope is that researchers around the world will complete similar studies to mine so that we develop a more comprehensive understanding of how owners of SMEs use financial statements.  In fact, this has already happened because researchers in at least a dozen counties have contacted me to duplicate my study in their home country.

JIM: Would you share with our readers your current line of research?

HVA:   Currently, I am working with a researcher in Tanzania to duplicate my study on how Tanzania owners of SME use financial statements.

JIM: Which will be, in your opinion, the challenges for the near future? In which topics, in your opinion, is it worth doing research these days? HVA:  Issues associated with SME acquisition of capital continues to offer many research opportunities.  Consider, for example, potential topics associated with SME capital acquisition relative to gender, region of a country or the world, type of business, etc.

JIM: What would you recommend PhD students in your field to research ?” e.g. tips and tricks about the key topical issues, which are relevant, meaningful and possibly impactful.

HVA:  My advice:

  • Develop a deep understanding of theory in your field of study.
  • Develop a strong skill set in quantitative methods.
  • Work hard
  • Be tenacious, especially during adverse times

Personally, I have set long term, intermediate and short-term goals. All of these goals are linked in that my short-term goal help me accomplish my intermediate-term goals, which in turn help me meet my long-term goals.  For example, I commonly have a goal of writing at least one page per day, which helps me accomplish my goal of publishing at least two papers per year. JIM: What are the latest innovations in your field ? How do you expect blockchain tech to change financial reporting?

HVA:  Innovation is central to company, industry and national competitiveness.  Stagnation and inability to remain competitive occurs in the absence of innovation.  Innovation benefits consumers through new product/process opportunities while also facilitating micro and macro-economic competitiveness.

JIM: A final challenge for this interview. We know all researchers have interesting stories about their explorations. Unexpected findings and many other things that seem strange and somehow end making sense. Would you share one of those stories with our readers?

HVA:  Three comments on these questions …

  1. The research on how SMEs use financial statements originated because a local owner of a successful firm asked me for help. He told me that through the first 9 months of the year, his financial statements indicated that his firm had netted around $150,000. However, he had only $5,000 in his bank account. He wanted to know what happened to the rest of his money.  The answer was that the owner did not understand how to interpret the information in his financial statements.  This experience caused me to wonder about how well owners of SMEs understand and use their financial statement.
  2. The results of my research into how SME owners use financial statements surprised me to some extent. I would have expected owners to understand and use their financial statements better than they did. However, I also understand that an owners’ expertise is commonly associated with the type of business they operate rather than financial management.
  3. The experience with the SME owner coupled with the results of the study on how SMEs use their financial statements led me to realize how little we understand how financial statements are used in practice. Having standardized financial statements that provide important information does not mean that owners either know how or will use the financial information when making decisions.

JIM: To conclude, just couple of more personal questions…

Favorite Dish?

HVA: My wife is Hispanic and her mother, who was a fantastic cook, introduced me to Mexican food. I learned to enjoy almost any Mexican food.  Additionally, the paella we ate in Spain was also excellent. Some of the best Italian food that I have eaten was in Lisbon.

The trip in your dreams:

HVA: My wife and I have been to be able to live abroad 5 times and travel extensively both in the US and abroad. So, our ‘dream trip’ would not be traveling but would be visiting our grandchildren.

JIM: Thank you for your support and thank you for submitting the results of your research to Journal of Innovation Management!