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NSM Focus | Professor Joris Knoben interprets KVK trend reports

Date of news: 22 February 2022

A relatively high number of entrepreneurs are closing their businesses. But there are still many newcomers. Just two results from the most recent Chamber of Commerce (KVK) trend report. Professor of Business Economics Joris Knoben regularly interprets these trends.

Joris Knoben_foto staandKnoben’s research and teaching focus on the relationship between business and the environment.
“A lot of business activities are concentrated in a specific area. Look at Schiphol Airport or the High
Tech Campus in Eindhoven. I study how the environment affects companies’ strategies and performances. I look into the geographical environment, the relational environment (the
presence of other companies and other institutions) and the institutional environment. The latter includes legislation and the presence of entrepreneurial culture.”

Knoben – together with two other academics – has been acting as a trend forecaster at the Chamber of Commerce since the beginning of last year. He provides independent analyses that the KVK processes into press releases, which always receive a great deal of media attention. “Interpreting the trends is a lot of fun. I assess the trends against the academic literature and my own insights. I have to move fast: my interpretation has to be ready the day after I receive the numbers. This means I have to be constantly aware of current developments so I can analyse new trends quickly.”

Natural moments to close down

The report that Knoben interpreted this year shows that the number of new entrepreneurs – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – is still high. “Apparently, there are still enough people who trust the economy. But research has also shown that a lot of people become self-employed out of necessity. For example, imagine a cook who is out of work because his restaurant has closed, so he starts a food delivery service. Or a professional musician who cannot perform, so starts offering music lessons as an entrepreneur. This is why the number of entrepreneurs can grow even in difficult economic times.”

At the same time, the number of companies going bankrupt is still low. This does not surprise Knoben. “All the financial support measures that the government has made available during the pandemic have been aimed at keeping companies afloat. They seem to have worked well.” Another trend: the number of people that closed their business was relatively high at the end of 2021. This is not a surprise either, according to Knoben. “You almost always see a peak at the beginning and the end of the year. These are ‘natural moments’ for entrepreneurs to close their businesses.”

Heartfelt praise

Knoben believes it is important to share his academic knowledge with a wide audience. His ‘interpreting’ has also had a positive influence on his work at the university. Since he follows current events closely, he is always able to use up to date examples in his lectures. “Sometimes I also use data from the KVK in my research. And because so many institutions pick up on my analyses, my network is growing constantly. Thanks to that network, I have been able to provide several students with virtual internships during the pandemic.”

Looking back on his first year as an interpreter, Knoben has been particularly impressed by the government’s COVID-19 measures. “Two years ago, many economists – including me – thought that COVID-19 would create a veritable battlefield in the business world. I am pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness with which the government has managed to prevent this. The first round of financial support measures were put in place in only a few weeks after the start of the pandemic. Each round after that was more refined, with more precise criteria. This is how many companies have remained afloat. So as far as I am concerned, the government deserves heartfelt praise in this area.”