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Mary Valdes started the Telfer PhD in Management program in 2017, after completing a research-based MBA in Chile. She is a public accountant specializing in tax law.

Mary is training under the supervision of Professor Samia Chreim. Her main research interests are management accounting, management control systems (MCS), mining clusters, and small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) participation in global production networks. We interviewed her to learn more about her research on management accounting of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Why did you choose to study accounting?

Accounting was a natural choice for my PhD. I worked for 15 years as a public accountant, auditor and executive in several public and private sector organizations. My experience has shown me the tangible benefits of management accounting for firm success and survival. It is particularly important for SMEs, which are the most vulnerable firms and key to economic development.

What is your research about and how will it contribute to academic literature?

I research management control systems (MCS). My thesis uses multiple case studies with SMEs that are suppliers of the mining industry in Chile. I aim to describe their MCS and understand the factors that lead firms to choose their control configuration.

The study is novel and will provide a comprehensive assessment of the MCS and consider analysis for both the organizations and the individuals. It is also unique in that I am applying traditional frameworks of MCS in the context of the extractive industry in Latin America.

What are some of the highlights from your work?

My preliminary findings highlight that a diversity of control strategies exists among the firms, including some that have sophisticated control systems ­— a finding that challenges the MCS literature on SMEs.

SMEs use creative ways to exert control over their employees, resources and contractual commitments, and to cope with constraints they face due to limited available resources and a power asymmetry with their customers, the large mining firms.

The participants’ narratives showcase the industry’s requirements and contractual agreements, which generate control demands over them. However, it’s also emerging from the analysis that managers’ characteristics and background influence the choices of the control practices and nuances in their use, which could explain MCS diversity.

What impact can your research have on Canadian businesses? 

Chile and Canada both have substantial mining and extractive industries where SMEs are crucial suppliers, so my work would also be informative to Canadian businesses. I hope my study brings insights into SME organization and spurs more academic attention, which is the first step to improving policy and support for SMEs. 

By Rania Nasrallah-Massaad

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