At the start of the year, no one could have predicted the devastating effect coronavirus would have on the Estonian or global economy. Local companies have had to adapt quickly to the new situation, resulting in a variety of new initiatives and changes to business models. Many have had to change tack mid-course, and we will have to wait until autumn to see more clearly how successful the implementation of these ideas has been.
A good example of a company adapting quickly is Comodule, which had previously focused on the development of communication modules for mobility solutions, but which by the end of the state of emergency had managed to launch both a new product and a new service: the locally designed and manufactured electric kick-scooter Tuul, which has already taken over the streets of Tallinn. Comodule CFO Kadri Rehkli says that the company coped very well with the abrupt changes. “The first thing we had to adapt to was working remotely, but that turned out not only to be possible, but to work just fine,” she said. “Because of the restrictions on movement that were introduced our workload tailed off temporarily, but that meant we had the chance to work on things that had been put on the backburner while we were busy with everything else. Which meant we got to focus more on our scooter rental service, Tuul.”
The Estonian-designed electric kick-scooter Tuul | Source: https://www.tuul.xyz/
Looking back, Kadri says that the ability to react promptly to the changed circumstances was crucial, as was monitoring how clients were doing and the dynamics of the market as a whole, because things were changing on a daily – and sometimes even hourly – basis. “That said, it pays to be prepared for the eventuality that irrational or unforeseeable decisions will be made on the market,” she cautioned. “One thing that allowed us as a team to ride out the critical moments was being open in our communication. We’re still providing our team with a weekly overview of our finances and justifying the need for short-term cutbacks. Openness and transparency are valued by everyone on the team.”
From a business perspective, Comodule also made the right choice in establishing its production base in Estonia, even though some questioned the wisdom of the move. “With borders being closed, taking control of the supply chain has become a matter of life and death,” Kadri remarked. “And by controlling the entire process from concept to production, we’ve been able to come up with products that are even better and even more environmentally friendly.”
Punch Drinks, which bottles and barrels healthy soft drinks and handcrafted alcoholic cocktails, realised at the peak of the crisis that with bars and restaurants closed, it could not simply assume the role of bystander but had to find new ways of remaining on the market. A desire to contribute in this regard led to the birth of hand and surface disinfectant Punch Sanitizer.
In addition to manufacturing a range of cocktails and soft drinks, Punch Drinks launched production of hand and surface disinfectants | Source: https://punch-drinks.com/product/sanitizer-multipakk/
Punch Drinks co-founder Kristjan-Walter Kask says that the company had to swiftly make a raft of changes, from reorganising their working processes to recalibrating their production line for new packaging. “Our production’s been based on LEAN principles from the get-go, so introducing rapid changes is written into our company’s DNA,” he explained, adding that the advantages of being a relatively small beverage manufacturer in keeping up with competitors are their agility, speed and innovative approach. The everyday management of the company is also rooted in these attributes, from production and product development through to marketing.
“We’re not just looking to increase our turnover and make sure our employees get paid,” Kristjan-Walter said. “We have to be guided by greater values that forge the very core of the company and have the sort of pull that keeps the team together. We want to be sustainable and aware and curious, and that collection of skills and values adds up to a pretty good formula for staying afloat and going whichever way the wind takes you.”
The main thing Punch Drinks took from the state of emergency was confirmation that the operating approach they have adopted has paid off. “You can always do things better, but we’ve come out of the crisis stronger,” Kristjan-Walter said. “We’ve managed to automate and modernise our systems for receiving, issuing and monitoring orders and we’ve cut out certain tasks that we’d been doubling up on. And we’re encouraging our team to take more responsibility and show even more initiative.”
Similar examples of companies adapting and taking greater control of their own destinies are being seen more and more all over Estonia. Enterprise Estonia will be recognising such success-mindedness and inspiring Estonian companies to think bigger in the Entrepreneurship Awards 2020 this autumn. The awards are also designed to promote entrepreneurial thinking in society more broadly. It is not only the nominees who stand to gain from sharing their success stories, but other entrepreneurs as well – we need inspiration and encouragement now more than ever, and we will continue to need it in the future.
Entrepreneurship Awards, Estonian Companies’ Competitiveness Ranking competition and ‘Entrepreneurship Promoter 2019’ competition winners at the “Estonia’s Best Companies” gala.
The number of categories remains the same in this year’s competition, which will award the titles of Exporter of the Year, Innovator of the Year, Family Enterprise of the Year, Design Applier of the Year and Foreign Investor of the Year. In all five categories a jury will select three nominees and then an overall winner.
Why nominate your company for an award? Simply being part of the competition will lead to public recognition and positive attention from the media. Many previous nominees have confirmed that this recognition has made them more attractive as an employer and more trustworthy in the eyes of their partners. In addition to financial success, the awards also recognise soft values – for the first time this year including companies’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances and cope with the challenges they present.
Everyone has an equal chance of winning, regardless of the size of the company. For example, the title of Company of the Year has been awarded to Top Marine, which at the time had just 12 employees. A previous nomination or indeed win is no obstacle to subsequent nomination either: those who have yet to be awarded a title may find themselves crowned in this year’s competition, while those who already have an award to their name may take home another.
To find out more and nominate your company, see eas.ee/ettevotluseauhind/en
The project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.