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At the Enterprise of the Year 2020

04.11.2020

Dear entrepreneurs, good evening! Dear listeners and viewers behind your screens!

One thing is clear – event marketing companies have had a rough year. Previously, this gala has been one of the most spectacular annual events of its kind in Estonia, but now here we are – sitting in an empty hall and everybody watching us from their couch at home. There is no glamour. Not even a live TV broadcast, only an hour-long program that Tõnis Niinemets fills with his talking.

Nevertheless, this case of event marketers can actually teach us something. Sure, they are struggling. On the other hand, at least the more resourceful ones are by now also seeing an opportunity in this situation. Many doors have been closed and a considerable amount of monthly cash flow has decreased. But at the same time the doors that would otherwise be hard to break through have opened. We already have stunned the whole old and a bit slow world, with our enterprises being able to hold the world´s most awesome virtual conferences. And I am not kidding.

And I know that this has already materialized in reality. Our services are wanted – our entrepreneurs, before mainly local or, to a lesser extent, operating in the immediate vicinity, are being contacted from all around the world. Suddenly, a local service linked to a specific geographical location has become a global, location-independent service. The service, which used to have a market of one million, well, maybe 3 or 5 million people, is now within reach of 7 billion people. Quite certainly, this will lead to success stories, which will be told at a conference in years to come.

This no way negates the tragedy of those who have had to wind up their work, either temporarily or permanently. But it shows that all tragic changes offer opportunities as well.  This is also a case in other sectors.

This year has shaken us all. Entrepreneurs and employees, doctors and civil servants, students and teachers.  Many people were at home for several months, a third of the work was done at home, schools were closed and thousands of workers were paid wage subsidies, because they were not able or not allowed to work.

No need to discuss whether we acted right in the beginning of the epidemic or whether all steps were justified and rational. With the knowledge we have today, we cannot objectively assess the decisions made in the spring.

Instead, we need to think about what happens next. What should be done to make our lives go as smoothly as possible so that we can feel more secure in the event of any unexpected occurrence. 

Today I will tell you how I feel about the future.

It is clear that the former normality will not return soon, probably never. Not even if effective vaccines become available.

The world is no longer the same after the lockdown in spring, many existing beliefs have changed.

Firstly, it is evident that viral diseases will not disappear, and we must learn to live with them. Secondly, now we all have a better understanding of the meaning of the digital revolution and the opportunities technology offers. Even those who only a year ago said, that the digitalization is overhyped, understand now that it wasn’t. That it would have been better if everyone, both us and the rest of the world, would have paid more attention to digitalization in recent years. 

It could be felt years ago that as a result of digital transformation the most thorough and profound changes are not happening in industry, but in society. In the way people live and work.

Digitalization of industry, Industri 4.0 is a powerful reorganizer of the industry, but yet nothing too new compared to the previous phases of Industrial Revolution, although technologies today and centuries ago are quite different. For a few centuries, the amount of routine and physical work has rapidly diminished in our lives, and for decades services have been dominating the economy.

It can be assumed that in a decade or two we will have as few manufacturers as we currently have agricultural workers.

Despite this, we still live within the framework of the industrial time. Legally, mentally and physically.

Despite all the technological developments, people still work for enterprises with fixed working hours. The entire institutional structure follows this system.

Before the Digital Age it may have been rational, but as the time goes by, it’s not the case anymore. Services like accounting can already be done anywhere. Furthermore, technological lines can be controlled anywhere. This spring we found out that a third of our workers can work from home or remotely anywhere. Today we can arrange remote work comprehensively.  We know what is the problem here and what is merely a pseudo-problem.

However, today we can only guess what the remote workers will do the next year. In which way they decide to work.

Technological development has come so far that it has made enterprises and workers free. It means that for many geography has lost its former meaning.

Unfortunately, this freedom also means that the current tax and social security system is outdated. It is no longer possible to cover the necessary public expenditures with declining tax revenues of enterprises and people working at a certain place.

We must think about how to tax those who work for a company in Asia in the morning, in America at night and in the meantime a bit in Estonia as well. Those who love to be digital nomads while travelling around. Be it a designer, a technologist or a sales manager. We also need to think about how to tax enterprises whose employees and affiliates operate alternately in dozens of countries all over the world.

The organization of the health and social protection of those people must also be considered.

It is evident now that such lifestyle is far-spread, the organization of education, including vocational training, must be changed as well. People with little local attachment need well-structured online learning modules from primary to continuing education and retraining.

All this is not the future anymore. This is today.

Enterprises that have proved to be the most successful in their field according to several generally comprehendible criteria are always selected as the best enterprises in Estonia, and in my opinion, it should continue this way.

The only change I see here is that to be successful in the future it will be more important to see further beyond, to perceive future signals and the ability to take them into account.

I wish good luck to all Estonian entrepreneurs to cope with this changed world. Congratulations to all winners!