The stereotype that Estonians are only going to work in Finland as construction workers or cleaners, is not entirely true anymore, as an increasing number will set up their own companies across the gulf.
ERR radio news reported that Estonians have set up hundreds of firms in Finland. The entrepreneurs say that thanks to digital solutions, it is easier to get things done in Estonia, but they value more trustworthy business culture in Finland, where rules are more firmly upheld.
According to Toivo Utso, the head of advisers team at the YritusHelsinki, a company offering services for entrepreneurs, Estonians have established almost 2,000 businesses in Finland. Many Estonian-registered companies have also set up branches.
“It is usual that an Estonian will come to work at construction site or in the service industry and then at some point will realise that it could be more clever to set up own enterprise instead. The potential market is much bigger than in Estonia,” Utso said.
Utso said that generally speaking, Estonian entrepreneurs have a positive image in Finland, but in setting up a company across the Finnish Bay, one needs to remember that despite many similarities between the two countries, business culture is somewhat different.
“Perhaps the communication is more formal in nature when dealing with officials. There is no tradition of trying to casually influence decisions or give gifts, as this is against the law to start with. Because of this, the businesses are sometimes trusted too much. However, it is not always the case, unfortunately,” Utso said.
The other problem is the language barrier – because Estonians usually speak Finnish well, they are sometimes overconfident and think that they understand everything, only later to find that they misunderstood something, after all.
Doctor Toomas Uibu established his own beauty business, a plastic surgery, eight years ago.
“It is more convenient to set up a company in Estonia,” Uibu conceded, but said it nevertheless wasn't too complicated in Finland either. He added that Estonia has got an advantage thanks to ID-card based digital services.
Lauri Kuljus founded his consulting company in Finland three years ago.
“There is no doubt that the market is larger here. The other thing that I like is the fact that people are keen to pay market price for the services in Finland,” Kuljus said.
According to Kuljus, aspiring entrepreneurs must take into account the fact that Estonians are still considered to be cheaper labour force in Finland, which means that the Finns also expect them to offer business services cheaper than the local firms.
Kuljus stressed that the business culture is more honest in Finland. “There is no point to do dodgy business,” he said.