Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which form 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore, have felt the impact of Covid-19 keenly. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts from SME owners and managers on the highs and lows of running a business in the pandemic.

In this instalment, Mr Roger Ong, 34, describes how the closing of international borders took a heavy toll on the travel-related software firm he has been working for since 2017. The firm used the downtime to develop new products and Mr Ong undertook a training course to upgrade his digital marketing skills.

Plover is a provider of cloud-based business travel and productivity software-as-a-service, and travel management services in Singapore. I joined Plover at the end of 2017.

When the borders closed, I knew instantly that the travel and aviation sectors would see their worst ever crisis. I feared losing my job and was unsure how I could support my young family of three.

With a lack of travel enquiries from our clients, the company had to take measures to reduce our operating costs. Frankly, I was glad to still have a job.

During the downtime, we knew that we had to diversify our business to stay relevant and prepare for more restrictive measures.

The company has since expanded into offering travel and business productivity technology tools on a software-as-a-service basis to corporate clients and travel management providers.

These tools include a corporate booking tool for managing business travel, an expense management tool and a workspace management tool for managing hybrid working, safe entry and property services across multiple offices.

We have also rolled out a robust business contingency plan that enables our staff for hybrid work arrangements.

Many of us had to put on different hats. For example, I was tasked to manage the company’s social media accounts including LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

While I had some inkling of how these platforms worked, I wasn’t attracting the right audience. I needed to learn more.

I decided to attend a digital marketing course conducted in-person then online via Zoom. The four-month course was funded by Workforce Singapore.

Initially, I was worried that I couldn’t cope well given my family responsibilities, work duties and the course itself. I had good support and encouragement from my family, co-workers and company.

I not only learnt what the course had to offer, but also made new friends from the same industry. I was assigned to a group and it was really fun to work together with my group mates on the various project tasks and assignments.

The course modules helped me understand which of my content was doing well and which were not up to mark. This allowed me to tailor my contents which worked better for my target audience.

As a result, we attracted several hundred new unique followers to our company’s LinkedIn page.

In October 2021, we were delighted when the Government announced the opening of borders through the vaccinated travel lanes, which led to travel enquiries.

We needed to quickly get up-to-date with the latest travel guidelines for outbound travel to the different countries, as well as inbound flights to Singapore. The travel industry is slowly but surely on the brink of revival.

Looking back, what the pandemic taught us is the need to stay agile and resilient, and to never rest on one’s laurels.

Seize the opportunity to upskill yourself to make yourself more employable. You will also have gained a new skill for life. Stay resilient, be tenacious, so you can pick yourself up when you are down.