Small business tactics in adapting to COVID-19: lessons we learned as a SaaS Startup, and how our customers are faring

The challenges of building a tech start-up weren't easy, but here's what we tried and learned, to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
Picture of Huang Jing Jie (JJ)
Huang Jing Jie (JJ)


How our small business adapted to COVID-19

Challenges in creating a software start-up from scratch

We had to find the right audience to sell the product to. In doing so, we:

  • Physically knock on doors to get attention
  • Changed the brand messaging until it worked
  • And built enough of the product to work while making it profitable.

We also realized that selling to bigger clients requires the participation of multiple stakeholders within the companies. So as we looked to go upmarket. It was a sales challenge to keep a balance between keeping a sales cycle short and getting a bigger deal.

To overcome these challenges, we had to do our research, listen to all our customers’ inputs, then come back to the team with the findings to fine-tune our product and processes. It was really a case of relentless trying and reiteration.

COVID-19 presented an opportunity to gain customer insights with how they were coping

I oversee sales, and COVID-19 has been, quite frankly, a pain for me.

We’ve had a particularly high churn rate in March, and our pipeline was almost halved. Prospecting became infinitely difficult because nobody wanted to spend more.

We reached out to our customers (as we would normally) and asked how they were dealing with this ‘new normal.’ As a software solutions provider, how well our clients’ and prospects’ businesses cope, would ultimately influence ours.

After speaking with them, we could categorize businesses into 3 sections: Losing, Managing and Winning.


These companies experience between 80-100% revenue drops. These companies were mostly classified as ‘non-essential,’ such as

  • travel(be it hospitality or agencies),
  • aesthetic clinics,
  • and B2B construction equipment

They hope to recover quickly once the pandemic dies down, but are relying on government grants such as Singapore’s EDG (Enterprise Development Grant) that subsidize 75% of their manpower cost. Some are using grants to start on longer-term projects that improve processes that were losing them money, while others are taking the opportunity to send employees for training.


These businesses experienced 10-20% revenue changes, falling under these categories

  • logistics,
  • education,
  • pediatric clinics,
  • and marketing agencies.

They are cautious with their operating costs in the case of becoming non-essential while tapping into government grants to try small projects that shift their business more online.


These companies experienced a 100-300% increase in revenue. They comprised of

  • e-commerce companies,
  • online alcohol delivery,
  • or deemed essential services such as credit repair firms,
  • and medical devices distributors.

While enjoying a boom, they are still cautious with investments and hiring. Some in Singapore are tapping into grants such as the SGUnited Traineeship Programme, where companies can hire fresh graduates at SG$1,800-2500, no employee CPF (Central Provident Fund) contribution, and the government subsidizing 80% of their salary. They are also using government grants to implement projects due to increased operational needs.

What was true for all of them, was that the way their business functioned had to change. Most employees had to work from home, and this affected not only internal operations but marketing and sales processes as well.

We created Novocall TimeSync to help these businesses continue work remotely, at no cost.

It’s heartening to hear from our customers that they can see a real impact on their results, through Novocall.

During this pandemic, our call-back solution helps businesses capture leads quickly, which is critical when the inbound lead stream for most has been reduced to a trickle.

Converting as many of these leads is equally important, and call-backs help increase conversion rate with a personalized experience.

But we knew there was more we could do, with most businesses forced into either a fully remote work or rotating arrangement. So we did more. My co-founder, JJ, has talked earnestly about this in detail here.

Adapting to the new normal of COVID-19 means going beyond software solutions.

Sure, there are many software solutions and government schemes to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, but it goes beyond that to make it through this situation.

I think, of the lessons learned in the early years of building a business, it is the resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity that is the most important.

Hang on everyone, we’ll get through this.

Picture of JiongHan

JiongHan is the Co-Founder and CSO of Novocall.

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