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Forbes: Guiding Clients Through Downturns & Other Challenges

By Sarah Dant, for Forbes Business Development Council

This story was originally published on Forbes.com on August 9th, 2023.


Sarah Dant, Director of Client Services at 7Factor Software

I imagine I’m not the only one looking back on the goals I set this time last year for 2023 and chuckling. Obviously, for reasons none of us could have predicted, this year has been...not quite what we all expected (even after three years of living through the very unexpected).

Though everyone’s had their share of surprising setbacks, 2023 has been particularly challenging in the tech world. Fortunately, as a software solutions company, we were somewhat prepared to weather the storm. Everyone quickly moved into battle mode, rolling up their sleeves and saying we’re in this together. (It’s one of the many benefits of working with human-centric, small teams all dedicated to building good things and helping each other grow.)

Did this approach mean we made any money?
Well, we’ll make a little, but certainly not as much as we would have if we’d simply chased the dollar. But even if this year may not be jaw-dropping in terms of our financial ROIs, I can say with confidence, as director of client services, that when it comes to the duration of the partnerships we share with our clients, this year has proven to be amazing. Because instead of worrying about dollars and cents, we focused on demonstrating our value as trusted advisors while gaining strategic insights, too. Here’s how you can do the same.

Speak the Truth

We go to great lengths to be transparent with both our customers and our team about where we’re all at because trust only works if it goes both ways.

I’ve written before about encouraging your clients to share as much as they know as often as they can—and then really listen to the answers—because doing so helps you find the right solutions together. But you can’t expect someone to be honest with you if you’re not honest with them.

We don’t just face the hard realities of economic troubles, however. All day, every day, we get into projects, only to discover there are other things that need attention first. Though we might be hired for a specific execution, we’re there to be visionaries. This means nothing is ever just an ABC to-do list; we’re comprehensively looking at everything and explaining what we see and what needs to be done—not in order to upsell anyone, but to be good partners. At the end of the day, we want what’s best for the client, so we’re always fully transparent—even if it means the original solution isn’t the best solution or we aren’t ultimately the best fit.

In years like this one, when we’re watching our own numbers go down, we understand it means our clients aren’t making the revenue they anticipated, either. But instead of panicking or pulling back, we can use our knowledge to lead the conversation about our mutual realities, hold one-on-one talks with key stakeholders, work to understand their revised goals, and be straightforward about what we can reasonably do. Rather than hiding from the issue, shine a light on it so that you can create solutions.

Adjust And Accommodate

Once we’re all above board about a situation, if budget is an issue for our clients, we immediately adjust to make sure deadlines are still met. After all, the work hasn’t changed just because budget availability or project scopes have. Understanding their perspective and needs and being compatible with those—by putting extra folks on projects, providing pro bono development help and free code assessments or cutting deals for future work—shows our partners that we won’t leave them high and dry. Because we know investing in key partnerships now will pay off forever.

Though I don't recommend giving away the whole house and kitchen sink just because unexpected things pop up, it's important to always be ready to adjust for the sake of preserving the relationship.

Use Adversity To Assess

Another way to persevere through unexpected hardships is to use them to reevaluate yourself as a company. We’ve already survived a lot (including this year), and we know that economic crises are going to occur in the future—sometimes without warning. But by staying even-headed, you can take a step back and look at what you can do in order to grow. In these trying times, how could you give back to your community?

For example, when thinking from this generous mindset (because we knew others were hurting too), we came up with a new offering designed to help nonprofits and startups at a lower rate that also keeps our engineers active. At the same time, we thought about how we could partner either differently or with new entities to benefit not only ourselves but our clients. Now, with new partnerships and diving into the PubSec, we can grow our business even further, provide more competencies for our clients and have another whole realm to work with when it comes to migrations. We also reevaluated our entire sales strategy to get even clearer about how we could help our customers with what they actually need. All of this keeps us thriving—even in leaner periods.


Of course, we all prefer smooth sailing. But these are rapidly moving times, and if we’ve learned anything in the last five years, it's that things will continue to be uncertain. Adaptability and forward-thinking aren’t just buzzwords; they’re necessities. But in the midst of all that, I’m reassured to know that there are still some things that don’t change—namely, that honest and empathetic communication, extending an open hand to your neighbor, and collaborating for the greater good still make a difference.