As a business owner or leader, it is likely that you have considered or been recommended a business coach or a business consultant. Identifying when to hire these services, and whether a business coach vs a consultant would be more beneficial, can be key to achieving a new level of success. It is important to understand the difference between business consulting and business coaching. A business coach can help a business owner or entrepreneur build on skills that they already have, and will help build new strategies and tools to reach new goals or work to find solutions to existing blind spots. Whereas a consultant will provide business insight and will likely specialise in a specific market, helping to create a business strategy and plan to be executed. The key difference is that a consultant will give advice whereas a coach won’t.
What is a business coach?
All forms of coaching work under the premise that the coach will help you to see where you are now, and where you want to be. A business coach will provide a balance of support and challenge to help you work on your goals and achieve growth.
Business coaches are often experts within their field and will be able to support you in making strategic business decisions, to keep your business competitive and growing. A business coach will understand your business at a deeper level. One-on-one business coaching can be incredibly effective as they will be able to coach you through situations that they have likely encountered before. Business coaches are often well-networked, and as part of your coaching plan they will be able to introduce you to relevant contacts that could be of support, allowing you to create a strong network of peers. As a CEO or business owner, the number one position can often be lonely, so having a network is a useful tool and can give you insights into how your competitors are operating, to help you shape your own approach.
Some business coaches may have previously been an entrepreneur or held a CEO position, and have now chosen to take a new career path. They will be experts in helping implement strategies that assist you in achieving your goals and vision.
A business coach can be brought in on both a short-term or long-term arrangement, you may need a couple of sessions close together to overcome an immediate need, with top up sessions on a less frequent basis. Coaches support you in being the best version of yourself, allowing you to best support your team and, overall, your business.
Business coaching covers leadership coaching and tends to fall into two main categories: developmental coaching and coaching to resolve problems or risks. Leadership coaching can support you in becoming more mindful, inspirational, and impactful, within your communications.
Some coaches will specialise in working with small business owners and use the same framework to help you reach your goals. They will have a track record in working with other small business owners, and will be more likely to understand where you are in your journey.
What is a business consultant?
Business consultants are industry experts and will often be hired by a small business owner or CEO to help with a specific situation or problem to drive change, and will be hired for a short period of time. Business consultants can be brought back in to maintain or recheck the work that they have done, to keep you on track.
They will provide advice on how to tackle certain business areas such as: management, strategy, operations, HR, IT, and marketing. They are experienced in both business planning and strategy, which helps them to assess the direction and scalability of your business. They can also work with you regarding customer acquisition and retention.
They will use their expertise to identify problems and create solutions, working across the business, and are driven by project-orientated results. Once they have understood the goals that you are looking to achieve, they will analyse what you are currently doing to determine areas of improvement. Business consulting will analyse the business and create a solution plan to implement change where necessary. They work with you to create a plan of action and will work with a project team to implement the changes, so that you can reach your goals.
Just as you outsource some areas of your business, you can outsource your ‘fresh perspective’ to consultants, they will bring an outside view that you cannot get otherwise.
What are the differences?
One of the main differences between a coach and consultant is that a coach will support you to find the answers within yourself, versus a business consultant who analyses and identifies the tasks that need to be completed for you to hit your goals.
Another difference is accountability. As you work with a coach to achieve your goals, they will hold you accountable for any action that needs to be taken, whereas a consultant will not. They will tell you what needs to be done but it is up to you to decide how these changes are implemented.
If a behavioural change is needed, consultants generally do not get involved. Whereas a coach will focus on you and your team, on interpersonal dynamics, and will support behavioural changes.
Although a coach may be an expert in their field, to have a good coach you don’t necessarily need one that is a specialist, whereas you will want a business consultant that is trained and specialised in a specific area.
What are the similarities?
One similarity between a coach and a consultant is that they are both there to support you on your business goals and bring knowledge and expertise in a variety of areas. They offer an outsider’s perspective on the business and will do so without a political agenda, as they are not an employee of the organisation.
Which do I need?
Often the lines between a coaching and consulting can get blurred, creating a situation that is not effective at all. That’s why it is best to decide which you really need at that time; many small business owners or business leaders will use both at different times on their journey, dependant on the pressing need at that point in time. If there was a need to deliver a specific project to enhance logistics, for example, a business consultant with a specialist skill-set may be the best option. Whereas if you were feeling stuck, a business coach may be a better solution due to the wide-reaching support offered, in terms of development. If you need someone to support you in achieving and working through your goals, a business coach would be the better option, rather than a consultant, as they would use their own expertise to reach goals for you.
When bringing any external resource into your business, it is always advisable to speak to a number of people before making your decision. Coaches offer chemistry calls to help you understand the tools that they would use, and their working style. Consulting firms will be able to put together a proposal for you to understand where they might have worked on a similar project before. Consider the size of the consulting firm you are looking at working with, as if you are a small business, there will be firms that specialise in working with small businesses and will have a better understanding of the challenges you may face. It is always worth getting referrals and reading reviews to understand the quality and credibility of the information being shared, and to help you make a justified decision as to what’s best for you and will make a difference to your business.