Business Advisors, Consultants, and Coaches: Whats The Difference?


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A discussion of the distinctions between Business Advisors, Consultants, and Coaches.

Published in: Business, Economy & Finance

Business Advisors, Consultants, and Coaches: Whats The Difference?

  1. 1. Business Advisors, Consultants, and Coaches What’s the Difference? Al Walsh Walsh Enterprises Business & Financial Advisors The Capitalist’s Friend Huntington Beach, California USA [email_address] (714) 465-2749
  2. 2. <ul><li>I’ve been asked several times to define the distinction between Advisors , Consultants , and Coaches , so I thought it might be worthwhile to write this brief presentation. </li></ul><ul><li>There’s a certain amount of confusion in the business community about these three roles. Ask ten people, and you might to get ten different answers. </li></ul><ul><li>Here’s my definitions, which I think most people who have served in these roles would agree upon. </li></ul><ul><li>For sake of simplicity I’ll provide definitions as they apply in the business world; however I think they’re pretty much universal. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>A Business Advisor is pretty much hands-off. They are called in to assess, advice, and counsel on a topic or set of topics. They provide their recommendations - and then they walk away. There might be follow-up discussions, but generally the actual implementation of any recommendation is performed by company staff. Their only hands-on work usually involves writing up their recommendations. </li></ul><ul><li>A Business Consultant usually performs at least partially as an advisor, offering advice & recommendations - but then they go hands-on to implement their recommendations alone or in concert with company staff; whether it be a new strategy, technology, problem-fix, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>A Business Coach is usually not fixed upon a specific problem or topic, and they’re usually not hands-on (although there are exceptions to both). They’re usually more concerned with developing the intellectual capabilities and business acumen (the executive competencies) of their target audience. Their focus is more on helping others develop their business skills as opposed to providing specific recommendations or doing work for them. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>The distinctions between these three roles can become blurred, but these are the general definitions as I understand them. </li></ul><ul><li>I’ve found from past experience that I must sometimes shift between roles in satisfying a client’s needs. </li></ul><ul><li>A good example is an assignment I did helping a Defense Contractor develop a new commercial business subsidiary. They had been performing exclusively Defense work for decades, and were now faced with a declining volume of government business. They saw the possibility of applying their expertise in the Commercial realm, but had no experience in it. All the key executives were long-time employees with little or no prior experience in Commercial enterprises. I was asked to help them test the waters, formulate a strategy, and develop a business plan. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Because of the uniqueness of the assignment, I played all three roles; Advisor , Consultant , and Coach . </li></ul><ul><li>I worked with a small team of company executives, advising on how to test the waters and formulate a business strategy; which they then did themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>I coached them regarding differences between the Defense and Commercial worlds; developing their acumen in this arena. </li></ul><ul><li>I also went hands-on as consultant by preparing the business plan document for them from thoughts and data that we mutually accumulated. </li></ul><ul><li>Note that my coaching was focused on a fairly narrow topic area. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Another example involves a large engineering & construction company I served. Initially I was asked to perform as Coach . In the course of discussions, the target audience raised specific problems they were having; which management then asked me to address. I shifted to Advisor role – assessing and recommending – and then went to Consultant role; helping implement the solutions. </li></ul><ul><li>So you see, the distinctions can sometimes become quite blurred. </li></ul><ul><li>I use the phrase “ Business Advisor ” in my business name because I’ve found that “ Advisor ” is the most common role that I’m asked to perform in. However, I’m prepared to serve in any or all three of the roles as circumstances warrant. </li></ul><ul><li>Note that these definitions are not segregated to outside professionals. I’ve served as Executive in one part of large companies while simultaneously serving as Advisor , Consultant , or Coach in another. </li></ul><ul><li>I hope this clarifies any confusion you might have had. </li></ul>