Management Consultant, Business Coach, Business Advisor – Who to Choose?

Consultant Coach Advisor – A friend recently left a voicemail message for me that said: “Hi David, I was speaking with a business owner who mentioned that he may need a business coach, but I gave him your name anyway.” That certainly got me thinking!

In my client work, I advise, I coach and I consult.
Over the years, I have had lively discussions with friends who call themselves advisors, coaches and consultants. It is one of those never-ending discussions, with few absolutes. Some avoid these terms altogether. While strict definitions and academic papers discuss the differences, the reality is that many of us coach, advise and consult across client engagements and within the scope of a particular client project. The human factor within any organization requires it.

But what this voicemail message brought home to me is the fact that business owners have a whole range of perceptions when they hear these titles: coach, advisor and consultant. Some are positive; some are, well, not so positive; some may not really be sure. They may ask for a coach, but need a consultant. Or, vice versa. This is understandable when those of us in the profession do not always agree.

In strict definitions by practitioners in these fields, you will find differences.  However, as I note above, definitions can overlap. Here are some common areas of assistance, regardless of the title:

  • operational excellence, improvements to organizations or individuals
  • minimizing risk through performance improvement
  • building value
  • providing independent, objective advice
  • offering expertise in growing your business

Management consultants, business advisors, business coaches or business consultants may all be able to help you.

So what do you do? Who do you look to for help? 
Here is the bottom line: when you seek assistance as a business owner, set aside the label; set aside the perceptions you have when you hear those words. Instead, when looking for assistance, focus on these six issues:

Your Needs: what kind of help do you need? If you are not sure, can the prospective service provider help you determine where you should focus your efforts?

Their Offerings: can they provide the services that will effectively address your needs? Are they using buzz words or specifics on how they will help?

Consider the Fit: they may be qualified but is there a fit among personalities…with you, with management and with the rest of the employees? Will you be comfortable working with them over time?

Credentials: have they sought a higher level of performance and mastery in their profession?

Trust: are you comfortable with their professionalism, integrity and ethics?

Track Record/Experience: look at testimonials, references.

David Shavzin, CMC
Atlanta, Georgia

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