What’s your biggest business challenge? Whether it’s poor sales, employee issues, or something more personal, every business owner can identify at least one pervasive problem that seems to hold the whole company back. So it’s natural to try to bring in an outside expert to help resolve your frustrations—but what kind of help do you need?
If you’ve already sought out support, you’ve likely asked, “Do I need a coach or a consultant?” and, “What’s the difference?” They’re truly two very different practices with contrasting approaches, relationships and goals. And depending on all you want to do in your business, you may need both for different things.
The key differentiating factor is who does the work to make the change happen in your business. With a consultant, they will most likely be doing the work to resolve a targeted problem. With a coach, they’ll guide you through resolving the problem, while also showing you how to look at the problem more holistically so you can see your business in a more integrated way.
One common misconception is that business coaches will act like consultants and do the work of developing your business for you. They won’t. Consider this metaphor: A sports coach doesn’t come in to run the 100 yard sprint for you, nor do they get up on the high board and perform the dive for you to then mimic. Instead, they’ll watch you do it, give you feedback, and coach you through struggles. Then, you can go out and compete. It’s this level of independent entrepreneurial competence that’s the goal of business coaching.
A business coach—in general, but especially as we train them at EMyth—collaborates with a business owner in the process of taking a business from where it is now to where the business owner or CEO wants it to be, focusing on a strategic vision. In that process, a coach guides and supports the business owner to achieve their business vision, and the results they want in both the short and long terms. In business coaching, the business is the focus, and a coach guides an owner or CEO on how to effectively develop, build and sustainably grow it. They:
- Work with business owners, partners and CEOs.
- Are proactive and system-focused.
- Assume a mentorship role.
- Take a holistic and universal approach to developing a business and its leader.
- Help business owners learn how to build the business they want.
An executive coach primarily works with executives to develop leadership and management skills that are specific to them as individuals, such as expanding self-awareness and building their own potential. An executive coach:
- Works with CEOs, senior leadership and owners, either individually or as a team.
- Is proactive and focused on specific business and performance goals.
- Helps clients improve professional skills such as effectiveness as a leader, interpersonal communication skills and strategic thinking.
- Leads specific training(s) that can vary in duration.
Generally speaking, executive coaches don’t come in to develop the business, but rather work with leaders at organizations where the systems and structure of the business are already established. For example, at EMyth we work with an owners' entire executive or management team to improve their systems and leadership skills.
A consultant is an expert in a specific area or discipline (e.g., marketing or technology) who comes in to fix a particular problem or solve a pain point. They research the issue and put together a proposed solution, which often involves the consultant or other experts doing the work for you. A consultant:
- Specializes in one or several specific business areas or industries.
- Is reactive and project-based.
- Assesses a particular business problem and presents a diagnostic proposal.
- Comes on for specific projects that vary in length of time, and may be on a retainer basis.
- Does the work to create the solution.
So, when considering what type of support you need, ask “What do I want to do in my business?” What you want to accomplish will determine whether you’re looking for a business coach or a consultant (or both).