We All Need a Little Business Advice – Who Is Right For The Job?

coachingWe’ve all heard the terms business consultant, business coach and business advisor, in fact in my last blog I shared a case study, which highlighted how an entrepreneur grew his business with the help of a business advisor. But these terms are bantered around interchangeably, despite the fact that they are all quite different.

These three distinct business professionals represent different types of support and benefits. Understanding the differences and knowing how each of them can benefit your business will help you determine who to engage in helping you grow your business.

To help you better understand what type of business professional you might want to consider, I have outlined below my definition of each of these professionals and how they can each benefit your business depending on your needs.

Business Coach

A business coach is a professional who “coaches” you in conducting your business affairs and completing tasks. They may or may not have a background in your specific business. They are like a sporting coach, a person who inspires and pushes you to reach your goals. Most will conduct research about your company to find areas of improvement and help you work on these.

A business coach focuses on motivating you usually by creating a personalized plan to help you stay on track. If you’re looking for someone to push you further, encourage you, help you complete tasks, keep you on track, and help you overcome obstacles you may want to consider hiring a business coach.

Business Consultant

A business consultant is an expert on a particular business topic who can pull from their years of experience in the field to assist you in making informed decisions. A consultant is usually brought in to handle a particular problem or lend their expertise when there are not internal resources with the same level of experience.

Business consultants differ in their abilities, competencies and scope of involvement. Some may help you solve your HR issues for example by writing a report on HR policies and procedures if that happens to be their area of expertise, or by hiring an HR resource for you, or by simply creating a needs assessment document on why you might want to invest in hiring an HR resource.

It’s been my experience that consultants work for a specific period of time, which is usually until the issue they were hired to solve is resolved. If you feel you need specific expertise (marketing, HR, legal, etc.) you might want to consider hiring a business consultant.

Business Advisor

A business advisor is a mentor. They offer you a two-way, relationship in which you look up to them for their “seasoned” business opinion, guidance and expertise. They act as your trusted “go-to” person with decades of expertise and a deep interest in helping you succeed. They are a true mentor, taking a personal, active, and thorough interest in your business and working in partnership with you to provide the support you need.

A business advisor can also act as your business resource, capable of answering your business questions, providing an educated opinion, or accessing resources to get you the answers you need. You work with them to create goals, focus your business, and steer your business in the right direction.

You might want to involve a mentor or business advisor if your business growth has been stagnant and you’re not sure why, or you know where you want to go with your business, but you need advice as to how to put the right infrastructure in place to reach those goals.

Whether you’re looking for coaching, consultancy, or a mentor, every business needs help to grow, and knowing what you need and who can help you will lead you to success.

What type of help do you think your business needs right now? What type of business professional will best help you reach your goals? I look forward to your answers and a lively discussion.

Growing Your Business with the Help of an Advisor: A Case Study

09022011_trusted_business_advisorBeing your own boss can be one of the most rewarding career paths, but without a doubt, it can also be the most challenging. Regardless of the size of the business, the leader at the top is not an expert in everything; it has been my experience that they are experts in a field. This means that there are many questions – operational, HR, financial, marketing, sales, and strategic questions – that will need answering.

A few years ago, I met a business owner in the creative field who wanted to grow his business from a home-based operation with no employees to a fully functioning business with a team of dedicated staff.   This was something he had been struggling with and didn’t know how to achieve or whom to ask for advice.

Through our discussions, it quickly became clear that in order to truly make changes for a lasting and successful business, this creative entrepreneur needed a business strategy and resources. The owner and I established a series of meetings over the following months to create and detail the business strategy including goal-setting, creating a framework for the business; establishing what services will be offered to maintain and grow the revenue, creating pricing models, and examining additional product lines.

While developing the strategy, we also began planning for the resources needed to implement, support and drive the strategy including assessing locations, rental costs, reviewing staff requirements and duties, bookkeeping and accounting needs, invoicing systems, phone and internet systems, and IT support and back-up.

Once he executed on our strategic and resource planning, his business has not only grown, but is thriving! This business owner is typical of the entrepreneurs I see as a business advisor, where they have a clear vision of what their business is and where they want it to be, but what they need is the proper strategy, resource planning, and business advice to help them realize that vision.

Just as “two heads are better than one”, achieving success and reaching your goals often requires expertise beyond your own skill set. Calling on a business expert will help ensure your business needs are calculated and understood so that your business results align with your vision.

Do you have a business advisor or coach? How valuable have they been in helping you grow your business? I look forward to a lively discussion!