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Do I Need Business Consulting, Business Coaching or Business Mentoring?

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Do I Need Business Consulting, Business Coaching or Business Mentoring?                          By Alan Melton

Sometimes when I meet a business owner there is some confusion about the different types of advisors. Not only do we have professionals that assist in the areas of accounting, legal and financial planning, we also have business performance advisors that assist in the areas of leadership, planning, sales, marketing, operations, time management, and human resources. And that’s just getting started with the ways these professionals can help!

As a business owner which type of business performance advisor is best for you? In this article we’ll take a look at the 3 types of services that focus on business performance: business consulting, business coaching and business mentoring.

Three Types of Business Performance Advisors

Business Consulting.  A business consultant is usually an individual who is a subject matter expert; they are experts in a narrow discipline in business. The business consultant actually performs the work within a business.  Here are some examples:

  1. A large company may hire a business consultant to study an environmental concern and bring recommendations.
  2. A company could bring in a business development consultant to initiate growth.
  3. For a company’s annual planning a business planning consultant could be retained to facilitate the planning meetings.
  4. A company looking to improve it’s productivity could hire a business process consultant to study the organization, identify and develop key process owners, and create a system for process management and improvement.

Business consulting has been around for many years and large corporations frequently use business consultants. Many business consultants have previously worked as an employee in large organizations and then move on to business consulting firms.

Additionally there are firms that offer small business consulting services. An example could be a Public Relations firm which could help a business with logo redesign and branding. Although the costs associated with small business consulting are prohibitive to most small businesses, middle market companies will hire a small business consulting firm from time to time.

Business Coaching. Business coaching is a relatively new profession that has exploded in growth over the last couple of decades. Think about the role of a sports coach. The coach is able to develop a winning team of players, improve their individual skills, and orchestrate their strengths to develop winning strategies. Effective business coaches do exactly that for their clients. In contrast to the business consultant who performs the work similar to an employee, the business coach acts as a leader and advisor so that the client can deploy successful strategies in the business.  Like a sports coach, the business coach is the motivator, trainer strategist, while the client is the player of the game.

When I founded Small Business Coach Associates in 2002 the term “business coaching” was rarely understood by small business owners. In my mind small business coaching is more holistic in nature. Added is another nuance of business coaching; services in the life coaching realm for business owner clients. Our firm focuses on the business owner first in establishing a vision, values and goals. We believe that the business should be the vehicle by which the owner achieves his/her goals, dreams and aspirations.

For the small business owner, there are myriads of areas to juggle. We coach in 21 areas that fall under the broad categories of Time, Team and Money. Some of these areas include marketing, sales, planning, leadership, cash flow, employee recruitment, incentives and retention, time management, operational performance and communications. We guide our clients through the five stages of growth: Creation, Disorder, Control, Prosperity and Freedom.

Although business coaches may also specialize in specific areas within a large company, small business coaches usually have a broader range of knowledge to assist a small business owner in many areas of the business.

Business Mentoring. A business mentor has “been there, done that.” This individual has personally owned a successful business and is in the position to teach from experience. The business mentor has “walked in the shoes” of his clients. Ideally this individual has been through the anxiety of startup, to the chaos of growth, to the stresses of cash flow and employees and debt, to the burnout of working too many hours, to the comfort of profit, and to the freedom of selling the business. A business mentor will have lots of experiences to share as you encounter problems and obstacles in your business. Be ready for some interesting stories from this seasoned professional!

With the business coaching explosion there are a number of individuals who have arrived on the scene after undergoing a weekend or week long training course and are awarded a diploma as a “certified business coach.”  These individuals may have never personally owned a business. They could be from any walk of life from corporate employee to high school graduate. A visit to a networking meeting or chamber of commerce event may reveal a large number of business coaches who fall in this category.

So What’s Best For Me?

The answer to “what’s best for me” boils down to your need. Business performance advisors usually have strengths in more than one area. It’s possible to find a professional who is a business consultant, business coach and a business mentor!

If I had to rank myself in the three areas discussed here’s that assessment:

  1. Business Coach
  2. Business Mentor
  3. Business Consultant

If you have a project that you’re working on and you need help to complete your project, bring in a business consultant or a small business consultant. If you are looking for someone that can help you with many of the areas that make a business successful, a business coach or small business coach will be your answer. If you want someone who has “practiced what they preach” through their own successful business, the business mentor is a great fit.