What’s in a Name? Business Coach or Business Consultant?

I recently found this article written by Shawn Brodof, one of my associates at the Professional Business Coaches Alliance that I want to share it with you. It does an excellent job of explaining the role of a business coach .
-Bob Rash-

As a business coach, I am often mistaken for a business “consultant”. I am quick to make the distinction of the stark contrasts between the two professions.

Before I dive into the differences between the professions, it is important to note that they do have at least one thing in common: both business consultants and business coaches are agents of change. They have been hired to help move an individual, group or company from where they currently are to where they want to be. The differences lie in the inherent relationship between the client and the consultant/coach and the tactics used to achieve change.

Let’s look at this in more detail.

The biggest difference between coaching and consulting falls under the category of accountability. In my opinion, 50% of the results one gets from coaching is a result of the coach holding their clients accountable to the actions they pledged to take. This dynamic is completely missing from the consulting relationship.

Another powerful attribute of coaching that is missing from the consultant relationship is its collaborative nature (between the client and the coach). It is a relationship between equals. Consulting is rarely collaborative nor a partnership of equals.

Specialization / Expertise
Consultants are specialists or experts. They are hired to analyze and make recommendations based on their expertise. A coach does not need to be an expert. Many of the most effective coaches you will ever meet are generalists. They employ their natural curiosity, ability to ask great questions and actively listen in order to guide their clients toward their own conclusions while helping them create a plan of attack.

Breadth of Engagement
Consultants typically work within precise, narrow parameters and deliver a very specific recommendation, report or deliverable. A coaching engagement is more fluid with very few predefined avenues in which to take. A coach looks at all areas of the business and supports their clients through a process. They evaluate, guide, motivate and help improve both their client and the business.

Term of Engagement
A good coach is purposefully trying to make himself obsolete. A consultant leaves once a specific project is completed.

A coach often acts as a teacher or trainer helping their clients to make improvements. A consultant delivers a report telling their clients what the consultant thinks they should do. Coaching does NOT involve making a diagnosis or giving advice. Good coaches shun the words “you should….” A coach encourages their clients to set their own agenda, reach their own conclusions and set their own plans of action. A consultant provides their own opinion, reaches their own conclusion and delivers their own plan of attack.

While coaches and consultants have in common their broad mission as agents of change, the bottom line is consultants do not coach and coaches should not consult.

About the Author: Shawn Brodof

Shawn Brodof is the President and Head Coach of Clarity Coaching and the author of The Termite Effect – 25 Common Business Mistakes and Their Hidden Consequences. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, he is dedicated to improving the lives of business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals by helping them take their business to the next level.

He is passionate about helping his clients capture their opportunities and overcome their obstacles while providing clarity, structure and accountability.

He is also a keynote speaker, adjunct professor at Catawba College, and trainer offering training and workshops on various business-related topics.


  • Wilford Dilmore

    May 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Trying to decide to meet with a website consultant, hire inhouse designers, or a third party company to do the website. Any tips for a small business?

  • Jacob Gilchrist

    May 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I think a lot of businesses don’t know where to start when it comes to trying to find permanent solutions

  • Ellie Saunas

    June 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    There is no doubt your industry peers have the best insight as to what strategies need to be put in place for your company

  • Nathanael Shafer

    June 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I don’t think hiring a consultant is as productive as joining a peer benchmarking session

  • Justin Notte

    June 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Small businesses won’t survive for long without a strong website

  • Herschel Sigel

    June 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I don’t think a lot of companies realize how much their industry peers can help them find new strategies that actually work

  • Winford Brienen

    June 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    The best way to find permanent solutions is to find areas that need improvement

  • Phil

    June 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Bob, great repost here. I spend more time than I would like trying to explain that difference to people. The way I always looked at it was that a consultant would “feed you for a day”. In other words, once your plan from the consultant ran out, then you would need to go back for another one. A good coach will teach (or coach) you how to fish for yourself. That’s where the magic is – when the client sees the light and figures it out for themselves.

  • Linwood Butac

    August 25, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Your business should always be moving forward or else your competition is ahead of you