What’s The Difference Between Coaching And Consulting?

What’s The Difference Between Coaching And Consulting?

What’s The Difference Between Coaching And Consulting?

By Ralf Skirr.

Have you considered hiring a business coach or consultant? Getting help could be the best thing you’ve ever done to grow your business.

Be careful who you hire and where you put your money.

Business coaching is this year’s major trend in the business opportunities market. Every marketer and their grandmas [and probably their dogs, too] suddenly feel a calling to become a business coach.

Or, to top the nonsense, to teach others how to become a business coach. Even if they’re clueless. No skill required!

What I find, when looking at their offers, is that many don’t even know what ‘coaching’ means. They think explaining a business concept to you via Skype [for example ‘How To Publish A Book At Amazon’] is business coaching.

It’s not!

That’s a misunderstanding about the content of coaching. That’s also a misunderstanding about the purpose of coaching.

Initially coaching was popular in the domain of sports.

  • A high profile tennis player would have a performance coach.
  • A high profile basketball player would have a performance coach.

Then the idea of ‘performance coaching’ was transferred to business.

Corporations would hire coaches to ‘optimize’ performance of their stressed CEOs. The coach would meet with the CEO in confidential 1:1 meetings to discuss ‘personal issues’ of the CEO. Some call it couching, in reference to a therapist’s couch.

But the performance coaches are not the guys to explain a business strategy or crunch the numbers. Because crunching numbers and recommending business strategies is the domain of McKinsey & Co.

And those, you guessed it, are called ‘consultants.’

Conclusion: all those upcoming business coaches are actually business consultants, except they lack the training and the skill for consulting. Heck, they don’t even know they’re consultants. :-)

I’m not splitting hair about this for the sake of linguistic perfection.

Coaching and consulting are 2 entirely different professions, and require an entirely different skill set and education. That’s why it’s important to know the difference betwen coaching and consulting.

  • If you need a coach but you get a consultant, you’re losing time and money.
  • If you need a consultant but you get a coach, you’re losing time and money.

Look at it this way: You don’t hire an auto mechanic to fix your pneumonia, and you don’t hire a physician to fix your car’s brakes.


Coaching is about the personal aspects, about character, habits, and personal excellence. A coach will talk with you about topics like:

  • Goal setting and life planning
  • Time management and efficiency
  • Accountability [following through on your plans]
  • Work – life balance, and  stress management
  • Solving communication problems
  • Preparing for important meetings
  • Developing leadership skills

Coaching can also help overcome self-sabotage, and obstacles like procrastination or entrepreneurial ADHD.

A coaching session

Coaching is a confidential 1:1 relationship between coach and coachee.

The coach will primarily use questions to help you set your own goals and find your own solutions.

This is the opposite of the consultant’s job, who will give input, provide recommendations based on his business education.

Skills and education of a coach

The education of a coach is focused on psychology and communication.

They don’t need a therapeutic education (unless regulated by law), but will have lots of education in fields like NLP, nonviolent communication, and the like.

Even if called business coaches they don’t necessarily need business or industry specific education.






Consulting is not about a person, it’s about a business or organization.

A consultant will help with the actual plan how to make money and grow your business.

It’s about understanding markets and trends, about knowing what works now, and what will work 3 years from now.

  • Analyzing your business data, for example sales statistics, conversion rates, etc.
  • Analyzing markets and consumers
  • Planning product funnels
  • Creating marketing strategies

A consulting session

A consulting session is not necessarily a 1:1 meeting; team meetings are quite common. Except for a 1 person business, of course.

The consultant [often a team of consultants] will analyze the business and give precise recommendations what to do.

The larger the business, the more specialized the consultants will be.

Skills and education of a consultant

The education of a consultant is focused on business and marketing. Additionally they need presentation skills to present their findings and recommendations.

Consultants are often specialized:

  • One might focus on tax specific issues.
  • One might focus on Human Resource topics.
  • On might focus on IT topics.
  • One might focus on a specific industry.

The Small Business CoachSultant Hybrid

In large companies you will never find someone mixing the different jobs of coaching and consulting. That’s because a large business is so complex that it needs highly specialized consultants.

One would hardly be considered a reliable consultant for ‘overseas tax avoidance for global companies ‘ when he offers to coach you for your marriage problems in between.

In small business the lines get blurry.

Someone with a founded coaching skill may also have learned some marketing skills and provide a mix of coaching and consulting to small businesses. Or vice versa, a full time marketing consultant may have added coaching skills to his education.

Hiring separate people for different jobs will always give you better results. [Given they’re professionals.]

  • You’d get a 100% high performance coach to help you with your goal setting and procrastination. Because he spends all his time on coaching, he’ll be better than a part-time coach.
  • You’d get a 100% marketing consultant to help you with your next marketing campaign. Because he spends all his time on marketing, he’ll be better than a part-time marketer.
  • You’d get a 100% web tech expert to help you setting up your sales systems and web site. Because he spends all his time on web tech, he’ll be better than a part-time web expert.

That’s the optimal state in theory.

In reality there are a number of reasons why you might end up hiring a CoachSultant.

  • You don’t have the budget for an army of specialized consultants and coaches.
  • You don’t find the right people. Many small biz consultants are afraid to specialize.
  • The coaching part is small and related to the consulting topic. For example, your marketing consultant might coach you to keep you accountable for implementing the marketing plan.
  • You’re already working with someone you trust, and you rather keep working with the same person.

Let me wrap up this article with 3 recommendations for success with a coaching-consulting mix:

  1. You and your CoachSultant must be clear about the goal of each session. Today, are you working on personal development, or on business strategy?
  2. Your CoachSultant must demonstrate coaching skills and business knowledge. If you feel he lacks in one area, get a new one.  In my experience coaching skills are lacking more often, even with [part-time] coaches charging 4-figures per session.
  3. The coaching part is not the place to force someone else’s ideas on you. The consulting part is not the place to leave you searching for your own answers.

This article was first published at RalfSkirr.com.





Category: Internet Business Blog |

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