And, welcome 2010.

This year, I welcomed the year by explaining the difference between consulting and coaching. My intent was to have a lovely evening with family and friends and I did. Little did I know that you must always be ready to help people understand what you do.

When I casually mentioned to someone that I own my own business, he said, “oh, what do you do?” When I told him I was a business coach, he told me that he has a friend who recently became a coach. And, after several conversations he still didn’t really know what his friend does now. And, how is coaching different than consulting. He also mentioned that consultant has a negative connotation for some business owners.

I felt like this was a great way for me to start my new year. Having an honest conversation where because there was no fear that I was going to try to convince him that I could help him and his business, I was able to address his real questions and doubts. I thought that this might be a great opportunity to help more business owners understand what a coach does and how they are different from consultants.

First, a consultant gets paid to provide an opinion or recommendation on some aspect of a business where they profess to be a knowledge leader. Coaches are not the experts in your business or in most of the businesses they coach (unless they coach in a specific industry only). A coach provides an outside perspective that gives the business owner insight that they may not be able to find themselves because they are too busy working in their business.

Second, a consultant makes recommendations on changes the business owner or manager should make based on industry best practices. They get paid whether the business owner/manager implements the recommendations or not. Coaches ask questions of the business owner/manager to help them determine their own best course of action and the path they want to take to make changes in their business. A coach helps keep the business owner on track with their goals and plans using various means of accountability. Coaches come in and work with the business owners while they are implementing changes or strategies and give the needed support and challenge that help the business owners reach their goals.

Third, consultants give guidance to business owners based on their knowledge of an industry. Coaches, much like athletic coaches, are on the sidelines helping business owners see how they are doing and help them improve their skills by practice. A coach will listen to a business owner’s perspective about a particular challenge or issue and provide feedback or questions to help the individual really work through a strategy to solve the issue. It is about getting results and holding people accountable for working towards their goals with consistency and commitment.

Finally, many people worry that having a coach means that they are not doing their job effectively. What people don’t realize is that many of the top executives at Fortune 500 companies all have executive coaches. They have coaches to keep them at the top of their game or elevate their game even more. Business owners usually hire accountants to help with their books and business planning and attorneys to help them when it is time to sign a contract. Well, if you want to be a business owner who stands out in your industry, then a coach is a great way to get there. Everyone doesn’t need a coach, but everyone deserves a coach.

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