There are so many options these days when you look for professional help as a business owner. There are traditional consultants, advisors, mentors and, of course, coaches. There are executive coaches, business coaches, career coaches, personal coaches, goal coaches … where does someone go to understand what the options mean?

Coach versus Consultant

First, let’s breakdown some of the ways in which a traditional consultant is different than a coach. There are (3) fundamental differences between a traditional consultant and a coach:

The first differentiator is ,Expertise and Experience. A consultant or specialist in an area is capable of fixing an issue or focusing on a problem in one area of a business. An HR consultant deals only with HR and all their experience lies within HR. A good coach has a more generalist approach to the business with experience, focus and expertise in all aspects of a company or organization. This allows them to guide a client in all areas, being able to pull in or employ a specialist when necessary.

The second distinction between a coach and consultant is Insight & Edification. A traditional consultant does not typically share information or solutions with a client so there is a level of dependency. My tax accountant does not educate me or show me what they are doing at tax time but simply prepares the work, files it and then expects to see me again next year at tax time. A good Coach is constantly looking to educate and inspire a client in an effort to elevate their level of expertise. There is a clear intention to create client confidence, increase knowledge and independence through transparent sharing of insight and tactics.

The third variable is Timeline. What is the duration of your engagement? In a consulting model, it is often a shorter; weeks or perhaps months long. A coaching model is often long term–a 12 month or multi-year relationship. This is due to the different approach. The consultant, as a specialist in an area, can often develop and implement a solution quickly to a targeted problem. A coach teaches the client to learn the solutions, doing more of the work themselves so they experience it and the scope is much more comprehensive. This takes time and commitment for the coach and the client but it is a richer more rewarding outcome.

Personal versus Business:

Now that we have defined a little bit about the approach of a Coach, it is important to outline the differences between personal and business focused coaching. Often practitioners suggest they are both but the approach to these two areas is quite different.

Personal or Life Coach is someone who facilitates self-discovery and provides guidance in order to overcome obstacles and make positive steps towards realizing your goals and desires. Personal coaching often uses a method of coaching where the answers are drawn out of the client by posing questions, reflecting information back to them and asking them to search for information within. Identifying personal goals, dreams, barriers and identity can all be answers uncovered between your head and your heart. These are topics and concepts that you are constantly developing and re-working in your conscious and subconscious mind. A coach is there to help pull that information out of you and to reflect it back to you.

In business coaching, people do not have the inner answers to their business problems like they do to their personal issues. I can look inside myself to determine what my most important values are but I cannot look inside myself to determine the most effective marketing tactics for my business … not without experience, training and education.

A good Business Coach provides valuable information, proven models, strategic guidance and tactical choices while concurrently helping the client determine which is the best approach. For example, the business coach needs to be able to give a step by step sales process to a client and then ask the client, 'where do you think this process will work best for your team and what do you think the issues will be with them adopting it?’ Alternatively, sticking to a pure coaching model would leave a coach asking, what is the bestselling approach here, and a client saying, for the fourth time, I don’t know!

A Business Coach also factors in personal goals and visions since that is a primary driver in why people become business owners in the first place. A good Business Coach is always aware of the bigger picture and personal layers behind smart decisions in business. Our personal lives naturally impact our ability to run a business successfully.

The important thing, when dealing with any coach, is understanding how you work, knowing what you are trying to accomplish, defining expectations, and how results can be maximized. Any coaching, consulting or mentoring relationship needs its own set of guidelines, periods for review, measureable outcomes and communication tools.

For an additional checklist of things to consider when selecting a Business Coach or Mentor, email us at

Author's Bio: 

Marty started his first company at the age of 21. He has owned 13 companies to date and is a serial entrepreneur. He has dedicated a large portion of the last 12 years to being a coach and mentor to both entrepreneurs and other coaches. By taking to the practical and actual experiences in his world and applying them to other companies, situations and industries, he has found the common ground for all business globally, and has built a curriculum around this foundation for all his companies and his coaching.

Marty currently operates 4 companies with operations in the US and Canada. His first company was a technology startup, after which he ventured into audio production, software, retail, the hospitality industry and more recently, advertising/marketing. He has been a crucial player in all phases of start-up and growth.

Marty was awarded the 2002 Business Coach of the Year for North America and the 2003 Recipient for Global Contribution to the coaching profession*. In addition to international recognition, Marty has been selected as one of Calgary’s Top 40 Business Professionals under 40 in 2004 by Calgary Inc. magazine. Marty was awarded the CYBF Canadian Mentor of the Year in 2006. More recently, Marty was selected one of 18 entrepreneurs to represent Canada at the G20 Entrepreneur Summit in Nice, France in 2011 and Mexico City in 2012.

Marty Park | | 403.283.8337 Ext. 1