What is the Difference Between Business Coach and a Business Advisor?

This comes up every now and again – and my IT guru asked me to write something about it, and so here it is. Spoiler alert; there is no difference between the two. The older of the two is a Business Advisor, and the more recent is Business Coach. So, what’s going on here?

This comes up every now and again – and my IT guru asked me to write something about it, and so here it is. Spoiler alert; there is no difference between the two. The older of the two is a Business Advisor, and the more recent is Business Coach. So, what’s going on here? But just before we delve in to this a bit further, here are some other names you might have seen:

  • Business Coach
  • Business Advisor
  • Business Consultant
  • Business Professional
  • Business Manager
  • Business Specialist
  • Business CFO

Business Coach

This started when going to the gym became a thing. And the term certainly has a feel about it – it’s like saying I have a fitness coach, I’m going to the gym to give myself and my business a work out, training up, getting fit, shedding some kilos.

And then there’s coaches for sporting teams and sportspersons. In lots of ways, it also has the right feel about it. And as we all know great coaches make the difference in making it to grand finals, standing on the winner’s podium, and holding the trophy up after winning the match.

A Business Coach may also have the right sound and feel when you’re talking to your business peers, family, and friends.

Business Advisor

Business Advisor is a bit more from the past. I generally go with this one myself as I believe an advisor better describes the role. Here is a grab from an online search …

An advisor is normally a person with knowledge about specific area of expertise, and usually also includes persons with cross-functional and multidisciplinary expertise. An adviser's role is that of a guide and differs from that of a task-specific consultant.

Business Coach, Business Advisor. From my experience there is no tangible difference. That said, I am sure there may be some feedback that distinguishes the two – let’s see …

Business Consultant

I think a Business Consultant is just a wider generic description that would include Business Advisor and Business Coach. Everything that is in the following definition, again from an online search, I would think most Business Advisors and Coaches would (should) definitely do …

Consultants offer advice and expertise to client organisations to help them improve their business performance. Their work can focus on operations, strategy, management, and supply chain management across a wide range of industries.

Business Professional

I think we can safely say all of the above mentioned so far definitely should be professional in their work. And here is just one last definition from an online search …

Professionalism involves being reliable, setting your own high standards, and showing that you care about every aspect of your job. It's about being industrious and organized, and holding yourself accountable for your thoughts, words and actions.

So far, I’d definitely say there’s not a lot of deference in the ones we have looked at. I would expect to use the terms interchangeable, and I would definitely expect to have the “professional” attributes included with each one of those.

The interchangeability of the above is I think a fair and reasonable statement. The remainder are a little different - let’s look at these to finish off our list …

Business Manager

This one is a little different. This is more about specifically managing a business rather than being a Business Advisor or Coach. I can imagine an external consultant managing a business on say a week to week, or month to month, basis. This consultant may be exceptional at running businesses, and may also be have a great skill set for, and experience in, a particular industry.

Business Specialist

I believe this one is very precise in its meaning. I would see a Business Specialist being very focused on delivering a specific result for a specific task. As an example, Business Restructuring for a sizeable corporation requires very well defined and specialised skills. Many professionals in the IT industry often have very specialised and specific skills in their work. And there are doctors who specialise in one area of health, say a cardiologist.

Business CFO

A CFO is a senior finance person with many years of experience in this field of expertise. A CFO will almost always have qualifications in finance, business, or accounting. A dedicated CFO is more oriented to the numbers and does work with Financial Statements, Bank Submissions, Management Reporting, Return on Assets (ROI) and much more. A CFO’s training would almost certainly include academic qualifications. Couple the abovementioned with many years in a CFO role would certainly give the additional skill of being a good Business Advisor or Business Coach

And just to note; I am a CFO – but predominately work as a Business Coach/ Business Advisor (remembering these two are basically the same).

Clients who I have worked for have used differing titles outlined in this blog. And they sometimes even switch between them. If my clients feel happier with one of these terms compared to another then that’s fine with me.

It’s Only in the Name

Let’s close with a reality check. The business title is only in the name - what is most important is to get the right Professional working with you in your business. And if you need more on that see my blog “Should I Hire a Business Advisor?”, or get in touch for a chat …

About Author

Greg is an experienced Business Advisor with more than 15 years of industry experience focusing around various services such as Business Strategy, CFO Online and business specialist. He is also an experienced business coach.

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