Coaching vs Consulting and Do I Need it?

Posted by | March 24, 2011 | Marketing, Small Biz Talk | 10 Comments


What would happen if Tiger Woods fired his coach and determined to golf solo? Would he still remain the best in the world? Maybe for a short time. A coach is hired to offer personal training, encouragement, ideas and to be supportive of an individual. In short, a coach keeps his client goal focused. What is the goal for Tiger Woods? To win! What is the goal of a contractor? To run a profitable and well run business, right? A coach is typically hired on a long term basis, not short term. A coach also doesn’t work just with the owner. He or she might be hired to coach an estimator: i.e. a Sales Coach. Maybe you’ve hired a new production manager from within the company and the new manager needs help setting specific goals, a coach would sometimes be hired to keep him accountable and on target. If a business owner wants more specific help on running his business, such as how to build to sell, how to hire employees, a business plan, having good business systems, he would typically hire a consultant, not a coach. Unless of course he wants someone long term to keep him accountable.


A consultant is typically hired for short term reasons, to help with a specific need or problem. Consultants will typically ask why something is happening and then help his client think through ways to overcome his problems to reach his business goals. Consultants can be hired for all aspects of business: marketing, business planning, taxes, financial, production and more. In some cases, having both a consultant and a coach can be an excellent move for most small and large businesses. Did you know that even McDonalds, the Marriott, and Verizon all hire outside consultants?

Example from my Dad

Most contractors and small businesses I talk to about coaching or consulting services respond the same way, “I don’t think I can afford a consultant.” To answer this statement, let me share with you a personal story: I grew up watching my dad work 12 hours a day running (not building) his small painting business in San Diego during the 80s and early 90s. His customers loved him, and he was blessed with lots of referrals and repeat business. He had one problem. He wasn’t really making any money. Of course there was the typical job that was profitable but most jobs were just paying the bills and keeping the doors open. Borrowing the term from The E-Myth book, he was working in his business, not on it. We had little complaints during those earlier years. We lived conservatively and with little or no debt, but my dad’s business wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t thriving. Then one day my dad hired his first consulting firm. The first guys charged a lot of money and did nothing. Ok, so that was another mistake. He didn’t give up hope. He wanted to run a successful business and have something to sell or give to his kids someday. So he hired another short-term consulting firm. This one was a lot better. Then in the mid 1990s, he finally landed a good consulting relationship with a local firm and got his business working for him. He raised his prices (after discovering he was not charging enough). Sales go down? Just the opposite! He created an employee handbook, business systems, a hiring process, painting systems, a marketing plan and much more. What was the result? A well run business that has become one of the most profitable and steady painting companies in San Diego. In short, he has created a great place to work. He also kept his business consultant and recently added a financial consultant to his team. My dad told me he did not start making money and running a business he was proud of until he hired a good consultant. His current consultant acts more like a coach now, as the problems are dwindling but he still needs accountability.

Your Experience with a Coach or Consultant

What has been your experience working with a coach or consultant? Have you found it to be helpful? Why or Why Not? Let me know your thoughts on this subject. If you have never hired a consultant, will you consider doing so in the near future?


About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


  • David- thanks for this post and the real life example of your Dad’s company. I find working with coaches extremely helpful. For me that extra bit of accountability makes all the difference. My coach have also helped me shift my perspective about running versus building a business.

    • David says:


      Glad you liked the post. I just hired a financial coach. He is a CPA and an Financial Planner: best of both worlds in one. We meet once a month and review my business and personal finances. It is awesome! I know I am way more focused as I’ve got someone keeping me accountable with my money. Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll keep in touch on Twitter.

  • After graduating from the University of Miami Executive Coaching program, its interesting that “coaching” really needs a new word. A “coach” by my definition brings greatness out of the client by questions and deep listening. A “Consultant” brings valuable information to the client and the client choose how to use that information. It reads to me that Christie above hired a financial consultant. Finally a “Mentor” is someone who has done what you are looking to do and can give guidance.

  • David says:

    Matt, I like your definitions of a coach and consultant. I agree with you about a mentor too. I know a number of business folks who “retired” early and became business mentors. So are you then a coach now or a consultant or a little bit of both? Sounds like coaching/consultants definitely can do both.

  • Tom Reber says:

    Great post on the difference between the two. We hired a coach 5 years ago and started getting our business in order before the economy took a dump! It has been the best business decision we have made and a main reason we are still in business. I also know that one of the keys to having a successful coaching relationship is that you (the client/athlete) must want it. You need to put the work in. I’ve seen a few people complain that a coach didn’t help them, yet I know they did not implement ideas or make the hard decisions that they were coached to make.

    Great post David!

  • David says:

    Tom: Thank you for sharing. I know you pretty well. One of the reasons you are successful is because you are humble too. You actually listen to your coaches and do what they are asking. Sometimes it is hard to hear what they have to say! But with you… you are a A+ student of the game. You want to be the best at what you do, and it shows. Appreciate the feedback. See you in the fall.

  • Betty says:

    Excellent article. Thank you for sharing it. Our company recently hired a consultant, Kathleen Ranahan. Her knowledge and expertise came at a time when we needed it most. We had grown to the point that we needed to change the way we were doing business to be efficient, maximize our growth opportunities and work on teambuilding. I have implemented some new management and sales strategies that have already resulted in a higher sales volume. She made all the difference in the world for us becoming a very successful business.

    • David says:

      Betty, That is fantastic that you found a good consultant. Like I said, my dad had to go through 3-4 to find a good one! Sounds like Kathleen has really helped your business. What type of business are you in anyways? How did you find her? Thanks for stopping by and do share again sometime.

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