I had a past client call a few months ago and he said, “I need the nu-yar.” I didn’t think much about it at the time but when I began the process of rebranding my business I thought about his words a lot. Rebranding my business has been a big deal. I’ve had to dig deep, get really honest and make some tough decisions.

The first decision was to rename my business and the second was what would I put on my business card. Would I call myself coach or consultant? Up until last year I had always been coach. My business cards said motivational speaker and business coach. Yet I constantly went back and forth between the two. I also tried other things over the years like business advisor or guide, but they all felt weird. No one title seemed to fit exactly what I do. I had to come to grips with the fact that there’s not a perfect title or one that will tell the whole story. But I had to pick one.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say it took me almost a year to make the decision. I did a lot of research. I talked to my coach and others in the field. As I looked at the differences between the two I tried to align my business with one or the other. At the end of the day I knew my title might not matter to anyone but me. But it did matter to me. I didn’t just want to settle or do what I had always done. I wanted to really be clear.  So before I made the final decision I went back to the client who asked for the ‘nu-yar’ and asked him what he meant. He said when he asked for the ‘nu-yar’ he needed advice, solutions. He wanted me to consult with him and his team, to give them direction as to where to go next. He said he didn’t want to explore his options, or process his feelings, he wanted my expert opinion. He wanted a consultant – not a coach.  This finalized the deal for me. I made a decision. I am Michelle Neujahr, business consultant. And while many will still call me coach, I’m mostly a consultant. It fits. It’s me.

I think the main difference between a coach and consultant is that a coach helps you explore the possibilities where a consultant provides possibilities. In a 2018 Forbes article, Leanne Wong says it best – ‘hire a consultant when you need an expert who can teach you a process or method. Hire a coach when you want to discover yourself.’ A consultant is usually a subject matter expert giving advice, where a coach is listening and helping the business owner to process the issues and come up with their own solutions. A coach is like a partner, a consultant is more of an advisor. Many professionals do both coaching and consulting – I do and always will. But most are usually suited for one over the other. Finding out where my true strengths lie has been a fun challenge and in making a decision, and I was finally able to get my business cards.

Businesses need both coaches and consultants. Many businesses don’t know the difference between the two because the two words are so interchangeable, and they mean different things even to those in the industry. But there are some guidelines when choosing whether to reach out to a consultant or a coach.

Hire a Coach When:

  • You need someone to bring out your very best – to help you uncover your brilliance. Coaches often address things like fear, self-concept and insecurities.
  • You need a champion, someone to encourage you in meeting your goals.
  • You want to explore options, feelings, ideas and/or solutions to current issues.
  • You need a good listener – someone to bounce things off.
  • You need individual support – a coach normally works one-on-one with individuals in an organization.
  • You want someone to hold you accountable.

Hire a Consultant When:

  • You need an advisor, someone to help you create and implement systems to reach your goals.
  • You have a problem you’ve tried to solve on your own but are stuck. You want guidance, answers and solutions.
  • You need an expert who has been there and done what you are doing.
  • When you need individual and team work – a consultant often works with individuals, teams and sometime the entire organization.
  • You need strategies, tools and systems you can implement.
  • You need someone well versed in business planning and strategy.
  • You want to someone to provide content and expert knowledge.

The truth is, most consultants do some coaching and most coaches do some consulting. No matter whether you hire a coach or a consultant to help you grow your business the key is to make sure the person is a good fit. Fit is key no matter what they call themselves.