Business Strategist, Consultant or Coach: Which One Do You Need?

With the dramatic growth in the number of female experts starting knowledge-based businesses in the past few years, it is no surprise that there has been an equally dramatic growth in the number of people offering to help them to reach their business goals. There are business coaches, consultants, and strategists marketing their services for every stage of business from launch to legacy, and for every possible niche and goal. 

With a seemingly endless number of options, it is any wonder that many of us hire the wrong kind of help and either blame the person we hired or ourselves when we fail to get the outcome we expected.  Or maybe you know you need help but are so confused by all the options (or feeling skeptical because you’ve heard one too many horror stories.  If either of these descriptions fit, this episode is for you. 

When I first made the change from being a licensed psychotherapist to being a coach, I got asked at least once a week to describe the difference between the two, but now that I have been helping female solopreneurs for the past few years, I find the conversation has shifted to people wanting to know the difference between the various types of help we might need at various stages of our business and how to hire the right person at the right time. 

So, let’s start with a few definitions from the dictionary and Wikipedia…

Definition of a business strategist 

According to Wikipedia: Business strategy involves answering the question: How shall we compete in this business? Said another way, business strategists help you answer the big meaty questions of what your business does, for whom, how, and why and they help you develop plans to make those things happen.

Definition of a business consultant 

The Merriam-Weber online dictionary defines a consultant as one who gives professional advice or services. A business consultant is typically an experienced professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter. Due to the speed of change in the online world, someone might market themselves as a consultant who has less than 2 years of experience, but in that time has worked with a high number of clients or high profile clients or both.

Definition of a business coach 

Wikipedia defines coaching as a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. Business coaching can then be described as partnering with clients in the process of maximizing their potential as business owners, which includes mindset work as well as skill development. 

So, In a nutshell:

If you need to figure things out or make decisions either on the big picture or something specific, hire a strategist. If you need knowledge or support to execute in a particular area of your business, look for the appropriate consultant.  If you need to work on your mindset or behaviors to better reach the goals you have set in your business, a business coach is what you should be looking for. 

Best times to hire a strategist: 

  • You’re trying to make sense of all your creative ideas, and opportunities for your business and how they fit together (or not) 
  • You want to launch a new program, service, or offering or you want to eliminate your complicated product suite and niche down to a specialty area 
  • You’re really not sure what your purpose is, the specific target market you should pursue, and how to package and price your programs and services. 
  • You are feeling kind of burned out in your business or things just aren’t working as expected and you don’t know why or how to fix it. 
  • You want to completely rebrand or reenvision your business and want a well-thought-out plan to execute from 

Best times to hire a consultant: 

  • You already know what you need to do, for example, improve your reach on social media, but need advice on how to do it
  • You’ve figured out the who, what, why, and how of your business and want someone to show you how to leverage SEO or YouTube to optimize your marketing
  • You want to learn something new, like how to launch an online course and skip the learning curve 
  • You want expert guidance on how to do something specific, like hire a VA, trademark your signature framework or improve your business’s awareness of DEI 

Best times to hire a business coach:

  • You’re struggling to reach your goals, even though you know what to do 
  • You want someone to hold you accountable and talk through concerns 
  • You have behaviors, like procrastination or perfectionism that are holding you back from doing good work consistently 
  • You want to be a better boss or mentor to your team 
  • You are a new business owner and are struggling with your entrepreneurial identity and mindset 

In preparing for this episode, I realized why I have been resisting calling myself a coach for the past couple of years, but haven’t been able to settle on a perfect fit description for what I do.  My journey from therapist to coach and my search for a more accurate term than a coach is an ongoing struggle, but at this time, I would say that I’m a hybrid (like the nearer cars from Hyundai and others ) that run on either gas or electric power.  I function like a strategist + coach, but at times, I shift into consultant mode to address a specific question or when a client needs recommendations, not coaching or strategy.  

Regardless of what I call myself now or in the future, what I do know is that I:

  • Work better with established solopreneurs that are not total beginners 
  • Work best with service-based businesses and knowledge-preneurs 
  • Am well suited to those who have lots of ideas, but struggle to decide which one to focus on or want to rebrand, reinvent or pivot in their existing business 
  • Like to shift between the big picture and the nitty gritty 
  • Love analogies and metaphors, generating frameworks, and acronyms, and creating alliteration in my sleep to break down concepts & make them memorable 
  • Have a degree in communications, a background in sales, and two decades of experience as a therapist, and have started and run several successful businesses, so my actual took kit is pretty full 

Unfortunately, my domain name for my business is www.diannwingertcoaching and my IG and Linked In handles are both coachdiannwingert 

So,  I will refer to myself (for now) as a business strategist and coach who can help you map out your business plan, identify the obstacles you are likely to face, and help you overcome them while implementing the plan. 

I’ve shared on this podcast how investing in the wrong kind of help not only cost me a fuck ton of money but also set me back big-time in terms of my self-esteem because I stopped trusting myself to make good business decisions. What followed was a backlash of several years spent trying to figure it all out on my own so that I wouldn’t make another bad hiring decision.  Insisting on doing everything on my own meant having to learn everything from creating a website to social media, email marketing, and how to package, price, and promote my services.  Doing it on my own also meant researching every possible option for each of these learning areas.  I had never worked so hard in my life and felt like I had so little to show for it.  Fortunately, I eventually realized that I was digging a hole, not paving a road, and recognized I not only needed help, but I was ready to face the prospect of making another bad decision if it meant I was climbing out of the quicksand of my own stubborn self-reliance.  

If this has not already happened to you,  I’d like to share some general tips for hiring help for your business. And if it has happened to you,  maybe I put some past choices into perspective so you can move forward, regain your pride and get the help you need with confidence.  Either way, let yourself off the hook, even if you made an obvious mistake because failure and bad decisions are part of the entrepreneurial journey and there really is a lot of confusion in the industry, even among those who are marketing themselves as coaches, consultants, and strategists. 

A short list of Don’ts… 

Don't hire a strategist and ask them to do the work for you. They can help you think things through & make decisions, but they shouldn't be expected to deal with your second-guessing or fear of failure.

Don't hire a consultant to advise you on how to do something unless you are 100% clear it is the right thing for you to be doing at this stage of your business. 

Don't hire a coach and expect them to tell you what to do or make the strategic decisions for your business for you.  

Don’t expect any of these professionals to be your therapist.  Being an entrepreneur can be very challenging for your mental health and there are some excellent therapists who specialize in working with entrepreneurs.  

In the ginormous marketplace called the internet, with an unregulated field like coaching and the fast-growing industry of online business and marketing,  it is up to you, the consumer to be informed about who you are hiring and why.   One of the reasons I do a screening process and a free consultation is because I need to be certain that I am the right person for the right reason at the right time.  I want every client to be delighted with their results from working with me, which means I have to be willing to turn someone away who isn’t right or isn’t ready.  

If you are looking for someone to partner with you to move your business forward, trust your intuition and do your due diligence.  Don’t just hire the person your biz bestie raves about or get swept into something because of FOMO when you see everyone at the event racing to the back of the room, credit card in hand.  Make sure you are not hoping the person you hire is a mind reader who will understand what you need and give it to you, something I refer to as magical thinking.  If you have done this in the past,  I encourage you to listen to episode # 129 of this podcast, “There is No Magic Pill” for additional insights.   

And if you are ready for a hybrid strategist + coach, like my approach, and think we might be a fit,  there’s a link in the show notes to book your free consultation.

You already know you can only learn so much from a podcast, no matter how generously the host shares their wisdom.  Just imagine how different your business could look in 2023 can look if you get started now!  You can also book a spot now, enjoy the holidays and start in January, but it all starts with a free consultation and I only work with a limited number of clients at a time. 

If this was helpful, share it with someone who needs it.  Be sure to subscribe or follow The Driven Woman Entrepreneur on your favorite podcast player so you will be notified automatically next week when I share the mic with best-selling author, podcaster, coach, and serial entrepreneur Jadah Sellner.  We will be talking about pacing your ambition, preventing burnout while meeting your goals, and her amazing new book “She Builds: The Anti-Hustle Guide to Grow Your Business and Nourish Your Life.”  

In the meantime, stay driven! 


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