What if I could give you a secret to elevating your business strategy that takes less time, costs less, whilst at the same time engaging and energising your top people?
The secret starts with believing that the answers to elevating your strategy already sit within your business. More specifically, within the knowledge and experience of your own people.
Once you come from that belief, how to unlock the optimum and highest value strategy?
Simple. Hire a business strategy coach rather than a consultant.
Business Strategy Coaching has amazingly high ROI
I’ve just finished a Business Strategy Coaching engagement. The client chose to hire me as their Business Strategy Coach to support them 1:1 in developing their vision and strategy for a radical shift in the division they lead within a several hundred million dollar global business.
In three months of calls and meetings, I spent a total of fewer than twenty hours time with them, with the project completed inside the time required and with the client feeling engaged and with their strategy elevated to a high level of maximising their potential, both as an individual and the potential for the business.
As Business Strategy Coaching can have such a tremendously high ROI, what is it and how does it differ from strategy consulting?
Today’s post, having greatly enjoyed this latest engagement, is to share my thoughts on these distinctions to add value to you in your own decision making around what type of support to bring in to develop your own Business Strategy.
The difference between Consulting and Coaching
First, to a general distinction between Consulting and Coaching overall.
As the tongue in cheek saying goes, “you hire a consultant and pay them to tell you what you already know“. Unfair to consultants, but makes the point that you pay a consultant as an expert to tell you something you don’t know.
A coach, on the other hand, is there to help you work out what you already do know.
Consultants “tell”, Coaches “ask”.
Consultants bring expertise to your business but don’t transfer the skills, though they may leave a strategy report with you. Again and again, I meet business leaders who tell me they had a report done by consultants. When I ask them where the report is, they point to a high shelf somewhere in their office where the report sits, gathering dust.
Coaches are not there to tell, they listen, reflect and support you and your people. Coaches come from a belief that the answers are already within the client, so they work to bring awareness and draw out the best from the client.
What specific type of coach does Business Strategy Coaching?
There are many coaches out there who work in different areas, so what specifically makes a good Business Strategy Coach.
First, and obvious though this may sound, they must have in their toolkit all that comes with a wealth of relevant and appropriately high-level business qualifications, experience, skills.
I cannot emphasise this enough when it comes to Business Strategy Coaching. There are many brilliant coaches, but far fewer with that business acumen and “boardroom credibility” who can first quickly understand your business, then bring added value through their own experience of developing and executing strategies across their career in leading businesses.
Second, beyond their business skills and experience, they must clearly also be a skilled and experienced coach. However, that is not sufficient. It is easy for someone with that range of skills to fall into giving the client expert advice (like a client), but, unless the client specifically and clearly asks for their advice, they must also have the discipline to recognise their primary role is to coach, not consult. Their role is to bring awareness from the client through listening and reflection, then help the client develop their own strategy, not consult or otherwise give advice on what specifically the strategy should be.
A Business Strategy Coach, then, must have the combination of many years of experience but who also comes with the humility and presence to coach rather than consult. To be a sounding board and reflect ideas to you and your team, whilst also both bringing their own ideas and drawing fully on the knowledge within the business and its people.
What makes Business Strategy Coaching so quick, effective and inexpensive compared to consulting?
Imagine a consultant or team of them from one of the big global consultants is brought in to help you develop your strategy. You are bringing them in for both their expertise and their ability to bring an external perspective, as well as, often, to actually write your strategy report.
Expertise, external perspective and writing your report.
All three are valuable, but all cost time and money.
Let’s look at all three and how coaching varies from consulting on each when it comes to developing your business strategy.
Paying someone else to become expert on your business
First, no matter how expert they are, any consulting firm will need to come into your business for some time to do their own “fact find” in-depth to get to know your business. Totally understandable, but so much of this is baseline information that people within your business already know and you are therefore teaching the consultants.
Oh, and as that investment can be high, in larger companies in particular there then tends to be a “stickiness” to consultants once they are first used, ie the tendency is to keep using the same firm again and again as you’ve already made that investment to pay them to learn your business.
A coach, on the other hand, is trained to understand your business at a more contextual level and far faster. They aren’t being paid by you to be expert, remember, but instead to help draw out the expertise within you and the people in your business.
You don’t pay a Business Strategy Coach to become an expert on your business and then (back to the old joke), tell you what you already know. They know to get up to speed with your business at a contextual level (and fast) so that they can get into their role of being a sounding board, of listening and reflecting.
Coaches learn your business contextually and fast, hence cost you less time and money.
Bringing outside perspective
Consultants as experts (remember, a key part of my definition of a consultant is that they bring expertise), often bring outside perspective through relevant external data, information, detail, benchmarks etc. This is valuable expertise that they acquire globally from their clients and other sources and, effectively, charge you for in their fee to help develop your business strategy.
Sometimes such external (and externally validated) data is of real value to you, however, sometimes you can find it yourself rather than rely on (and pay) consultants to do so. No right or wrong answer here, but if you are able to do your own research around ideas and new perspectives, then sometimes you can both save time and money and then also build further expertise in your business through that research rather than paying consultants for the expert information.
Coaches, then, bring outside perspective differently.
First, through deep listening, they can, at a contextual level, help you “sense check” your thoughts and ideas as you develop your own business strategy.
Second, and bringing in the point made earlier about Business Strategy Coaches needing a wealth of business experience, once they have listened to you, part of their reflective role as your sounding board is also to bring their own particular outside experience at that contextual level to support you in developing and evolving your strategy. I noted above about doing your own research.
Writing your strategy report
In my career, I’ve often been brought in by clients to facilitate annual retreats and other group meetings and projects around Business Strategy. Amazingly commonly, the year before they will have used one of the top big global consulting firms then found that they gave them a report and that it then (again as noted above) “sat on the shelf”.
Put another way, they weren’t engaged with it because someone else wrote it and they didn’t feel connected to the strategy.
I have both written and read countless strategy reports over the decades. In my experience it is almost always best for the people within a business to write their own report, however so often when they hire consultants to help with their business strategy, they have the consultants write it, and again, this tends to result in a lack of engagement, as well as failing to bring out all the expertise already within your team.
Using a sporting analogy, the coach doesn’t go on the field of play, they are there to help the players be the best they can be and choose the correct way to play at the right time.
Coaches keep it contextual, consultants are more into the detail
Coaches, therefore, are there to support you and your team bring out the best for your own Business Strategy.
At all levels, staying in Context means a Business Strategy Coach can help you and your team develop your strategy with an extremely high ROI on the investment in the coach.
One caveat, though, is that the coach is, again, not there to do the work for you but to support you in bringing out your best as you develop your own Business Strategy, including your research, your presentations, your reports. A Business Strategy Coach can be ideal for you, but do be aware that sometimes you may also need some use of consultants depending on the resources, skills etc already at your disposal internally.
I hope today’s post has been of value to you. If you’d like to discuss further, I LOVE Business Strategy Coaching and would be happy to connect.
Also published on Medium.