When a business is struggling, they might consider hiring a third party to help. This is when you’ll hear the term consultant and advisor thrown around. However, many people fail to distinguish between the two and there are major differences that need to be considered before one is hired over the other.
Robert Taylor is a former public adjuster and current consultant based in Sanger, California. He provides his insight into the topic of consulting versus advising, explaining the distinct roles and responsibilities of each position.
Advisors Preemptively Address Problems
According to former public adjuster Robert Taylor, one of the main differences between consultants and advisors is that advisors preemptively address problems. Advisors are generally hired to identify problems before they arise and then help the business overcome these issues in the long term. Oppositely, consultants are hired to tackle a problem that has already arisen, usually one that is very specific, and it is the consultant’s job to come up with a plan of action to overcome it. Despite these differences, it is the role of both consultants and advisors to provide strategic advice to the business.
Advisors Work Long Term
As mentioned, advisors are typically in it for the long haul. Robert Taylor, former public adjuster, claims that advisors tend to hold long-term positions in order to help businesses achieve their larger, overarching goals. On average, advisors will meet with the business less frequently than consultants in the short term, but more frequently than consultants in the long term, as advisors are more focused on the overall, long-term success of the company. Often advisors will be hired to advise a company for several years, whereas consultants will be hired for a number of months or even a number of weeks if the problem is smaller.
Advisors Help Business Achieve Big Picture Goals
Another key difference between advisors and consultants is that advisors are generally hired to help businesses achieve bigger, overarching goals. In contrast, consultants are hired to focus on a specific problem that a business is experiencing. Former public adjuster Robert Taylor asserts that advisors are especially useful to small businesses, which may need more help running their business as a whole. In this case, an advisor will be hired to help with a variety of challenges and offer a wide range of services, from increasing revenue to providing leadership mentoring and overseeing a long-term strategy. The role of an advisor is extremely important in newer businesses who could use the advice of an expert to get the company up and running and to gain a competitive edge in the industry they work in.
Consultants Fix Problems That Arise
Unlike advisors who identify potential problems before they happen, consultants are brought on to fix an existing problem that management is already aware of. Consultants are problem-solving experts, which means that their role tends to be more retroactive in nature.
Consultants Focus on Specific Problems
Consultants are typically hired to address very specific problems within a company. Unlike advisors who advise the company on a wide variety of business practices and are in it for the long term, consultants are generally experts in one specific field, such as marketing, and will be brought on for a short and specified length of time to tackle one particular problem. Former public adjuster Robert Taylor claims that consultants are most often hired by growing businesses who have a specific, often complex problem that they are having trouble solving internally. Thus, if a business is struggling with one particular issue, rather than struggling more generally, hiring a consultant over an advisor is usually the best course of action.
Consultants Go In-Depth
As advisors are more focused on the big picture, helping companies in the long term, they tend to provide a more surface-level assessment of a company, in terms of their performance and how they stack up against their competitors. Oppositely, consultants, who are more focused on specific problems, will do a deep dive into the business in order to solve the issue. They will look at all aspects of a business, including but not limited to cost structure, capability sourcing, business process redesign, and revenue capture. This information will help inform the strategic advice offered by the consultant and will also be relayed to the business so that they can better understand their position, shares former public adjuster Robert Taylor.