Advisor vs. Consultant: Who drives the most business growth?

APRIL 29, 2019

As the gig economy progresses to include more high-skilled knowledge workers, the terms “consultant” and “advisor” are being mentioned more often when it comes to improving business processes and strategies. The two jobs are also often mistakenly lumped together as the same role, and while there are definite similarities, there are also distinct differences.

Both advisors and consultants have in-depth knowledge of their specific expertise, but they address problems in different ways and work within a company’s organizational structure at different levels.

An advisor’s role is that of a mentor or guide for a company’s leadership team. They work at a high-level to proactively identify the company’s opportunities or problems before they occur, and then strategize with the CEO and other C-suite executives to develop the right roadmaps for achieving success. Advisors typically work with a company on a long-term basis, which allows them to stay involved in tracking overall company goals and initiatives. Rather than performing individual tasks, advisors provide information that helps leadership teams make smart decisions and encourages them to think critically about the issues at hand.

Consultants, on the other hand, are much more task-oriented and fulfill functional roles within an organization. In most situations, consultants are hired reactively to solve individual issues affecting a company, and they use their very specialized skillset to perform pre-determined tasks. Consultants typically work on a short-term basis to address a very granular problem and in doing so take a more tactical, boots-on-the-ground approach to daily operations.

For instance, an advisor could be hired to help coach a CEO on the best strategies for entering a new market and warn the CEO of the challenges and obstacles that could arise.  The advisor could also advise the CEO during critical decisions that determine the future of the business. A consultant, on the other hand, would be hired to conduct research or field data on that market and present a report on the findings. 

Trusted by companies to help drive their bottom line, both advisors and consultants are valuable assets to growing a successful business. For small businesses in particular, advisors are more helpful in providing long-term strategies, such as for increasing revenue or gaining traction in a new industry. Other times, consultants might be needed to execute projects within a given timeframe. Although no two companies are the same, most eventually realize they need both an advisor and consultant at one point or another depending on their current needs. 

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