We hear the question frequently, and it is an important distinction that has to be discussed with your trusted adviser. If not specified beforehand, you run the risk of having a severe disconnect between your expectations and the service/results you receive.
After you have decided that your business will benefit from outside expertise, you have to determine how to get that expertise. You can hire a new employee, or you can benefit from the knowledge, skills and abilities of one of the forms of contracted professional help.
First, let’s define each of those variations. Then, we can take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Fractional Executives are valuable business assets. When using Fractional Executive services, you are acquiring the strategic expertise and tactical oversight talents of an individual who is willing to work with you on a part-time basis. This person will have the experience you need to develop your strategy, your people and your processes to help you accomplish your business goals. He will become part of your “inner circle,” and he will lead your team in his area of expertise. He will advise you. He will take on responsibility for certain deliverables. He will, also, make decisions on your behalf.
Consultants are an important part of doing business. They have developed expertise in areas of your business, and they provide you the “horsepower” in areas where you either A) don’t want to be involved; or B) don’t have the depth of knowledge/skill necessary to be involved. A good consultant will advise you and will take on responsibility for clearly defined deliverables. A consultant will not make decisions on your behalf.
Coaches are becoming a more popular part of your management team. Although they tend to have a great deal of experience in one or more of your business functions, they are deeply expert in helping you identify your strategy, your goals and your plan for achieving those goals. Coaches advise you and help you develop plans that you will accomplish yourself. They will never make decisions on your behalf.