Business coach vs business strategist: which one do you need?

If you’ve ever considered working with a professional to support your business, you’ll know just how overwhelming the options can be. So many different service providers, all doing sort-of-similar things. What is a business coach? What does a business strategist do? Are either of them going to give you what you need? 

Why would you work with a business coach or strategist? You’ve probably hit a wall or plateau in your business and you need help to step back, get clear on what you want to do, implement changes and move forward.

But the way they approach the challenge will be different. They have different toolkits, different focus areas and, whilst some outcomes may overlap, there are key differences there too.

Let’s take a look at each role …

What does a business coach do?

This is probably the role that you’ve seen the most as the online business world is packed full of business coaches! Each coach will develop their own approach and specialist area, but generally speaking, a coach is there to guide a business owner in running their business. 

They will help them to define their vision and create a plan to realise it. They will then keep them accountable on the journey.

So what would that look like in real life?

Working with a Business Coach

Say you’re a brand designer. You’re busy working with clients on a 1:1 basis, and you’re booked out months in advance. You’re working 40 hour weeks and making reasonable money, but you know it’s not sustainable. You hire a business coach to help you figure out how to do things differently.

The business coach will help you figure out what you want from your business. And after some exploratory questions and conversations, you realise that you want to step back into a Creative Director role and run a small team of brand designers. Your ideal client is actually a level up from the ones you’ve been working with. And you want to niche into the tech business market.

The coach will work with you to set goals and create a solid plan to reach them within your desired time frame. They will help you identify all the areas you need to work on to bring your vision to life. They may even recommend other professionals to support you in these areas. But they won’t get into the detail themselves, their role is to guide and support YOU as the business owner as you deliver this

transformation. 

And they will do it well! With regular check-ins to provide accountability and ensure you’re on track, they can keep a close eye on any challenges you face and help you to navigate them successfully.

What does a business strategist do?

A business strategist (or consultant) takes a deeper role in your business. A traditional business strategist would work with a business owner or board of directors to review the business and people performance, define objectives and a strategy to support them, and work across the business to ensure the implementation of the strategy. They will also coach and mentor the business owner or board of directors along the way.

In our online business world the same is true, but they will often offer additional skills such as operations design, implementation and management, change management, and integrator activities.

Working with a Business Strategist

Let’s look at this in practise using the same example of the brand designer above. Instead of reaching out to a coach, you engage the services of a business strategist.

They will do everything the coach does but the focus will be on identifying actions, finding solutions and getting into the detail of how the strategy will come to life. They will advise on best practice, and provide industry knowledge to help you make decisions. Once the strategy and plan is in place, they will continue to work with you to implement this strategy, coordinating efforts across your team or outsourced professionals (such as copywriters, website developers and brand designers) to ensure deadlines are met. 

Tracking the success of the implementation is an important part of their role. If they see that things aren’t working in real life or team members aren’t adopting new practices, they will step in.

And, as mentioned, they may also have an implementation team that can build out new processes and tools, and support with hiring and outsourcing, if your strategy requires operational changes.

During all of this they will be acting as a sounding board and coach for you and any key members of your team.

As you can see, it’s a much deeper role that effects change in your business.

Where does Innovate & Thrive Co. fit in?

We describe the work we do as business design. We are business strategists, integrators and implementers. All of our work starts with strategy, and we plan and implement transformations to support it. It could be really simple; a tweak to pricing, a redesign of services, an improved client experience, setting up an employee experience, or upgrading tech and tools. Or it could be more complex and involve a complete redirection of the business and operating models to ensure efficiency and/or the opportunity to scale and grow.

So, how does it work? 

Well, I’m a business strategist. I work with clients around the world to help them review their business performance, define a strategy, create a plan and then (if they want us to) l’ll implement it with my team too. I’m just completing a Strategy Implementation Professional qualification which formalises my experience and complements my existing skills. I’m also a qualified Change Management Practitioner, with extensive experience in leading business and operational change.

Oli is our in-house Implementation Specialist. He works with our clients to deliver any operational changes, such as designing processes, creating the client experience, writing SOPs and setting up tech and tools. He ensures that our client’s businesses are set up to deliver their strategy.

How do we support our clients?

We work with a variety of clients, from one person bands to SMEs. And we love them all! 

Here are three examples of recent clients;

Mindset and Clarity Coach

Katie contacted us because she was evolving her business and wanted to level up her client experience. 

We started by looking at her strategy, and mapped out her values, purpose, ideal client, and short and mid term goals. Once we had a clear view of her business identity and direction, we created the client experience. We approached it from 2 angles, the first being the technical side of things. The steps that needed to be taken by Katie and her clients, the templates and documents that needed to be created, and the tool and tech requirements that would drive consistency and allow for automations. The second being the special brand touches that elevate it and make sure the client feels valued – the extra phone call, the welcome gift, the free bonuses that would support them.

Once we had the client experience designed, Katie wanted us on hand whilst she built it out in one of the tools we recommended. We ran additional workshops to ensure she was equipped to build it out and troubleshoot any issues she had.

Now the client experience is up and running, Katie has enjoyed 4 clear benefits;

  • Confidence and clarity to increase her prices
  • A streamlined, memorable client experience for both her and her clients
  • More time, less stress, and a lower workload
  • Ideal clients filling her calendar

You can read more in our case study here.

Funded Business Support Organisation

We’re in the middle of this transformation as I write. The funding is reducing significantly and they need to become a commercial entity (at least partly).

We started by getting the management team together and reviewing the entire business model. We looked at what they want to be known for and who they want to work with when they aren’t bound by another organisation’s targets. And then we defined a new strategy and business model. We pulled in the best of their current model that fit with their vision, and reshaped the rest.

At our offsite we looked at;

  • Ideal clients
  • Reshaping and monetising existing ‘good fit’ services
  • New services and revenue streams
  • The client experience
  • Pricing model
  • People and skill requirements
  • The team structure
  • Processes
  • Tools and tech
  • Marketing channel strategy

We created a 12 month transformation and change plan that outlines all core activities that are needed to deliver the vision, assigns owners to each activity, and ensures a good understanding of capacity and risks. 

Now we work with them on an ongoing basis to dive further into the detail of each area including defining and embedding the culture needed in the new world. We ensure the transformation stays on track, and help them to manage the change process (human change is complex, even when you’re fully on board!).

Events Agency

This London based events agency got in touch because they had gone through a huge change in the pandemic, and they wanted to create an intentional strategy to realign their vision and redirect their focus.  They had built a reputation for world class in-person, online and hybrid public affairs events and activations and they wanted to build on this.

At our offsite we worked through;

  • Brand values
  • Mission and vision
  • The last 2 years
  • Goals
  • Revenue streams
  • People and skills planning
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Processes
  • Tech
  • Opportunities

The strategy unlocked the growth potential of the business, and 3 months after beginning the implementation, the agency was on track to achieve the annual financial target within 6 months!

We continue to stay in touch, and we’ll likely work together again this year to make the final operational changes.

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