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.
Though both advisors and consultants have in-depth knowledge of their specific expertise, they address problems from different angles and work within a company’s organizational structure at different levels.
One distinction is that an advisor will often provide information on a company’s processes to help the company reach a solution, while a consultant will take an active role in implementing changes. Advisors are more likely to be found working on the strategic level of companies, while consultants tend to be found on the operational or tactical levels.
Another way to distinguish between advisors and consultants is that an advisor provides recommendations based on their expert advice and experience, while a consultant implements those recommendations. An advisor doesn’t necessarily have experience with how to implement the changes they recommend, nor do they necessarily provide implementation services. However, many advisors might also choose to act as consultants for certain projects.
Some of the differences between advisors and consultants can also depend on what industry you’re in—for example, financial services firms might employ advisors who are licensed brokers or stock traders who provide advice and expertise about investments, while other financial services firms might hire consultants who specialize in implementation and project management for IT projects.
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 or 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 progress on 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.
The best leaders know that having the right people in place is crucial to running a successful organization. An effective CEO will want to surround himself with a team of advisors who can share their knowledge and guide the company through its most important decisions. That’s because executive advisors are not responsible for just one specific task, but rather work in a broad capacity to offer advice to the C-suite on strategic planning, business development, resource allocation, organizational development, and more.
Identifying the right advisor or group of advisors to be part of an organization is also critical; it’s crucial that they have the relevant experience and expertise that will enable them to make a positive impact on the business. The most successful advisors have strong interpersonal skills, strong interpersonal connections within their industry, and are able to build trust among those they advise by building relationships based on integrity. A good advisor will also have high emotional intelligence, which allows them to effectively relate and connect with others.
A company’s leadership team should only seek out professional advisors who can provide insights and information that will allow them to make informed decisions about how best to move forward with organizational goals. Advisors play an important role within an organization; as C-suite executives continue to grow their businesses, they
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 skill set 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.
When you think of consultants, you probably picture a white-collar professional who is called in to fix a specific problem affecting a company. While this is certainly true, it's important to note that consultants don't always live and work in the same building as their employer, and they can come from any number of fields. In fact, while consultants are technically independent contractors, they typically have their own office and staff (even if it's just a dedicated phone line). This means that the role of the consultant is significantly different from the role of an internal employee—as a consultant, you do not spend all day in the office or even onsite at your client's location.
To explain how consultants are different from internal staff members, we need to address two key factors: task and time. Consultants have very specialized skills that allow them to accomplish pre-determined tasks in an efficient way. When they're brought on board, they can quickly assess what needs to be done and set out to complete it with minimal hand-holding or oversight. Sometimes their role can be reactive, but other times these professionals may be hired proactively—for example, an IT consultant might be brought on when a company realizes that it needs more robust IT infrastructure than it currently has in place
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 guide 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.
A small business will typically have a short list of internal employees with the necessary skills and expertise to grow the company.
Sometimes, however, internal resources don't have the bandwidth to undertake a certain project or task at hand. That's where an advisor or consultant can help.
The primary difference between consultants and advisors is that consultants are used for short-term projects or tasks, whereas an advisor is typically used for long-term strategy. For example, a marketing consultant might be brought in to create an advertising campaign for a holiday sale. However, if you're looking for advice on how to grow your sales over time, you would likely seek out an advisor who could provide strategic growth solutions rather than tactical advice on how to execute a marketing campaign.
An advisor can also be valuable in providing guidance on how best to implement changes within the organization. Rather than dictating what needs to happen, they can help you make strategic decisions based on their experience and training. The key is that they're not doing the work for you—they're helping you find new ways of achieving your goals by empowering your team with new information, ideas and strategies.
Join an Advisory Board
Companies are looking for executives just like you.
See what roles you qualify for with a 2-minute assessment.