Choosing to hire external help to find a solution and solve a problem requires an understanding of the difference between consulting and advising. Pick the wrong one and you might feel like you have wasted time and energy, as well as being even more confused as to which direction you should be heading toward.
Consulting, or management consulting, is defined as providing professional or expert advice to a person or a business. In the business of consulting, the consultant’s guidance is given in exchange for fee to help the client solve a particular problem. Some consultants work within large firms, but a majority of consultants are self employed.
Many consultant have specialized skills in very specific area of expertise, such as change management, organizational development, environmental issues and business administration. Consultants with a background in academia can assist companies with problems relating to research or theory.
The definition of advising is to give someone a recommendation about what should be done in a specific situation. An adviser gives information, cautions or warnings to a person who needs guidance to make a decision. Common types of advisers include career advisers, financial advisers and expert advisers.
Advising as a profession requires for the adviser to encourage their clients to think critically, to seek out resources and to develop action plans in regard to the issue at hand. He provides clients with the information and encouragement needed to take personal responsibility for exploring options and making a successful and meaningful decision.
Both consultants and advisers need more than a specific expertise and problem-solving skills. Both disciplines are businesses that require a need for marketing and management skills to reach out to potential clients and handle the administrative aspects of the business.
In consulting and advising, personality also plays a major role. When looking for a consultant or an adviser, many clients are advised to trust their instinct about the person’s personality. That way, a client is more likely to find someone they trust, who understands him and who is courteous and patient.
One of the first differences between advising and consulting is the work environment in which these specialists operate. While a minority of consultants work within a firm and the majority work independently, the opposite is often true of advisers who work not only in firms but also in schools, government organizations and a variety of large corporations.
Also, people need consulting and advising for different goals. A consultant will help a client find a solution to a problem, and advisers will guide the clients who know of possible solutions to select the best one. In other words, consultants are problem solvers while advisers are problem definers. A consultant will offer a clear answer though an adviser will offer a broader perspective on the problem.
Finally, the differing aims also mean that advisers can provide early warnings about possible emerging problems. These are often missed by consultants because they focus solely on solving the problem at hand, and do not take into account the full spectrum of possible impacts from the chosen solution. This explains why advisers tend to work within companies because they need specific knowledge about the organization. On the other hand, independent consultants tend to specialize in specific areas of expertise that allow them to find focused solutions.