You are having brunch with a group of friends and one of them begins to talk about her life coach. Then, another chimes in and says that she works with a business consultant. So, is there a difference?

Life Coach
This is the person who helps "me" come to answers, define what really ignites my passion in life, guides me on time management, my motivator so to speak. There is an incredible amount of brainstorming that can lead to good ideas, holds me accountable to take positive actions, helps me to determine if I am ready to go into business and what kind. This is more of a personal approach about the individual and how that person manages their life while starting a business. Unless this coach has in-depth experience in business, I would not recommend them as a life coach/business consultant. There are no regulations on coaches and this approach is more the motivational aspect of providing guidance.

1. Ask yourself what exactly you think you need from a coach. Is it guidance? Defining your life purpose? Regaining passion in your life? Time management?
2. Ask around for referrals. Anyone can become a coach, so as in all industries, vet the person.
3. Request a “Sample Session” or “Free Consultation” with a coach. Ask lots of questions to see how you and this person will be as a team.
4. Do your homework, both looking for a coach and as a client when you find one. Ask to speak to former clients.
5. Remain flexible. If it isn’t working out, dissolve the relationship and find someone who will work better for you.

Business Consultant (Mentor)
This is the person who is an expert in some aspect of business. She has been through the trenches in starting and running a business and knows how to "guide" those who are seeking her help. This is not about "pulling" the knowledge from the client or nudging them along, it is about guiding them in a more direct path towards success, avoiding the pitfalls that have been discovered in their own businesses. A good business mentor will dramatically reduce the time between startup and incoming revenue stream while driving down operational costs that a new business owner may never even think about.

1. The time to seek a mentor is when you are really serious about business; hungry to make your business a success.
2. Referrals are always the best. Ask your friends and colleagues if they can recommend a good mentor for you.
3. Attend business networking events and begin meeting these mentors in person, read their articles and learn why they can be invaluable to you.
4. Be ready to take risks and let go of control. A mentor will move you faster and have you face challenges head on.
5. Prepare for a long term relationship. As you are building or running a business, to get the value from a mentor entails developing relationships. If you think you only need one for less than 6 months, re-evaluate why. Building business is a process and this is one that shouldn’t be short-changed.

If you are seeking self clarification and support - go to a life coach. When you are hungry and serious about launching a successful business and need specific business direction - hire an experience business coach or consultant!

Author's Bio: 

Constance Drew, MBA, has more than 20 years as a successful career and businesswoman. She has worn many hats including teaching, technology project management, owning and running a bridal shop to becoming an Intuitive Business & Life Coach-helping Solopreneurs, Creatives and Holistic Practitioners transform their ideas into profitable and sustainable businesses. She supports various charities and started the "Pay It Forward" program to promote budding entrepreneurs.