Consultants and strategists. Many in business believe these two roles are interchangeable — that you’ll reach the same outcome with either one. But you won’t.

In fact, one of the only things consultants and strategists have in common is they’re both corporate buzzwords used interchangeably by faceless, suit-wearing bureaucrats who want to sound like they know what they’re talking about. But they don’t.

Remember the good old days when you used to print out MapQuest directions to get anywhere? Or better yet, unfolding the map you picked up at AAA or bought at the gas station to plan your route to the beach? Those days are long gone for most of us. No we use smartphones or our vehicles’ GPS system to get where we need to go.

Why does this matter? Because using a GPS isn’t just about engaging the latest technology. It’s about using an adaptive mapping tool to account for the unforeseen hurdles in your journey, much like seeking the advice of a strategist instead of a consultant.

Consultants and strategists play a key role at every level of business — from the titans of the Fortune 500 all the way down to the small business around the corner. What distinguishes one from the other is their motivation, journey and outcomes.

The Motivation

The motivation of any journey, regardless of the length, is to reach the destination, right? Consultants and strategists are both motivated by helping their clients reach their goals. But there’s a caveat.

Consultants’ motivation is short-term. They are hired to come in, assess the situation, create a plan of attack and leave (and get paid) long before their plan is actually implemented and the ultimate goal realized.

Much like printing MapQuest directions, consultants create a single path motivated by the short term-goal of creating a plan in the first place. Their plans are often too black and white for real-world business obstacles. And they usually can’t be altered or adjusted to account for an unexpected roadblock.

Strategists, on the other hand, focus on their clients’ long-term success. They assess complex situations and develop unique action plans. But their work doesn’t end there. They aren’t just interested in making the plan. They want to achieve the goal. The GPS systems in your car or phone aren’t there simply to give directions, they help us reach the destination!

The Journey

Motivation shapes your journey. Short-term goals take a short time to achieve (at least for the consultant). Long-term goals take more time, and that’s a good thing.

Consultants’ short-term view of solving business problems means their time with you will be just that, short. They assess your current business, provide a few recommendations, take your money and leave long before you set to work implementing their plans. How does this make any sense in the unpredictable and ever-evolving business world?

Fortunately, strategists are there for the long haul. After they create a plan of attack, they stick around to address the what-ifs and the unforeseen. Strategists are expert adapters and will steer your business in the right direction no matter what the obstacles, just like a GPS device.

The Outcomes

At this point, you probably see clearly that you’ll have greater success with the strategist who steers your business to long-term solutions while adjusting to real-world issues rather than the in-and-out consultant who doesn’t stick around to implement their plan.

When a business solution is not only tailor-made to accommodate the needs of your business but also continually tweaked to account for changes in the market, internal limitations and a whole host of other unforeseeable scenarios, aren’t you more likely to reach your goals than with a cut-and-dried plan that accounts for none of those things?

Think about your next road trip. If you have directions printed on a piece of paper and nothing more, what do you do when there’s unexpected road work, a car accident or you have a sudden urge to eat a Big Mac? Wing it and hope you stay the course without adding too much time to your journey? Maybe… but that’s not a gamble you should take with your business.

Every business can benefit from working with a savvy strategist. Click through to learn more about my services as a strategist.

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