Have you heard the term business coach and felt confused about what that actually means? Maybe you’ve hired a coach and been disappointed by your results. Let’s dig into what business coaching can look like to help you choose the best option for your business.

woman on chair writing | cutting through the confusion about business coaching

When I first moved away from done-for-you services and more into the space of coaching, I was resistant to being called a coach, in part because the term can be so confusing. I’ve seen people pay thousands of dollars for business coaching and not get results. I’ve also seen people (including myself) get great results from working with a coach.

So, in this episode I’m diving into the confusion surrounding coaching to help you get clarity on what coaches do, how business coaches differ from other coaches, who offers these kinds of services, and how to figure out the right support for your business.

Who Should Call Themselves a Coach?

There is no definitive answer to this question, and there are two extremes of thought in the coaching world. On one end are people who think you can jump in and call yourself a coach with a bare minimum of knowledge or experience, and on the other end are people who think you need to have advanced certifications or subject matter expertise to be a coach.

I fall somewhere in the middle. As I mentioned in episode 30 when I talked about business models, I don’t believe you need advanced education or certifications in order to be an impactful coach, but I do think you need to have a certain level of knowledge and experience.

Life Coaching vs. Business Coaching

Sometimes people get confused around coaching because the life coaching model is so different from the typical business coaching model. To be sure you’re getting what you need for where you’re at in life and business, you want to be sure you’re choosing the right model.

A Life Coaching model involves helping you make progress in your life in a particular area. The main role and goal of the coach is to ask you questions to help you reflect, find clarity and get unstuck in order to help you move forward. Life coaching is more about guiding you to find your own solutions and helping you figure out what you need rather than providing specific solutions.

A Business Coaching model is more solutions based, with specific guidance given based on the coach’s area of expertise. My friend Natalie Gingrich uses the analogy of a sports coach to help describe this kind of coaching. In sports, the coach’s role is to provide direction and guidance for the players; to give them a plan to execute based on what he or she knows will work best in a given situation.

The players know that the coach has more experience and an ability to work with their strengths and weaknesses. The coach has seen the game played, played it herself, and knows how to approach different scenarios.

The players put trust in the coach and the coach looks out for the players’ best interest. But in the end, it’s still up to the players to run the plays, put in the work, and show up to do their best.

“I would not have figured out this path on my own. I value the insight and the guidance and the prayers of the people I have worked with.” -Esther Littlefield

Terminology and Titles in the Business Coaching Space

There are some other titles that are used in the business world that have some overlap with coaching and can get confusing.


A strategist is usually someone with a speciality in a particular area who can help you evaluate that area of your business and come up with a strategy for implementation and results. For example, you might hire an email marketing strategist to come in and evaluate what you’re doing around email, and then create a strategy that will get you better results.

When I think of a strategist I think of someone who is able to take goals or visions you have for where you want to go and create a plan for how to get there.

A strategist is going to say: “Here’s the path to reach your goals.”


A consultant is an expert in a particular arena who is good at problem solving. Consultant and strategist can be somewhat overlapping and people might choose to call themselves one or the other but do similar things.

Often consultants will do an audit or evaluation of an existing situation and then create a solution to fix a problem or create better results.

A consultant is going to say: “Here’s what you need to do to fix your problem.”


A mentor is someone who has gone before you in life or business. They can be formal or informal as well as paid or unpaid. A mentor provides wisdom and advice based on their experience in a particular area. They may or may not be an expert or have credentials; but they usually have more experience in a particular area than you, and can help you by sharing what worked or didn’t work for them.

A mentor is going to say: “Here’s what worked for me–maybe this would be helpful for you, too.”

How to Choose A Coach That Works For You

There is a lot of overlap in these titles, and it’s important to realize that the people using them might be offering different services than what you really need.

Before you hire a coach, join a program or invest a lot of money in a  course, be sure to take the time to do the following:

  • Follow the coach/strategist/mentor for a little while to get a feel for their style and approach. Listen to their podcast, get on their email list, follow them on social media.
  • Reflect on what you’ve learned. Does it resonate with you? Do you like how they teach? Do your values align or is there a big disconnect?
  • How do they show results? If they are claiming to be a strategist or consultant, are they able to showcase their knowledge or expertise in this area?
  • What have they done in the business world themselves? Did they build a business and then begin coaching? The best business coaches will have real world experience in the things they are trying to help you with.
  • If possible, chat with the person before investing to determine if you are a good fit.

“It’s important to figure out what you want.” -Esther Littlefield

Be sure to remember that coaches, strategists, consultants and mentors can help guide you, encourage you, and provide knowledge that will move your business forward, but they aren’t the ones who have to put in the work.

Ultimately, your results are up to you. Make sure you are not expecting something from a coach, strategist, or mentor that is not their role to give.

My Approach

I take an integrated approach, utilizing a little bit from all of the titles I discussed above. 

My coaching style is very strategic: I try to look at your business from a bird’s eye view and make sure you are on track to reach your goals with the strategy you have in place.

Since I have experience as a service provider, coach, course creator and have supported lots of business owners behind the scenes, I’m able to provide guidance based on what I’ve done for myself and for others.

I take some principles from life coaching in that I help you to get clarity about where you want to go and why you want to go there. Once your goals are established, I’m the sports coach kind of business coach, giving you my guidance for how to run the plays in your business–but it’s up to you to put in the work.

In some things where I have particular expertise, I will be very direct about what I think you should do. Other times, I may ask you questions and help you figure out what is most important to you, and then give you advice based on that.

Whatever coaching strategies I’m implementing, I love helping people get unstuck and move forward in their businesses to get the personalized results they’re looking for.

Faith Focus

Jeremiah 31:35 – “Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar–the Lord of hosts is his name.”

Shine a Light Segment

Jamie Russell helps female entrepreneurs create time flexibility and financial freedom with binge-worthy digital product experiences that consistently grow their income so they can pursue a joyful, Jesus-loving life.

Jamie offers a super unique marketing intensive via Voxer where she helps you create a simplified marketing plan for you and your biz.

Check out Jamie and connect with her at https://jamierussells.com/ and on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heyjamierussell/.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode! In the meantime, join us over in the Christian Woman Business Community. It’s a place where Christian women who want to grow their businesses without compromising their faith or values can connect, ask questions, and get support. Join us! estherlittlefield.com/bizgroup

Connect with Esther:

If this podcast was helpful, consider leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or your podcast app.