When business owners run into challenges that they’re not sure how to address—or know they can’t resolve on their own—they often start looking outside their organizations for expertise and resources. Two common places to look are consultants and trainers.
What's the Difference?
While the titles “consultant” and “trainer” are sometimes used interchangeably, in our experience they are actually two very different roles.
- We think of consultants as people who analyze the current condition and then recommend a path forward. They may or may not help with the implementation of their recommendations.
- Trainers, on the other hand, share information or teach skills in ways that are designed to help the learners gain enough mastery to begin using what is learned. The best trainers are able to help their learners apply the skills and knowledge to specific situations but trainers have not typically done a pre-training assessment of the business situation (although they may do a pre-training assessment of learners’ skills).
Making the Right Choice
So when you, as a business owner, need help—where should you look?
Start by evaluating the type of problem you are hoping to solve. Is it a SYSTEMS problem, a TRAINING problem or a MANAGEMENT problem?
Is It a SYSTEMS Problem?
A systems problem is when you have no effective, documented and agreed-upon system, process or standard operating procedure (SOP) in place. A consultant with operational expertise in your industry is probably the first place to look for help developing and documenting a new system when that system is specific to your business or your industry.
In many cases, however, there is an opportunity to learn how others have addressed the same, or a similar, issue. If this is the case, looking for a trainer with experience in the content area where you’re having the problem can be a good way to go—and often less expensive than consulting. For example, many organizations say that they place a high priority on customer service, but have not defined what the expectations are for staff in this area. They don’t have effective, documented and agreed-upon customer service systems and can benefit from not re-inventing the wheel.
Over the past 24 years, hundreds of companies have learned about Zingerman’s approach to customer service. Many have jump-started their own customer service systems by adapting the tools they’ve learned in ZingTrain’s Art of Giving Great Service seminar, the Art of Giving Great Service e-learning course, or the Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service book.
Is It a TRAINING Problem?
If you have an effective, documented and agreed-upon system in place, but people don’t know about it—or don’t know how to use it—then your primary pain point is a training problem. Not surprisingly, this is where it makes sense to start by looking for training solutions.
Some organizations have in-house trainers whose job it is to develop training for exactly this situation, but many organizations put departmental managers in charge of training for their areas. These managers usually need training on how to train—and how to develop training—in order to do this part of their job effectively. ZingTrain’s Bottom-Line Training® seminar and BLT Toolkit are designed explicitly for operational managers who are not professional trainers but who have training responsibilities.
Is It a MANAGEMENT Problem?
But what if you have an effective, documented and agreed-upon system, you’ve provided training on that system and know that people are capable of using it, but in fact they DON’T use it? In this case, you have a management problem. There are likely no consequences when the system is not being used—and no rewards when it is. In other words, people are not being held accountable.
The primary solution for a management problem is to clarify expectations around the system and articulate and implement the consequences for not using it. Mind you, in most instances these consequences aren’t dire (do it this way or you’re fired!) but they certainly can be, especially when safety, product quality or customer service is at stake. But if there is no consequence for not following a system (or, alternatively, reward for following it), it is human nature to revert to the path of least resistance which is typically the fastest, easiest or most common way of doing things.
Many times management problems develop because the managers themselves are inexperienced and may not have received any training in how to manage effectively. In this case, leadership training for your managers may be an appropriate next step and ZingTrain’s Leading with Zing, Working with Zing, and Managing Ourselves seminars are worth considering.
The Bottom Line
Knowing what you hope to get out of the engagement can help you, as the client, figure out which kind of outside professional is right for you and your organization at this point in time.
A trainer shares information or teaches specific skills.
A consultant analyses a situation and offers advice.
Figuring out the root of the problem you are facing is a good first step!
If you have a specific problem that you’d like to talk through, give us a call! ZingTrain’s trainers would be happy to talk through the situation and help figure out whether training is a good option and, if so, if ZingTrain has a seminar that is the right fit. If the situation seems like a better fit for a consultant, we’ll say that and can often suggest someone who might have the expertise you’re looking for!