Mentor, Coach, Advisor, or Consultant?

Faris Alami
2 min readFeb 19, 2019



In our experience, the terms, Mentor, Coach, Advisor, and Consultant are often confused in the world of entrepreneurship. When William Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” he wasn’t talking business, but if he were, my response would be, “Everything!”

In an ideal world, mentors act like a guide through the forest. They don’t say, “This is the way,” but offer insight with phrases such as “This is what I’ve done,” or “This is the way I’ve seen it done.” It is up to the mentee to explore it and learn from it.

The mentor gives guidance or reflections, and allows the mentee to make the decision. Mentors are more aligned with a coach. A mentor is ideal for those who want to learn from other’s mistakes and other’s journeys.

A business coach, generally speaking, aims to pull the best out of you. A coach might not give you the answers, but ask you more questions to help you find the answers from your own perspective. A business coach is ideal for those who want to do better and move higher.

A business advisor gives advice on a specific topic, process, or idea. Most business advisors are experts in a specific topic or area. They help you, for example, to write a business plan. Their knowledge and advise is built on their own experience in that specific topic or narrative.

A consultant listens to your questions then goes out and finds three or four solutions and says, “Here are some options you can explore.” Occasionally, a consultant may also be willing to roll up theirs sleeves and work with you in instituting the solution. Mentors, advisors, and coaches are unlikely to do that.

These interpretations are not set in stone, nor are they the only way of thinking about these terms. They are just one way we have defined these roles to be meaningful for the economic developers around the world.

Counselor is occasionally used in some of the economic developers specifically when they are looking from a governmental perspective. Counseling is similar to advising and consulting.

We see our blogs as opportunities for dialogue. Please share your thoughts as comments.

  1. What have you done to gain a mentor, advisor, consultant, or coach?
  2. Do you think these characteristics be combined? Can a mentor be an advisor, consultant, or coach?
  3. What have you done to differentiate between them?

Faris Alami is Founder and CEO of International Strategic Management, Inc. (ISM). He works internationally, presenting Exploring Entrepreneurship Workshops and other entrepreneurial ecosystem — related ventures.



Faris Alami

Global Entrepreneurship ecosystem, SME and leadership development in local communities