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Understanding the Roles of Fractional Employees & Consultants

Ever found yourself pondering over whether your burgeoning business needs a fractional employee or a consultant? You're not alone! Today, I'd like to demystify these roles with a spotlight on Fractional Chief Operating Officers (COOs)—a realm I'm deeply passionate about.

What's a Fractional Employee?

Imagine you have a high-performance sports car (your business), but you only need a professional driver (a specialist) for specific races (projects or roles), not all year round. That's where a fractional employee steps in. They're part-time yet deeply integrated into your team, steering your business toward success during crucial times. Think of them as part-time employees with full-time commitments.

Fractional COOs: They are the strategic co-pilots for your business, steering operations, optimizing processes, and ensuring your business runs like a well-oiled machine, even if they're not in the driver's seat full-time.

And a Consultant?

Now, if the fractional employee is the part-time driver, the consultant is the expert you call in to assess why your car isn't performing at its peak or to map out the fastest race strategy. They provide expertise, advice, and strategies, but they don't take the wheel to drive the race themselves.

Consultants are the troubleshooters and strategists who analyze, advise, and exit, leaving you with a plan to execute.

Deciphering the Differences Through Real-Life Scenarios

  1. Integration: Your Fractional COO is like a seasoned chef in your kitchen, knowing where all the ingredients are and how the team works. A consultant, however, is more like a health inspector, evaluating the kitchen and suggesting improvements without cooking the meals.

  2. Duration and Depth: A Fractional COO grows with you, understanding your business inside out over time. They're in it for the long haul. Consultants, conversely, are like guest lecturers, imparting wisdom and leaving you with insights but not staying to see how the semester pans out.

  3. Execution vs. Advice: If you need someone to not only design the battle plan but also lead the troops, that's a Fractional COO. If it's a high-level strategy you're after, without the day-to-day involvement, a consultant is your go-to.

Diagram Time: Fractional COO vs. Consultant

The Overlap—Strategy and Planning: Check out the diagram below. You'll notice one common denominator: strategy and planning.

Here's how both roles contribute to this shared space:

  • Strategy Formation: Both Fractional COOs and consultants play pivotal roles in strategy formation. While a consultant might provide the frameworks, market analysis, and strategic options based on their expertise and external perspective, a Fractional COO develops and refines these strategies with an intimate understanding of the company's internal dynamics, capabilities, and long-term goals.

  • Planning: In terms of planning, a consultant outlines strategic plans, providing a roadmap or a set of recommendations based on best practices and industry insights. On the other hand, a Fractional COO translates these strategic plans into actionable, operational plans that align with the company's resources, culture, and specific context.

Which One Does Your Business Need?

Ask yourself: Do you need a dedicated leader to navigate operational challenges and opportunities, someone who will be part of your team's fabric? Or are you looking for targeted advice to solve a specific issue or to gain a fresh perspective?

Remember, the choice between a Fractional COO and a consultant isn't about good or bad; it's about aligning with your business's unique needs and growth stage.

The Takeaway

Whether you're leaning towards a Fractional COO or a consultant, remember that both play pivotal roles in the business ecosystem. It's all about choosing the right partner for your business's current journey and destination.

Until next time, keep innovating, stay engaged, and remember—I'm here to help illuminate the path for your business's success!


April Eldridge is the Founder & CEO of April Eldridge Consulting LLC.

She is an experienced Fractional COO and Chief of Staff with 20+ years of operational management and executive leadership expertise. After working in corporate America for most of her professional career, April decided to venture into entrepreneurship. Her focus is on providing the best support possible to her clients. April is highly valued for her agility, resilience, determination, and dependability, and she cherishes her relationships with the clients she supports.

If you or someone you know requires the services of a Fractional COO or Chief of Staff, please contact April. She offers a complimentary discovery call that can provide you with countless benefits, and no risk is involved.

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