where to find business partners - a cold beer poured.

The Ancient Art of Finding Business Mentors over a Cold Beer

Forging enduring business alliances in unusual places.


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Entrepreneurs frequently leave their home country. The unpredictability and difficulty of beginning a company in an unknown environment add to the dangers.

Local mentors can assist you to create synergies and accelerate your learning curve in such instances.

But…

How to find a mentor for your small business or startup? Especially when you are a know-nothing rookie, with not many contacts and in a completely different environment, it can be challenging.

Below I will give you a proven path to solve this problem.

How to Find Business Mentors

I met Hubert in a Facebook community. I was still preparing to open the tourist hostel that would subsequently become one of Warsaw’s largest hostels

My budget and timelines were already planned, but I needed assurance. I knew a few other businessmen in the same sector, but none of them knew much about Poland.

He had the knowledge I needed. He was undoubtedly the most successful hostel owner in Warsaw, with two acclaimed hostels, one of which was rated among the best in the world by Hostelworld. We met in a pub in Warsaw and continued in touch after.

We weren’t direct competitors because we had distinct goals and a dozen kilometers separating us. So he explained to me why my strategy had faults like unreasonable timeframes.

Where and How to Find a Small Business Mentor

While most of the social media is a diversion (to the point of addiction), a focused approach might uncover many opportunities.

You can find mutually beneficial contacts via Facebook Groups and LinkedIn. There you may discover workshops, market opportunities, skilled people, and even ask questions to experts in your industry. Don’t forget to contribute to the community. Leeches annoy everyone.

Due to social media’s prominence, a new ally has emerged: the local digital influencer.

These are local social media leaders with devoted online admirers. It’s all about creating new content — videos, images, blog entries, and podcasts — and communicating with fans. Their readers rely on them for industry news, product updates, and recommendations.

Thousands, if not millions, of your potential clients, already trust them. So rather than conveying your own tale, why not weave it into theirs?

Digital Influencers are a quick (and economical) approach to reach younger generations or tech-savvy adults.

These influencers, however, are NOT a replacement for local mentors who serve different reasons. As the award-winning research from Dr. Mehrabian’s concluded, we communicate 93% through facial and bodily gestures or tone of speech

There is no way to have this two-way engagement via social media, only in person.

How to Find Business Mentors in Your Supply Chain

Another place to look for local mentors is in your company’s supplier chain. Your service providers can aid you because you are their customer.

Often people ask:

How much is a business mentor?

The cost of a business mentor depends on how long you need the person and what you need help with. A business mentor who helps you for only a few hours might cost $75 to $150 in the USA, while an ongoing mentor relationship could cost more than $1,000 per month. 

BUT….

The answer is not always in the form of a monthly or a session payment, and often a mentorship can cost you nothing, as long as you also have something else to offer.

And this is the case of asking for advice from your suppliers.
They want to make business with you. Therefore, the chances of receptivity are much higher.

I’ll use my hostel business as an example — you may adapt it to your own — and explain how suppliers might aid in a better understanding of the environment and competition in the section below.

I’ll use my hostel business as an example — you may adapt it to your own — and explain how suppliers might aid in a better understanding of the environment and competition in the section below.

Questions to Ask a Business Mentor

Some ideas of questions to ask are:

  • Which aspects of my business plan or existing operation are failing?
  • How are you currently growing your business?
  • What do you think about my financial planning and budgeting?
  • What are your thoughts on the details and the overall vision?
  • What would you modify in my mission statement?
  • What should I do about an employee who is causing conflict in my company?
  • How can I build a culture of responsible leadership from the top down?
  • What would you do if you found yourself in X situation?
  • What are your drawbacks?
  • What are the most significant lessons you’ve acquired throughout your entrepreneurial career?
  • Is there anyone else with whom I should speak?
All the Hows of a First-Time Business Owner: There is a thin line between bankruptcy and the freedom to be an entrepreneur: An idea for a present for yourself (or to any entrepreneur).
An idea for a present for yourself (or to any entrepreneur).

How Can a Business Mentor Help You: The example of my first business (a touristic hostel)

  • The marketing agency in charge of our website’s SEO, with their monitoring tools, can help us identify where our demand comes from.
  • The laundry supplier also has useful knowledge. Because of their previous experience in serving other hotels, they are familiar with seasonality and touristic flows throughout the year, since every dirty bedsheet means a guest was in town. We can ask them about the demand and seasonality patterns.
  • The shuttle service we hired to pick up and drop off customers at the airport informs us when most passengers arrive and depart. This data is later used to estimate peak-hour staffing needs.
  • Our IT systems provider. Their staff and consultants taught us which indicators to track to track demand and adjust pricing.

As you can see, finding supply chain partners is simple because you are (or will be) their customer. 

But what to give in return when your potential ally has no ties to you? How to find business mentors when you apparently have nothing to give back?

The answer is in the last paragraphs.

Keep an Eye Out for Anti-trust Laws and Con Artists.

Two common errors should be avoided when seeking business mentors.

First, don’t breach any laws. Anticompetitive agreements or unilateral conduct that aims to dominate the market have been illegal in the US since 1890. With such a broad meaning, I strongly advise having any arrangement with allies, especially if they are competitors, reviewed by a lawyer.

Other countries, like Europe, have similar wide-ranging legislation. Even informal, gentlemen’s agreements or reciprocal price determinations might be considered a cartel under EU law’s article 101.

This is why so many conference speeches end with statements like “Please do not discuss pricing or question about pricing.”

Let us go back two thousand years to discuss the second mistake to avoid when finding business mentors.

The Local Mentor That Destroyed 3 Roman Legions.

Despite their mastery in using local chieftains as allies, the Romans made a blunder that led to one of their worst defeats. 

Sixty years after conquering Gaul, the empire invaded Magna Germania, an area east of the Rhine. General Publius Quinctilius Varus led the Roman forces.

Germanic deserters who had joined Varus’ legions years previously were the Romans’ hidden weapons. Among them was Arminius.

Arminius’ father was a Germanic tribe chief who dispatched his son to Rome to prove his loyalty. The youngster was educated in Rome, joined the army, and accompanied general Varus in the invasion of Magna Germania.

Then Arminius escaped the Roman encampment to meet with German tribes and led them to an ambush. Varus was killed on the battlefield, along with all three legions. After hearing the news, emperor Octavius Augustus smashed his head against the palace walls, yelling: Varus, give me back my legions!

In retrospect, it appears risky to trust a German deserter to lead Roman legions against his own people.

The account of this disastrous failure serves as a cautionary tale that every entrepreneur should keep in mind: while selecting your partners, be mindful of potential conflicts of interest and consider whether anyone stands to gain financially from your demise.

Liked this article about how to find business mentors? Check also: Never Write a Competitive Analysis in a Business Plan without These 3 Questions and The 5 Imperatives of All Business Survival Strategies

Conclusion: Supply Chain, Beers, and Synergies, Or: How to Find a Mentor for Your Business

I hope I conveyed the value of a local mentor— even the greatest Roman general recognized their value — to your entrepreneurial effort. I also hope that the doubt about how to find business mentors is clarified. But you may still have a question.

What can I, or my company, provide in return?

You are correct to ask this question. Reciprocal gains are a major motivator for long-term relationships.

Synergies are the most enticing reciprocal advantages. This occurs when the total worth or performance of two companies exceeds the sum of their parts.

For example, many visitors to Warsaw are looking for guided city tours or excursions to surrounding sights. By cooperating with a city tour operator, we benefit from each other’s expertise. I send the guests from my hostel on city tours while they refer potential guests to my lodge. We cut away the middleman: internet portals that charge up to 15% commission.

If more consumers and 15% lower costs aren’t enough, consider alternative options like collaborative procurement. If your company and your ally both require the same material, why not buy in bulk and so receive a better deal?

Aside from the usual rewards, keep in mind the age-old strategy of inviting your business mentors and partners for a beer. Maybe ideas will flow better.


For more insights for entrepreneurs and small businesses, I recommend this book: All the Hows of a First-Time Business Owner: There is a thin line between bankruptcy and the freedom to be an entrepreneur.

Check also: 8 Time-Tested Business Lessons for Entrepreneurs from a Legendary CEO

Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”. 65 pages of essential points, secrets, and hacks for you to launch, manage and expand your own business.

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Levi Borba is the founder of expatriateconsultancy.com, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks and The Expat, and a best-selling author. Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”.

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