On a typical workday, Evertrue Bell, the U.S. Training Manager of Network Marketing for one of the world’s largest and oldest direct selling companies, is on the road. She may be commuting from her North Carolina home to the company’s New York City headquarters, but more likely, she is heading into the field.

Named to her position only recently, Bell has been charged with helping to lead her company’s transformation from a traditional direct selling organization into a network marketing powerhouse by expanding representative participation in the company’s multilevel program. It’s a lofty goal and a challenging role, but Bell is up to the task: among network marketers, Bell is one of a kind.

During her twenty-eight-year career, Bell has earned a reputation as an exceptionally resourceful entrepreneur, creating success stories in markets that challenged even the most seasoned networkers. Her success derives in part from a diligent and consistent application of field fundamentals. Primarily, it comes from the most powerful success driver in network marketing: a desire to help others.

“My personal goal is to help 100 women a year earn more money than their husbands,” says Bell with a laugh. In the past, when her company operated purely on a direct selling model, that wasn’t so easy to do. Since the corporation launched its network marketing program in 1990, however, she has helped thousands make their dreams of financial independence come true.

A Teacher’s Graduation

It was Evertrue’s innate desire to help others that brought her to network marketing, and it has been key to all of her success. She calls herself a “born educator,” and in fact, started out pursuing a career as a high school teacher. She scraped by for four years on a teacher’s meager salary, and never considered leaving the profession because of her commitment to the kids she taught. Then calamity struck, and she was forced to consider alternative income.

One chilly autumn afternoon, she chanced to come home from school early one day. As she ascended the last steps leading to her third-floor walk-up apartment, she noticed her door was ajar. She had been robbed—completely wiped out.

“The burglars took everything they could carry,” recalls Evertrue. “They had even gone into my closet and taken my shoes!”

Left with nothing, and with no money to rebuild, she started looking around for a way to earn some extra income. On her way to work one day, she was passing by the local office of a large personal care products company, and decided to step inside. By the time she left, she had signed on to become a sales representative. She walked out armed with only a few brochures and the motivation to earn—and that was all she needed.

Despite her lack of selling experience, Evertrue instinctively knew to start with her established network within the school system. She passed out brochures to teachers, cafeteria workers and office staff, and even sent brochures home with students. After one year, she was earning more selling part-time than she was earning through full-time teaching.

“That made me think,” says Evertrue. “What would happen if I started taking this seriously?”

She became more involved in the company and started attending sales meetings. As she began developing a close relationship with her district manager, she saw similarities between her manager’s job and teaching.

“She had the same challenges I had, and the same joys. The only difference was that she dealt with adults instead of young people.” Bell also noted that her manager earned more money with every “student” she taught successfully, while the school wasn’t giving out any raises—and that was enough to spur Bell to make a career transition and join the company as a full-time employee.

The Last Become First

In her first assignment as a district manager, Bell was given an inner city market that had traditionally under-performed.

“It had been at the bottom of the barrel for a long time,” Bell recalls. “It had the projects, high crime…no one had ever tried in that market, because they were afraid.” Not Bell. She strode boldly through the neighborhood, confident that the earning opportunity she presented would find an audience. It did.

In her first year on the job, Bell took her district from last place to first in the Midwest region and was recognized by the company as one of the best managers in the country.

“It was quick, but it wasn’t easy,” Bell says of her success. “There were challenges that I didn’t foresee, and for which there were no easy solutions. I had to think creatively.”

For example, delivery companies refused to service public housing, so many of Bell’s new recruits had no way of getting their orders. Instead of writing off whole swaths of her district, Bell turned her office into a mini-distribution center, having products delivered and letting re-presentatives pick up their orders there.

Her diligence in helping her recruits overcome obstacles to their success earned everlasting loyalty from the representatives. Many are still thriving in what was once considered a hopeless territory.

“I never pre-judged the people,” Bell says. “I never assumed anything about them. I just went out and learned what they wanted and taught them how to succeed.”

Changing Perspectives

While Bell’s focus on helping recruits meet their individual needs was key to her success, she says she would do things a little differently today.

“Today, we’re interested in a different kind of person,” she says. The traits she looks for today in new recruits include influencing skills, a big-picture mentality and established links to an existing network.

“If I were in charge of that market today, I wouldn’t look for people who wanted to buy a refrigerator,” Bell says. “I would look for people who wanted to buy a house for the refrigerator to go in!”

Buying houses, cars, yachts—just about anything—became a real possibility when the company launched its networking program. The new business opportunity ushered in a new era of entrepreneurial representatives, says Bell, and it required a mindshift in the company’s district managers as well. Training managers in how to communicate with representatives who embrace the network marketing opportunity is key among Bell’s tasks.

“In the traditional direct selling model, managers worked with representatives who were focused mostly on short-term goals,” she says. “We’re now refocusing that perspective on long-term planning.”

Bell works with managers to help them build ninety-day business plans in partnership with their network marketing representatives.

“We try to teach patience,” she says. “You cannot give up because you don’t see instant results. We want our managers to focus on helping their representatives build solid businesses. That takes time.”

The Importance of Mentors

Bell saw the value of establishing partnering and mentoring relationships from the beginning of her career, and emphasizes this dimension to both representatives and corporate employees. She credits her representatives’ willingness to employ the lessons she taught them with her success at the district level, and the lessons she learned from others with her advancement through the corporate ranks.

After six years as a district manager, Bell was promoted to division manager, where she oversaw staff and budgeting for a multi-million-dollar market. Before receiving her division assignment, she had to undergo intense corporate training, including three months shadowing a mentor.

“The fundamental skills I learned at her side, such as time management, calendar management, follow-up, organizational skills and commitment, are critical on every level,” Bell says. “I knew that they would help me take my division to the next level, and that representatives who employed them would find success immediately.”

Convincing the district managers in her new division took some doing, however. For years the division had languished in last place in the region, and the managers had languished along with it. Even so, Bell embraced the team with enthusiasm.

“I was so excited about my assignment, I didn’t stop to think about the harsh realities of my market,” Bell says. “Even its historically poor performance couldn’t stand in the way of my enthusiasm. I was very motivated.”

Her excitement stood in stark contrast to the attitudes of most of the district managers. Four of them greeted her with resignations and the others were unwelcoming. But Bell didn’t let the frosty reception chill her enthusiasm. She quickly replenished her roster with managers who were willing and eager to work with her, and focused her energy on training them to perform to plan.

She urged them to master technology, to utilize tools like bonus calculators and the Internet. She also taught them the importance of mentoring their representatives, recruiting business-oriented people and creating supportive networks within their districts. The new managers followed Bell’s advice, and soon they were earning bonuses never before seen in that division.

Bell then shocked her team by flaunting the new managers’ bonuses.

“We’re conditioned as women not to talk about money,” Bell says, “but the key to motivating people is to show them what’s in it for them. I showed off my top achievers’ bonus checks every chance I got. I had to show the other managers it was possible to achieve the annual sales goal. It had been so long since anyone had done so, they no longer believed.”

Revolutionary Results

By the end of the year, Bell had won over every manager in her division, and the team finished #1 in the region. Bell went on to lead several other low-performing divisions to the top during her stint as a division manager. In each case, she says, the key to success was embracing the networking concept.

“In the direct selling model, we focused on individuals,” she explains. “We helped a representative sell more so she could earn a good living. It was all based on her own effort. Today, we focus on strategies to help representatives build a network, which moves the focus away from individual effort to a group effort. It’s no longer solely a product-driven endeavor. Now we work hard to engage recruits in both product sales and building networks right from the start.

“Our managers are happier because their time has been freed up to focus on developing new leaders, who are now successful business partners. Our representatives are happier because they are better supported, and they’re succeeding. We have seen a lot of dreams turn into realities.”

And given the state of the profession and the social and economic climate around us, says Bell, the future promises even more success stories.

“People want to work at home; they want to control their own destinies. For the first time in history, we possess the technology, the experience and the motivation to unleash the exponential power of network marketing in our personal lives. The profession is going to get only bigger and better at helping ordinary people achieve extraordinary results.”