At some level, it’s kind of silly to talk about how you met a networker. They network. It’s literally what they do. And that goes double for a professional networker like Christina Bell. It might even go triple for a professional networker like Christina Bell if you’re small business owner. She can do more than help you with finding new clients, her background in training and HR can help you run your business.
So let’s take a few minutes and learn about her, how she can help you with your business, and what you should do in town.
EAA: How did you become a professional networker?
Christina: I actually stumbled into it! I owned a sales consulting business in Houston for a number of years. As a business owner, I saw first-hand the value of networking for my business. I was a member of a number of Chambers of Commerce as well as individual networking groups. Eventually I sold my sales business to move to Austin and be closer to family. At that point, the leader of my Network In Action group in Houston called to check on me. He asked if I would consider opening the first NIA chapter in Austin. The rest is history!
EAA: Why is networking so awkward for some of us?
Christina: I think a lot of people can be intimidated by walking into a room full of people they don’t know. It is hard not knowing what to expect, who will be there, and if you will feel welcome. The only way for it to get easier is to do it more. Look for at least two events a week where you can network to meet new people. And, don’t spend your time at the meeting chatting only with the people you already know.
EAA: What about when you don’t want to network with people? Surely you’ve come across someone that you don’t want to work with.
Christina: Actually, to be good at networking you should take an interest in everyone. The idea behind networking is not to sell directly to the people in the room, but to build relationships that last OUTSIDE of the room. You want other people to be your eyes and ears in the marketplace looking for good connections for you. At the same time, you need to be doing that for other people.
EAA: Who are your ideal clients?
Christina: I really enjoy meeting small business owners who are connectors. I look for people who are not only great at what they do, but they enjoy introducing people in their networking circles. Some of those people end up as clients and some don’t. Either way, you never know how an introduction will make a difference in your life.
EAA: What makes NIA different from other networking groups?
Christina: NIA has six big differentiating factors from other networking groups. We typically work with the business owner or someone that runs a book of business. We do not have MLM or direct sales companies in our groups. We run a background check on each member and a business assessment. We want all members to be able to refer with confidence starting Day 1. We only meet once per month with the core group. Most business owners want to network, but they don’t have time for weekly meetings. We have a technology platform that makes referrals, introductions, and staying top-of-mind easy. We offer professional leadership. Because of that, members are not forced into committees or extra responsibilities for the group. Finally, we are the *only* networking group to offer a ROI guaranty for each member. Other groups may promise referrals, but we stand behind that promise with a guaranty!
EAA: I’ll be damned that is exactly 6. Well done. I suggest we move on to the lighter, funner stuff. When did you get to Austin?
Christina: I’m actually rather new to Austin. We moved here in January 2017. We live in Georgetown and really enjoy the small-town feel while being so close to big-city conveniences. Plus, since we moved here from Houston, we are loving the climate here. I don’t miss the daily steam baths, mosquitoes and alligators of Houston!
EAA: What would you recommend to people moving here?
Christina: I love that there is so much to do in the Austin area. Whether you love the outdoors wine, food, music, the arts… Austin has it all! I think the area can actually be a little overwhelming because of that. I would recommend that new people to the area make it a point to try something new each month instead of settling on some favorites right away. There are so many things to explore and enjoy here! It can take years!
EAA: What is your favorite Austin thing that most people don’t know about?
Christina: Everyone knows about the bats in downtown Austin, but the locals know about the bats under McNeil Bridge. They have done some construction there in the last year, and I think the bats have moved a bit further south, but they are still there. It is an amazing thing to see every evening around dusk.
EAA: Any charities or non-profits you want to give a shout out to?
Christina: One of our members, Nick Austin, runs a charity in Georgetown called We Are Not Broken. Their organization recognizes that women and girls in today’s society feel the need to hide and cover up the scars they have received in life. We Are Not Broken encourages these survivors to redefine beauty and proudly show scars as victory marks from battles fought and won. It is a wonderful and empowering organization!
If you are a small business owner and want to connect with Christina, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or link up with her Meetup group.