Kathy Fyler and Sue Urda have been successful entrepreneurs for over 15 years. Their last venture, a successful start-up company that manufactured neon signs, got them listed in Inc. magazine’s “500 fastest Privately Held Companies” in 2002. But something was missing, says Fyler, “At the end of the day we were just making beer signs.”

Their quest for “something more” led them to a new idea, a networking group where women could meet each other, share their problems and their successes, build relationships, and do business.

So when their neon sign business “had trouble and went away” in 2002, the pair looked at it as an opportunity to come up with a new business concept, one that would allow them to start a business that would offer themselves and other women that “something more.”

Powerful You!, a women’s networking organization, began in December, 2004, as a full-time business for Urda and Fyler, and as a unique networking opportunity for their members. Powerful You! is headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey. Currently there are 10 chapters and over 100 members located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Florida. Fyler and Urda are working with potential facilitators and hope to open other chapters in at least four more states in the next few months.

“The Mission of Powerful You! is to create, facilitate, and provide venues for meetings to take place for the benefit of all women,” says Fyler. Members pay an annual $125 fee along with a one-time $25 application fee to join. Along with the monthly meetings and networking events, the organization’s website, www.PowerfulYou.com, offers members a chance to post classified job advertising and list their businesses on an “optimized” website. When traveling, members can also attend meetings at chapters in other locations at member prices.

There are few requirements to join Powerful You!, the most important: you must be a woman. “Women build relationships differently in an all-woman setting, rather than when there are men,” says Fyler. “The dynamics are different. Our meetings are designed to help those relationships happen.”

Each meeting, no matter where it is located, follows the same format. A monthly theme is chosen and “everything in the meeting is tied into that theme.” In March, for example, to honor St. Patrick’s Day, the theme was luck. In a twist on the typical business meeting, as each member gives her “30 second commercial,” she is asked to relate to the theme of the month.Powerful You! is not a “direct referral” organization, instead, members are urged to build relationships with other members, which may or may not lead to directly to doing business together. Each meeting ends with “gratitude sharing,” where the members have a chance to discuss the good things that have happened in the past month. “A lot of our members work alone. They don’t have the opportunity to celebrate the good things with someone,” says Fyler. “As we build our network across the country we envision people getting together to share gratitude across the country every day.”

The women’s dream of networking across the country is taking shape in a new venture, teleconferences, which began last month. The next conference takes place on Thursday, April 6, at noon. Camille Smith of Work In Progress Coaching will lead the teleconference in a discussion on “The Nine Myths (and Truths) About Potential.” The conference is free and open to women. Registration is limited to 30 people and can be made online at www.PowerfulYou.com. When registering, participants will receive a call-in number and PIN.

Smith’s coaching business is located in Aptos, California, near Santa Cruz, although her clients are based in many locations and can reach her through her website, www.wipcoaching.com.

Believing in the “myths” we have been taught about our potential can often hold us back and keep us from accomplishing everything we want to accomplish, Smith says. She not only focuses on those myths, but also holds them up to “a litmus test, a personal reality check” to help people see the truth about their potential.

What are you born with? The first myth, and the most important, says Smith, is the belief that each person is only born with a certain, fixed amount of potential, which does not change over time. “This is just not true,” she says. “People’s potential is always changing and can always grow. There is no such thing as ‘That is all you get.’”

Can potential be used up? A related myth, she says, is that a person can literally “use up” potential, run out, and have no more. The truth, she says, is that “there is no fixed quantity for potential. Instead, what can change is the “amount of potential we keep accessing.”

Do we always need more potential? A third myth, says Smith, is that successful people have tapped their full potential, and do not need to tap more. That is just not true in her view. “When successful people master something they look forward to the next challenge,” she says. “Mastering one challenge is not the end of road.”

Can potential be learned? Another myth, says Smith, is that “people with potential share a unique set of knowable characteristics. If we can learn those traits and adopt them for ourselves, we can increase our own performance.” Libraries and bookstores are filled with self-help and inspirational books all geared to this myth, says Smith, but it is just not true. Potential is not a learned trait.

But don’t run out and burn your own shelf of self-help books. They do have value, she says. Learning about other people is always valuable as long as we don’t attempt to make ourselves into a copy of the other person. “If you think ‘I have to be just like this person’ without getting to the source of why that person is that way,” you will gain no insight, says Smith.

In fact, she adds, simply copying another person’s behavior can be disastrous. “You may try to copy someone who is assertive, but if that is not who you are, other people may see what you are doing as bullying. You need to figure out who you are and what you are committed to. Make your actions consistent with who you are.”

Does past behavior show future potential? “People often think that potential can be revealed by what people have accomplished in the past,” says Smith. “Potential is future based. Probability is past-based. Our probability of success is different from our potential for future success.”

“When we repeat something, we have a good idea of the results. That’s not all bad, it is just not accessing our potential,” says Smith. “Accessing potential means accomplishing something that past behavior says is not probable.”

Does using our potential always mean success? Another myth, says Smith, is living up to our potential means we will definitely be successful. In other words, if we fail in something, it means that we have not accessed that potential. This is just not true, she says. “Accessing potential is not a guarantee that things will turn out the way we want them to. We may end of saying, ‘Oops, I’m sorry it turned out that way,’ but we will have still learned from the experience.”

Smith has learned about potential by accessing her own and stretching herself into many new jobs and possibilities.

“I’ve always been an educator in the purest sense of the word,” she says. “By that I mean bringing something out in others, not dumping something into their heads.” She began her career as a high school English teacher in Ohio, then, after several years, left traditional teaching for an opportunity to go into the business world. Since that time she has written electrical curriculum for the Navy, worked as a trainer and coach in the corporate world, and joined the world of high tech start-ups. In 2002 she received her “pink diploma” from a Silicon Valley company along with thousands of others. “I was cut loose in an afternoon with no warning,” she says. “It was a full stop and a chance to figure out what I wanted to do next.”

She “hung out her shingle” and developed her own coaching business. She calls her business “Work in Progress” because, she says, “I am always revising it.” Along with her coaching business she is an adjunct professor of business at Santa Clara University in California and a founding member of the Global Women’s Leadership Network.

As a coach, she wants to help people understand “what holds them back and how to move forward, to look at the conversation we are living inside of and choose different courses. To look at what is shaping our view of the world and start to shift that view. “It’s not Pollyanna,” says Smith. “It is about taking ownership of your power for action.”

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