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Writing to reach the masses


Region’s professionals showcase knowledge and expertise in books

Story by Robin Driessen Bruecker

There is no shortage of talented and knowledgeable business professionals across northeast Wisconsin.

Many enjoy sharing what they’ve learned about starting or running and evolving a business with their peers, college students and entrepreneurs. Among the various ways to share information, authorship is the choice of some individuals whose knowledge and years of experience in their respective fields is sought by people worldwide.

We spoke to a handful of these regional experts: Miles Anthony Smith of Green Bay has authored books on leadership, and Dr. John Toussaint, the former CEO of ThedaCare in Appleton, has been published in numerous medical journals and has co-authored books on streamlining health care delivery. Mark Burwell of Appleton, with 40 years of business experience, has written books about entrepreneurship, and Green Bay-based consultant Steve Van Remortel has published a book offering advice to business owners on growth strategy.

They share their experiences and interest in writing.

Generation flux

Smith, a Gen Xer with an MBA, said his mission is “to chart the course, pave the pathway, and light the lane for others to eclipse my own success in leadership.”

His skills lay in general management across multiple disciplines for business and nonprofits alike, with a specialty in developing successful teams for product development and digital/content marketing that leads to revenue and profit growth.

He is no stranger to career challenges, having found himself out of a job three times in the past, which adds to his insight on being in the job market.

His first book, Why Leadership Sucks, arose from his own frustrations in leadership positions. What started out as a book primarily written for peers, family and friends, ended up connecting with a broad audience of those who wished to be in leadership or were frustrated or struggling with their own leadership role.

“I wanted my wife, children, and team members at work to learn from my experience and hold me accountable to the leadership values I espouse,” Smith said.

“I saw a need for sharing what I learned, so I could help other less experienced leaders go further faster by not making some of the same mistakes I made through the school of hard knocks.”

And it is out of a similar frustration with his career that Smith wrote Becoming Generation Flux, he said.

“I have personally struggled with the challenging new job market, and I know many other professionals who, since the dot-com bubble and more recent Great Recession, have wrestled with the sea change affecting organizations and how they respond to employment,” Smith said.

Becoming Generation Flux is aimed at a broad audience at various stages in their careers – college students and recent graduates, those employed but uncertain, and those laid off, fired, downsized, underemployed, etc. – and facing a shifting job market with mixed feelings.

Smith looks at the job market’s past, present and future, talks about the changes in career planning, and how to adapt and become resilient.

Each of Smith’s books are or will be available online in audiobook, e-book and paperback formats where books are sold. Smith records and self-publishes his audiobooks in a simple home studio.

Asked if being published has had an impact on his career, Smith replied, “The first book gave me enhanced credibility as a speaker, business leader, and thought leader and solidified the servant-leadership truths I hold dear. I expect the second and third books to similarly enhance those same areas but with more of a focus on career and recruiting advice.”

Lean health care

Toussaint, an international health care expert, has had an impressive career that includes CEO and founder titles, international speaking engagements, articles published in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal and the American Journal of Managed Care, and assorted awards from various groups including the Shingo Academy and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence.

Now CEO emeritus at ThedaCare, Toussaint was instrumental in introducing the Toyota Production System’s lean business principles to health care in 2003. He continues to teach that business model to health care systems around the world.

Toussaint founded and serves as CEO of the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value in Appleton, an education and collaboration center for health care and business leaders.

With his intensive knowledge of health care workings and lean practices, Toussaint has authored two books and is working on a third.

“I believe that codifying the learnings at ThedaCare and now around North America in many other organizations is critical to changing health care delivery,” said Toussaint, in citing his reason for publishing.

Toussaint worked with CEO/editor James Womack of The Lean Enterprise Institute in Cambridge, Mass. for his first book. Womack encouraged Toussaint and co-author Roger Gerard to put the story of ThedaCare on paper, which he estimates has sold about 35,000 copies.

Toussaint’s books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the TCHV website.

Toussaint discovered becoming an author has an effect on his career and mission.

“Womack told me I would be amazed at what a well-written book would do for the mission of our organization (and) he was right,” he said.  “I am asked to speak all over the world and must turn down many requests every year.”

Sharing experiences

As founder and chief strategist of SM Advisors in Green Bay, Van Remortel has consulted with thousands of business and organizational clients across hundreds of industries. In 2010, he was named Business Person of the Year by the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce.

To guide his clients, Van Remortel developed a profit-boosting process he named Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream.

The process provides organizations the tools to wrap the right talent around a differentiated strategy, he said. It consists of five fundamentals – differentiation, tangible value, talent management, department/tactical plans, and plan execution. It’s all about strategy and talent.

“I went away for a weekend of personal planning to figure out where we, as an organization, and I, as an individual, were going with this process that I created,” he explained. “How do we share it? How do we give it away to as many business leaders as possible?”

He said more than 90 percent of all companies that implement the process experience an increase in sales and profitability in the first year.

“The message I came away with that weekend in creating a life map for my future and a plan for our businesses was that instead of sharing Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream with a couple hundred companies we work with per year, I need to share it with 10,000 companies per year,” Van Remortel said.

Van Remortel began delivering his message via public speaking, which led to his first book, Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream: Increase sales and profitability by wrapping the right Talent around a differentiated Strategy, published in 2012 by Greenleaf Book Group.

Soundview Executive Book Summaries named it a Best Business Book in 2013, which is available in hardcover and as an e-book from, and B& A workbook and videos that accompany the book will be released later this year.

Another book in the works will address “how you wrap your personal talent around your strategy/life map to optimize your life and achieve your professional and personal objectives,” said Van Remortel.

Van Remortel’s goal in making Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream available in book form is so leaders can integrate it into their own business or organization with the goal of increasing sales and profitability and building a high-performance team. Those who buy the book are given a free behavioral assessment.

Asked whether publishing his process has impacted his business, Van Remortel responded, “Big time! It’s totally changed my career.

“It has had a significant impact on the growth of SM Advisors, our consulting firm. It has also had a significant impact on the speaking I do around the country, and it really has taken things to a whole new level. We are extremely blessed with the growth of SM Advisors, of the Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream speaking engagements, and the overall sale of the book. But even more importantly, it helped me accomplish my vision of sharing the process with thousands of leaders so they could implement the process on their own and experience unprecedented growth in sales and profitability.”

Entrepreneur evolves

Burwell has 40 years of business experience, ranging from entrepreneur to nonprofit executive director to business architect consultant and CEO of Putzer’s Menswear Corp. Today he splits time between serving as an adjunct faculty member at Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center, owner/business architect of Evolutions Business Group, and as the national executive director of the E-Hub/Urban Hope Entrepreneur Center in Green Bay.

Throughout his career, Burwell has established community models for entrepreneurship including economic gardening, and guided more than 2,000 entrepreneurs. He has lectured and consulted around the U.S. and Canada, Ireland and Russia, and had been named Small Business Person of the Year in Green Bay as well as Small Business Advocate of the Year for Wisconsin by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Burwell’s first book, Stepping Up to New Opportunities, a best-practices workbook for new entrepreneurs, has sold 2,800 copies. His second book, Evolutionary Entrepreneur: Going Beyond the Passion, has had more than 3,000 copies printed.

“It was a book that has shared my insights and concepts from my 35 years as a successful entrepreneur, mentor, instructor, and business leader,” he said of his second book. The book was a local production, published through Evolutions Business Group with each stage of its layout and printing handled by area professionals. Copies are available through and at E-Hub/Urban Hope in Green Bay.

A third book, The Evolutionary Entrepreneur: The Path to Today … The Journey to Tomorrow, is due out this month with book signings and a tour to follow. This sequel is a compilation of advice and methods from Burwell’s presentations and columns.

Having publications of his own complements Burwell’s professional speaking, as it provides materials to give out to workshop and seminar participants as well as during consulting projects. Book sales to the general public also generate revenue for his nonprofit organization.

Robin Driessen Bruecker has been writing for magazines and marketing departments since 1995.