Author urges business owners to question their business model

By Heather Ruenz

Most small business owners have dealt with economic challenges but the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic likely could not have been anticipated, even by the most savvy of them.

Dave Gee, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, recently wrote a book to help small business owners thrive despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Dave Gee, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, recently penned a book in an effort to help small business owners become stronger despite COVID-19 hitting them where it hurts.

Gee, of Elkhorn, spent more than 20 years working in marketing and sales for Fortune 500 companies including U.S. Cellular, Motorola, TDS and Humana.

His book, “Restart – The Small Business Guide to Thriving During Chaos” aims to help small businesses grow even during the pandemic.

When COVID-19 reared its head in March, Gee said his focus shifted to wondering how he could help small businesses due to the crisis that followed.

“I talked to many small business owners and they generally fit into one of three different mindsets beginning with diving, meaning they were considering selling their business, handing it off to their kids or closing,” he said.

The second mindset Gee found business owners in was that of surviving.

“They were furloughing employees, cutting back on marketing, taking all the government grants they could get. It was about getting back to where they were before,” he explained.

And then there was the third group, which Gee refers to as thriving – driving growth through innovative methods.

“That last group, they want to come back stronger than before and try new things,” he said.

Gee offered an example of thriving, or finding the opportunity.

“Say a small shop instead of whining about Amazon hurting their business decides to embrace Amazon to help them. Or they figure out how they can also deliver things to peoples’ homes,” he said.

In addition to finding out how small companies were struggling and what mindset their owners were in, Gee said he talked to numerous big companies.

“Because it was just as important to learn what those big companies have done to make it through challenging times,” he said.

Practical advice

Gee said the book basically examines every business model.

“So the book really forces them to look at their business model and modify it accordingly,” he said.

The step-by-step guide aims to help business owners think like an entrepreneur, reassess their business model, talk with their customers, look at new products and services, new branding, select the most impactful small business software, implement new ecommerce efforts, maximize their cash flow, build the ultimate team and more.

An important part of the book is sharing interviews and insights from innovative leaders and organizations in the country about how they’ve responded during tough times.

One of those interviews was with Aaron Jagdfeld, CEO of Generac, the generator manufacturer with plants in Whitewater and Eagle.

“Without getting into all the details, Generac responded to some challenges by coming up with this idea of selling the way customers want to buy. It opened up new channels for them. The big lesson is to be open to new ways of doing things, especially when faced with a challenge,” he said.

Jagdfeld had good things to say about Gee’s book.

“Restart challenges small business leaders to question everything about their business model. Those that do and are willing to act will flourish through the good times and the bad,” he said.

Another important message, Gee said, is from Jeff Peterson, co-founder of Geneva Supply in Delavan.

“His message goes against the belief many have that Amazon is there to crush small businesses. Instead, Jeff said, these people have created this amazing way to sell, so let’s take advantage of all that traffic,” Gee explained. “It’s so important to look at things differently.”

Leading by example

After leaving the corporate world, Gee launched his first small business, Sales Sherpas, an advertising agency. He co-founded Bungee, which provided a software-as-a-service loyalty program, followed by co-founding Classmunity, a web-based fundraising management system for school districts.

Gee’s first book was The Corporate Refugee Small Business Guide, to help mid-career professionals launch their startups while balancing their family. The second was The College Student Small Business Guide, written to help college students launch successful startups while in college.

He is currently researching new initiatives and technologies to help improve mental health of teenagers and young adults.

Gee also founded Startup Guides, which provides consulting and publishing services for startups and small businesses. Startup Guides is the parent company of Restart Small Biz.

His advice for small business owners currently struggling is to be innovative and open to change.

“It’s time for small business owners to think like entrepreneurs and think about what they can do to their business model in order to thrive,” Gee said.

His book “Restart – The Small Business Guide to Thriving During Chaos” can be ordered from Amazon for $19.99 or downloaded for Kindle for $7.99.

For more information visit and like and follow Restart Small Biz on Facebook.

Staying connected

After writing the book, Gee said the next question was how to grow the connections being made.

“We’ve started a Facebook community exclusively for small business owners seeking to grow their businesses. We are featuring powerful, insightful and inspirational online interviews, weekly small business owner live discussion groups and other insights,” he said.

Small business owners are encouraged to join the Facebook group, “Restart Small Biz Community – A Group for Small Business Owners and Leaders!” All of its features are free of charge.

In the book, Gee outlines several topics, many of which are also available for online training:

      • Developing New Business Models – develop hypotheses that will be tested with discovery research. This maximizes the probability of growing the small business;

      • Marketing – training leaders will help determine which combination of digital and traditional marketing methods will be most efficient and effective;

      • Legally Protecting Your Small Business – learn all the critical elements of contracts, legal structure, compliance, licensing and intellectual property (including patents, copyrights, trademarks;)

      • Raising Capital – learn the insights in both traditional ways of raising capital but also contemporary methods such as crowdfunding and online lending;

      • Selecting Powerful Software – discover the latest affordable, powerful and user-friendly software to help manage and grow the business;

      • Growing Ecommerce Sales – learn about the myths of ecommerce and how to immediately begin implementing that presence;

      • Building the Ultimate Team –learn how to build a high-performing team with the tools needed to help recruit, interview, motivate and retain talent;

      • Creating Small Business Pilots – dive into the importance of pilots and how to rapidly test new products and service ideas with customers and prospective customers;

      • Managing Cash Flow – learn how to most efficiently and effectively manage cash flow including ways to increase cash flows and keep outflows to a minimum.

The training sessions are done remotely via Zoom at noon and 4 p.m.

Redesigning is the initial session and is available for $29 per person. Four training sessions (of the participant’s choice) is $99 while the cost for all nine training sessions are $149.

To learn more or register for training visit and select “Training” from the drop-down menu.


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