When Rick Birkmeyer was a kid, he dreamed of finding a cure for cancer and starting his own company. He has since surpassed his ambitious childhood goals (well, not quite the cancer part) by working his way up the corporate ladder and becoming the CEO of CD Diagnostics (which we covered back in November, along with 12 other innovative Delaware tech companies.) The medtech company makes advanced diagnostic tests, working on immunoassay development and biomarker research.
Birkmeyer pieced together his career little by little, starting with a strong education. He earned a B.S. in biology from SUNY Plattsburgh, his Ph.D. in biochemistry/immunology from the SUNY Binghamton and finished his post-doctoral research in immunogenetics at Iowa State University.
Then, during his years at DuPont, his education was furthered by curiosity.
"An ineffective CEO is one that doesn’t take full responsibility."
“One of the things that I did while I was at DuPont was a two-year stint in each department,” Birkmeyer said. “The roles change. Therefore, there are times the personality of a CEO might fit at one stage and then another stage.”
Delving into every department that he could at DuPont prepared Birkmeyer for the creation of his first company, Strategic Diagnostics Inc., in 1990. The business started with three employees and grew to a staff of 150, with $35 million in revenue.
By bringing a host of technology jobs to Delaware, Birkmeyer has become an archetype for other CEOs who are still perfecting the art of business leadership. For him, the process involves wearing many hats and ensuring the happiness of his employees.
“The biggest difference between a CEO and other employees is that the buck really does stop here,” Birkmeyer said. “You are respected according to how you can make decisions. An ineffective CEO is one that doesn’t take full responsibility.”
Birkmeyer sketched out a handful of CEO myths at a Delaware BioBreakfast event in January.
As CD Diagnostics continues to develop new medical diagnostic technology and expand further into national and international markets, Birkmeyer says the company’s success is owed to his employees, as well as his own drive for success. That, and patience.
“If you are young and don’t have a family and a lot of bills, it’s really not where you are getting paid today, it is where you see the experience taking you in the future,” Birkmeyer said. “Eventually that experience can lead to a position that you wouldn’t have otherwise. High pay can lead to a dead end. Have patience.”