Kramer Shares Rx for Start-up Success
A few years after graduating with her SU accounting degree, Deirdre "Digi" Casey Kramer '94 entered the rapidly emerging field of prescription benefits management (PBM) and discovered that her passion wasn't in core accounting but in operational accounting.
"My role was focused more on revenue and gross profit accounting, inventory management, forecasting and managing operating costs, so I really learned the PBM business," she recalls of the seven years she spent with Eckerd Health Services. Upon the sale of Eckerd, Kramer joined Catalyst Health Solutions in 2005 in an operational role focused on client pricing and margin optimization.
"I've always been interested in finding ways to earn more money for the organization while, at the same time, reducing costs for our clients," she says. During her eight years at Catalyst, Kramer held varied positions in both operations and finance, including serving as interim CFO for the Fortune 500 company.
In 2013, Kramer teamed up with former colleagues to explore entrepreneurial opportunities in the health care field. Over the next few years, the team acquired, built, operated and divested several businesses, including a health care technology investment company, a wellness business, a small regional PBM and a prescription drug rebate aggregation company. The last of these businesses, Gateway Health Partners, was the most successful, managing over half a billion dollars in rebates prior to its sale to private equity in late 2017.
Kramer's parents, F. Thomas Casey '63 and Doris Hoffman Casey, both attended Susquehanna, her father earning an accounting degree. At SU, Kramer played goalie for the women's field hockey team that made the Division III NCAA tournament her senior year. She says, "Playing a sport can teach you so much about teamwork and leadership"-two attributes she has found to be critical in the business world.
In business classes, she adds, "We were put into real-life situations, case studies that really taught you how to think, and because the classes were so small, you couldn't hide from your professors."
Two years ago, Kramer contributed to a field hockey equipment fund. In the name of her parents, she also has established a scholarship for a business student. And this past winter, she hosted a night for prospective Susquehanna students and their parents in the suite she and her husband, Scott, a third-generation owner of a trucking firm, lease at Pittsburgh Penguins games. She proudly reports that two of the six prospective students are now enrolled.
"The business school is second to none, and I would love to see more kids from Pittsburgh enroll at Susquehanna," Kramer explains.
She also successfully advised Gabrielle Stahl '18, a business administration major with a human resources emphasis from Connecticut, to negotiate an equity stake in the company where she was interviewing.
"A salary will earn you a living, but an equity stake has the potential to gain you wealth," she told Stahl.
"It was invaluable advice," says Stahl, who after graduation joined the New York City human resources technology start-up company.
Seeking more work-life balance, Kramer, the mother of 7-year-old twins, recently resigned her position at the private equity-owned PBM that acquired Gateway, but agreed to continue on a part-time basis focused on strategic projects.
"However, if I re-enter the workforce full time again, it will be to start another company," she says. "I much prefer building companies than operating them."