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The Extraordinary Backstory of Dr. Martin Madaus

I had the distinct pleasure to interview Dr. Martin Madaus. Dr. Madaus is the chairman and CEO of Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a serial CEO, long-time health care industry insider and a man known for improving companies. He has more than 25 years of experience in the diagnostics and life science industries. Before joining Ortho in 2014, Dr. Madaus served as executive chairman of Quanterix Corporation and as a senior health care advisor to The Carlyle Group. Earlier, he was chairman, president and chief executive officer of Millipore Corporation (NYSE: MIL) and president and chief executive officer of Roche Diagnostics Corporation North America. He also served as vice president of business development for Roche Molecular Diagnostics, and as the president of Roche Diagnostics Canada. He began his career in diagnostics in Germany. Dr. Madaus has extensive public and private company board experience and currently serves on the board of Quanterix Corporation. Dr. Madaus received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Munich in Germany and a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine from the Veterinary School of Hanover in Germany. He is an avid kite boarder who loves intense sports, the outdoors and animals.

Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I started out as an avid equestrian and horse vet in Germany and ended up running private and public companies in the U.S. I like change and taking smart chances. I am inspired by learning new things and getting better, whether it’s a new venture, a business turnaround situation, or taking up challenging sports, like kiteboarding, or competing in a Spartan Beast race, the grueling, 14-mile obstacle course requiring heavy lifting and running steep hills. For me, the challenge of mastering something difficult is at the core of it all — it brings you in touch with who you really are.

At Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, our purpose is to improve and save lives with diagnostics. For more than 75 years, Ortho has pioneered life-impacting advances, from our earliest work in blood typing to the latest developments in laboratory systems. Today, we’re a top global player in in vitro diagnostics.

Specifically, we serve the clinical labs and immunohematology markets. We manufacture sophisticated blood tests and testing equipment that integrates robotics, software and chemistry to drive high-quality test results for medical professionals. Our products help clinical labs work in a more efficient, interconnected way. We also make analyzers and tests in immunohematology, which is the science of making sure people in need of transfusions receive correctly matched, safe blood. Our solutions — all of that plus everything from predictive technologies to remote monitoring and lab optimization consulting — help our customers improve patient care.

Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

In the first year after the buy-out I lived in an apartment complex near the company’s global headquarters. I walked to work and had two choices: I could take the long way to work on a winding road or go through a broken fence in the adjacent field. I chose the broken fence; it was clearly faster and so fitting to what I was doing. It was a great reminder of the work we had ahead of us, but also that even if things aren’t perfect, you still keep moving forward. Even while we were carving out from our previous parent company and becoming independent, we still had to grow. And around the time the fence was fixed, a year later, Ortho had returned to growth, and I’m proud to say that we have grown our installed customer base and our revenues steadily since that time.

Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We stand out in many ways, as does our talent, but I’d like to call out our commitment to reimagining what’s possible through design — design that’s based on a deep understanding of what lab professionals need to accomplish on the job.

An example of this is our dry-slide technology which, as its name implies, doesn’t require water to run. We are the only global provider of this waterless technology, which essentially means that the lab doesn’t need plumbing to run tests. There is also no need to dispose of water as medical waste after the testing is done. Think about the importance of this in the developing world, where the likelihood of poor water quality is high and could affect results. Think about the importance of this for the military. You may be surprised to hear that you can find our VITROS® analyzers with dry-slide technology, plus our ORTHO VISION® Platform, which automates the full range of immunohematology testing, on everything from aircraft carriers to humanitarian aid ships around the world. We’re really proud that our technology is flexible enough to enable the diagnosis of serious diseases and conditions in the typical hospital lab, and in more challenging environments around the world.

Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My parents for sure — they gave me the freedom to determine what I wanted to do with my life and they were careful guides along the way. Also, I am thankful for my former boss and mentor, who put a lot of trust in me by giving me an even bigger job than I thought I was ready for at the time. I recall it was scary at first, but it worked out in the end and I was better for it.

Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My success has afforded me the freedom to choose how I spend my time. I consider myself lucky to spend my working days with talented people who bring tremendous goodness to the world. Ours is an amazing, fulfilling purpose.

We enable medical professionals to diagnose conditions early. Consider acute kidney injury, sometimes called “kidney failure.” This potentially devastating condition affects up to 50 percent of patients in the ICU, but new data shows it is preventable if you can identify at-risk patients and intervene before the damage occurs. Ortho’s VITROS NEPHROCHECK™ test is a urine test that detects two biomarkers associated with risk of acute kidney injury, first identified by our collaborator Astute Medical, Inc., and it does this in time for meaningful intervention to take place. We have launched this novel test in Europe and are awaiting regulatory approvals to launch in the U.S. and other countries, as well. I’m proud to lead a company that is working to change the paradigm in acute kidney injury and help more patients walk out of the ICU, in addition to the work we are doing to improve the diagnoses of other disease states.

I also support local and global organizations that protect our declining natural environment.

Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

1. Being a great CEO is not about you.

When you arrive in the new job, nobody cares that you have a great track record, a steep learning curve and many sleepless nights in front of you. You need to perform on day one and you know you cannot do it by yourself. You must very quickly assemble the best possible executive team for the business situation you are just starting to understand.

Signature move: Hire your successor in the first year.

2. The mountain you have to climb is bigger than it looks.

When a business gets sold from a large corporate parent you know there will be gaps and there is a lot that needs to be fixed. You have a good sense from the due diligence analysis, but then there is always another twist and turn that has to be mastered. Make sure you have the physical and mental resilience for some steep climbs.

Signature move: Break down the issue into smaller pieces, develop an action plan, execute well in small steps, celebrate the milestones, and repeat.

3. Build your social capital.

Employees, customers, shareholders, analysts, the board of directors, community, the media, regulatory agencies, your family — you have an important relationship with all of these stakeholders so be smart about where you spend your time and invest into building social capital. Earn and keep their trust by being reliable and available.

Signature move: Communicate honestly and directly with people who need to have your back.

4. Understand where the company culture limits performance and push through these limits.

Most people are much more capable than they think they are. Counter that culture with aspirational but achievable goals. Look for personal challenges, reward for risk taking, recognize success and failure, reduce procedures and connect with the company’s purpose. Ortho saves lives with diagnostics, our products are critical for good health care. That resonates with people and they love to work for a company like us because what we do really matters.

Signature move: Break through your own limits — run the Beast.

5. Ego check: Experience and intuition help, but are not good enough to succeed.

Understand your own biases and correct for them, particularly in critical decision making. Know when not to trust your own intuition. You are not the only source of wisdom. You need people on your team with diverse experiences, who think and decide differently than you. Invite honest feedback and dissent with your point of view. And have some trusted outside advisors.

Signature move: Ask your spouse about your decision making.

Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

I always wanted to meet Al Gore. He has many talents I admire, and I would love to go kiting with Richard Branson; he has led an inspiring life.