Mark Thierer

Mark Thierer is chairman and chief executive of one of the Chicago area's fastest-growing companies, Lisle-based pharmacy benefit manager Catamaran Corp. (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune / February 19, 2013)

Mark Thierer has a sticker for everything: golf balls, fruit, cars, states, letters, numbers. In all, he thinks he has probably 40,000 of them, collected from around the world.

    "If you're ever actually looking for them, you'd be amazed where you'd find them. Off-the-beaten-path bars, convenience stores, gas stations -- the places you'd least expect," he said.

    Thierer is chairman and chief executive of one of the Chicago area's fastest-growing companies, Lisle-based pharmacy benefit manager Catamaran Corp. The stickers play an integral -- starring, actually -- role in his hobby of crafting handmade greeting cards to send to friends, family and business associates to thank, congratulate, acknowledge or just because.

    Each of the 300 or so cards he has sent is filled with wink-of-the-eye humor and personal touches, starting with an ornate envelope sealed with hot wax and embossed with a custom stamp branding it "Another Amazing Thierer Sticker Card."

    It's a quirky habit for a 52-year-old suburban father of two, no less the CEO of a soon-to-be Fortune 250 company.

    The whimsical, warm cards provide a stark contrast to the hard-charging, intense competitor. They also serve as a creative outlet for a numbers-driven man and serve as an indelible tool to make deeper connections with people, particularly in the business world.

    One recipient was Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter International, and now a professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and partner at the powerhouse private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners.

    Thierer surprised Kraemer with the card about a year ago after attending one of the professor's leadership classes.

    "You could tell he put a lot of time and effort into it, and it was very genuine," Kraemer said. "It was a very unique thing to be doing for an executive, particularly in an age now where communication has been reduced to texts and emails."

    Kraemer keeps the card in his office, next to his phone. When Thierer invited Kraemer to join Catamaran's board a few months ago, Kraemer said yes, without hesitation.

    "There are very few people whose board I would join at this point, and Mark was one of them," Kraemer said.

    Thierer calls the sticker cards his calling card and signature. The way things are going, he'll be sending a lot more of them. If he can find the time.

    Thierer is on, as he describes it, a "once-in-a-lifetime ride." More accurately, he's the conductor.


Hard turn required

    Since Thierer joined Catamaran, formerly known as SXC Health Solutions Inc., in 2006, he has led it to exponential growth. In 2006, the company logged $81 million in annual revenue. This year, it projects to do about $10 billion.

    Its stock, once mired in the $10 range, trades for nearly $100 per share. The price has surged so much that the company plans a 2-for-1 split.

    To get there required a hard turn.

    When Thierer stepped in as president and chief operating officer, SXC was a small boutique technology firm that provided infrastructure to dozens of pharmacy benefit managers.