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profile:Rick_Plympton
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Rick Plympton

Executive MBA, Class of 1999

CEO
Optimax Systems, Inc.
Alumni

OptimaxAs CEO of Optimax Systems, Inc., Rick Plympton helps determine where the company is headed in the next five to ten years then leads the team in that direction. Though his love for optics and photonics is clear today, it wasn’t always the case.

As an undergraduate, Plympton explored computer programming and business administration before he found his passion and earned his engineering degree from the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics. That led him to a position with a multi-national firm where he travelled across the country and around the world. After ten years, Plympton returned to Rochester to be closer to family and joined Optimax, a precision optics manufacturer.

The company was started by machinists and opticians who were collaborating with researchers at the University of Rochester to employ computer controlled machining of brittle materials. “They needed help with sales, marketing, and quality control, which were my strengths,” notes Plympton.

Eventually, he went back to get his MBA at Simon Business School. The Executive MBA program was tough to balance with a full-time job, but it taught him a lot about what the company was doing right and what it could be doing better, giving him greater confidence in their strategic plan.

One of Plympton’s most valuable experiences at Simon was developing teamwork skills. “We were put on teams of four or five students, and we worked on projects and homework together. I also studied in Paris for a week where we collaborated with students from the sister program in Bern, Switzerland,” he says. “Through it all, we were practicing collaboration, which has served me well throughout my career.”  

As an engineer, Plympton had learned how to think about complex problems. But his MBA taught him a whole new language – the language of finance. Learning about microeconomics, accounting, and how markets work have helped him steer Optimax through some rough waters. He credits Professor Larry Matteson with giving him practical perspectives on business strategy.

Optimax is a rarity that is growing a manufacturing capability on U.S. soil. “We have 200 employees who are dedicated to keeping optics manufacturing alive in this area,” claims Plympton. “It’s a source of great pride that we make precision optics in record time and lead the nation in manufacturing optics prototypes.” In recognition of his efforts in driving economic growth nationally, Plympton and his business partner were given the 2012 New York State Small Business Person of the Year Award.   

Plympton is especially pleased with how Optimax supports aerospace and medical industries. The company has served NASA extensively over the years, most recently by making the optics used to produce images from the Mars rover “Curiosity.” “We also manufacture lenses for innovative laser surgery and life sciences applications, essentially, helping people when they need it most,” he adds.

Rick Plympton Plympton

“We were put on teams of four or five students, and we worked on projects and homework together. I also studied in Paris for a week where we collaborated with students from the sister program in Bern, Switzerland,” he says. “Through it all, we were practicing collaboration, which has served me well throughout my career.”

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