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Briljent to lay off half of its workforce

Contract loss forces cuts in Indianapolis

Carrier

A local entrepreneur whose father taught her to “never, never, never give up” is eliminating 100 to 130 jobs – half her consulting company’s total workforce – after losing a federal contract.

But other business prospects in the pipeline have company officials still talking about growth.

Briljent LLC has submitted a notice of mass layoff at its Indianapolis operation pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (or WARN) Act. The jobs will end during a two-week period beginning May 31.

Kathy Carrier, a former Lincoln National Corp. training director, founded Training Solutions Group in 1998. She changed the name to Briljent, the Czech word for “brilliant,” in 2003.

Carrier’s consulting firm now employs about 230, including 20 to 25 locally.

The Fort Wayne-based company grew too large to win renewal of a five-year contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. The contract, which started at $24.7 million a year and grew over time, was designated for small businesses, Carrier said. HHS officials didn’t respond to an email Monday asking why Briljent wasn’t awarded the contract.

The agreement, which began in December 2007, called for Briljent to write scripts for common questions to 1-800-Medicare and train the call center staff.

Carrier’s long-term strategy has been to win state and federal consulting contracts before moving on to private-sector clients. Briljent completed what Carrier once called an arduous process to be certified to bid for government contracts set aside for economically disadvantaged groups.

The firm performed so well that it was graduated two years early from a nine-year state program designed to help small business owners win government contracts.

“She grew too fast” to continue qualifying for contracts set aside for small businesses, a Small Business Administration official said of Carrier in September 2011.

Looking back on Monday, Carrier said she doesn’t regret outgrowing the program and exiting it early. Briljent can’t continue to rely on contracts set aside for small businesses if it wants to grow. And that’s exactly what the president and CEO is talking about.

“We have a great company. We have dozens and dozens of contracts,” she said. “We’re a healthy and vibrant and growing consulting firm.”

Carrier, who has served on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee, knew that the government contract came with an expiration date. But she made the conscious choice to seek the contract and accommodate Medicare officials who asked to broaden the work’s scope until the contract accounted for about 60 percent of the firm’s revenue last year.

Carrier, who owns the company, declined to disclose revenue figures.

“It wasn’t a lesson learned,” she said. “I went into it with my eyes wide open.”

Even so, devoting so much time and resources to the federal contract didn’t allow the consulting firm to pursue other, more varied work.

Carrier, 2002 local winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, described it as “kind of energizing” to hit restart on the Indianapolis operation.

That includes finding a new office that’s the right size for a staff expected to be back up to 50 within a year.

Tammy Brodzeller, Briljent’s human resources director, said the WARN filing lists “100 to 130” workers because company officials are trying to place some of the targeted employees in positions being created by newly signed contracts.

Most of the workers are professionals with extensive Medicare expertise and earn $70,000 a year on average.

Brodzeller said the company has “aggressive growth plans.”

“Obviously, new work comes in every day,” she said. “Our pipeline is very strong.”

State officials received the WARN paperwork Friday, but Briljent workers were notified in late December of the coming job cuts.

sslater@jg.net

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