Born again

After a merger with Acero fell apart in December 2001, Len Pagon Jr., CEO of IT consulting firm Brulant Inc., used the opportunity to remake the company.

“We called it Brulant 2.0,” Pagon says. “The theme was to become the undisputed leader in this region, which, if we’re not already there, we’re on our way to becoming the leader of this region in digital strategy and solutions.”

The result of the restructuring was an 85 percent increase in sales over the year before and a near-doubling of the size of the firm to 70 employees.

“Our job is client satisfaction and leveraging relationships into new clients,” Pagon says. “If we’re doing a really good job for one client, we’re able to maintain and expand those relationships.”

Its clients include Eaton Corp., Charter One Bank, Cole National Corp., Avery Dennison Corp. and The Cleveland Foundation.

Here’s how Pagon reinvented Brulant.

Management team

The first step toward restructuring Brulant was to create a new management team through promotion of current employees and new hires. Part of this was out of necessity, as several top managers at Brulant went to Acero after the merger fell apart.

Pagon hired a new chief financial officer, a senior vice president of operations, a marketing director and a vice president.

“We wanted to be positioned well so when the market picked up, we could capitalize on that,” Pagon says. “We expected things to come back gradually, but they ended up coming back dramatically for us. In part, that’s because of the beefed-up management team.”

Industry focus

Prior to the restructuring, 50 percent to 60 percent of Brulant’s business came from industrial manufacturing companies. Pagon says he didn’t intentionally target the industry; those companies just happened to be the ones that hired Brulant for projects.

When the economy dried up, so did work from the industrial manufacturing sector. Pagon, as part of the restructuring, set out to target new industries.

“I call it the Willie Sutton strategy,” Pagon quips. “Why do you rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Why do you focus on those industries? Because there’s opportunity there — they’re still doing things.”

Today, about 40 percent of Brulant’s work comes from the retail/consumer goods industry, 30 percent from financial services and about 15 percent from the health care industry. Less than 10 percent of its clients are industrial manufacturers.

Internal structure

Pagon reorganized the internal structure of the company into clearly defined divisions or practice areas, which cover areas like management consulting, Web development, data management, business intelligence and customer service.

“We always had these defined as solution areas, but the difference is we didn’t have the management structure aligned to those,” Pagon says. “Now we have owners for those [practice areas]. … Now we have objectives for those and management reporting, and profitability and revenue reporting.”

Pagon says the new structure allows Brulant to offer services to clients that might have been overlooked in the past.

Brand awareness

Pagon didn’t take the traditional route when he set out to market the revamped Brulant. Instead, he uses events like monthly executive roundtable discussions, a twice-annual CIO conference and direct e-mail newsletters.

“What we’ve done is create a relationship-building machine, building our brand awareness through a much more direct approach,” Pagon says. “Our brand is knowledge leadership and thought leadership, so we build that with the roundtables and events by giving away a lot of free knowledge to help create that brand experience.” How to reach: Brulant Inc., (216) 518-7900 or

Starting over

Len Pagon, president and CEO of IT consulting firm Brulant Inc., learned a lot about restructuring a company when he revamped his own following a failed merger with Acero in December 2001.

Here’s what he recommends to other company leaders planning such a mission.

1. Find your sweet spot.

“Take stock in your strengths and weaknesses and look at your current and future revenue,” Pagon says. “You’ll spend a lot of time looking at your existing clients and existing sales, and looking at what your sweet spot is and where your growth opportunities are, and getting you down to focus.

“Most organizations, especially smaller companies, tend to want to be everything to everyone.”

2. Take small steps.

“Figure out where you’re going to focus, and try to get there hitting a lot of singles — using a baseball metaphor — a lot of singles and doubles, don’t try to hit a grand slam.”

3. Create an experience.

“You have to be obsessive about delivering extreme customer service and extreme value all the time and trying to extend your products into an experience, and that experience translates into what your brand is.”

4. Reduce risk.

“We didn’t go out and hire a bunch of people that we couldn’t live within our means. You have to live within your means, but it’s a matter of creativity and guerrilla marketing and working hard to get the stuff done.”