Here's what happened when a student loan collections company accidentally called an Ivy League billionaire

Mary Sterenberg
Margie Brickner, CEO, Reliant Capital Solutions

An Ivy League university accidentally included the name of its largest donor in the list of names it sent to Gahanna-based loan collections company Reliant Capital Solutions. Horrified at its mistake, the university demanded the recording of the call to its billion-dollar donor’s staff. But university officials were so pleased with what they heard, they traveled to Reliant’s headquarters to present the customer service agent with an award for his professionalism.

Margie Brickner, founder and CEO of Reliant Capital Solutions, says this story illustrates the culture and customer service driving her company’s rapid growth. Over the next year, a $4 million expansion will add nearly 300 employees and 30,000 additional square feet of office space across Reliant’s Gahanna headquarters and its second location in the Buffalo, New York, suburb of Williamsville. Brickner also expects Reliant’s 2018 revenue of $39 million to top $60 million in 2019.

The accounts receivable management company, which provides collections services and debt resolution for higher education and other industries, outgrew its headquarters at 670 Cross Pointe Road in Gahanna, prompting its landlord to make $2.1 million in improvements supported by a 15-year, 100 percent property tax abatement. But Reliant quickly outgrew the expanded facility as well, promoting Brickner to buy an adjacent 6-acre property for $1.6 million, according to the city of Gahanna. The company was awarded a five-year, 25 percent rebate on income tax withholdings for the creation of 150 full-time jobs, three part time-jobs and the retention of 93 full-time-equivalent jobs. 

“It’s basically one big complex, or soon will be,” Brickner says.

Many of the new employees will be in customer service, but Reliant also will hire associates in information technology, human resources, analytics and recruiting. Rob Twitchell, chief operating officer, says the number of employees will continue to grow.

“Our capacity to accept new associates is the limiting factor, not the sales. They have to fit our culture and fit our standards. We could be growing faster,” Twitchell says.

Reliant is among the fastest-growing businesses in Gahanna. Anthony Jones, director of the Planning and Development Department for the city of Gahanna, says Reliant’s growth “doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.”

Higher education represents Reliant’s biggest portfolio, and it works with nearly every school in Ohio. It also has federal and state contracts and does some work in the health care and commercial sectors.

Brickner says existing services are driving the company’s growth, but it’s in the early stages of diversifying into business process outsourcing.

A Central Ohio native, Brickner founded Reliant Capital Solutions with a business partner in 2007.

“I really saw a need for a different, more innovative approach and I knew most every facet of the accounts receivable business, and so I decided I was going to go for it and launch what I believed to be different. And it has proven true,” she says.

In 2013, Brickner bought out her partner and continued to grow the company. Reliant now serves over 400 clients, and Brickner hears from many clients that her company “outcollects” the competition. When other companies proudly share client satisfaction rates near 80 percent, Brickner knows why her company stands out.

“My standards [for client satisfaction] are much higher than that. Nearly 100 percent,” she says.

During this period of aggressive growth, Brickner remains committed to retaining the company’s employee-centric culture and customer service that she feels differentiates Reliant. This starts with a rigorous hiring process and continues through practices such as a three-week training program for call center employees and real-time analysis of phone calls. It also includes prizes for benchmarks achieved and other company events. As a result, many new hires come from internal referrals, and Reliant’s turnover rate is only about a quarter of the industry norm.

“Having a great company culture is more than having ping-pong tables,” Twitchell says. “Margie genuinely cares about each and every person. She has high expectations and is very transparent.”

This transparency translates to Reliant’s relationship with its clients. If a university interested in working with Reliant asks for references, the company offers to connect it with any client school it chooses without restriction.

Looking ahead, Brickner predicts the company’s growth will begin to plateau around 2021 based on the current contracts and associated inventory, though it will soon add commercial and business outsourcing to its available services.

“A lot of companies lose that entrepreneurial feel as they grow into larger companies,” says Brickner, who was recently named a finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards. “We have not lost it.”

Mary Sterenberg is a freelance writer.

670 Cross Pointe Road, Gahanna 43230

Business: Debt collections for higher education and other industries

Based: Gahanna

CEO: Margie Brickner

Employees: 350

2019 revenue: $60 million (projected)

Reliant Capital Solutions