Out to Change the Way We Work
Brendon Schrader, ’01 MBA, had the career he wanted.
After finishing the Carlson Part-Time MBA Program, he had joined 3M, where he was overseeing marketing for the company’s Post-it brand and managing his group’s U.S. agency partnerships. He was on a healthy, logical professional trajectory.
“But at the same time, I had this idea I just could not get rid of and wanted to give it a shot,” he says.
While using various consulting firms, creative agencies, and staffing firms, Schrader discovered what he saw as a gap in the talent landscape: There wasn’t a reliable, credible, and affordable source of experienced workers with nuanced marketing skills.
So in 2006, he left 3M and launched Antenna, a Minneapolis-based firm that connects companies with experienced marketing consultants. With clients that include the likes of General Mills, Cargill, and UnitedHealth Group, a pool of nearly 100 active consultants, and the type of revenue growth that’s repeatedly landed it on lists of fastest-growing firms, Antenna has established itself as a reliable—and flexible—source of marketing expertise.
Introducing The Way We Work
Now Antenna is partnering with the Carlson School of Management to lead the conversation about the evolving nature of work amid the rise of the gig economy, a growing appetite for remote and flexible work arrangements, changing employee demographics, and new technology.
The Way We Work, a new series hosted at the Carlson School, will convene business leaders, academic experts, human resources professionals, individual employees, and independent workers for speaker events and discussions. It kicks off Friday, with Nicholas Whittall, a managing director at Accenture, addressing “The Changing American Workplace.”
“Our goal with this series is essentially to help both employers and employees navigate the future,” says Schrader, who will moderate Friday’s discussion. “We’re hoping to bring in the best and brightest people to talk about these topics, to have panel discussions and dialogue, and start to build that conversation here in this community in a way that hasn’t happened before.”
Today’s workers seeking control, flexibility, and balance
The growing prevalence of freelance workers—last year, research by Intuit and Emergent Research predicted 43 percent of the U.S. workforce would be part of the gig economy by 2020—meshes nicely with Antenna’s business model.
Schrader sees three broad reasons why more workers are opting for freelance arrangements:
- Control over the type of work they do and how they do it
- Flexibility to work when they want
- Balance “to integrate work and life better”
“We really want to help people do work they love,” he says, “but also the work they love on their terms. And that’s what’s core to our business model: helping people work in a way that fits their life, fits their ambitions, and fits the type of work they want to do.”
Schrader says that model works well in the marketing world, where new digital tools and technologies are driving change at a rapid pace. “If you haven’t worked in the discipline of marketing and you don’t understand the nuances of the subject matter, such as content marketing, analytics, marketing automation, or whatever it might be, in my view you have a hard time identifying the right talent that can solve a client’s problem,” he says.
Or, as Jennifer Laible, ’98 BSB, ’02 MBA, and Antenna’s president, puts it, “we were built by marketers, for marketers.”
‘People build businesses’
Schrader and Laible met in Managerial Accounting class when they were both young professionals in the Part-Time Program. They stayed connected and came together in 2012, when Laible was looking for a change after spending 15 years in strategy and business development roles at Fortune 100 companies and Schrader was in search of someone to help him scale up Antenna.
Since then, the company’s revenue has grown over 30 percent year over year, surpassing $10 million in 2016.
“It always helps when companies are interested in what you’ve got to offer,” Laible says. “But, mostly, I really think it’s the people. People build businesses; they don’t build themselves. We have an amazing team at Antenna and that makes all the difference.”