As a marketing leader at 3M, Brendon Schrader often needed to bring in senior-level marketing resources to help solve problems, lead change and move the business forward quickly. But, he had limited options. He could engage big agencies and management consulting firms, but that was expensive. He could hire talent through traditional staffing firms, but they typically supply junior-level workers. He could also dial into his network of contacts (which he often did). But there wasn’t a resource he could tap into that brought together senior-level marketing talent.
So, Brendon decided to solve the problem and create a better way for independent, contract-based consultants to work. Now he’s the founder and CEO of Antenna, a marketing-focused consulting firm that’s helping companies rethink the way they look at resourcing important projects and engaging contingent talent.
I recently talked to Brendon to get his perspective on talent strategy, staffing and the future of work.
A Better Staffing Option
Traditional staffing firms are focused on the staffing transaction. They send a client workers, but aren’t usually very involved after a placement is made. “When I hired talent through staffing firms, I often found that the consultants I hired weren’t very happy with their experience,” Brendon said. “Many didn’t have benefits or PTO, and they definitely didn’t have training and development resources from the staffing firm.”
At Antenna, Brendon created a new model. His priority was attracting the very best marketing talent, so he knew he had to focus on providing the best experience for employees. Antenna offers a full suite of benefits, paid time off and training and development opportunities for its consultants. The goal is to create a community of marketers who feel connected and supported. “We want to go above and beyond in what we offer to consultants,” he explained. “When our consultants are happier, it directly impacts the client.”
For clients, Antenna provides the very best talent — marketers who can come in and get work done quickly. Antenna puts all potential employees through a rigorous screening and vetting process. “We want to make sure that every employee has the right knowledge, skill set and personality for each individual client situation,” Brendon said. After the consultant is placed at the client, Antenna stays involved, regularly communicating with both the consultant and the client to make sure everyone’s happy. Consultants stay connected to Antenna through an online community and company-wide consultant meetings.
Companies are feeling the need to be more agile and flexible in order to drive growth. They’re looking for on-demand, project-based resources they can bring in to contribute a defined skill set and help the business shift quickly. And, Brendon said, “companies are starting to realize that there are new, exciting models to help them do that.”
A Better Way to Work
Antenna’s model is unique and much-needed in the market. But what’s most interesting to me is how the company reflects a new vision of work that I’m seeing across industries.
Employees are looking for more flexible ways to work. Millennials — who will make up half of the global workforce by 2020 — are looking for interesting, challenging work experiences, not predictable, long-term tenure at one company.
Brendon said it well: “Companies — including big companies — are going to have to rethink traditional work structures if they want a successful long-term talent strategy. How are you going to attract and retain talent? How will you provide your employees with challenging, interesting work? How will you provide a culture and structure that fits what the next generation is looking for?”
He’s set up Antenna to meet employees’ changing expectations about work. “People are opting out of the traditional career path and striking out on their own,” he explained. “Today, people want flexibility and the chance to pursue work that fits their expertise and their passions.”
Everyone defines flexibility differently. For Antenna employees, flexible work could mean:
- A dad who chooses to take the summers off to be at home with his kids.
- A young professional who works in intense bursts for a few months at a time, then takes a month off to travel.
- A mom who works 30 hours a week so she can be home when her kids get off the school bus.
“Both men and women are looking for independent work,” Brendon said. They want to do work that matters in a flexible setting that supports how they want to lead their personal life.”
One of the reasons Brendon left his role in the corporate, Fortune 100 framework was to be there for his young family. “Corporate structure doesn’t always allow for the flexibility I wanted as a dad,” he said. “I wanted to be a great dad and do the work I was passionate about, on my own terms — without compromising on my career or my family situation.”
Over the past nine years running Antenna, Brendon has learned a lot. But most of all, he said he’s learned that business is all about bringing together the right people and setting them free to do great work. “If you treat people like adults, they’ll act like adults. It’s about the work — not the hours you spend doing it.”
Thanks, Brendon, for sharing your inspiring vision of the future of work! Learn more about Antenna’s unique perspective on staffing.
Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.