A Sort Of Homecoming: An Intern Returns To Run Fast Horse

August 1, 2014

I’ve turned the day-to-day operation of Fast Horse over to an intern.

Well, not quite. Here’s the backstory:

As Fast Horse continues to grow, our business is becoming more and more complex. Contracts, HR, insurance, security, real estate, accounting. I could go on. In short, the business of the agency demands that we adapt and change just as we have in the actual marketing services we offer our clients.

Since our inception, I’ve had my hands in every aspect of our business operations, as would be expected from a founder. While I wasn’t always the most qualified person to be dealing with accounting or HR issues, I invested in good outside advisors, rolled up my sleeves and dug into the nitty-gritty work of running a growing agency. I wanted to understand every single aspect of our operation, and diving into the minutiae of contracts and financials was the best way for this journalism major to learn what it takes to run a successful business. Beyond that, having a qualified person on board to run our business operation seemed like a luxury we couldn’t afford.

Until now. Which brings me back to the intern.

Young Tony "Game Time" Kirwin.

Young Tony “Game Time” Kirwin.

I had one other employee the day I opened this agency in 2001. That employee was an intern named Tony Kirwin, who had also been an intern in my group at my previous agency gig. Tony eventually got hired on full-time and was with Fast Horse for nearly four years before he decided to pursue law school. I hated to lose him, but understood the pull of a new and very different challenge, so I wrote a glowing letter of recommendation to the admissions committee at the University of Minnesota Law School. My letter offered a lot of reasons for Tony’s suitability as student of law at the U of M. He’s whip smart, has a great analytic mind, is highly motivated, takes initiative. I could go on and on, and I did. In the end, I told the admissions committee that I believed hiring Tony was one of the best professional decisions I had ever made. He was exactly the kind of person a burgeoning entrepreneur wants to go into battle with every day, and I knew that he would make a damn fine lawyer.

And he did. Tony aced law school and stepped right into a job at a high-powered Twin Cities law firm called Lindquist & Vennum, where he worked as a litigator for eight years.

The idea to hire a lawyer to take over day-to-day business operations at Fast Horse was not entirely mine. As I described my idea to finally bring on a Director of Operations to my friend Cecily Sommers over drinks this past winter, I suggested to her that perhaps a CPA would be an ideal candidate for the job. When she suggested that someone with a legal background might be a great option, I knew immediately that there was only one lawyer on this planet who knew our business, knew our culture, and whom I trusted to help me take the agency into the future. I reached out to that lawyer the next morning to see if he’d be interested in leaving his high-powered law firm to help run a growing creative agency in the North Loop.

I’m delighted to announce that Tony Kirwin is our new Director of Operations/General Counsel. Tony is charged with protecting our business and improving our practices as we continue to make an aggressive push into the future. He will help make Fast Horse a better place to work and will help us better serve our clients. And he will be another fierce defender of the culture and vision that’s been in place at Fast Horse since his intern days here more than 13 years ago.

As Tony and the rest of the senior staff continue to take on more operational responsibility, I look forward to having more time to think, strategize, teach, create, recruit, sell and to keep my gaze fixed on the future of this agency. That is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

Which is why I believe hiring Tony is a smart today as it was in 2001. Welcome back, Tony!