The Big Wake-Up Call by Jorg Pierach—Founder, Fast Horse


By Egotist / /

The following was shared by Jorg Pierach, founder of Fast Horse. It’s one heck of a read. Definitely worth your time.

Our industry has a problem with women. A big problem.

According to a recent survey, for the first time in four years, women hold fewer than half of the jobs in the agency, tech and media industries. And the decline has been precipitous, shrinking by nearly 10 percent in just a year.

While our industry has been notoriously difficult for working moms, the pandemic has laid bare many of the issues driving them, and others, away. And it’s not just driving women away from Madison Avenue. In fact, a McKinsey study over the summer found that women made up 56 percent of overall workforce exits since the start of the pandemic despite making up only 48 percent of the total workforce.

And lest we think the issue is limited only to women, the Labor Department reports that a record-shattering 47 million people voluntarily quit their jobs last year.

For employers like me, this isn’t The Great Resignation. It’s The Big Wake-Up Call.

Fast Horse has not been immune to the challenges faced by working parents, or those contemplating that status. This has never been a quiet lifestyle shop. It never will be. The challenges we work on are big and the stages on which we play are even bigger. It’s a place where people push themselves to grow personally and professionally, and are in continual pursuit of excellence. Those who have built long, rewarding careers here have done so because they thrive under the brightest lights. The result has been a client list, including Heineken, Audi, The Coca-Cola Company, Toro and others, that would be the envy of agencies many, many times our size. And despite being a small, independent agency headquartered in Minneapolis, throughout our 20 years we’ve been able to offer our people opportunities to do the kind of award-winning, career-defining work that is still largely the domain of much bigger, holding-company-owned agencies on the coasts. 

All too often, however, the tradeoff for doing world-class work has been a continual struggle to find balance.  

This is not a 9-5 kind of profession. You don’t get on the biggest stages by watching the clock. Anyone who has had any kind of success in this industry understands that. When I started Fast Horse, I knew what I was getting into, and I wanted to make sure that nobody, including me, had to turn their lives over to this place to extract the kinds of professional rewards and experiences we all were chasing. But I also knew that there would have to be sacrifices, so I tried to structure the agency in a way that would allow us a fighting chance at the best of both worlds. Long before the rest of the world embraced the benefits of remote work, we built the agency around giving our people maximum flexibility to work when and where they felt most productive. Here’s a 2015 article that explores the benefits of what we called our “Hotdesking” culture.  

In short, Fast Horse has always been a pioneer in trying to give our people balance in an industry that’s mostly inhospitable to the concept. While we have always benefited from being together, collaborating and building relationships and trust, our people greatly valued the flexibility to work where and when they would be most productive, and it was a huge recruiting and retention advantage.  

Until the pandemic struck.  

Today, all of our competitors are offering remote or hybrid working options, not because the pursuit of balance is deeply ingrained in their culture, but in many cases because a nasty virus forced them to do so. I think this is a great thing for people trying to carve out a career in a fast-paced industry like ours. The bar in this and many other industries has been reset in the favor of working parents and those seeking better mental and physical health. Less travel means fewer missed school plays. A sick kid or ill-timed snow day no longer has to result in a mad scramble to find backup child care. Less time commuting means more time for things that really matter. Soft pants are in. Hard pants are out.  

As expectations for what balance and a meaningful career look like have changed, we’ve had our own Great Wake-Up Call here at Fast Horse. Our turnover has always been well below industry averages. But as we’ve seen some valued colleagues join The Great Resignation over the past year, we’ve taken a step back to better understand what is driving the unprecedented turnover we and so many others have experienced. We’ve done a lot of listening and no small amount of soul searching to understand how we can keep Fast Horse among the most admired employers in the industry. 

First we conducted a comprehensive survey of our people. We queried them on every aspect of working here in an effort to understand where and how much the ground had shifted since March of 2020, and how we were doing in areas critical to recruiting and retention in a post-pandemic world. Our people told us they wanted us to invest more heavily in their mental health, professional development and efforts to create more balance. Next we did a deep dive into the practices of agencies, and even companies outside our industry, that we admire. We wanted to understand where the bar was on those issues and try wherever we could to raise it. We weren’t just trying to make Fast Horse a better place for working parents, we were trying to make Fast Horse a better place no matter what life stage our people happened to be in. That meant finding a lot of different ways to meet our people where they are in life.  

At the end of 2021, we gathered as an agency for the first time since the pandemic hit to share the results of our efforts. It wasn’t just a milestone staff meeting. It was a celebration. Our new benefits package is the result of our ability to stay independent, allowing us to invest more deeply in our people. It’s a big thank you to those who have stuck with us through the most difficult time in our agency’s history, and an invitation to those who are seeking the best of both worlds.   

So, in the interest of full transparency, here are the details of our new, enhanced “Better Balance” benefits package:

  • Uncapped Paid Time Off – There are no limits on vacation time, personal time, or mental health and wellness time. Trust-based policy that allows employees even more flexibility and freedom.
  • Paid Sabbaticals – Two-month sabbatical and $1,000 in personal development allowance on 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th anniversaries.  
  • Professional Development Allowance – Each employee receives up to $1,000 annually to be used for professional development. The allowance can be used for conferences, courses, professional association membership, coaching or resource materials that further development.  
  • Wellness Allowance – Up to $1,000 annually to support efforts in finding balance, creative inspiration or maintaining mental or physical fitness.
  • Remote Work Allowance  Each employee will be awarded $500 per year to purchase furniture, equipment or technology that makes working remotely more productive and comfortable. Can be used to upgrade Internet speed, buy a new monitor, office chair, upgrade cell phone, etc.
  • Friends/Family Allowance – Each employee will be awarded $250 annually to connect with family or friends in whatever way they find most meaningful. 
  • Equity Action Match  We want to support Ponies who support efforts to create a more equitable and just society. Fast Horse will annually match contributions up to $250 to any non-profit they choose to support in the equity space.  
  • Student Loan Repayment Assistance  Our Associates and graduates of our entry-level Integrate program will receive $3,000 annually in tax free student loan repayment assistance as long as they are employed by Fast Horse.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Enhancement and Expansion  We expanded mental health benefits to all employees regardless of whether they are part of our healthcare plan and added face-to-face mental health counseling.
  • Caregiver Leave  Offering up to a month paid leave and up to a year unpaid leave to anyone primarily caring for ailing parents, siblings or children.
  • Parental Leave  Now offering six months fully paid leave for primary caregivers; three months fully paid leave for secondary caregivers. 
  • Parental Leave Returnship Options  Employees have the option to return to work for up to three months at four days per week for 80 percent of salary or three days at 60 percent pay. 
  • New Parent “No Travel” Policy  In effect for the first six months back for primary caregivers and two months for secondary caregivers.
  • College Savings Baby Bonus  Fast Horse will contribute a total of $5,000 toward a 529 College Savings Plan for each child born during a parent’s tenure here. 
  • Competitive salary  We strive to continually understand where the market is in an effort to pay all of our people a highly competitive salary. We also commit to gender equity in our pay.
  • Annual Salary Review   Conducted on employment anniversary.
  • Health and Dental  Will continue to offer the best individual and family medical insurance and dental insurance plan options we can afford.
  • Health Saving Account  $400 annual contribution to HSA 
  • Retirement Savings  401(k), with 3 percent company contribution, regardless of employee contribution.
  • Disability and Life Insurance  Short term disability insurance coverage and up to $100,000 in life insurance.
  • Equity Action Day  Designed to give each employee an opportunity to step away from work and participate in an activity or initiative that helps to make our society more just and equitable. Can be done individually or with a group of colleagues.
  • Summer Hours  Office building unofficially closed on Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Weekend starts at noon on Fridays if at least 40 hours in and all obligations are met.
  • Cell Phone/Parking Allowance  $100 per month. 
  • Flexible Workplace  Our integrated approach thrives best when we are together and collaborating. But we have always offered our employees an enormous amount of flexibility to balance work and home life and will continue to do so as we move toward a hybrid workplace.

As the world continues to change, we employers have to change with it.  And some have to lead that change. We think our new benefits package once again does that. But judge for yourself. If you like what you see, shoot us your resume.  We’ve got big plans and are hiring. Fast Horse is not for everyone. But if you seek a bigger stage for your ideas and work, and want to collaborate with smart, kind, fun people, perhaps we’re right for you.


  1. Damian petrou March 10, 2022

    Champion of the people Jorge!

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