Alliance Creative celebrating 10 years after a 'light bulb moment' in Capital pub

A business duo are celebrating 10 successful years in charge of one of Scotland’s biggest creative collective agencies in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Steve Johnstone and Dan Hay are celebrating the anniversary of the creation of Alliance Creative, which has grown from a conversation in an Edinburgh pub to a network of more than 100 specialists from a wide range of creative disciplines throughout Scotland.

From TV/video and artwork to copywriting and brand strategy, the group have provided creative services to the likes of Virgin Money, Phoenix Group, VELUX, Macdonald Hotels, ZSL London Zoo, National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and Edinburgh Napier University.

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Despite the challenges faced by the business in the build up to their 10th year staffing levels at the Edinburgh company have risen by 25% during the pandemic.

Steve Johnstone and Dan Hay of Alliance Creative.Steve Johnstone and Dan Hay of Alliance Creative.
Steve Johnstone and Dan Hay of Alliance Creative.

Dan Hay said: “Everyone pulled together when they needed to and were brilliant.

“The last couple of years have been tough but everyone has been so patient and understanding as we figured out the best way forward for the business.

“We had to furlough everyone at the start so it was just myself and Steve doing the work, but gradually we were able to bring them back as the workload increased again.

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“We have an amazing team behind us and Covid showed just how well they get on and want to support each other.

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“Securing jobs for our workforce has been a major highlight of the past couple of years. That experience, as tough as it was, has us in a good place to push on this year and we’re really looking forward to the future.”

Speaking on the memorable decade for the company, he added: “We’re a completely different company to the one which started out in 2011, but that has been a gradual process.

“We have had to change with the times and I’d like to think we have managed that quite successfully.

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“Steve and I knew each other for over 20 years before setting this up. It was all about attracting people we trusted who had a really good name in our industry. We are very selective about the people we get involved with, meaning our clients know we only supply a high-calibre workforce.

“The reputation we have built up has really helped us expand our client base.”

Co-founder Steve admitted it took a ‘lightbulb’ moment a few years ago when the business model was changed to allow the Edinburgh-based company to grow and unleash its potential.

He said: “At the outset we felt compelled to do everything ourselves, but about four years ago we had a massive ‘growing up’ period when we realised we had to change to take the business to the next level.

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“The staff know that their input is crucial to driving success, as well as shaping their own career paths, essentially making sure we are playing everyone to their strengths.

“We want to give greater ownership to the people who work in our business. In other agency cultures, the feeling of self-worth and inclusivity had often been eroded and we are proud to have bucked that trend. It’s not about Dan and I always calling the shots, we want to give people a voice in determining the direction in which the business is going, and also how they live their lives outwith work.”

“We are proud to have brought a bit of stability to the self-employed in our sector, making sure people’s rates remain appropriate and them not having to chase invoices either, even though we maybe as a business hadn’t been paid ourselves by our clients.

“We have managed to do that from very early on and it has been a big plus for us as a company. It helps enforce that element of trust, we can’t underplay how important that is. We also applied an overtime payment structure for any out-of-hours work they conduct, something that seems to be very rare these days, in our experience.”