Starting out in theatres, opera houses and fashion shows, Alastair Scott co-founded the creative production company, 20/20 Productions, in 1990.
Since then, Alastair has worked with a long list of prominent organisations to help them deliver their messages creatively, through film, events and digital innovations. 20/20 Productions now boasts offices in Edinburgh, Dubai and San Francisco and has a turnover of £6m.
What does your company do?
20/20 Productions is a specialist event and video production agency based in Edinburgh, San Francisco and Dubai. We deliver targeted messages to our clients’ audiences through the use of film, events, design projects and digital innovations. The common thread that runs through all of our productions is our passion for creativity – we’re always on the lookout for engaging ways to help companies overcome their communication challenges.
What do you do there / what is your role?
I am the Managing Director of 20/20 Productions. I co-founded the company with Andy Mackay in 1990. Alongside running the company, I work as a producer on many of our film and event projects.
No two days at 20/20 are ever the same – I enjoy the varied nature of the role, and get to work with a diverse range of interesting clients and people.
What is your background?
I actually started off working in theatres, opera houses, on fashion shows and corporate events. Prior to founding the company, Andy and I were both working as freelancers in live event and TV production. I’ve now worked in the industry for over 30 years, but my passion for it is as strong as when I first started out, if not more so.
What was the aha moment that led to the company founding?
My business partner and I identified a lack of production and communications offerings in Scotland – there was a real gap in the market for an integrated production, design and event service, and our combined experience made us the right guys to take on the job.
Our aha moment actually happened in the Golf Tavern in Edinburgh when we decided to start the business – a few pints may have also helped us along. 30 years later, I think it’s safe to say we made the right decision.
Give us a brief history of the growth of the company
We opened up shop in Edinburgh in 1990. Our other offices came along later, with San Francisco opening in 2002 and Dubai in 2015.
In 2005 we won the United Nations’ contract to produce its 60th year events across San Francisco. This was a huge day for us and a real turning point for the business.
Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?
After a very long conversation with the bank, we secured the loan we needed to get 20/20 Productions started. An overdraft guarantee from my Dad was also a huge help!
So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?
We have a great team of 25 employees with a really diverse skillset based across our Edinburgh, Dubai and San Francisco offices. From digital developers, event coordinators, production managers and designers, we’re really proud to work with such a unique team of creative employees. We have certainly expanded since we set up the company in 1990 – we now turnover £6m per annum.
What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?
Although the core principles of our industry have remained the same, clients now expect more for less. To make sure clients are getting value for money, ensuring that we fully understand their challenges and then delivering first time is all-important.
Technological innovation has also become a priority. Technology plays a huge role in what we do and spans across several sectors. Since tech develops so quickly, adapting and embracing new developments keeps us competitive.
What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
We work with large corporates, developing businesses, member associations and third sector organisations across the globe. We usually work with our clients to identify the best medium to communicate their message, be that a film, event or digital project. Importantly, all of our customers require creative solutions with functional execution.
What are your goals for your business?
We aim to maintain our very high standards in all aspects of the business and have the respect of our competitors and customers.
We’re really proud of the strong links we’ve built with our clients – some of whom we have worked with for over 20 years. We want to continue our growth, all the while maintaining those solid relationships, whether we’ve worked with them for 20 years or less.
The success of our clients, the well-being of my team, a positive attitude, honesty and clarity are also extremely important to me.
What are your biggest current challenges?
Well, I wouldn’t say no to an extra five hours each day! Luckily, I have a great team around me, and they are the lifeblood of the business.
The challenges we face are the same as those for all businesses at the moment – uncertainty – there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the UK position over the next few years.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Like many businesses around the world, the financial crash in 2008 was a really terrible time for us. Although I hope that we never have to go through anything like that again, I think it’s fair to say that we are stronger for it.
What do you do outside work?
I’m usually spending time with the family – taking the kids and dogs out to the beach near my house. I’m a keen cyclist and a huge rugby fan – only one team for me – Edinburgh! I also really enjoy listening to and playing music – I’ve played the drums for years.
What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?
I wish I’d known to look at the bigger picture more. I spent a lot of time worrying needlessly about things I couldn’t change. Now I worry about the things I can change – and I do something about it.
What’s the secret to good leadership?
My very first boss was an absolute stickler for detail – he was a hard person to please – but now I get it! He was teaching us how to do things right and it was by far the best lesson I ever learned. That’s something I really highlight now in my leadership role.
I guess the other trick is to be able to put yourself in others people’s shoes – your customer, your colleague, your competitor. If you can do that you will see much more and be able to act on it.
Where do you see the company in five years?
In five years I would like to have consolidated our position, and to be growing the business again – maybe somewhere else in the world. I will always be in Edinburgh though – I might sound unadventurous but I would never live anywhere else.
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
Ease corporation tax and ease business rates – just tax us less! As an SME, every penny really does count and a reduction in tax could be the answer.
Alastair Scott is managing director of 20/20 Productions
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