Industry-leading game art designers Wardog Studios specialise in hard-surface asset development for computer games and film. Based in Edinburgh, they’ve grown from 2 to 17 staff in 18 months since their incubation within tech start-up Tank Studios. Now known widely for their outstanding weapons and vehicles concept art and design, this fast-growing team are in continuous recruitment mode.
To recruit, keep and nurture leading-edge game art concept developers in a niche sector that barely existed six years ago! Namely gifted artists, experienced in the gaming industry, who apply their outstanding eye for detail to create lifelike digital assets, specifically weapon art and vehicle development art. Before 2016, computer game consoles and PCs lacked the hi-res power and levels of graphic fidelity seen in today’s intricate game art. When this changed, the demand for hi-res 3D art design skills accelerated rapidly. By the time Wardog Studios was born, parts of the industry faced a unique recruitment challenge. The race was on to prevent recruitment issues becoming a bottleneck in the way of exciting growth.
The second challenge was finding the time and knowledge to grow and retain a talented young team on an international stage. Wardog sought not just HR and people management support, but finance and accounting business advisory support too.
“I really appreciate their genuinely human approach. Scott’s been brilliant at tailoring the programmes and tools he suggests to fit our unique needs. He also recognised that traditional recruitment processes weren’t for us and that we needed to be creative. Without any judgment or boxing us into ‘corporate’ ways, he’s helped us shape and formalise in our own way how we manage everything to do with people and performance, including how we lead the team and respond to typical SME challenges.”
JADE LAW, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, WARDOG STUDIOS
AAB People have been embedded in the set-up Wardog Studios from the outset. In 2020, Jade Law, CEO of tech start-up Tank Studios, co-founded Wardog with games artist Ohle Mathiebe as an incubator company and went on to become its CEO and quickly grow the firm. Already working with AAB People while running Tank Studios, she retained consultant Scott Baxter and colleagues to help her develop Wardog into the powerhouse it now is. Concept artists were identified and hired from all over the world in the face of such niche requirements. AAB People handles all aspects from start to finish, including setting up visa sponsorship licences for each overseas recruit AND knowing where to look more locally for talent closer to home. The 17-strong team now houses game artists from South Africa, Germany, Lithuania and France as well as the UK.
In a neat collaboration, accounting group AAB (AAB People’s parent company) also support Wardog continuously, providing financial and accounting services and monthly strategic advice. This includes not only providing management accounts, year-end compliance and technical accounting but also using current data patterns to help Wardog make the best financial decisions to achieve its desired growth. The business advisory team at AAB is expert in working with owner-managed businesses in the tech start-up space and works closely with entrepreneur Jade to boost Wardog’s growth journey.
Alongside AAB’s support in keeping all financials, projections and reporting up to date, AAB People have introduced to Wardog a bespoke, non-traditional performance management system and leadership training designed to get the best out of the ambitious young team. We also led all-important organisational culture and values work with all staff to maintain unity and focus in this unique, quirky, disruptive gaming culture.
The priority now is to help the ambitious Wardog team double in size and remain a solid, respected, comfortably different top-notch operator before they extend from game art outsourcing to incubating new game ideas and becoming a game developer in their own right.
Co-founder and CEO Jade Law feels strongly about the value of the ever-present personal and professional mentoring she receives in her collaboration with AAB People and AAB.
“Their emotional support and personal rapport as well as all the practical stuff is instrumental in helping us make sure everyone here is treated well. Staff retention is everything – it’s tough to find the talented artists we need in such a niche sector. We want to keep and grow the best, having taken the care and time to cultivate and coach talented gaming artists to apply in the first place!”
“The recruitment support has been vital to our success in what is definitely still an emerging market. Our USP is literally the quality of staff. People come to us for their game art because they can’t find the talent they need in their own organisations.
As an entrepreneur focused entirely on your field and not expert in running in a business, good mentors can be hard to find. AAB People is about so much more than HR. It’s not about robotic systems and tools, it’s all about supporting and nurturing very individual people, and helping us all be our best at work with one common aim.
In my 16 years working in the gaming industry, my experience of HR was negative before I met AAB People. People management is often secondary in this industry and HR were the people you brought in when things went wrong! Working with this team I see it from a completely new perspective. At Wardog, everyone knows and trusts Scott and is happy to see him!
The values and culture exercise was a big one for us. AAB People helped us really define our culture, formulate our values and discuss among our team what’s important for us and how we can proliferate that into how we work.”
On the financials, it’s a great, supportive relationship with AAB. Entrepreneurs are juggling so many growth and operational challenges and one person can’t do it all! Having AAB to take care of the data means I don’t have to worry about numbers or how to communicate them.
Together, AAB and AAB People have a thorough overview of our business. They understand the bigger picture and where I want to take Wardog Studios, and they help me interpret our numbers so that I can confidently project and plan in exactly the right way for our aims. Having all the HR, financial and business advisory services under one roof and embedded as part of our team is invaluable and means we can be free to do what we do best and focus on game art and nurturing the best possible talent!”