Onsite Technologies founder discusses the need for business to adapt as Fox makes case for WTO leadership

Published by Scott Challinor on July 22nd 2020, 8:00am

As businesses have had to adapt and overcome to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the co-founder and director of one such innovative business, Onsite Technologies, speaks to the Leaders Council about establishing a business “out of necessity” in an ever-evolving sector and juggling that with the challenges of being flexible enough to meet the challenges of Covid-19. Elsewhere, Conservative MP Liam Fox has played down suggestions that Brexit is an important factor in his bid to become the first British director general of the World Trade Organization.

Leadership in Focus

Speaking to the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Onsite Technologies CEO Toby Sillett discussed how he founded the company in 2013 having worked for numerous IT firms and quickly realised that standards in the industry were not as high as expected and that many were failing to provide as good a service for their clients as they were capable.

Sillett said: “I was working with different companies at the time and continually watching them do things badly. I felt I could do things far better myself and then I had the opportunity to do so with my own business, so I grasped the opportunity with both hands.”

In the early stages of establishing the business, trusting the intuition and experience of himself and his staff was key for Sillett.

“To make a success of a business you have to be prepared to make a lot of big decisions early on and use your intuition to get services and projects over the line. We had to make sure we delivered well early doors, but we knew we had experience and the capacity to work well with clients in an honest and open way”.

Working with technology, operating in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment is very much the norm for Onsite Technologies, which Sillett believes held the business in good stead when having to cope with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sillett explained: “We have embraced a lot of new challenges with updating technology and you have to adapt and mould as you grow. You must be resilient, be dogged in your approach and be authentic. Handling the pace of technological change has held the business in good stead in adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For example, we do a lot of work in the real estate sector where there has been a lot of talk about smart buildings. We have been fortunate enough to be in a position where we’re engaging with construction companies and working with service providers. We are at the point where we can trial new technology in buildings and are at the forefront of technology moving forward in this industry. With Covid, projects had to be put on hold in some cases, so we were sending equipment out to individual homes and helping people set their devices up remotely to enable them to continue working.

“We have reshuffled the way we work; our staff members have set up from home and are supporting our client base from their homes.

“We continue to support the real estate sector and have offered discounts to set users up, ensuring that they feel we are providing value for money as opposed to ‘capitalising’ from a major pandemic.”

Leadership Today

Tory MP and former international trade secretary Liam Fox has distanced himself from suggestions that Brexit is an important element behind his bid to become the first Briton to lead the WTO.

Fox, a Brexiteer, said that not every nation “sees every issue through the Brexit prism”. He is one of eight candidates looking to replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo as director general when he steps down in August.

Those in the running have until September to garner support from 164 member countries, who wish to finalise their choice as Azevedo’s successor by November 7 at the latest.

The WTO’s main role of arbitrating trade disputes has been disrupted by a spat with the Trump administration, while in the backdrop is a tremendous decline in global trade brought about by the Covid-19 crisis.

Fox, who was dismissed in his capacity as international trade secretary when Boris Johnson became prime minister, enjoys close connections with Republican figures in the US and is set to deliver his campaign on the basis of rebuilding bridges.

His pro-Brexit stance could, however, see him struggle to win support from the EU, while he also faces a challenge in securing Chinese support.

Presenting himself as a candidate to the WTO Special General Council, Fox did not mention Brexit at all in his speech, saying instead that skills and experience matter more than “where the new director general comes from”.

Fox said after his speech that the WTO needed an experienced politician rather than a “technocrat” to help steer it through troubled waters.

He said: "If I were to be elected the director general... Britain would be one of 164 countries that would be looked after without fear or favour.

"In which case, the discussion between the United Kingdom and the European Union on Brexit would be a matter for those two parties."

The UK has been a member of the WTO since its foundation in 1995 and has sat as an independent member since leaving the EU. Yet, Fox suggested that it was “wrong” to assume that this meant it was too early for a UK candidate to lead the organisation.

Fox said: "We have long experience working with European partners and outside on a range of global issues."

Fox told the media that his focus as the WTO chief would be on maintaining a “rules-based” trading system rather than seeking to intervene in trade disputes.

Elsewhere, UK and EU post-Brexit trade negotiations are continuing and there has not yet been a breakthrough. Should both sides fail to strike a deal, then trade will default to standard WTO terms overnight.

Leadership in History

On this day in 1963, the Crown Colony of Sarawak - which had been established on the island of Borneo after the dissolution of the British Military Administration in 1946 - became independent from British colonial rule with the end of Alexander Waddell’s tenure as the last governor of Sarawak. It would go on to be succeeded as the state of Sarawak through the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on September 16 of the same year. 

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 22nd 2020, 8:00am

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