Chief of UAE’s Insight Discovery juggles busy schedule

With his wife and children based overseas, Nigel Sillitoe has more time to work, network and indulge in his favourite hobby of golf.

Nigel Sillitoe, CEO of Insight Discovery at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

Nigel Sillitoe is co-founder and chief executive of Insight Discovery, a UAE-based strategic research company which specialises in producing cutting edge reports and engaging with the key stakeholders of any company; employees, investors and customers. The Briton, 53, has spent the past 14 years in the Middle East, and his first experience with the Mena region was with the bank BNY Mellon, when he established its office in Bahrain and launched a joint venture with a local bank.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

My weekend is very different to many of my friends over here as my wife and two daughters, Francesca, aged 12, and Imogen, 11, live in the UK. They used to live in Dubai, but, mainly for education reasons, left four years ago to return to the UK. I am therefore a long-distance commuter between the UAE and UK and visit them as often as I can, otherwise I talk to them almost every day. My weekends generally revolve around golf, going to the gym, swimming and catching up with friends. On Saturday evenings I usually prepare for the week ahead, concentrating on the projects whose deadlines are fast approaching

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

Besides golf and other leisure activities mentioned above, I enjoy travelling to places off the beaten track. For example, I spent a magical holiday in Iran, which included visiting Persepolis, the ancient “city of Persians”. I have North Korea in my sights and will go there one day via an experienced tour operator.

What can’t you live without?

My calls to my family and visits to the UK to see them whenever I have an opportunity to go there. I also can’t live without my iPad and smartphone as mobile technologies are essential means of communication wherever in the world I happen to be.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

Constantly thinking of new projects and ways to promote our business to a wider audience. For example, my latest idea is to launch a project on the thorny subject of late payment of invoices, which is a major issue for so many SMEs in the UAE. I’m hoping to launch this survey soon and start a debate about the existing options and what needs to change. I’m also hoping to launch a new project in South Africa, therefore diversification is key to our success.

What advice would you offer other people starting out in your business?

Be willing to learn from others and apply a “can do” attitude to everything you do. Think outside the box and seek inspiration and advice from other successful business entrepreneurs. Managing a business is like a game of snakes and ladders, with ups and downs along the way. Very often you end up back at the beginning. However, be persistent and you’ll reach your goal eventually.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I typically work six to seven days a week, although I do try and take the odd day off and put my calls on divert and turn off the annoying flashing light on my BlackBerry. It’s difficult in business trying to maintain an equal proportion of work-life balance, however I’m a great believer in “work hard, play hard”. It’s also good to have interests outside your immediate line of business. For example, I am currently advising an online taxi booking service,, with a new marketing strategy. This includes a social media campaign to attract more people flying to the UK to find the best quote for a premium taxi.

How do you relax after the working day?

I spend time talking to my wife and two children in the UK via phone, WhatsApp or Instagram (the latter being my children’s favourite mode of communication) and finding out about their day. I also enjoy socialising and meeting new people. Therefore in the evenings I try to attend as many functions as possible, particularly at the Capital Club in the DIFC, where I have been a member since it launched. I admit to being addicted to LinkedIn; I’m forever sharing articles, checking the progress of our LinkedIn advertisements, and, as you might expect, looking for new business contacts.

If you weren’t chief executive of this company what else would you be doing?

My ideal role would be running a vineyard in Franschhoek, South Africa. This picturesque area is within easy driving distance of Cape Town, one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world.

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter