Interview with Tim Thurston Team-I Director and Founder

“I guess I am pretty lucky how it has all worked out,” muses Tim Thurston, “as I am combining one of my greatest passions away from work – rugby union – with one of the principal things which I always regard as vital in business…building effective and successful teams.”

Tim is reflecting on these twin pillars of his new business venture as he pauses following a period which saw him leave a highly pressurised and responsible management role in media in order to launch his own training and leadership company – Team-i.

“In effect this business has taken 14 months to come to market,” explains Tim. “I left my role as MD of the regional division of a magazine business in December 2016 and I have been working away to prepare the Team-i business for launch ever since.”

The core philosophy of Team-i is this: the skills, knowledge and experience which winning professional sportsmen and women exhibit every day are just as applicable to running successful businesses. And Team-i’s unique nine-point training programme demonstrates just how.

“As well as being a passionate fan of rugby union and being impressed by the characteristics and skills demonstrated by the players on the field, I was also fortunate to interact with a number of them off the field and it soon became clear to me that business could learn so much from them,” explains Tim.

“The more time I spent with these guys the more it became clear how humble they were too about the levels of learning, practice and clear execution they had to demonstrate in order to achieve wins on the park.

“Soon an idea was forming in my mind that these skills could easily be transcended into business – we just needed a platform to demonstrate how. That’s where the concept behind Team-i really started to take shape.”

Tim soon found a willing collaborator in the shape of Kai Horstmann, an Exeter Chiefs legend and one of the key pillars of the side’s development from ‘new boys’ at the top table of English club rugby to winning the coveted Premiership title in 2017.

Nearing the end of his own playing career, Kai was also keen on seeing how he might work with business to showcase many of the skills he had learned as a pro sportsman. He readily agreed to become an associate of Team-i and to help Tim work up a programme of training courses to be delivered to business.

“Kai was absolutely fundamental to the process,” reveals Tim. “Together we spent hours and hours together, going through all aspects of how he trained and played and also the learnings he and his team-mates took from their experiences.

“We then honed that into a nine-point programme which demonstrates just how those skills from rugby are easily transferable into the workplace.

“But it didn’t come easy – it has pretty much been a 12-month journey from start to finish. We knew we had to make this credible, digestible and effective to make to work. Businesses have opportunities for training thrown at them from all directions these days and we wanted to make sure when we pitched that it had the ‘wow’ factor which made people sit up and take notice and wanted to take part.”

Thankfully the wait was worth it as the launch of Team-i’s unique training programmes – which can also be converted into bespoke elements to suit businesses – was eagerly received by South West business.

“I have been delighted by the response,” adds Tim. “We deliberately went for a ‘soft launch’ as we wanted to get this 100% right on the ground when we formally went public. It’s easy to think you have the product right in terms of material but it’s also fundamentally important that teaching it live to delegates is done clearly and effectively.”

Thankfully, having led all manner of teams himself over a 34-year career across such diverse sectors as media, hotels, the motor trade and retailing, Tim was no stranger to good and bad practice. Having learned from the very best at Cranfield and Henley, he was also able to factor in best practice in the Team-i curriculum.

The courses have been so popular and have created such a stir in the South West business community that expansion is already on the agenda. Fellow Devon-based rugby players Ollie Atkins and Carl Rimmer have also joined Team-i as associates and the firm is now expanding into the Cotswolds region with former England international and correct Gloucester winger Charlie Sharples also joining the team.

“It’s been so good to see something which is purely theoretical at first work in practice,” concludes Tim. “I was convinced we had a good idea – as were our rugby-playing partners – but it is only when you get delegates coming up to you after courses and saying how much they have enjoyed it and how many lessons they are taking away from them that you know you are winning.”