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Management meets David Thompson

Executive MBA alumnus, David Thompson, shares how performance principles from elite sport deliver scale-up success.

A headshot of David smiling at the camera, sat in the School of Management building
David Thompson, founder of Winsight

Getting to grips with performing under pressure and the value of goal setting started early as a six-year-old on the tennis court. I ranked 5th in the UK as a junior player, which led to a scholarship at Millfield School. This marked the beginning of my life-long love of Somerset, a shift from tennis to rugby, and the satisfaction of collective success.

At 18, I represented England Rugby Under 21s and secured a professional contract with Saracens. Coached by Sir Clive Woodward, playing alongside legends like Jonny Wilkinson and captained by Francois Pienaar, were incredible experiences that equipped me with invaluable insights; particularly the factors which determine the difference between success and failure.

Off the pitch, I saw those same performance principles at play in business. After co-founding and selling a leading international sports marketing agency and working with organisations including Coca-Cola, BMW and the FA Premier League, I went on to pursue psychology, counselling and coaching qualifications.

'Playing alongside legends like Jonny Wilkinson equipped me with valuable insights'

A man smiling into the camera wearing business attire
David uses his experiences in sport as a framework when consulting

My passion around providing support for leaders and teams, and the chance to combine everything I’ve learned throughout my career, was the inspiration for my coaching business, Winsight Performance.

The Executive MBA at the University of Bath underpinned my practical business experience with theoretical understanding that feeds into my work daily. The course concluded with a ‘Capstone Project’ and the opportunity for me to conduct extensive research on my specialism: people-related challenges facing businesses as they grow.

’It’s lonely at the top’ was a common phrase in so many conversations. What comes through loud and clear when I meet entrepreneurs and leaders for the first time is how isolated they feel, particularly during the critical shift from start-up to scale-up. It’s when the weight of responsibility sets in and is a period fraught with firefighting. The increasing need to ‘lead’ rather than ‘do’, coupled with the lack of neutrality from colleagues, friends and family, leaves people without an outlet for constructive reflection.

'I truly believe you go further if you go together'

Two photos of david side by side, both in business attire
David's capstone project lead to his 'six steps to scale up success'

In elite sport and business, you need to have ambition - a dream that gets you out of bed in the morning, but that alone is not enough. Success ultimately comes down to having a clear strategy and executing with ruthless consistency.

In sport, the support of a coach in developing and executing this plan is a given. Now, more business leaders are seeking similar guidance. I truly believe you go further if you go together, and this encapsulates the essence of Winsight’s approach. The Winsight Performance Model provides structure with a six-step framework that gives leaders and their teams clarity, confidence and control around the big decisions and helps to create the best possible environment for businesses to enjoy sustained success.

Management meets David Thompson: Six steps to scale up success