Reaching Sky High: – Team Sky’s Story

This year’s ResourceBank HR & Business Forum was aimed at identifying the makings of a successful culture. On the 6th of November, senior professionals from more than forty leading UK and international businesses were in attendance at the Brewery in London to hear from the key speaker, Fran Millar, Head of Winning Behaviours at Team Sky and Richard Pearson, Managing Director of ResourceBank Recruitment.

With attendees including Liverpool FC, Britvic, Home Retail Group, Starbucks, Typhoo Tea, United Biscuits, Rolls-Royce and many more, the goal of the evening was to address three key questions:

What are the key ingredients of a winning team?

What lessons can business & HR leaders learn from sport?

How can these be implemented in a business environment?

By looking at the essential parts of Fran Millar’s talk and exploring Team Sky’s success, we believe we’ve got significant insight into the above questions and have compiled this into the release of our eBook: Reaching Sky High. If you haven’t already, you can download it from our eBook page.

In the following extract from the eBook, we establish the motives behind Team Sky’s formation and examine the success they’ve had to date.


Before lottery funding in 1997, British Cycling had won only one gold medal in 76 years. This simply wasn’t good enough and a decision was made to address the balance, to become the world’s best. The initial focus on track cycling, the men’s endurance events in particular, was a success. A single gold medal in the cycling disciplines at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was followed up by two in Athens 2004 and eight in Beijing 2008 – a number which was eventually repeated in London 2012.

With British Cycling’s dominance of the track secured, a new, bigger challenge was needed. In 2009, Sir Dave Brailsford, then the Performance Director of British Cycling, became the General Manager of what would become Team Sky. Focused on the UCI World Tour, it was decided to build a team with a British core that was focused on the development of young riders with potential. Sky were soon identified as the right backer for the project as they wanted to have a positive impact on the sport and leave a lasting legacy. Crucially, they also bought into the ambition of winning the world’s most illustrious tour.

With the sponsorship secured, Team Sky were established. This formation coincided with the setting of two clear objectives for the next five years:

  • Win the Tour de France with a clean British rider
  • Inspire 1,000,000 more British people to cycle regularly

Through careful recruitment, Team Sky built a team of over twenty riders, containing promising British talent and established international stars, before 2010’s competitions began.

Team Sky secured 22 victories and 50 additional podium places in their first competitive season. While a success by any measure, it wasn’t until 2012, when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France two years into the team’s five year aim, that Team Sky reached their primary goal. The first British winner in the Tour’s history was soon followed by the second, as another Team Sky member Chris Froome claimed the yellow jersey at the 2013 Tour. The team had achieved their initial objective twice, with two years to spare.

The popularity of cycling within the UK has surged along with Team Sky’s success. British Cycling announced in December 2013 that results from Sport England’s Active People survey showed that two million adults were riding bikes at least once a week. While the well-documented results of Team Sky will have contributed massively, this was also aided by organised Sky Rides, increased coaching at youth level and partnerships with local authorities. Sky’s legacy is undoubtedly taking shape.E-book-downloadFran Millar believes that Team Sky achieved this success because they found the right people, created the right conditions and established clear, key principles that can be applied to industries far and wide, not just sporting bodies.

So, what are the principles that enabled Team Sky’s success and how can businesses follow their lead?

While we’ll be discussing these questions in further extracts here on site over the next few weeks, to view the complete eBook head to the dedicated Reaching Sky High page.

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