Former firefighter helps teams overcome conflict

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A former firefighter from Bath is helping douse the flames of conflict in the workplace and create more productive teams. Mark Fanning, who heads ACF Teambuilding and Events, said teamwork was vital in the fire service, as lives depended on it.

The father-of-two saved a boy from a burning building while just nine months into his role as a retained firefighter at back in the 1990s. Now Mark, who also worked as a senior sales executive at the time, is using his experience in both selling and the fire service to encourage employee engagement in the workplace.

Mark, who received a joint commendation with the rest of the crew at Trowbridge fire station, said: “Trust and effective communication are so important in the fire service, as it can mean the difference between life and death.

“Just as in a fire station emergencies arise, situations come up in a business in which a team must pull together. Effective team building helps reduce conflict and increase collaboration. This means more engaged and productive employees. It’s good for the office atmosphere – and bottom line.”

ACF Teambuilding Events, which is one of the region’s top event management companies, offers a range of training, from working with firefighters to samba drumming. But the team based at Aldwick Court Farm and Vineyard also carry out psychometric assessments to better understand members of the team and how they can work to their strengths.

Mark, who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, said: “My work in sales has shown me the need to better understand people so as to communicate effectively and work well together.”

The former Beechen Cliff and Bath Technical College (now Bath College) student found he had a talent for sales before he left college – selling tickets for a theatre agency. He worked in newspaper sales for five years before being offered a job to work for GWR Radio (now Heart FM) in Bath.

After several years in the fire service, it was no longer viable to continue on a retained basis following the relocation.

He said: “I had learned a lot during my time with the fire service and have great respect for the work they do. But my strength lies in sales, so that’s what I decided to focus on.”

Mark worked in sales for newspapers, radio and magazine publications before joining ACF Hospitality in 2006 as a sales director.

He said: “It was my dream job, as I could combine the skills I had learned from sales and advertising with marketing.”

The business owner, Chris Watts, tragically died in a helicopter crash in 2011, aged 45.

Mark took over the business in 2012 and changed the name to ACF Teambuilding and Events to reflect their emphasis on team building.

He said: “It was a sad day when I learned of Chris’s death. I had admired him as a person and an entrepreneur. We believe his legacy lives on in our work.”

Today ACF Teambuilding and Events hosts events across the country and is the preferred supplier to many venues in the South West and South Wales. Days out include driving and shooting events, ‘It’s a Knock-out’ style fun, team-building challenges, family fun days and evening parties.

Mark said: “I get to work with a massive toy shed, a team I call my friends and I see visitors leave with a smile on their face. I love it.”

For more information about ACF Teambuilding and Events, visit

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    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson