While protecting their country in some of the most hostile environments in the world, you could forgive members of the Special Forces for thinking about something else.
Some might talk of football or dream of women – but Ben Wansbrough-Jones thought up a business.
He is part of a team of 11 – five are former members of the Special Forces – who put their military experience to use to create Blackdown UK, which offers adrenaline-fuelled team-building exercises and counts the likes of British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) among its customers.
Mr Wansbrough-Jones, who runs the company in the Warwickshire countryside, said he was keen to set up a business to utilise military skills that all too often go to waste.
“We were in a far-flung place of the world and part of what pushes you on are the dreams of what you are going to do when you get back,” he said.
“I thought through my ideas overseas and when I got back Phil Harvey, a soldier and a good friend I met during training, was leaving the forces and struggling to find work, so I was looking for a way I could help get him into some kind of a career.
“You have got a bright guy who is charismatic, but in reality people come back from roles that require really specialist training from the military which ceases to be redeployed.
“People love to hear about stories but when it comes to getting into work it all goes quiet. So that is where our journey began.”
Mr Wansbrough-Jones left the forces in February 2010, followed by Mr Harvey who, two years on, now looks after Blackdown UK’s client portfolio.
Mr Wansbrough-Jones went into business consultancy before a client meeting eventually led to the inception of Blackdown.
“The first contract I got was for BSkyB and one of their guys suggested team-building,” he explained.
“We wanted to use what we had learned and be able to apply it in a totally new way in the business environment. I have been very lucky to work with the group – the guys are amazing people and I wanted to help them.”
Now, the self-funded business, based in Kenilworth, is helping other companies strengthen their teams through orienteering, survival skills, pistol-shooting and driving off-road vehicles.
The firm recently started a new campaign called Times Are Tough, to encourage organisations to reward their staff through team-building as an alternative to financial incentives, and to boost morale despite the recession.
Blackdown UK sets teams tailored tasks to benefit their needs, from physical challenges to survival tasks which get the heart pumping.
But Mr Wansbrough-Jones said there was far more to the business than just the experience.
He said: “The delivery is one part but beforehand we have to find out what a company is trying to achieve and what their problems are.
“Then you have the objective – a simple example would be communication. We will mix people together and maybe put the weaker people on the communications side of the challenge.
“There is no point if there isn’t going to be a value back to the business.”
He added: “One of the key things that I wanted to be able to deliver was linking military strategies back to companies. It is things like speed.
“An example of that – in the Second World War, Hitler pushed his forces across Poland so quickly that nobody knew it was coming.
“To be able to move quickly in business is critical so you can survive against the competition. Everyone within that company should understand the company strategy and be ready to implement it.
“We put teams in unfamiliar scenarios so they are reminded of the importance of working as one towards a goal, to either get or maintain the advantage.
“We can do the military side of things and help create a picture of how important that is in business.
“Napoleon said if you are going to go for something, go with everything – ‘When you have resolved to fight a battle, collect your whole force. Dispense with nothing. A single battalion sometimes decides the day’. The same parallels can be drawn to small business, while they are agile, you have to have a focus and you really have to go for it.”
But Mr Wansbrough-Jones said he still has to be cautious about revealing too much of his own past in the forces, despite the military theme to his business.
He added: “At the end of the day it is a horrible world out there. We put ourselves forward to make sure that a lot of people back in the UK don’t have to see and discover the things that we see and do. Instead we give our customers an insight to the fun and strategic elements.
“Unless you have been there you can’t really explain it.”