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LONDON — When we asked Biznews community members to tell us about those who inspire them, some interesting contributions were anticipated. But nothing quite like what you are about to read below. It has the three ingredients Aristotle told us are required for a great story – ethos, pathos, logos – and plenty more. Darren Mansfield shares the reasons why his brother Tyron inspires him every day. It’s not hard to understand why. – Alec Hogg
By Darren Mansfield
Growing up in a middle income, entrepreneurial household, in a residential East Rand suburb epitomizes most of what it is, to be from “Joburg”. You may pick up the lack of subtlety in my writing style given the horrendous East Rand slang I have adopted over the years. I have come to embrace it and this is the story why. The Trifecta.
The School: Boksburg High
With 1650 kids of all shapes and sizes there is no better place on earth to learn about the intricacies of people than in an environment that teaches you to respect rules, each other and come to the realisation that a system is there to provide guidance, though your own ambitions and responsibility will drive your success. This is the starting point for 3 brothers to understand the world.
The Partner and Brother: Tyron Mansfield
Tyron was not always a gifted person in the traditional sense, as my younger brother of 2 years he was firmly in my shadow. Thin and lanky, bad eyes, no concentration and bad school marks. Things were looking grim at the start of his primary schooling. At the age of 10 he excelled in 1 thing. Gymnastics. Strapping glasses to his face he took the energy he had and channeled it. A realisation that deficiencies are overcome with efficient application of the correct energy.
Tyron initially never got accepted into Boksburg High due to poor marks and not living in the feeder area (we lived in Brakpan), though managed to get in given my persistent mother whom tried everything possible. At 15, Boksburg High managed to pull out of him an inner desire to succeed that few had seen before. Having been outside the top 100 academically in grade 6 he was in the top 10 by the end of grade 10 and remained there. How did he get there? By waking up at 4 am every morning and having to learn how to “learn” and study. Deputy Head-boy with his best mate as Head-boy, they led the school academically and sportingly at a provincial level. They both downplay their achievements significantly to this day. Tyron ended up second overall in Mechanical Engineering at Wits though known to many as the person whom works harder than any other and does not want to merely do well but to truly understand every last detail. Tyron took a 2 year MSc in industrial engineering in 1 year. He referred to it as his “Gap” year. I think this gives context to the work ethic of the person though what inspires me most is Tyron’s gumption.
In 2013, at the age of 26, my younger brother, Tyron, aged 24 and I, decide to take over the 48 year old small manufacturing business to take pressure off my ill father (due to complications from a broken leg). How would we do it? Not Sure. How was the business doing? Not sure? All we knew was that Dad was sick and the business was losing money. What we did not expect to find was a little company that had been driven so hard by the degradation in manufacturing in South Africa and construction that it was a few weeks away from closure. What to do – GET TO WORK! (The fact that the metals industry strike took place at the same time is a story for another day). I was extremely apprehensive at the thought of going in blind, no income. The stress at my age was overwhelming, feeling responsible for my father’s and grandfather’s live’s work and respective retirements. In steps Tyron, all of 24. Not a care in the world, so I thought. Steadfast in the face of adversity. Armed with a brain and will to succeed. at the very least, try and salvage some form of retirement for my parents.
In 6 months we managed to swing cashflow positive, begin trading out of overdraft. It was glorious though we knew short lived. My role, run the books and manage costs. Tyron’s role – Operations. At his young age Tyron single handedly garnered the respect of egotistical contracts directors, site engineers, staff and even those permafrost managers whom think they were dealt the worst card in the world. He made tough decisions like relinquishing bonuses which led to death threats and a wildcat strike. All I could do was simply watch in awe as what is simply the most capable person I have ever met, simply get to work. He even designed a neural network costing model (at night) for a powder coating plant that would give us accurate cost predictions and performance. It’s throughput, a whopping 200 square meters a day with 5 employees. Absolutely tiny, but efficiency is efficiency.
As we managed to get the organisation stabilised, I went on the hunt for investors. The mandate – anyone. We were desperate and tired. Having worked for free for 12 months was unsustainable. I looked everywhere until meeting a very special person on Twitter of all places. A well known entrepreneur in South Africa drove to Springs on his own and met with us. What happened was remarkable. Life changing. He became our partner, our landlord, our mentor. He bought the majority but the way in which it was done, through trust, still hits home to this day. Tyron and I wanted to do everything in our power to make him proud. We restrategised, restructured and we really began enjoying our work. We earned a small salary for the first time in 14 months. We then got given the break we always wanted. Two of us taking on assets 100 times the the size in revenue. Due to our mentor’s involvement and backing. We were on our feet, working 15 hours a day. Pulling in resources whom seemed to gravitate towards us. The world at our finger tips. Until that faithful day…
The 10th of November 2016 during one of our improvement projects we were in a car accident. A person rear-ended us extremely hard. I lost a lot that day. A colleague, Nikki, whose brief interaction has been forever lasting. A genius in terms of corporate communications. I had injuries but was okay. Tyron was hanging on by a thread. 9 months in coma he was discharged and sent home with Mom. Told to be put in a home. Mom had other ideas.
The Angel aka Mom
A microbiologist whom at 26 was a production manager at Unilever, gave up a promising career to be a book-keeper and raise 3 boys the best she could. At age 58, she had it all to do again. except with a 70 kg infant. whom needed feeding every 2 hours, specific medicines for fits and seizures through the night with no help. It was tough but in that moment I realised what true grit is. My work “hardships” seemingly fading into obscurity as I joined in to aid for the first few months. Tyron made his first acknowledgement of people around the 3rd of August 2017. The 18th of August, he communicated to me for the first time via blinking. He answered the question of “one plus one” by blinking twice. Delightful.
By the 21st of August he said his first word. “Four” when asked what is 36 divided by 9? Instead of blinking he said the word. It was incredible! Needless to say I had moved on from a work perspective, being supported by my “angel” investors and another, Warren, whom purchased my shares on the belief that he will get to work with Tyron one day. It is simply the stuff of fairy tales.
In 2018 Tyron has gone from strength to strength, different in form and function, he is there. The underlying characteristic to his improvement. Gumption. Anton Burger, the author of the book – The Team Secret dedicated his book to Tyron. His influence has been felt far wider than just myself.
As I write this, Tyron whom turns only 30 this year, is building a Technic Lego set with the aid of his newly appointed carer (whom only reaches for pieces and is not to give clues). Mom has slightly more time on her hands now. Knits and cooks for the world as the house always has welcomed visitors. She still sleeps in the same room as Tyron, showers him with the help of Dad and is the only one to change him. Dignity.
She decided to go back to work a bit, absolutely crazy given her ordeal though unhappy with staff performance in my older brother’s organisation she decided to come do some “audits”… Moms will always be moms.
As for the school, in October this year, I asked if we could bring him through at the last minute. The principal, Mrs Boshoff insisted. Upon arrival and signing in it was not long until a troop of the old faces came down to say hi. The deputy principal, Miss Hopkins and head of sport Miss Teixeira spent 2 hours with us, on a whim, during busy exam times. The students, so helpful. A magical moment was when the science teacher Mrs Haahjem came down with a piece of brass and a piece of nylon Tyron had turned in a lathe to prove a concept. She still had it. 10 years later.
So, to sum up my inspiration, whilst broader including my mentor, it is built on a foundation of 3 characters. My brother, Tyron, whom will still change the world, just in a way that is different to what he intended. To my Alma Mater, Boksburg High. My blood is green and will forever remain so. From mining to banking, I have used your imparted people skills, daily, globally. To my mother supported by my father, I was blessed with the best and now the world can know too!