Tsunami Kids – The Gandy Brothers

Tsunami KidsI saw this book when I went to get a library replacement card and initially decided not to take it out because it isn’t one of the books I planned to go through for my start something small project. But my indiscipline when it comes to books took over. I caved in, borrowed the book and didn’t regret it. It’s one of the most inspiring, and at the same time emotionally challenging books I’ve read. To be clear Tsunami Kids is not a business book, but it does have a business story with loads of lessons for those who want to start something.  But that’s not what makes this book so great, apart from the good quality of writing, the story is honest, open, challenging and uplifting.

Rob and Paul, the Gandy Brothers, who are called that because it’s the name of the company they set up are the main authors of the book. In fact it’s written from Rob’s perspective. Both boys are part of the Forkan family and they have four other siblings: Mattie, Rosie, Marie and Jo, and their parents Kevin and Sandra. Kevin and Sandra decided to give their children an unusual education. They took them out of school and went travelling. They spent considerable time in India and then visited Sri Lanka and that was where disaster struck.

On boxing day in 2004 they were caught in the tsunami that killed thousands of people. Unfortunately Kevin and Sandra, the parents, were part of the people who lost their lives. It was a harrowing experience for the family and even for the reader it’s quite difficult to fathom. This is because Rob gives us a good window into their family life. This is a closely knit family who adore each other and you will read about how the Forkan parents took the time to really stay close to their children and ensure the children were close to each other too. So when the tragedy does happen it was quite painful to read. What makes it really interesting is that Rob goes into detail about the aftermath of the tsunami and also writes about his traumatic experiences.

You can feel the family’s struggle through the experience. But what you also read about is how graceful humanity can be. I felt the UK government was impressive in supporting the family and the way people rallied around them was just so brilliant. The only people I felt angst towards as I read the story were the press who were more interested in getting a dramatic story that would probably sell papers than the feelings of the Forkan children who had just lost their parents. It would take sometime, but the children picked themselves up, the younger ones went back to school, the older ones settled down with partners and Rob and Paul got jobs. Paul relocated to Australia for a while where he did really well.

Another interesting chapter of their lives starts when Rob decided to start Gandy Flip Flops. His idea was to start a social enterprise which would give 10 per cent of profits to charity and he also planned to build a home for orphans in memory of his parents. He convinced Paul to leave Australia to join him and they went on a roller coaster journey building the business. This makes for very interesting reading and the sections in the book dedicated to the business have a lot of lessons for those who want to start a business and those who are already in business. I must say the brothers are extremely imaginative in their approach to business. Rob does stress that a lot of what made them able to succeed was taught to them by their parents.

  • Their dad was a serial entrepreneur and was building his third business before the tsunami hit. He would always involve the whole family in his business endeavours.
  • Kevin taught his children to be enterprising and solution focused from a young age.
  • Through travelling the Forkan parents developed in their children the quality of resilience and persistence.
  • They also taught their children the value of helping others. Wherever they were,they always found time to help others. When they were in India they spent a lot of time volunteering.

These qualities were quite evident in the way Paul and Rob built Gandy’s. You need to read it for yourself to see how resilient they are. The book ends on a positive note with Paul and Rob moving closer to achieving their charitable goal by purchasing land in a Sri Lanka village to build a center to support education.

This book is a story about not giving up on life despite tragedies that we pass through. I am grateful that the Forkan children did not get bitter after their loss, rather they forged ahead to build a legacy of their parents values and in their own way make the world a better place.

My start small lesson

This was an easy one for me, the imagination and persistence of Rob and Paul was really fascinating. While there are a number of instances where the boys displayed these qualities, the one that stood out for me was how they went about raising money for their business. Though the business was doing well,the boys needed extra cash to grow the business and in a way they were struggling. Rob and Paul approached some of the big investment companies who laughed them off. It was getting to the point where rent was going to be difficult to pay and they needed money to manage the orders they had, and also expand.

It was in the midst of this that Rob came up with an idea, which he called, Brothers Den. It was Rob’s version of Dragons Den, but in reverse and this is how it worked.

  • The boys would invite investors to come and meet them.
  • They would tell the investors about their story and business.
  • Then they would invite them to pitch for their business and  tell them why they should accept their offers of investments.

The boys carefully researched investors whose vision was similar to theirs. They staged the event in the garden of a nearby pub. They wrote out to investors and got interests from seven of them, whom they met. Three of them offered Gandys substantial investment and the boys choose to meet with two of them. Although Rob and Paul were thinking of working with both of the investors they met, the business men ended up having a conflict because they were competing to invest. Later in the evening after the meeting, one of the investors rang, and was able to convince them to go with him. He became a major partner to the boys and helped them to scale up the business.

Brothers Den had paid off. The idea worked.

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