Obituary – Ron Tilley
Ron on his last training day at Prochem, aged 74…
It was great sadness we had to announce, last month, the passing of our founder and chairman, Ronald ‘Ron’ Tilley at the age of 88 years.
A man of abundant charisma and wit, blessed with the capacity to engage all about him while putting them at their ease, Ron built a highly successful career in the cleaning sector and with it, a company that was to go on to become one of the most innovative solutions developers and a leading light in the training of the cleaning professional (a job designation that did not exist when he entered the business in the early 1950s).
One of four children, Ron Charles Tilley was born on 29th June 1930 in North Kensington, growing up in Southall and spending his whole life living in and around London.
Initially training as a carpenter, he enlisted in the military in 1948 serving with the Royal Engineers in Malta, Cyprus and the Middle East.
Whilst based in Malta in 1952, Ron hitched a lift home on an Army transport plane and a Naval ship to marry Thelma. Returning to England six months later, he transferred to the Reserves and settled in Hillingdon. Soon after daughter Linda was born, and then a son, Alan, who was to join the company in 1977 and is today its managing director
When Ron joined Servicemaster in 1959, the carpet cleaning industry barely existed. Shampoo Crystallisation was the new technology; there was no such thing as a soil extractor, and no training was available. As a result of a back injury in 1968, Ron could no longer continue as a carpet cleaning operative and a new position of trainer was found within the company.
Under the auspices of his newly-formed Professional Chemical & Equipment Company Ltd in 1974, Ron set to putting matters right, and his courses on carpet, upholstery and floor cleaning held at the old Victory Club near Marble Arch in London on behalf of the BICSc were enthusiastically received.
These courses were not only benefiting cleaners by empowering them to do their jobs better and enjoy a better living, but proved highly formative in developing a presentation technique for Ron that was in itself a winning formula. Many years later, in 1998, Ron was to receive the first Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented by the NCCA in recognition of Outstanding Services to the Carpet Cleaning Industry.
Prochem (the new found abbreviation for the company name) started up a Technical Help Line and carpet manufacturers soon came to Prochem for cleaning advice.
A man with a keen eye on the interests and needs of the cleaner, Ron also set to work establishing associations with manufacturers to import hot water extraction equipment from the USA where the innovation had started.
In 1977, Ron’s son Alan joined the business and in 1980, the company began manufacture of chemical products at its new premises in Kingston upon Thames. During the next 15 years products and formulations were developed and refined to meet the growing demand from its now extensive distributor network.
In 1995, the company re-located, once again, to larger premises in Chessington where space became available for manufacturing expansion, storage, laboratory product development and equipment sales and service.
The new building also perfectly provided for a dedicated two-storey training facility which has subsequently seen thousands of trainees attend Prochem courses in a period of over 20 years.
“We capitalised on what we had and made even more of training,” reflects Alan.
“We invested and continued to invest in our resources and expanded the course range. They were successful from the word go because, as my father noted, it was clearly no good being the best carpet cleaner in the world if you couldn’t sell the fact to the customer.”
Ron remained active at Prochem, training cleaners well into his seventies.
A member and past president of Kingston Rotary Club, he was much involved in fund raising for charity over many years. Delighted to become grandfather to six and great-grandfather to 13 children, Ron is survived by Thelma.
And finally, a big Thank you to readers familiar with Ron who have already passed on their condolences and best wishes to his family…